Originally posted May 27, 2010

By Eileen Ogintz

“This is going to be the first time truly putting my travel skills from growing up to the test but I know it is just the beginning,” my youngest daughter Mel wrote in the “thank you” note she left for her dad and me when she left for Ireland, thanking us for paying her airfare as she set off traveling solo with two friends to work on an organic farm for two weeks.

I’ve always thought that travel is a great gift to give any child—to show her that she can navigate successfully on unfamiliar turf, manage when plans go awry, build confidence and create memories that will last a lifetime. What a great life lesson travel can be to see how different and yet how alike families are around the world! 

Melanie, who has just finished her freshman year at college, has traveled widely with our family and with www.BuildersBeyondBorders.org, doing community service projects all through high school in Central and South America.  We’ve certainly had our share of amazing I-can’t-believe-we’re-here-doing-this moments in places as far as Tahiti and as close as Cape Cod, as well as misadventures.

Ballymaloe House In Ireland

But this is the first time she’s set off abroad on her own, with just her backpack, passport, laptop and a borrowed Irish cell phone.

She and her two friends, amazingly, landed at Ballymaloe House http://www.ballymaloe.ie/ in Cork that has been run by the Allen family for over 40 years and incidentally is home to Darina Allen, Ireland’s best-known chef. It was pure serendipity that this particular farm contacted them when they began looking for volunteer farm gigs in Ireland through WWOOF.org  (WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms). I’m sure she’ll eat well–and hopefully, pick up a some cooking tips helping in the kitchen.

“Don’t worry I won’t fall off the face of the earth,” she promised in her note—not in this day of Facebook, Skype and cell phones (though she didn’t bother to call or email that she arrived safely until we sent her an email prompting her to guiltily get in touch). What a difference from my backpacking days when calls home were strictly for emergencies and I was out of touch for weeks at a stretch.

I’m so proud of my young adventurer. I think she’s well prepared to thoroughly embrace a new place and culture as well as to handle missteps along the way. I just hope she lets me share some of her adventures to come.