Well-known international travel/investment guru and Baltimore native, Kathleen Peddicord, took 17 years to thoughtfully process her first overseas relocation for her new memoir, “At Home in Ireland” (Lahardan Books, 2022)—and it was worth the wait for her new perspective on a difficult transition.
The travel memoir and cautionary tale reveals her family’s deeply personal journey facing the challenges—and ultimate rewards—of living and launching a business in Ireland.
Peddicord was newly remarried to her husband Lief, and her daughter, Kaitlin, was just 8 years old when they faced unique and unexpected challenges, including a new school, new friends and a new culture.
How did Peddicord do it—and what did she learn along the way? Here she looks back on her experience as a businesswoman and parent. But before Ireland was Charm City, and a little girl who loved to read and write.
Originally an East Baltimore girl, Peddicord grew up on Streeper Street near Patterson Park until she was about 8 years old, when her parents bought a chunk of land and built a home in bucolic White Hall.
A graduate of Towson Catholic High, Peddicord earned her degree in English literature at what is now Notre Dame of Maryland University. The earliest influences on her career include winning reading competitions in elementary school. But it was beloved Notre Dame professor Josephine Trueschler who inspired her writing.
“She taught me all the core fundamentals about good writing and how to be a writer,” Peddicord says.
Straight out of college, Peddicord landed her first writing job at a new publishing house, The Agora. While working her way through the ranks, Peddicord took an opportunity to apply for the company’s International Living position. That became Peddicord’s springboard for a life of international travel writing, and living and investing overseas, starting with opening Agora’s first international office in Ireland.
The Irish way
“At Home in Ireland” tells the story of that first venture, moving to Waterford in 1998 with Kaitlin and Lief. But “the land of a hundred thousand welcomes” wasn’t all shamrocks and leprechauns, as Peddicord soon discovered.
A single mother until just before that first overseas move, Peddicord relied heavily on her parents for support with Kaitlin as she climbed the career ladder. Although her daughter and husband had taken one trip with Peddicord to test the waters, when it was time to leave Baltimore and her grandparents, Kaitlin was not enthused.
“The morning of our planned departure, Kaitlin had laid in the bed in my parents’ guest room, fully clothed under the covers, crying. My mother sat at her side, holding her hand and sobbing,” Peddicord writes.
But, there was no going back. “As we climbed into the car, Kaitlin was still crying, and now I was, too, quietly. I put on my sunglasses, hoping Kaitlin and my dad wouldn’t notice. No time for second guessing now. I’d made a plan. It was a good plan. I just had to stick to the plan,” she continues.
Most of Peddicord’s travels to that point had been in the Americas. “Central America was a focus for International Living,” she says. “Dozens of trips in Panama and Nicaragua, Honduras, Belize, Mexico, Guatemala, in the Caribbean. I’ve been to Argentina, Uruguay, etc. I knew how those countries worked.”
It was a different story in Ireland, where she and Lief and Kaitlin lived temporarily at Waterford’s Granville Hotel. While looking for a school for Kaitlin, and an office and home to rent, day-to-day living was a little bumpy.
Even just shopping for a car on a Saturday morning was easier said than done., her book reveals:
“Would you be wanting to do this Monday morning, is that it?” the [taxi] driver asked.
Why did this guy keep telling us what day it was? We knew it was Saturday. Why did that matter?
“Is it that the dealerships aren’t open today?” I asked. “Because it’s Saturday?”
“Aye, luv, of course. It’s Saturday.”
But the couple persevered, setting up shop, hiring local employees, buying and renovating the moldy 200-year-old Lahardan House, and even having a son, Jackson. Joys included weekends with friends Morette and David in their home overlooking the Celtic Sea, their own idyllic country home and gardens and her daughter’s acclimation to Irish life.
“Kaitlin started school and her life at least settled into a routine. Within a few weeks, she was talking about friends she’d made, especially Sophia, who began inviting Kaitlin over to her house after school and on Saturday afternoons,” Peddicord writes. “She was integrating.”
Erin go Bragh!
Now 59, and based in Panama, it took Peddicord 17 years of perspective—of leaving Ireland in 2005, leaving Agora, moving to Paris and then Panama, and starting her own publishing business— before she was able to reflect on her seven years on “The Ould Sod” with real affection. It was an affection gleaned from embracing the Irish focus on family, friends and community.
“Hard as she’d fought against the idea in the beginning, [Kaitlin] finally created a life for herself on this island,” Peddicord writes. “She and Sophia were inseparable and for her birthday recently she’d hosted a half-dozen girls for a sleepover.”
As she grew older, Peddicord recognized what a treasure Ireland is. “I appreciate it in a way that I never did when we were there and didn’t for years,” Peddicord adds. “I love Ireland. I very much want to have a house there again and spend time there. There’s no better place to be in a lot of ways.”
That kind of fondness she also shares for her roots in Baltimore.
“When I think of Baltimore, I think of Old Bay and crabs, and the Chesapeake Bay,” she says wistfully. ”And summer corn and picnics with my parents.”
For more information, or to purchase Peddicord’s memoir, visit kathleenpeddicord.com.