Tripping columns offer readers a chance to share their wild (and even dangerous) adventures on the road. These are the stories you can't wait to tell when you get home.
'Taking children to Ireland? That's crazy. You should go, just the two of you. Enjoy the pubs and relax."
I faintly recalled those words in a noisy pub in Dingle, County Kerry, as I snapped a photo of my husband trying to keep his pint of Smithwick's upright, eyeglasses askew while our five- and seven-year-old boys climbed over his back and our nine-year-old daughter photobombed him.
I blame Disney World. A 10-day trip last year was all walking, then lineups, interspersed with the fear of losing a kid, all fuelled by chicken nuggets, cotton candy and unlimited soft drinks. I saw the "First Time Visitor!" buttons and wondered where I could buy one with "Never Again!" It may be a rite of passage, but after Disney's skillful artifice, I craved a dose of authenticity for my family.
In Ireland, we had happily toured medieval castles, ruins and pubs for a week before taking the ferry from Doolin through Galway Bay to Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands, famous for sweaters and its attachment to the Irish language.
On the rough crossing, our youngest asked – "What does nauseous mean?" – moments before leaving his breakfast in the front row (left side, third seat, fyi).
Once comfortably on this rugged and unspoiled island, we learned that electricity had only arrived here in the latter part of the 20th century. One of the island's highlights is Dun Aengus, a fort said to have been built in the second century BC. At the visitor centre, we learned there were scenic cliffs at the fort. But we didn't give it much thought, as there were no waivers to sign or cartoon-character height charts to stop us from sending our kids on the trail. There was just an affable young man with some lilting advice: "I see you've young ones, you'll want to be sure not to let them run ahead of you as the wind blows quite strongly out to sea."
Parental blood pressure raised, we set out on a rocky pathway. As we passed through the fort's stone wall, we could see no giant fence nor any official to tell us where we could go. The land just…. ended – with a sheer 100 metre drop to the North Atlantic. The wind was gusting hard. My ears no longer registered the whimpers of "You're holding me too tight."
Maybe five metres from the edge, we dropped to our bellies and slithered forward, arms intertwined, adult hands tightly gripping kids' limbs, too anxious to even hold a camera out for fear of losing it – or a kid. Hearts pounding, we braved fleeting glances down at the sea crashing into the rocks far, far below. "Holy crap!" yelled our five-year-old, who summed it up best for all of us.
We slithered back and then crawled on hands and knees to a safer distance, laughing hysterically. Now that was an adventure – no costumed characters necessary.
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