Now Departing: Our International Warm-Up Trip

December can be a depressing month here in the Pacific Northwest. According to the Western Regional Climate Center, Seattle averages just three clear days each December. Portland and Eugene, Oregon, are even worse at two and one, respectively. Even after living here for years, I still long for the warm, sunny winter days I grew up with in California.

The Pacific Northwest accurately depicted by The Oatmeal

The Pacific Northwest accurately depicted by The Oatmeal

So when Daniel and I had the opportunity to take a few weeks off for the holidays this year, we knew we wanted to get out of the area. With our plans for The Resume Gap just a few months away, a nice vacation should give us a chance to recharge and allow us a sneak peak at life without full-time work.

Which sunny, exotic destination did we pick?


Weather forecast for our trip

Weather forecast for our trip

Assuming everything goes to plan, we’ll be taking off in just a few hours for three weeks in Ireland and Northern Ireland, where we’ll be attending a friend’s wedding, exploring ancient castles, learning to drive on the wrong side of the road, and drinking our fair share of Guinness.  We’ve never been before, so every stop will be a new adventure.

Here are the three things about which I’m most excited:

Spending three weeks in one country (well, technically two countries including Northern Ireland). I’ve traveled outside North America only a couple times in my life, and both trips have been characterized by whirlwind tours of cities and historical sites, train rides and flights every few days, and a “go go go!” mindset focused on “checking the box” for dozens of sights, then moving on to the next spot. We briefly considered adding more destinations to this trip (Scotland, Wales, and Northern England were all in the running), but we decided we’d rather have more time in one place than try to pack in too many places. We’ll still see numerous cities and tourist favorites (it’s not quite the “slow travel” experience we’d like to have over the next few years), but we’re not changing locations every night, and we’re doing the entire trip by car. At 21 days away, this will also be the longest vacation that either of us has ever taken from our full-time jobs.  Here’s an overview of where we’re headed:

Time away from work. Our last vacation, about nine months ago, took place in the middle of a chaotic leadership transition at my workplace, which created a lot of stress during our trip. I still expect to be fielding a handful of e-mails and phone calls over the coming weeks, but things usually calm down a bit over the holidays. I’m hopeful that this trip serves as a miniature preview of our upcoming travels without our jobs weighing on our minds. If not, I’ll do my best to take Our Next Life’s sage advice to bite my tongue.

Our first experiment in ultralight travel. One of my dreams for our upcoming adventures is to buy one-way flights to some foreign destination and explore on a whim: maybe we settle in a city for a week, then hop on the next train to the beach, then catch a flight two weeks later to a neighboring country. It’s more challenging to do that if you’re hauling around 50 lbs. of luggage, so one of our goals for our trip to Ireland is to refine our minimalist packing habits. For three weeks of travel, including weather-appropriate warm clothing and rain gear – plus a suit, shirt, tie, and dress shoes for the wedding we’re attending – we are traveling with only these:

Two Backpacks

If it’s a success, fantastic! If not, we’ll be able to come home and refine our packing lists before we take off again next year. Whatever happens, we’ll be sure to sharing our findings here.


  1. SO AWESOME. Your trip sounds amazing, and I love everything you’re doing — slow(ish) travel, traveling by car, taking only small backpacks for luggage. (I’m totally a backpack traveler, even for work travel, and now swear by it. You don’t usually need a million pairs of shoes or pants, which take up the most space. It’s rarely hard to do laundry!) Hope it’s a fantastic trip, even if you never see the sun… the days are so short right now anyway that you wouldn’t see much of it even if it was sunny. 🙂

    • Every time I’ve traveled with more things than I needed (“might as well bring the umbrella and the second pair of running shorts and the snowshoes, just in case!”), I’ve come home with half my stuff unused.

      The upside of traveling to Ireland in December is that our rental car and hotels/hostels have been extremely inexpensive. Nice to save those extra euros for drinks in the pub after it gets dark at 4 PM.

  2. Very jealous! Ireland is on our list of places we would like to travel to! I haven’t had a vacation longer than a week since I was in college and I would love to be able to do a long trip like this. Once our daughter gets a little older, we hope to be able to do trips like this and get out and explore a new place. Enjoy your trip!

  3. Have fun on your trip. I went to Ireland a couple years ago and the country is really easy to cover if you rent a car (which is what we did). It was gloomy the whole time, which I’m not used to and don’t necessarily love. I did enjoy the Guinness brewery and Jameson distillery tours, and the Cliffs of Moher were AWESOME. Also you have to kiss the Blarney Stone.

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