So here we are. After months, even years, of looking for the right place to spend my six-month-sabbatical with the kids, we ended up in Holywood, Northern Ireland. ‘Northern Ireland?’, you might ask. At least that is what everyone has asked me so far.
I want to be honest. Northern Ireland was not on our original list. Ireland in general was our first choice, but of course I checked the Republic of Ireland first. You know: European Union, Euro and Kilometers, etc. But the RoI did not work out for us. What we wanted to do would have been difficult and expensive, so we looked for alternatives. Still, Northern Ireland was not on our radar. I wanted the kids to attend a school in English, but we started looking at all kinds of countries regardless of language. France, Turkey, Portugal, even Latvia.
We then looked into options of traveling without the children attending school. Nothing seemed quite right, though, except a six-week trip to Puerto Rico to visit a dear friend and the United States. We would have had no daily structure or routines, though, and the children really wanted to attend a school.#
My thoughts went back to Ireland, and I realized that I had not checked if there were Steiner schools in Northern Ireland. We wanted a Steiner school because that is the system the children know.
And there was one! A Steiner school in Northern Ireland, in Holywood, a small town right outside of Belfast. I contacted the school, and they were willing to talk to me. I was really sick the two months before the sabbatical, so I didn’t follow up the way I wanted to, but in January, only weeks before we wanted to be on the road, I had a wonderful conversation with the headteacher. He felt as strongly about traveling abroad and experiencing other countries and cultures as I did, and he was very willing to accept us at his school.
We started packing only a week before we left, after we had the final okay from the school, and hit the road without knowing where we would stay for the 5 ½ months we planned on staying in Holywood. Luckily, the headteacher at the school had put me in touch with his brother-in-law, who is a relocation specialist, and he had started looking around for a temporary home for us.
We left Germany at the beginning of February, 2023, and took our time. Our first stop was near Calais, where we spent the night at an AirBnb before we took the ferry to Dover the next day. From Dover, we drove along the southern coast of England and Wales and spent the night in a lovely hostel in Fishbourne.
The day after that, we took the ferry to Ireland, spent the night in Co. Kilkenny (another beautiful Airbnb) and then drove all the way to Holywood. By now it was Saturday, and the children were due to start school the following Monday. In Holywood, we spent two weeks in a lovely Airbnb until the relocation specialist had found a home for the remainder of our time here.
So now we are in Holywood, Northern Ireland. We spend our weeks in town, the children attend school, we connect with the local people and I work on my network marketing business. On the weekends, we go on daytrips. We want to use our time to take in as much of the island as we can.
We have loved it since day one and feel blessed to have ended up in Northern Ireland. Everything worked out easily and perfectly. Another reminder that if you have an open mind, magic can happen. Because, just like everyone I told about it, my first thought was: ‘Northern Ireland? Really?’ But now I know: It is wonderful 🙂