Travel moments. They’re often fleeting — only lasting a few minutes. Sometimes they are longer lasting. But these moments are the ones that stay with us for a lifetime.

I bet you have a few of these. It might be a conversation with the owner of the B&B where you stayed. It might be watching the sunset with a special someone at a romantic spot. It might be the time you took that hot air balloon ride. One of my favorite travel moments came on my first visit to Ireland.

I met an Irish woman while travelling in Spain.

We spent some time together in Granada and went our separate ways. But we had exchanged emails and opened our doors to each other, telling each other to come visit. I took her up on her offer a couple of years after we met and arranged my first trip to Ireland.

Having a personal tour guide was definitely a plus. I felt that I got to see parts of Ireland that I may not have seen if I had been on my own. We had spent the night on Inishmor, the main island of the Aran Islands, and were making our way to Westport in County Mayo.

Driving through Connemara, one of the most beautiful spots in all of Ireland, took my breath away. I was in awe of the mountains, streams, lakes and bog land that makes up this part of western Ireland.

view of beautiful field and lake in background

An unforgettable drive

My friend, Aedín, suddenly made a left turn, taking us toward the coast. “There’s a beach down here,” she explained.

I didn’t care. I was along for the ride, camera in hand, ready to tell her to stop if I saw something that I wanted to photograph.

As we drove along a very narrow, rural, bumpy road, we came upon a man, his daughter and his dog, herding sheep down the road. Aedín slowed the car and I grabbed my camera and bolted out of the car.

I was running after the man and his sheep, snapping photos along the way. I turned back to see Aedín laughing her ass off at me in the car. This was moment number one.

Man and his daughter herding sheep in County Mayo, Ireland

Seeing authentic, rural Irish life. For a girl from the midwest suburbs of America, well, it just struck me as funny that the sheep were in the middle of the road. Even though there were no other cars on the road at the time. Or probably ever!

Back in the car and further to the west we drove, chasing the sun that was getting a little lower in the sky. In the distance, I could see the Atlantic Ocean, grey and churning.

rural winding road through green fields

The secret beach

A beach appeared just below the winding road. “That’s not it,” commented Aedín. It looked like a nice beach to me. But I trusted my new friend, knowing that she knew what she was looking for.

Just a bit further along the road, paralleling the coast the beach she was looking for appeared. “This is it!” she exclaimed.

We pulled into the car park just as some folks were leaving the beach. We had this beautiful stretch of sand and sea, rocks and hills, all to ourselves.

The folks before us left a nice set of footprints leading to the surf. I stopped to photograph these imprints in the grainy sand. I thought about the saying: Leave only footprints, take only memories. Something told me this was going to be one of those everlasting memories.

Footprints in the sand, County Mayo, Ireland

Aedín and I wandered the beach at times together, and at times on our own, each lost in her own thoughts. It was a magical moment as we had this piece of nature all to ourselves. The sun warmed our skin as the cold water lapped at our bare feet and the salty air blew around us.girl walking along a beach, with mountain in background, County Mayo, IrelandI felt such peace in my heart. And I felt the warmth of my new friend’s kindness.

To this day I refer to the beach as Aedín’s Beach.