Bucket List Birthday





Portico Homewood’s own Michael Whitten takes a
once-in-a-lifetime trip to celebrate a milestone birthday.

story by Barry Wise Smith  photography courtesy of Michael Whitten

You only turn 40 once. And Michael Whitten was determined to do more than throw a simple party to commemorate his big day.

He decided to take a trip that he would remember forever. “It was basically a bucket list item my whole life to see U2 play in Dublin,” Whitten says. “And honestly, it was something I never thought I’d cross off.” But as it happened, in 2017, the year Whitten was turning 40, U2 announced a 30th anniversary tour for their seminal album The Joshua Tree. “Growing up in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, this is one of my all-time favorite albums,” Whitten says. After looking at U.S. tour dates, Whitten “checked the Ireland dates on a whim.” One of the tour’s summer dates was scheduled for July 22nd at Croke Park—Ireland’s premier sports arena—in Dublin. And a bucket list birthday plan was hatched. After flying direct from Atlanta to Dublin, Whitten and girlfriend, Becca Thomas, spent a week in Ireland taking it all in. “On the day of the concert, it felt like a game day in the SEC all over Dublin,” Whitten recalls. “The Irish people love U2. There were literally people tailgating all day before the concert.” After checking a big item off his bucket list, Whitten set out to tour Dublin, taking the Guinness Brewery tour and enjoying the city’s many pubs. “There is literally a pub on every corner,” Whitten says. “It’s not a stereotype, the Irish love their Guinness.

And, it’s no joke, Guinness does tastes better in Ireland.”

Whitten and Thomas then ventured outside the city to tour the Southern and Western coasts of Ireland. “We rented a car, which was an experience. Driving on the other side of the road was challenging,” Whitten laughs. They toured the Cliffs of Moher; the Dingle Peninsula; Cobh, the port city the Titanic embarked from; and numerous castles and cathedrals.

“It made me realize how young America is. There’s so much history. Ireland was as green and beautiful as I’ve always imagined. One of our favorite surprises of the whole trip was the small village of Kilkenny right in the heart of the country. It was exactly how I’d pictured Ireland in my head, and it’s exactly how I want to remember it.”

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