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Monday, June 16, 2014

Ireland Day 1 #lifelongdream

Aflac is such an amazing company and really rewards people for hard work! One of the ways they honor their top producers is by offering incentive trips each year. The top of the top are invited to President's Club. It's a HUGE honor to make it!!! Agents have to be in the top 85 of the company and have to have a no-pay level under a certain amount. Zach always has President's Club as one of his goals. He started with the company 6 years ago and so far we've been blessed enough to visit: Paris, Bermuda, Toronto, and now Ireland! One of the year's Zach didn't qualify he was actually #86 which was a super bummer (but it was a cruise so we weren't too upset since we aren't big cruise people) and the other year he made it but had too high of a no-pay rate to qualify. I am SO proud of Zach for earning these trips and they truly are experiences of a lifetime!!! 

This is the first Aflac trip where I truly had a struggle about going. Of course it's IRELAND so I wanted to go, but Zach was very clear when the trip was first announced that if he qualified it was very important to him to use the trip as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to golf with his dad. And I understand that. I love that Zach and Mr. Rusty have such a close bond and totally think it was a great chance to do something so awesome together. When Mr. Rusty ended up not qualifying for the trip, Mrs. Charlotte and Zach worked together to surprise him for Christmas with a plane ticket to go with us! I debated back and forth a lot about not going and letting Mr. Rusty take my place instead as Zach's guest. In the end, I decided to go. I wanted to see and experience Ireland and I knew I'd resent Zach if I was home all week with the kids (and pregnant!) solo while he was halfway across the world on an amazing vacation!!! Who wouldn't have issues with that, right?!?!

While Zach works very, very hard to qualify for the trips we also look at them as a reward for us both for our efforts (behind every successful man is a good woman duh!) and have always said we'll travel together and make sure these trips are a chance for our marriage to reconnect. It was SUPER tough for me to leave this kids this time around. It's always hard to leave them but knowing I was going on a trip where I wouldn't be spending as much quality time with my husband made it a lot tougher. My husband and marriage come first so I 'm always willing to sacrifice time away from my babies in order to pour into our marriage bond. It gave me a good bit of mommy guilt to leave them when I knew I'd be spending a good bit of the trip solo without Zach with me!

Easter Sunday was actually our last day with the kids before leaving. Since it was a day we spent with all of Zach's fam I asked him if we could go get dinner just us four to soak up some family time before we left. We hit up Pizza Hut and I just wanted to squeeze and love on my babies as much as I could!!! I'd be away from them for 8 nights total!!! When we tucked them in that night at Mrs. Charlotte's I couldn't stop kissing ton them. Kye said "okay mom...one last kiss and then you need to go" haha! 
This happens kinda often...both kids wanna sit with me and Zach has a whole seat to himself haha
Britt wanted pictures of everything :)



That night after we dropped the kids off with Mrs. Charlotte we ran to the store to get a few last minute things for the flight then went home and finished packing up! We found out that Delta charges a BIG fee for golf bags ($100 one way!) so we Zach decided to use the golf bag as one of our checked bags. Which meant we had to have all of his golf stuff and all of our stuff for the entire trip be under 50 lbs each. It was stressful to me!!! Thankfully it worked out and our luggage was right at the proper weight! Our flight was at 11 from Valdosta the next morning and, of course, it was delayed. Which always happens! Mr. Rusty was with us for the early flight and had a shorter lay over than we did in Atlanta. It was PRECIOUS on the flight to Atlanta...we were sitting in front of Mr. Rusty and he was sitting with this college age girl. Usually when we travel we are with both of Zach's parents and his mom is the one who talks to everyone and brags on her kids and grandkids...I guess  all these years together have worn off on Mr. Rusty. He went on and on about everyone in the family to this girl who you know probably didn't care haha. But it was ADORABLE to me to hear him talk like that ;) His flight was direct to Ireland and he got there before we would....we had a longer flight and a layover in Paris. Our flight was set to leave Valdosta at 11 am Monday morning and we'd arrive at 11 am Tuesday morning in Ireland. Kinda hardcore travel while pregnant right?!?!?
During the lay over in Atlanta we grubbed out and did some last minute things for the trip. Usually I'm SUPER planned for our travels, but this time I kept thinking Zach was handling everything b/c he was booking the golf arrangements. I don't know why that made me think I didn't need to do anything else? Thankfully I remembered to call the bank and set up our ATM card to work overseas while we were at the airport! I didn't even open my Ireland travel book to start reading it until we were in Atlanta haha. Slack planning this trip for sure :) I was cracking UP at Mr. Rusty though b/c he, legit, didn't plan at all. He didn't have a card with an international chip in it, didn't have any converters/adapters, basically he was rolling with the punches. And people like that ALWAYS have stuff work out, ya know? Of course it all worked out fine for him but in the moment I was laughing pretty hard about his lack of planning. I mean Zach and I were with Aflac so Mr. Rusty was on his own most of the trip (other than when he and Zach were golfing) yet he had NO agenda or anything! 

We aren't big Varsity fans but this orange milk shake was LEGIT!
I have traveled a decent bit while pregnant and have traveled at many different stages of pregnancy. For this trip I was 26 weeks pregnant which, I think, was a decent time to travel. I wasn't overly tired or sick like first trimester and I wasn't miserable like in the 3rd trimester. This did end up being the WORST flight I've had while pregnant. In my lack of planning I didn't even check to see where our seats were on the flight. When we got on the long flight (Atlanta to Paris) I realized we had the window and the middle seat and had a person who would be sitting next to us on the aisle. When the woman sat down to sit in the aisle seat I was SUPER nice and warned her that I was pregnant and would have to get up a TON during the flight for circulation and to use the restroom. She was SO RUDE about it. I offered to switch seats with her because I knew it'd be annoying having to get up especially since it was a through-the-night flight. She said,"that would be a courtesy of me helping you not the other way around." Seriously. We got a flight attendant and explained our situation and she even offered the lady another seat and the lady wouldn't take it!!! 

I know I should have just been rude and made her get up a bunch, but that's not my style. So I sat and sat and sat some more when I SHOULD have been walking every hour. Whenever the lady would get up, I'd get up. And she got up at SUCH random times. At one point they brought us ice cream sandwiches and as soon as the lady got hers she went in the bathroom to eat it. How odd is that?!? So I had to scarf down mine mega fast so I could go walk while she was gone. I also didn't stay hydrated enough because they rarely came by asking about drinks. By the time we landed in Paris I was HURTING. Bad enough where the flight attendant told the lady to let me out and I went and walked and worked out the cramps while we taxied. It was not pleasant!!!! 

Our lay over in Paris was pretty rough as well because we were exhausted (we slept maybe a couple hours the whole night) and they didn't have any food in the section of the airport we were in. Thankfully we had some fellow Aflac people who were with us (we traveled a day early and they did too...which if you ever happen to make an Aflac trip and it's a big time difference ALWAYS add a day!!!). We finally got to Dublin and then we couldn't find Mr. Rusty haha! His flight had arrived a couple hours before ours and he agreed to giving us a ride from the air port to the hotel in his rental car (Aflac provides transportation if you travel with them but when you add days they don't). It was tough b/c the international phone situation! I ended up staying with our luggage and Zach walked around the airport and finally got ahold of him :) 
The whole week of our trip whenever we told anyone that Mr. Rusty rented a car they all laughed. Not only did he have to drive on the left side of the road...but he also got a stick shift! It was pretty funny on the drive in but I was SO impressed with his ability to do both the gear shifting and the left side of the road driving. We had about a 40 min drive from Dublin to our hotel and it was a, surprisingly, smooth ride!!! 
One of the best things about Aflac trips is the hotel. They ALWAYS pick the most amazing hotels!!! Powerscourt Hotel Resort and Spa was beautiful. I wondered why they chose a hotel so far from Dublin, but it made total sense once we arrived!!!
We didn't have a whole lot of plans for the trip. The big joke was how it was Zach and Mr. Rusty's "life long dream" to be able to golf together in Ireland. I mean when I met Zach he never wanted to travel outside of Valdosta...let alone have some big dream of golfing in Ireland?!?!?! I kept joking that my life long dream was to go on a huge shopping spree in Ireland ;) The money spent on the golf added up pretty fast so I also kept gently reminding Zach that life long dreams mean we break the bank so I fully plan to come up with some AWESOME life long dream for myself. Maybe getting to spend the night in Cinderella's Castle at Disney?!?!? ;)

Seriously though...it may not have been a TRUE life long dream of Zach's to golf with his dad in Ireland, but it was PRECIOUS to see them together and hear how excited they both were. I made a goal for myself not to get annoyed by the golf. I was going to focus on making it an awesome trip for Zach and find enjoyment in my own way for the trip. I brought lots of books, I booked some spa stuff at the resort, I was fine with just relaxing and enjoying some "Emily time." I was NOT going to be annoyed at how little I saw Zach. I was NOT going to get frustrated that when I did see him all the talk would be golf related. I tam really, really proud of myself for how well I played the supportive wife on this vacation :)

The one thing I'd asked Zach prior to leaving was to please make an itinerary for me with the golf plans so I could know what I was getting into. They played 5 rounds of golf in a 5 day period. Arrival day they played 1 round, Day 1 they played the entire day (2 rounds), Day 3 they took off, Day 4 they played 1 round, and Day 5 they played 1 round. It was a LOT of golf!!! Especially b/c over there they don't use carts...so they WALKED 90 holes!!! Doesn't sound like an ideal life long dream to me haha. Zach was cute about it b/c he really wanted me to go for awhile with them...um no I'm good ;)

We got to the hotel and took a couple of pictures then the guys headed out to make their first round tee time!

Once they left I headed down to get some lunch. I'm not big on eating solo...I just feel awkward? So I ordered it to go and took it back to the room! The hotel seriously was beyond beautiful :) 



My first order of business was to take a bath. I soaked in the tub for about an hour and a half! It was AWESOME. I started reading Gone Girl, which if you haven't read it it's a MUST READ! I rarely take baths at home and I truly enjoyed this one! Our friends on the flight had told us the best way to adjust to the new time zone (Ireland is six hours ahead of Valdosta) is to NOT SLEEP until bed time. So I relaxed but didn't allow myself to actually sleep. I ended up going to bed at around 8 and pretty much fell asleep reading hahaha!
Lunch! 
Other than reading and bathing (and painting my toe nails!),  I also unpacked all of our luggage. Our room had an AWESOME closet and I knew Zach would be excited if he came back to the room and had all of his golf attire organized so I surprised him and did that for him (see? totally supportive of the #lifelongdream!). I treated myself to room service for dinner and ended up eating the same thing I had gotten for lunch which was a kids meal haha. I felt super fancy though eating in my robe! And I totally splurged and got the homemade cookies and milk. YUM. 

The only real negative about the hotel was that they didn't have ice machines. So I had to call down and ask for ice constantly. My main goal was to be nice and hydrated and ice is kinda essential for drinking water ;) The staff got to know me well! I truly just enjoyed relaxing that night and felt like it was such a great chance to REALLY focus on Leo! I have enjoyed being pregnant but feel like I can't really truly savor everything because I do have two other kids to focus on! So this time away by myself really was an opportunity to cherish each kick, rub my belly, and really think about our newest baby and all the joy that comes with it :) 
I was so asleep I didn't even realize when Zach came in that night from the golf. I got to see him for roughly 20 min that next morning at around 6 am when he left to go golfing again! It was the full day of golf so I wouldn't see him again until dinner that night. He was SO adorable and excited and showed me all the pictures he took from the course the day prior (I plan to get them from him and do a golf post and have him write it as I do want him to have those memories in the blog book!!!). 

All the Aflac people would be arriving that day so it was the official first day of the trip. Aflac offered a free breakfast so I went to enjoy that before going to my spa day. I had a treatment planned where I'd get an hour long prenatal massage followed by a relaxing lunch and then an hour long facial. When I went to the breakfast I found out that Aflac had decided to host a FREE tour that day. I guess they had a LOT of people arriving that morning and the hotel wouldn't have the rooms ready until 3 so it was a way for them to keep everyone happy and entertained while they waited on their rooms ;) I debated about what to do but, in the end, decided to rearrange my spa appointment so I could go on the tour. Since our hotel was so in-the-middle-of-no-where and I didn't have any of my own transportation, I needed to take advantage of anything offered to me to get to see some of the beautiful Irish countryside!!! 

Thankfully the Spa was super sweet and accommodating. I got my 1 hour prenatal then ran to the room to shower and get ready super fast in order to be back for the tour! I actually snuck some of the Aflac lunch into my purse and ate it on the bus haha!
Prenatal massage was AMAZING!!! So relaxing that I totally started to fall asleep and accidentally let out a bit of gas haha it was hilarious b/c the masseuse said "Oh!" hahahah I just stayed quiet in an effort to make it less awkward!
I was pretty proud of myself for going on the tour solo! I feel a little uncomfortable around all the Aflac people...I mean I don't actually work for the company so I don't know all of them all that well. Also none of our group are people from our actual town so I don't even see them all that often. And they are all a tight group who DO see each other all the time (they all mostly live in Columbus) so it can be a little awkward. They were all very nice to me though and it was a good chance to get to know them beyond just the random meetings I may attend from time to time. They are a bit of a rowdy crowd so I missed a lot of the tour points from the guide but just tried to embrace it and enjoy it the best I could (I mean "embrace it" is like the them of this trip for me! I really just went with the flow which is SO not my typical style!!! Very outside my comfort zone for sure!). 

Some famous singer lives here. Yes...this is the type of notes I have from this tour haha
The coast was BEAUTIFUL! I'm so glad I took the tour and went to see it! I honestly have no clue what body of water we were even looking at (and no one else knew either that I was with...I guess Aflac people aren't so great at geography huh?)! But it sure was pretty!
These flowers bloom EVERYWHERE!






Again...I embraced the moment! There was a bit of time for us to explore so a group of us walked way down to get a better view of everything. The walk itself was rather interesting as we passed by a pile of HUMAN POOP. So, so gross. And like right down beside it was a condom wrapper. I guess some random people were doing some pretty gross things out there! Yikes! The hard part of the walk down was one of the guys kept smoking in our group. I didn't want to say anything so I just tried to slow down and get away from him the best I could!

awesome angle for a picture haha
The walk back up was NO JOKE. Yes. These stairs haha. I was DYING. But didn't feel so bad...I was kinda thankful for the smoker then haha b/c you know I wasn't the only one out of breath and at least I had pregnancy as an excuse ;) 

more of the walk back!

Our group! Thankful for such a fun crew to hang with :)

The tour bus also took us to a pub to get some food which was a nice break. The ride on the bus was not easy on me! I get car sick and the combo of the crazy driving mixed with having to sit in the back of the bus wasn't good! I LOVED getting out and walking around! 
First Pub experience on this trip!
And, yes, I got hot chocolate :) 
Several of our group went into a little grocery store to buy items for their hotel room. I just stayed back solo to enjoy the town and take it all in :) 


Everyone was SO nice on the tour and I'm SO glad I went!!! I actually traveled to Ireland in middle school....I did People to People and went to Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England for 21 days. This trip reminded me so much of that trip. Not only because I was in the same place...but because I was outside of my comfort zone in so many situations. That trip was made up of kids from our county's middle schools and NO ONE else from my middle school went so I traveled for almost a month with all total strangers! It was def not easy on me (I was the first one of the group to get homesick!) but it was so worth it and I have so many amazing memories from it. I loved getting to travel back to Ireland and appreciate from the perspective of an adult. I'd really love to get a chance to go to England with Zach as I think he'd love it too!

Once back in the room there was a gift waiting for me (well technically for Zach). It was a bottle of wine and some fruit. Obviously, we gave the wine away (which is what we always do on these trips! or we just leave it in the room for the cleaning people to have) but I grubbed out on those grapes ;) 
I spent the afternoon in the room. I got ready for dinner that night and finished Gone Girl. I ended up reading three books on the trip...I thought I'd read more than I actually ended up reading! 
Aflac provided breakfast each morning, lunch one of the days, and dinner each night of the trip. Zach and I are pretty hardcore about going to all the free meals we can haha. We don't like to spend our own money if we don't have to! And this trip Aflac didn't give us very much spending money at all and we had to, obviously, pay for all the golf stuff ourselves so we tried to keep it cheap the best we could ;) Zach was mega late getting back for the dinner on the first night. Thankfully it was located at our hotel so it was quick to get there and they still had plenty of food left for us!

I want to go ahead and mention how AMAZINGLY nice the locals are in Ireland. Like above and beyond kind. Especially with me being pregnant. Dinner was literally a 5 min or less walk away and the staff insisted on calling a coach bus to transport us because I shouldn't worry about walking while pregnant. How sweet was that?!?! 




Dinner was legit and they had stations around the room to see different local customs. One of the stations was a chocolate fountain and it was AMAZING. I may have gotten like four helpings haha

I think I remember learning (maybe in Italy?) that the Catholic Church required all the penises to be chiseled off the statues, right? I'm probably wrong! 
View from dinner!




Our Aflac Georgia South Family! 
So awesome how many people qualified this year!!!




We took our time enjoying the chance to be together :) Zach had a great day golfing with his dad and I loved seeing all the pictures he took and he was impressed that I went on the tour by myself too ;) I think it helped him not feel as guilty about me b/c I wasn't stuck in the hotel room for the entire day! 
When we got back to the room we had a box of that amazing chocolate waiting for us as a gift! We ended the night cuddled together in our super comfortable bed, eating our chocolates, and watching Parks and Rec :) Now THAT felt like a normal "Zach and Emily" vacation!

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