Remembering a trip to the Isles | Home Again

By Joanne Peterson | Aug 09, 2019

Four years ago, I was looking forward to a September trip to Ireland and Scotland. Now, skimming pages of trip notes, I wish I saw another great trip in my near future. During the past few months, I’ve been sifting through memories.

My trip journal for that 2015 visit to Ireland and Scotland was a 4x6 spiral unlined notebook. The cover featured a dove with a tiny olive branch in its beak, accompanied by a Chinese proverb: “Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.”

I bought a batch of skinny fine-point pens in various bright colors. I liked writing a multicolored journal. Apparently, choosing the notebook and pens was a big deal – but what did I envision for the actual trip?

A friend, the late Sue Sutherland-Hanson, prompted my interest in that 2015 adventure. She planned to lead a small group on a tour of Scotland, combining a spiritual journey with sightseeing and writing. Our group would travel in a 16-passenger bus – although as it turned out, at the last minute, there were only seven of us.

Perfect. A highlight of the trip would be several days in a marvelous rented home by the sea on the Island of Iona in the Scottish Hebrides. Really? I signed on immediately – but my vision for the trip expanded.

What if I also went to Ireland? What if I signed on for one of those coach tours I used to say I’d never go on? I chose a company called CIE – and would recommend it. The tour would take me both to Ireland and Northern Ireland. It turned out to be just the right one, and I met several women with whom I enjoyed sharing the tour.

Everything I chose for the 2015 trip, I chose alone, an empowering experience. Gathering courage as I considered options, I decided that it would be fun to go online and choose a hotel in Dublin for an extra day and night on my own prior to the coach tour.

And then I decided it would be fun also to choose a different hotel for an extra day and night alone in Dublin after the coach tour ended. Each of those hotels turned out to be perfect. If I’d had more time and money, I’d have stayed longer, alone.

With thousands of Alaska Air miles to spend, I decided to do some creative flight planning with Alaska and partner airlines. Here’s what I did: I flew first-class on Alaska to Phoenix, which meant I shuttled to SeaTac early and hung out in the Alaska Air lounge, experiencing, as my mother would have said, “how the other half lives.”

After a relaxed breakfast flight to Phoenix, I flew coach British Air to London – few passengers, great service. I also flew BA to Dublin. After the Irish tour, and my extra night in Dublin, I flew to Edinburgh, met my Scotland group, and had a wonderful time touring with them. That tour ended in Glasgow.

I managed to schedule business class Emirates (now my favorite partner airline) to Dubai – after being treated royally in the Emirates lounge in Glasgow. Business-class on Emirates defies description. Unfortunately, I did not have the money, time, or – admittedly – energy to spend a day or two in Dubai.

I dashed to catch my uncrowded Emirates coach flight to Seattle. Meal service and personal attention didn’t differ much from business class – menu, china, silver, snacks. I think I paid $350 for my flights, plus many, many miles.

My experiences in Scotland and Ireland were splendid, with many highlights. The final highlight was getting home to Edmonds see my grandchildren! Now, four years later, several months past an auto accident, I am struggling not only with driving, but also with apprehension about future travel to far-away places.

I’m eager to see how all that plays out.


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