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Come Rain or Sunshine, We're Going Bike Riding!

This was one of the first lines on our email about our upcoming excursion that our CEA study abroad group received from the program director at Galway. A little worried about what was in store, I packed, typically, a full bag of gear. In my backpack were two sandwiches, a water bottle, two coats, socks, and my camera. Little did I know that I would use almost everything I brought, a rare occurrence that happens when you travel.
 The ferry dock on the island

Our group left early Saturday on the bus to catch a ferry to an island called Inishmore, which is the largest of the three Aran Islands. Only about 800 people live on this island year round, but boats run everyday to the mainland filled with supplies and tourists. Most people go to the Aran Islands for sweaters and other gifts, but the beautiful landscape draws them to venture out, and that's exactly what we did. CEA organized for us to go on a bike tour of the island, and when we landed, buckets of rain were hitting us from all angles. For some reason, I could not stop smiling. We collected our bikes and proceeded out, a few of us not wearing rain gear but beaming anyways.

 Soaked...but ready to go!

We headed out through the rain, which only lasted about 20 minutes (thankfully!), but there were no complaints from us five girls. The bike ride to our destination, Dun Aengus, lasted an hour and a half through stunning countryside filled with both ocean views and farm animals! A few seals were spotted off the shore and could be heard calling to each other across the water. Dun Aengus is an ancient stone fort believed to be built in 1100 BC that features a 100 meter sheer drop into the ocean. This sight was magnificent for photos, and on such a wonderful day the Cliffs of Moher and Galway bay were visible from certain points of the island. From such a height, our program director Brian was worried someone would topple off, but we made sure to document that he shouldn't worry!
 Holding up our program director so he wouldn't worry about us!

Overall, visiting the Aran Islands has been my favorite trip during my stay in Ireland. There's something about the air that is so refreshing; it makes you want to go out and live, and there's not many places that hold that kind of magic. It can be terrifying to throw everything to the wind, pack up, and leave home for four months to come to a strange place and try to create a new life, but this has been the best decision I've ever made. Fear is only the unknown taunting you, and being able to look back and say, "Yes, I was scared, but look at all of the wonderful friends, memories, and experiences I had that I wouldn't have any other time in my life," makes for a strong person. I would encourage everyone to go and find a place that  fills them with that kind of feeling!

Carrie Stinogel is the Fall 2014 CEA MOJO in Galway, Ireland. She is currently a Junior year at school at Western Washington University.

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