Favorite places we’ve traveled to:
Once again, we’re teaming up with The Fettered Matriarch to bring you Off Topic Tuesday, a once-a-month post about a range of topics we have chosen, which may or may not be related to books. This month we’re discussing our travels! We hope you enjoy!
My travels pale in comparison to the adventures Sabrina has been on, as I’m sure you’ll be able to see. Nonetheless, I have had some great trips within the confines of North America. As a mother of young children, it’s difficult and expensive to travel, but we have still managed to take a few really great trips.
As I child, I spent my first eight years of life in Michigan, a beautiful place to grow up. A few of my favorite memories were from our travels to the U.P. (Upper Peninsula). I remember vividly visiting St. Ignace, Mackinac Island, Sault Ste. Marie (both the Michigan and Canadian sides of the city) and the Soo Locks.
When I was eight years old, my family moved to the South, so moving kind of became like a vacation. We stopped to check out caves in Kentucky, the Jim Beam brewery, the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY, Nashville and more. Though I was apprehensive about leaving everything I knew behind, I have great memories of our time on the road.
During my senior year of high school, I took my first “grown-up” vacation without my parents. For spring break, two friends and I went on a road trip to Gulf Shores, AL and New Orleans, LA. This was during a really difficult time for me and was a much-needed reprieve from life. Unfortunately, I got one of the most unbelievable sunburns imaginable in Gulf Shores, causing me some of the worst pain in my life during our visit to New Orleans. Though every movement hurt, I still enjoyed the unique culture of The Big Easy. It was especially interesting to see how the city was still recovering from Katrina 3 years later, in 2008. It is still unlike any place I have ever visited before.
Also in 2008, I took one of the most exciting road trips of my life and truly got to experience a freedom I had never known. My husband and I drove to Las Vegas by way of Colorado to move our belongings and begin our married life together. After getting hitched in a ten-minute long ceremony (I’d still choose this wedding option nearly 10 years later), we looped back to Colorado after visiting The Hoover Dam, The Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, and Four Corners. Prior to this time in my life, I had never been further West than Texas. I could go on and on about this vacation because I was completely starting over anew. It was the most transformative time in my existence, besides when I became a mother.
In 2009, my husband and I ventured back to Texas after a year away to visit some of my high school friends and visit the beach in Galveston. That same summer we had a great vacation to Durango, Colorado and a cross-country road trip with friends to New
Hampshire. Our New Hampshire vacation was a spontaneous trip to help rescue a friend from a dire situation. We drove 36 hours non-stop to reach NH to basically kidnap our friend and bring her back to Colorado. This trip is such a blur in my memory, except for feeling exceptionally ill on the way home from exhaustion and lack-of-sleep, pulling over to sleep in a parking lot because we literally could not keep our eyes open any longer, and locking our keys in the truck in Kansas on the way home (raises hand in shame). I don’t remember how many days this trip took, only that when we made it back to Colorado I slept for 17 hours straight. It was one of the craziest things I have ever been a part of.
The following year, in 2010, I was beginning my photography business and was invited to shoot my first wedding in Cozumel, Mexico. I can’t speak too highly of my photography skills at the time, but I’ll forever be grateful for the memories I took away from the trip. It was a four-day-long fiesta with great friends, and though it rained practically the entire time, I loved every minute of being sopping wet on the beaches of Mexico.
Our first little family vacation was in 2012. We left in the middle of the night and drove all the way to Salt Lake City, Utah. We visited The Great Salt Lake, which stunk surprisingly bad but was something I’d love to visit again with older children. Next, we drove to San Francisco and stayed in one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever stayed in. I felt like we were the Beverly Hillbillies rolling up with our duffle bags and our Dodge vehicle to the doors of the Omni Hotel. We lived like kings for a few days and spent all of our spare time walking the hilly streets and seeing everything we possibly could. I especially loved Chinatown. San Fran was without a doubt one of my favorite places to visit. A few days later, we drove to Los Angeles to check out Hollywood and the works. To be honest, I wasn’t too impressed with the city and much preferred San Francisco’s charm to the hustle and bustle of LA. Nevertheless, we stayed at the Beverly Hilton hotel for the experience. I hope the suites were nicer than our room, otherwise, the celebs are seriously slumming it. On our way back to Colorado, we stopped again in Vegas for a few days for our first trip back there since getting married in 2008. This time we stayed at Caesar’s Palace and reenacted The Hangover the entire time, though without the actual hangover. 😉
Lately, our vacations have been a bit simpler and less adventurous due to the family life, but now that our children are becoming more independent we are excited to experience more things with them! Usually, our summers are spent heading back to Colorado and pretending we live there again. Last summer was one of my favorite vacations of all, if not my favorite, even though I wasn’t visiting anywhere new. We spent lots of time visiting friends, walking around downtown Denver, and hiking. I also was able to hike to the top of the tallest sand dune in North America with my husband, something I tried and failed to do in 2009. This one of the most exhilarating and physically challenging things I have ever done, and I loved every exhausting second of it. I wish the sand dunes weren’t so far out of the way so we could visit more!
Reflecting on my travels was a great walk down memory lane. I’ve realized I have quite a few miles under my belt and I can’t wait to see where the road continues to lead me. 29 states, 3 countries so far and hopefully, lots more to go in the years to come. I hope you enjoyed a glimpse into the journeys I’ve taken!
This month’s topic is probably going to be my favorite thing to talk about in the Off Topic Tuesday series because I absolutely love traveling. Ever since traveling through almost half of the US States I have been stung by the travel bee. Unfortunately, as a student, I didn’t have too much money for traveling but I will definitely change that once I have a steady income.
Travels through Germany:
I am lucky enough to have grown up in a region which is close to a lot of major cities in Germany: in about 2 hours you can be in Düsseldorf or Cologne, in about 3 hours you can be in Hamburg or Frankfurt and with a non-stop train ride with the ICE (the fastest train in Germany) you can be in Berlin in about 3 hours as well.
Frankfurt is one of the cities I’ve been to and it’s such a cool place. It’s basically the only German city with skyscrapers, which is why it is also referred to as ‘Mainhattan’. It’s a wordplay between the word Manhattan and Main, the river that flows through Frankfurt. I’ve been to Frankfurt two or three times, I can’t remember exactly. The first time was with my class from banking school in 2011. Since Frankfurt is the banking city of Germany, our class trip had to be to Frankfurt obviously. We had an amazing time and even went inside the German Stock Exchange.
Another great city is Berlin. I have been there three times so far but unfortunately not in the past 10 years. Twice I visited Berlin for a 5-day class trip (2005 and 2008) and once with a few friends (2006). Berlin is really big and has a lot to offer. Of course, as class trips we did the usual touristy stuff: Brandenburger Tor (the Brandenburg Gate), die Siegessäule (the Victory Column), das KaDeWe (the Department Store of the West), the Berlin Wall and Check Point Charlie, das Kanzleramt (the German Chancellery), das Reichstagsgebäude (the Reichstag building; see picture)… In 2005 we even visited the KZ Sachsenhausen, which was a concentration camp in WWII. Every time I visited Berlin I had the best of times.
Besides Frankfurt and Berlin, I traveled to Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Magdeburg, Kassel, den Bodensee (Lake Constance) and a few other places.
Travels through Europe:
As you – hopefully – all know, Germany lies in the middle of Europe. It is basically the heart of Europe, although others may disagree with this. 😀 Anyways, depending on where you live in Germany you are only a good 1.5-hour flight away from London or Paris, a good 2-hour flight from Rome or Stockholm, and a good 3-hour flight from Athens. Do you know where you can be in only a 2.5-hour drive from my hometown? In Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany – all at the same time (see picture)! 🙂
As you can see, I’ve been to a few European countries in my life, but not nearly enough. I visited some of them even multiple times. I started to travel when I was only 1.5 years old when my parents and I vacationed in Mallorca, one of the three Balearic Islands, which belongs to Spain. Since then, I’ve been over there three more times but every time in different towns. Other than, that I’ve been on summer vacation in Turkey (twice), Greece (twice) and Croatia (once).
A very good friend of mine lives in Austria. Just like Ashley and me, she and I started off as penpals but we became really good friends after a short time. She and I visited each other quite a few times in the past few years and it has always been a lot of fun with her. When I visited her for the first time in 2011, we basically traveled through most of Austria. So far I’ve been to Linz, Salzburg, Vienna, Bad Ischl, St. Wolfgang and Gmunden. Austria is such a beautiful country and if you ever plan to travel to Europe, you should definitely make a stop in Austria. All those lakes and those mountains – it’s breathtaking!
After my semester abroad in England and before heading back to Germany, I took a trip to Scotland (see pictures below). I didn’t go alone, though: my friends from the bank, where I used to work at, joined me on this trip. After all five of us met up in Glasgow and picked up our rental car, did our adventure begin. We had an amazing time and we saw so many great places. We stayed in Glasgow for one night and then headed up north through Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park to Loch Ness. We stopped in Luss, at The Three Sisters, and Invergarry Castle. The next day we drove south through Inverness and the Cairngorms National Park to Edinburgh. We stopped in Dores to take pictures of Loch Ness, in Arbroath to see the cliffs and in Stirling to see Stirling Castle. We spent the following day in Edinburgh before we headed back to Germany on our fifth day.
Besides the mentioned countries and places mentioned above, I ‘ve been to the Netherlands (Amsterdam), Ireland (Dublin, Tralee), Wales (Cardiff), England (London three times, Exeter, Bath, Liverpool and Manchester) and Denmark (Copenhagen).
I’m hoping to travel more in the next few years. There are so many countries and cities I want to see: Madrid and Barcelona in Spain, the rest of Scandinavia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Rome, Verona and Cinq Terre in Italy, Estonia…
Travels through the USA:
I’m pretty sure a few of you know, but for those of you who don’t: I spent two years of my life in New Jersey (08/12-08/14). I was an au pair and lived with an American family. I took care of my host parents’ kids and some of my tasks included bringing the kids to school, picking them up and bringing them to different after-school activities.
As my host hometown was only a good 10-minute car drive away (a good 20 – 30 minutes bus drive) from New York City (aka the best city in the world), I spent most of my weekends there.
During my 2-year stay I also had time off which I used to travel around the States. My travels included weekend trips as well as trips for a week at a time. Since most of my au pair friends and I were given different weeks off, I had the choice between staying in my host hometown or traveling all by myself – which I have never done before at that point. I decided to put my big girl panties on and go all by myself – and let me tell you how scary it was at first!
Ever since Ashley introduced me to Miranda Lambert all those years ago, I fell in love with country music. I loved riding my car in Jersey and listening to New York’s only country radio station NashFM 94.7, so obviously, my first trip had to be to Nashville, TN. I had an amazing time in Music City. I slept in a hostel so it was easy to make some friends in fellow travelers (who were all from England btw :D). We went to a few bars, sang karaoke, went inside the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum, went to Music Row, into the Tennessee State Museum… Looking back we didn’t do too much stuff, but that was fine because I had some great company. And since I couldn’t get enough of Nashville, I went again about a year later with a former friend of mine. We stayed for two days and had the best of time. We went inside the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum again and we also had tickets for the Opry.
If you ever go to Nashville, make sure to go barhopping and listen to all those live music. It’s amazing! I really want to go back one day.
During my first trip, I not only stayed in Nashville, I made a trip to Memphis to visit Elvis’ Graceland. I am so glad I decided to do this. I was never a huge a Elvis fan, I knew some songs here and there and that he made movies and died pretty early on. But after visiting his former residence I declared myself an Elvis fan. 🙂
During my time in the States, I also did a few weekend trips. My first one was to Washington DC, which I actually visited twice. I also did weekend trips to Philadelphia, PA (twice), the Niagara Falls, Boston, MA, Chicago, IL and Miami, FL. One weekend, my host family and I also went to Wilmington, DE.
In June 2013 I did my very first road trip. A friend from Germany who was an au pair in Texas a few years before me visited me in Jersey for a week before she and I headed to Denver, CO. As much as I wanted to visit Denver, the main reason I flew over there was Ashley. 🙂 Before she moved to Texas she and her family lived in Colorado and my au pair stay was the perfect opportunity to finally meet each other. You won’t believe how nervous I was. I almost turned around and left again! 😀 But all my anxiety was ill-founded because Ashley and her whole family were super kind. We spent a few hours at the zoo, had lunch and then they took my friend and I to Lookout Mountain just outside of Denver. We had a great time.
A day later, my friend and I left for our big road trip. After leaving Denver and Eastern Colorado behind, we entered Kansas and later that day Oklahoma. It took us 15 hours to finally cross the Texas border. It was fun and fascinating driving through the Great Plains of the US. It was definitely an experience.
In Texas, we not only visited my friend’s former host family, we also visited Dallas, Houston (see picture), Austin and Galveston, where we took a swim in the Gulf of Mexico.
Besides the road trip from Colorado to Texas, I did a road trip from Charleston, SC to Atlanta, GA. A few months later a former friend and I drove from Nashville, TN to New Orleans, LA, we even took a detour to tick Arkansas from our list. 😉
Before heading back to Germany in August 2014, I did one last big trip. During my first leg of the trip, I visited Ashley in Texas. We had an amazing time together and made some great memories.
My last leg of my travels took me to Hawaii! Most of the au pairs go to California for their last trip but I wanted to go to Hawaii instead since it’s way cheaper to fly there from the US than from over here in Germany. I had an amazing time in Hawaii. I spent the first few days in Honolulu: I went surfing, I did some sunbathing, swimming and snorkeling, I hiked the Diamond Head crater and visited Pearl Harbor. Then I flew over to Maui and spent my last few days there. The hostel I stayed in was rather in the middle of nowhere and it was difficult to go somewhere without a car. Luckily the hostel offered trips to the beach or the Road to Hana.
I had an amazing time in the US and I hope to go back one day soon to not only visit Ashley again but to tick the last 28 States off my list. 😉