My Adopted Reindeer, Ochil

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*Sorry I’ve been M.I.A.! I wrote this post a few months ago while traveling and it has  been sitting as a draft waiting for pictures to be added!

As I’m sitting on my bus back to Inverness, I’m reflecting on what truly makes me happy. One thing (or things) is animals. I ditched a steam engine ride through the mountains today to go pet reindeer and see the Highland Cows. I wasn’t very excited about the train ride, even though it included high tea. The animal adventures though, I was so excited for them. I didn’t even care that I couldn’t refund the steam engine ticket. How often do I get to hand feed reindeer? Definitely not in Kansas!

The Cairngorm Reindeer Center is located right outside of Aviemore, Scotland. The reindeer were re-introduced to Scotland in 1952 after they died out many years ago. The herd I saw today are the only reindeer that live in their natural habitat (not in zoos) in Britain. The herd roams freely on the mountains for much of the year, living a natural lifestyle in the sub-Arctic habitat of the Cairngorms.

Today, we hiked up to see approximately 30 reindeer in their natural habitat. They were above the tree line but below the snow, so it was cold! Many of the reindeer are pregnant and should be birthing any time in the next couple of months. We did get to see one Mom and her three day old calf! The reindeer are very friendly and are harness trained from a young age. They have a long standing connection with humans and will come up and eat right out of your hands. This facility uses them for breeding and wildlife purposes only. They do not use them for meat and they do not use their coats. Their antlers fall off yearly so these are used to make various things and are also used as decoration.

The average reindeer at the centre lives til 12 or 15 years of age. When they die they are buried as you would a pet. All of the reindeer have names and can be identified by the staff in various ways, such as by their coats, antlers, or personalities. All of the reindeer are available for adoption! Today I adopted Ochil! She is a sweet two year old reindeer who is pregnant with her first calf. Unlike my lamb adoption, for this adoption I WILL get updates on her twice a year with pictures! Money for the adoption goes to support the Cairngorm herd.

UPDATE: Ochil had a baby girl on May 6th!

Isle of Skye

Ok, now this really is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to. I know I said that about the Cliffs of Moher, but this definitely takes the cake. I got to spend three days on this breathtaking island and it still wasn’t enough time. From Faerie Pools, to hidden lakes only accessible by boat, there is something magical about the Isle of Skye. At one point I trekked two miles down a beach, over a stone wall, through a pasture full of cows, and finally found myself standing on the most picturesque white, sand beach. The entire time I was there I felt like I was in a fairy tale. Scotland has by far been my favorite part of the trip. It’s rustic landscape and less traveled roads make me appreciate it so much more. Pictures and videos don’t do it justice. I feel like I’m sharing a very well-kept secret that I should not be sharing- if you ever get the chance, visit Scotland.

Giant’s Causeway, The Dark Hedges, Trim Castle

Sorry I’ve been MIA lately! I’ve been video blogging for the Travel Nurse Takeover Channel on Snapchat and Instagram while on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. It’s really too beautiful to even be on a phone or on social media at all. More to come on the Isle of Skye. Here are the rest of my Ireland pictures!

(For all those tv and movie buffs out there- Game of Thrones filmed at The Dark Hedges and Braveheart filmed at Trim Castle!)

Me, Myself, and a Backpack

I usually travel with a carry-on suitcase so I didn’t think traveling with a larger backpack would be too difficult. Then, I tried to pack eight pairs of leggings (LOL). My expectations about what I needed to take were very unrealistic. Luckily, Allison McKibban was in town and came over to help me pack. She did a similar 23-day backpacking trip through eastern Europe in December, so she was able to give me great advice. We also have the exact same backpack. I did not ask her what kind she has before getting mine. I did a great deal of research online, talked with the employees at REI and wound up with the Osprey Fairview Women’s 40L Travel Pack.

This is a great pack for traveling. It’s carry-on size and fits perfectly into the overhead bin.  It can function as a backpack, but you can also zip away the backpack straps and carry it as a messenger bag or duffel. It is NOT a top-loading pack. The front panel unzips and you can fold it all the way down to easily access all of your belongings. It has a really nice padded laptop sleeve and the compression straps are a life-saver when it’s time to fly.

When it came time to pack my clothes I started to get a little worried. How would I fit 23 days worth of clothes into a backpack (AHHHHH!)? You don’t. As Allie told me (and I have learned on my trip) you do laundry, duh. My AirBNB hosts have been kind enough to let me use their washers and dryers, the hotels have laundry service, hostels have washing machines, and I even saw a washing machine in a gas station parking lot today in the middle of no where!

Here’s what I brought for clothes:

  • 4 pairs of yoga leggings
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 pajama set
  • 4 long- sleeve layering shirts
  • 3 light sweaters
  • 1 Patagonia vest
  • 1 rain coat
  • 10 pairs of underwear
  • 4 pairs of wool socks
  • 3 sports bras
  • 1 baseball hat
  • 1 scarf
  • 1 pair of new hiking boots (BEST INVESTMENT FOR THIS TRIP)
  • 1 pair of flip flops (hostel showers)
  • 1 small, micro-fiber towel (also, hostel showers)

It seems like a lot. I made sure everything I brought was compressible or thinner material. I learned how to “ranger roll” my clothes (how they roll their clothes in the military) and put everything into packing cubes. Packing cubes help me to organize everything and know exactly where things are at. My packing cubes are also from REI.

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The last thing in my backpack is my cosmetics and toiletries bag. I brought the bare minimum, folks. Now that I’m here, there are things I would’ve left at home just so I wouldn’t have to carry them around. I’m also realizing the clothes I brought are more than enough. If I can come to another country for 23 days with just a backpack, you can too!

The Cliffs of Moher

As I left the Dingle Peninsula today I was driving in dense fog. Then, it of course started raining. The Cliffs of Moher are one of my bucket list items. I was going to be very sad if it was too foggy to see them. Luckily, the sun started shining through towards the end of my drive. Pictures do not do them justice. I can’t believe I got to see them today. Best 6 euros I’ve ever spent.

The Views

My AirBNB hostess, Audrey, took me out last night to the local pub in Glengarriff and the locals gave me great advice to avoid the other tourists today. They said this time of year people are getting stuck on the Ring of Kerry for 8 hours and I did NOT want to sign up for that (especially with all of the tour buses). Instead, I drove the Ring of Beara and half of the Dingle Peninsula. To sum everything up– Ireland is gorgeous and the views are amazing. Happy Earth Day to this beautiful world we are lucky enough to explore!

*These pictures were taken in Kinsale, on the Ring of Beara, and on the Dingle Peninsula.

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I’m a mom! His name is Dorothy.

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Today has been my favorite day in Ireland so far! I left Kinsale and drove to Killarney National Park. I went to Torc Waterfall and hiked for a while, then I went to Kissane Sheep Farm. The farm is located on the side of a mountain on the outskirts of Killarney National Park. It’s a full-time, working sheep farm that offers sheep herding demonstrations a couple of days a week. For a certain fee/donation you can adopt a sheep! Two twin lambs were born a week ago and another Katie (this one from Ireland) and I adopted them today! Originally, they told us they were twin girls. So, I named mine Dorothy. Then, the farm hands picked them up and said, “Nope. They’re boys.” I decided not to change his name. His name is Dorothy and he’s a feminist. He’s going to live a long happy life on the Kissane sheep farm. Except for when he’s being herded by Border Collies (as seen below).