How to Plan a Journey to the Aran Islands in Ireland

To capture to essence of a journey is every traveller and photographer’s dream, but crossing half the world and getting disappointed by a dream destination, the sudden lack of enthusiasm or simply having no idea how to picture what we see, is a feeling we all know too well. I think capturing a moment in a picture is more than just being in the right place at the right time. Here are some tips on how to manage your trip to gain more than just a couple good pictures. I’m giving here an example of my recent trip to the Aran Islands at the western part of Ireland, to show you an alternative way of travelling.

Rule 1: Be prepared

Beside the obvious, like plane ticket, accommodation, etc. try to find out as much as you can about the place where you’re heading to. And I’m not talking only about the travel magazines. Try to reach something more sophisticated like a hint of literature about the place. If you don’t speak the local language read something in your own language written by a traveller. I personally love the books written centuries ago, like the famous diary ‘The Travels Of Marco Polo’. Before I went to the Aran Islands I read hundred times a book by Swiss traveller Nicolas Bouvier, written 30 years ago entitled: ‘Journal d’Aran et d’autres lieux‘. It was exciting to think about the island before even going there! I found out about the places he visited, people he met, events he participated. Through literature our destination gains new dimensions. Make an effort!

Rule 2: Be open minded

My stay on the islands was very flexible. I had a few must-do activities but I was always open to the unknown. Meeting people, talking to them, asking questions was always leading to unexpected places. If you give the locals an opportunity they will show you much more than what you found in guidebooks. They will share with you places that are important for them, special for some reason. They will share things they are proud of, giving you fascinating background to take pictures.

Aran Islands, Ireland

Rule 3: Follow your instinct

If you’re skilled in interpersonal communication this will be easy for you. If you’re not, you need to learn fast. To photograph touristic spots in a good light is relatively easy, but to bring the story to live is much more complicated. I am personally convinced that famous spots have been photographed so many times that amateurs – like us – should skip it. What you can do is to following your instinct and discover something very special.

Rule 4: Take your time

The best pictures are taken at the weirdest hours. Early morning and late afternoon are the golden hours in terms of light but also in terms of human behavior. Waking up is a fascinating process around the world. If you’re ready to wake up earlier than everybody else you’ll be rewarded with unforgettable views. On the Aran Islands this was more true in terms of the weather conditions: as it was raining every couple of minutes I had to be ready to capture the sun. Patience is a good starting point.

No doubt: travels managed this way are time consuming and demanding. True. I have been preparing this trip for weeks. Having fun at the same time. But I am pretty sure that the things I brought from this trip are far more precious than a few good pictures. I met fascinating people, heard amazing stories, watched the nature at its best.

So my advice is this: start your travel today! From a book, article, blog post, anything. And let yourself get fascinated with a place before you go. This will change your travel.

5 thoughts on “How to Plan a Journey to the Aran Islands in Ireland”

  1. Pingback: Guest Post: Planning My Journey | Null & Full
  2. I agree, Agata. Travel is definitely more rewarding when you’ve prepared. Every traveler is different and once we understand what we’re looking for, what our perspective is, we’ll get so much more out of our travels. Great tips!

  3. Thanks Marcia! Great to hear your thoughts on this. I think I’m still looking for more purposeful travels and doing my very best to make a good use out of every trip. It’s a sort of process we all going through, isn’t it?

  4. I like both types of travel – the fully prepared and the fully unexpected. My husband and I took the ferry to the Aran Islands from Doolin -and never thought we’d survive that. Then we biked for part of a day and explored the ruins when no one else was there. It felt desolate but also wonderful at the same time. We met a few characters – fellow travelers – and they added a real richness to our Aran Island experience.

  5. That’s wonderful! Biking in the Aran Island is challenging – at least the way I did it: in a windy day! Precious memories from there!

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