Inspirational Elders in Ireland

Marion, one of my inspirational new friends, at the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland

My idea of an ideal vacation does not involve wearing waterproof pants, or trying to retain the contents of my stomach while bracing myself against gale force Atlantic winds. Having to get a doctor to certify that I’m fit enough to climb down the side of a ship and clamber out of a zodiac and up rain-slicked rocky shores does not fill me with the delights of anticipation.

And yet there I was in the early part of May, suiting up into my all-weather gear and serious flotation device along with 80 others. During the 10-day trip circumnavigating the coast of Ireland with an Adventure Canada team the swells were indeed so challenging on a couple of occasions that it was all I could do to stagger down to my bunk and lie prone until the weather shifted.

A view of the Clipper Adventurer from the zodiac.

But those moments — and the occasional soaking from an aggressive wave or two over the side of the sea-pitched zodiac — were more than compensated for by the truly spectacular scenery (and I say this as a former British Columbian who’s seen my fair share), phenomenal music (delivered by multi-talented Irish and Canadian performers), and inspirational company.

I’m now deeply embarrassed to confess my 50-something reluctance to experience physical discomfort in the face of having witnessed fearless men and women in their 70s and 80s who embraced the demands of the expedition with energy, enthusiasm and sophisticated camera equipment. (Equipment which they were not remotely shy to pull out in the most intimidating of swells — the same ones that had me clutching onto the zodiac rope and trying not to envision myself tossed into the white capped water.)

To be fair, some of them were both experienced sailors and veterans of many previous expeditions. And the extremely professional Adventure Canada team were vigilant about safety at all times. But still. Their example continues to inspire me with a sense of the future adventures that may await me well into my own eighth or ninth decade on the planet.

Loading the zodiacs to return to the ship: The water in this particular harbour was deceptively calm, but out past the protective point, the pitching swells made getting back aboard the ship a challenging operation that required the muscular assistance of several practiced crew members.

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