Author Archives: cdub

North Shore 2022

What a surprise this year – no fall colors.

We go to the North Shore about the same time, within a few days, nearly every year. Every year we’ve had spectacular fall colors. The maples along the tops of the Sawtooths are gorgeous. One of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen – and I’ve seen a lot of beautiful sights around the world.

This year was different. Fall is late. Very late. Instead of fall colors we saw the end of the wildflowers and about a billion pollinators. It was so much fun to see the impatients, golden rod, blazing star, and a multitude of other flowers I’ve never seen on the trails over run by may different types of pollinators I’ve never seen.

We spent quite a bit more time hiking this year than in the past. Usually a hike in the morning and a hike in the afternoon. It was a lot of fun to revisit some of the falls I haven’t seen for about a decade – going to Devil’s Kettle in Judge CR Magny State Park and hiking the 192 stairs was 100% worth it. All in all we hiked in every single state park along the north shore sans Split Rock Lighthouse State Park and Grand Portage State Park – we hiked Goosebury Falls, Tettegouche State Park (Illgen Falls), Temperance River State Park (Hidden Falls), Cascade River State Park(Cascade Falls), and, Judge CR Magney State Park (Devil’s Kettle). Outside of state parks we had very rewarding hikes at Oberg Mountain, White Sky Rock + Lake Agnes, and Caribou Falls wayside rest. I think our favorites may have been Devil’s Kettle and Caribou Falls simply because of the type of trail and surrounding forest. We did visit the Grand Portage National Monument but that’s a bit different than the state park.

The restaurant situation is still a bit jacked up. Everyone is hiring, one restaurant didn’t have enough employees and had very limited services, another restaurant had employees but they were on a worker exchange visa program of some sort and from all over the globe, and one of the best places we ate, Voyagers Brewery, had a crap ton of employees, great service, a bunch of customers, and reasonably priced food. The places with a shortage of employees and services must not pay well.

Beyond the restaurants, it seems all the COVID related changes are gone – a pretty different experience compared to visiting in 2020. Looking back at my post history, it looks like I skipped writing about the north shore visit in 2020. It’s probably a good thing to keep my opinions on that experience to myself. However, the fall colors were spectacular that year 10/10.

Once again, we had a fantastic time on the north shore. We look forward to visiting next year!

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.

Boston 2022

We went to Boston, again! We had such a fabulous time in 2021 we decided to repeat the journey in 2022.

Things were different. To say the least.

When we visited in 2021 Boston was still coming out of it’s COVID slumber. There were people out and about but it wasn’t too busy, lodging was inexpensive, restaurants weren’t all that busy, and airfare was cheap. Totally not the case in 2022 – seas of people, lines for everything, and fortunes needed to stay close to anything neat in Boston, and extremely expensive airfare. Boston woke up from it’s slumber and we were able to experience a vibrancy missing in 2021. It felt like we visited an entirely different city. It was wonderful!

I am an early riser. Despite all the changes from last year Boston is still a sleepy town starting it’s day a bit later in the morning. I had a great time walking around the North End, Chinatown and everywhere in between while Boston woke up.

During the day we managed to visit places that weren’t open last year, see some festivals, like Saint Aggrippina’s festival in the North End, and even hiked to the tri-state point for Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. The hike was a wonderful reminder how terrible the trails are on the East Coast compared to literally anywhere else in the world.

The weather was hot. Singapore hot. Super humid, super sunny, and super warm. A lot of the time during the day was figuring out how to stay cool – spending time indoors, playing in the fountains, or hanging out in the shade. We went last year over July 4th and it wasn’t as hot, nowhere near as hot. I think this is the only part of the trip we’d change – move the date so we’d visit during a non-Singapore hot period!

Otherwise, I took a few photos – enjoy!

Chris W.

Arizona 2022

First trip of 2022! It went great! We flew into Phoenix, went to Sedona, and then spent a few more days in Phoenix. We loved our time in Phoenix, Sedona was a bit screwy.

We try to be gone the last week of January / first week week of February because it’s sooooo cold in Minnesota. One year, we missed -30F with 30MPH winds and 6-10inches of snow. So far, we’ve never regretted being gone from Minnesota during that particular part of winter.

We chose Phoenix and Sedona because of the hiking and the weather – we knew Phoenix would be starting spring so snow / cold weather wouldn’t be a concern and the flowers would be starting. The weather was perfect and the air was filled with the intoxicating aroma of flowers and nature coming out of dormancy. We were pleasantly surprised by all the activities Phoenix had to offer – we found tons of fun thing to do every day, including some fantastic hiking in the city limits, AND we went to Organ Stop Pizza. One of the coolest restaurants around – a giant organ paired with someone decent pizza is a strangely good combination. The gems we found pleasant in the areas around Phoenix and flagstaff were surprising – Saguaro National Park, the multitude of National Monuments (Sunset Crater, Tuzigoot, Montazuma’s Well, and so on) the Musical Instrument Museum, the Railroad Museum and a few really neat restaurants. They were all great for very different reasons. We didn’t have high expectations for Saguaro because… it’s a desert and it’s cactus; not really the pinnacle of beauty. Saguaro turned out to be REALLY cool to see and hike through a cactus forest! There was something eerily beautiful and calm about the entire hike and experience. The rest of the places we mostly found to be fun places to stop for a few hours and learn or do something new that we can’t do in Minnesota.

The area we picked to stay in the Phoenix metro was pretty well to do. We didn’t pick the area for that reason, we picked it because it had a Hampton Inn next to stuff we wanted to do. It was pretty wild seeing Bentlys, Mclarens, and some other vehicles I’ve never seen before cruising down the road to their many multi-million dollar homes. One park we visited in this area was filled with kids and what we thought were families; closer inspection revealed we were surrounded by nannies watching after other people’s kids.

Now, on to Sedona. The hiking was decent but we wouldn’t go back, and, knowing what we know, we’d never have gone. Sedona was a like a wayyyy crappier version of Spain. We had fairly high expectations since the area is known as a hiking mecca and a tourist destination. We had a chance to hike every day and hike through a multitude of different scenery. The hikes were pretty decent! Unfortunately, Sedona itself is a fairly strange place filled with crystal shops, rather loud people / things, and tons of people – even in the off season. It was difficult to find parking spots on the more popular trails or enjoy nature since we couldn’t seem to get away from humanity’s sounds and sites. One of the more beautiful hikes involved seeing an absolutely spectacular sunrise but the entire experience was diminished by the sound of a contractor driving foundation piling at 7AM across the valley. There were a handful of hikes and experiences on the trail that will be memorable but the proverbial Sedona juice was not worth the squeeze.

We returned to some pretty cold weather and missed Arizona immediately. Once again, we picked a fabulous time to be gone.

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.

The Sabbatical 2021

We took a six week sabbatical this fall to refresh and rejuvenate; most of the time was spent in Colorado but we visited five states in total – lots of hiking (LOTS), lots of family time, and a lot of aimless wandering. It was just what the doctor ordered and it was deeply enjoyable. It was incredibly special to catch the last of the summer flowers and the start of the fall colors. Turns out, shoulder season was perfect for us! We’re sad the trip is over but we look forward to new adventures in the near future.

Special thanks to Hilton, Delta, and United for pretty much sponsoring our trip. We saved a lot of money churning credit cards for miles / points and most of our trip was free. This is probably one of the biggest changes in our travels – we normally stay in Airbnbs but Airbnb has become: expensive, unfriendly, filled with rules, and a hassle. It feels like we rode the Airbnb train during the golden age and had an incredible amount of positive experiences so Airbnb is now relegated as a just another story in our book of travels.

We had some pretty big surprises ; some are easy to describe and others are really hard:

  • We were pleasantly surprised to see mountain flowers in the wild! We thought for sure the season was over so it was a nice surprise when we saw lots of fireweed, lupine, indian paint brushes, and so on. What a treat!
  • The weather was pretty much perfect every day. We had two days of rain and the rain + clouds made for some beautiful mountain scenery so the rain wasn’t even bad.
  • We hit some fall colors around Silverton and Denver right around the peak time and it was stellar – up there with the fall colors in the Smokey Mountains NP.
  • The Uintas area a hidden gem! Our time in the Uintas was incredible and an absolute joy. The complete lack of people, very accessible trails for families with small children, the stunning scenery, and perfectly still mornings made for some unforgettable experiences. Our visit to the Uintas ranks up there as the best part of the trip.
  • The most amazing food we had the entire trip was found in a Mexican grocery store housed in a former gas station in Cortez, CO. It was clear the tacos, tamales, and everything else we ate was home made by the family running running the store. It happened to be Taco Tuesday the food was shockingly good. The next best food was a BBQ place we stumbled upon in Colorado Springs of all places. Absolutely incredible BBQ.
  • The forest fire smoke wasn’t that bad! Towards the end of the trip the smoke seemed to go away completely.
  • Colorado is full, chock full, of people. It was surprisingly hard to get around, even in rural areas. As an example, it ended up taking an extra 45min to get between Chimney Rock and Alamosa because of people hauling campers, trailers, and boats going slowly.
  • The number of older people out traveling is astonishing. None of them are in a hurry and many seem perfectly content standing in egress paths, driving 10mph below the speed limit, and chatting with service workers when there are a line of people trying to get out of a store. I’m not sure if Colorado attracts these types?
  • COVID is still a thing and we still had to make accommodation for COVID restrictions.
  • Staff shortages are felt even in rural areas. There were a number of places that were entirely closed or had reduced hours.
  • The wealthy in this country are really wealthy. Labor shortages in the services seemed to be more common in the really wealthy areas which is no surprise; it’s probably hard for anyone below the 5-10% to compete in the housing markets where people commute using their private jets.
  • The wealthy areas had a very strange feel, kind of like a museum or an art gallery – “people look at and use these areas but only some are allowed behind the rope” kind of feel. As an example: Park City, Aspen, and Telluride and some other cities have pretty big highways leading to the cities for all the service workers to flood in and out in the mornings and evenings since these people clearly can’t live in those areas. It’s just odd to be driving on a major highway to a town of 7,000 people surrounded by vehicles with decals showing cleaning, landscaping, building, contracting, and other services.
  • Sunrise and sunset in San Diego are nearly impossible to beat. Just so beautiful
  • Our trend of bad stuff happening to areas we visits continues. A forest fire broke out shortly after we visited Silverthorne.

Some trip stats:

  • 3 flights
  • 5 states (Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, California)
    • 8 days in Utah
    • 7 days in California
    • 22 days in Colorado
  • 8 National Parks and Monuments: Dinosaur NP, Colorado NM, Mesa Verde NP, Gunnison NP, Chimney Rock NM, Florissant NM, Great Sand Dunes NP, Cabrillio NM
  • 28 free hotel nights
  • 37 days on the road
  • 4,100 road miles
  • ~12,000 photos
  • Only two days of rain
  • Many climates: alpine, desert, sand dunes, mountains, plains, alpine plains, temperate, and even lush forest.

Probably the biggest surprise was the Uinta mountains in Utah. Fantastic hiking, complete lack of people, and gorgeous scenery. Of all the places we visited on this trip it’s the place we enjoyed the most and look forward to visiting again.

The downsides were pretty surprising. There are a ton of people all over Colorado doing all sorts of outdoor activities. It’s impossible to get away from people. Time entry for the national parks, monuments, and busy sites is a major bummer. This is the first time I’ve felt that the “outdoors are closed”. We planned ahead and were able to see and visit a lot of the places we wanted but we didn’t get to see everything. It’s sad because I feel like I might be in the last generation of Americans who could use the national parks, monuments, and other federal lands to the fullest extent.

Six weeks is a long time so I have multiple posts:

I also have my favorite photos from the trip in the album below.

Enjoy!

Chris W.

Colorado 2021

Where to start. Visiting Colorado was great. The state has so much to offer – hiking, sites, sights, and all the wonderful places like the butterfly pavilion to experience made Colorado a wonderful place to visit. I can see why everyone loves Colorado. Which brings me to my next point: Colorado is overrun with people, especially retirees.

We were very fortunate to have nearly perfect weather the entire time in Colorado. We started the journey by flying into Denver and spending some time in the the metro area. I finally had a chance to hike to St. Mary’s glacier. It ended up being a really neat place to catch sunrise and we were some of the only people in the area because we started so early.

Our first destination was Aspen and I was taken back a bit about how wealthy and abnormal Aspen is compared to the normal world. We drove by the Aspen airport twice a day and it was so strange to see the many private jets. We didn’t know this was our first taste of the ‘ski town’ experience on this trip.

The Maroon Bells were beautiful, as always. We had our timed entry passes and made it up to Crater Lake a little bit after sunrise. It was very beautiful and great to have peace and quiet surrounded by stunning beauty. We turned back early as the crowds were working their way back up. We went again the next day but it was raining so we weren’t in much of a hurry. Turns out, the rain and clouds added a whole new layer of beauty to the area.

One of the bigger surprises was the immense beauty of Highway 141 between Grand Junction and Naturita. We were completely unprepared for the drive through the deep valleys and the changes from green-ish landscapes to dry desert red rocks. We had the road to ourselves and it seemed like we were the only people around to enjoy the gorgeous scenery. Seeing the abandoned flume was really interesting simply because it shows the extent to which humans will go to make money; building a water flowing apparatus on a cliff wall hundreds of feet above the floor of the valley for many miles is no easy task.

We spent a good chunk of time in Ouray and visited Telluride, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and other places in the area. Ouray was super neat. It reminded me a lot of where I grew up and was dumpier than the ski towns probably because the town doesn’t have a ski hill. Most of the roads in the town were gravel! We had a couple decent meals there but Maggie’s stands out as being on of the best hamburgers we ate on the trip. There was no line when we visited (end of September) but a conversation with one of the employees revealed that they would serve 500-ish people an hour in the peak summer time and that a line would stretch for blocks in the tiny little town. Of all the little towns we visited, Ouray was one of the more neat places because of the hiking inside the town (Box Canyon), the quietness, beauty, and food options.

We managed to hit peak fall colors on the million dollar highway between Ouray and Silverton. It was one of the most spectacular views we’ve had and we’ve seen a lot of spectacular things. The reds, yellows, and colors in between were stunning.

Some other surprises:

  • Timed entry is a killer. We were unsuccessful at getting anything in Mesa Verde and the rest of the park was OK. Each park / national monument seems to do timed entry differently and it wasn’t fun to make it all work. I guess I’m the last generation who grew up being able to visit national parks when they wanted. I can’t help but think of the disenfranchisement timed entry will create since timed entry makes the outdoors closed for a lot of folks.
  • Chimney Rock National Monument is one of the newest national monuments and it showed! We were driving by so we decided to stop and we were glad we did. I’m guessing the overall experience will be a bit better in the coming years as their new facilities open up.
  • Traffic sucked. Sucked hard and pretty much sucked everywhere. Colorado has been over-run by people and the infrastructure hasn’t kept up. If the roads weren’t clogged by normal traffic (Denver, Colorado Springs, all the ski towns), there was construction, or some retiree driving 10-20mph below the speed limit in their truck pulling a camper pulling a boat pulling a car on a single lane highway.
  • The retirees were everywhere. Their complaints were hilarious. One retiree told a national park ranger that ‘they don’t do much for people’ in regards to folks afraid of heights. The park ranger took the comment and stride and reminded her that ‘it’s the outdoors’. It boggles my mind that someone thinks the national park service needs to make Mesa Verde, a place known for cliffs and cliff dwellings, a good place to go for those afraid of heights. The retirees did not seem to be in any particular hurry so they were completely happy standing in egress areas, speaking with cashiers / attendants forever, and driving super slow. One area was so clogged up with retirees driving RVs, trucks pulling campers and boats, that our 2.5hr car ride turned into 3.5hrs. I feel a particular distain for those who are oblivious or uncaring to others and the huge number of retirees slowing everything down is enough for me to think long and hard about ever going back to some of the areas we visited.

Nearly all of our stays in Colorado were at Hilton properties, primarily Hampton Inns. We churned credit cards and ended up with a lot of reward points and free is free. I generally wake up early in the morning so it was interesting to go down and see what was playing on TV; it’s been years since I’ve watched the weather channel and I had no idea it transitioned to a “the weather is good now but danger is always around the corner” type of station. It hurt my brain to watch. We seemed to be the youngest people in the hotels too; we stayed on central time so we were able to catch an early breakfast and get out before the retirees clogged everything up in the dining area and standing around.

A lot of Colorado seemed to be suffering from labor shortages as well. Things like early check in, quick restaurant service, and other places relying on services were impacted, especially up in the mountains. Some places were just flat out closed. It makes sense since wages in the service sector probably cannot pay for any standard of living or quality of life in the ski towns.

Our journey thru Colorado had a lot of other fun sites not already mentioned – like the Glenwood Springs cave, Colorado National Monument, Butterfly Pavilion, and had some absolutely stellar food ranging from great BBQ in Colorado Springs to wonderful tacos and tamales from a gas station converted into a Mexican grocer + small restaurant. It seemed like wherever we went there was no shortage of things to do and eat.

Overall, Colorado was great. We also don’t need to go back anytime soon since we thoroughly explored the state!

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.

San Diego 2021

San Diego never disappoints. We’ve been there a bunch of times and we’ll probably go back a bunch more.

The perfect sunrises, the perfect sunsets, the moderate temperature, the wonderful restaurants and varied foods, and the people make San Diego a wonderful place to visit time after time. There isn’t much to write about because we didn’t do much – get breakfast, see the sunrise, frolic in the ocean, eat, hang out, eat, sunset, sleep, repeat.

I must say, Ocean Beach, where we always visit, is getting even stranger. It may be because America a whole is aging but it was pretty strange to see a guy with gray hair driving slowly thru a residential neighborhood while loudly rocking out to the Beastie Boys in his late model Toyota Prius. That particular situation doesn’t make a lot of sense anywhere else other than Ocean Beach.

I finally had a chance to visit Hodad’s after walking by the place for years. Hodad’s made it big and was on a TV show – ever since then there was always a long, long, long, long line to get into the restaurant so I never went. Either due to the general economic climate or the pandemic there wasn’t a line one of the mornings so we had some delicious Hodad’s. It was good, really good, but I’m glad I didn’t wait two hours to eat at Hodad’s.

Otherwise, San Diego seems to be suffering the same fate as everywhere else – shortage of workers and materials and reduced hours for businesses. Regardless, San Diego is still awesome :).

Utah 2021

What a very pleasant surprise. Utah, specifically the Uintas and some of Park City, was incredible.

We first stopped in Vernal to visit Dinosaur National Monument. The monument is pretty much in the middle of nowhere and there is a near zero percent chance I’d ever visit the park unless I was on a sabbatical or something. The area has some pretty wild geology and was super interesting. The dinosaur bones were cool and the hike into Box Canyon was a ton of fun. I started using the Alltrails app for hikes in Dinosaur NM and the hike to Moon Arch – the app turned out to be a godsend for so many reasons. The trail around Moon Arch was poorly marked and a family with a small child decided to join me on my hike since I had Alltrails an could direct us; it ended up being a pretty fun experience. Overall, this area of Utah was a neat place to visit.

Our next chunk of time was in Park City. We knew Park City was a ski town but we didn’t realize how wonderful the hiking would be in the Uintas, and, stumbling across their annual city festival was a very fun experience. Hiking in quiet solitude is a wonderful experience, hiking in quiet solitude while in a beautiful area on well kept trails with little breeze so all the lakes had mirror reflections was a truly remarkable experience. I had never heard of the Uintas prior to this trip and it feels like we found a secret – the area is only 45min away from Park City. Most everyone seems to hike around Park City / Brighton Lakes so it was neat to find an area where no one seemed to be hiking.

Catching the annual fall festival was a super neat treat. We were surprised with a pancake breakfast, we were able to watch a human+dog 5K, and the ‘running of the balls’ down mainstreet fundraiser was pretty hilarious to watch – nearly only because of the people and their excitement in watching balls roll down a street!

We thought we’d visit some Olympic related sites and spent quite a bit of time watching people practice long jumping / ski jumping. It was odd; Park City is pretty hot and seeing people practice ski jumping in the very early fall was kind of a strange experience. Regardless, it was amazing to see what people can do with the help of gravity.

I was a bit surprised with how much basic things cost in Park City. It was common to spend about $50 on a meal for the family. That was pretty expensive considering none of the places we visited were all that remarkable except for one place which also happened to be the best deal – the Wasatch Brewery.

Park City itself is another high end ski town filled with high end ski town stuff.

All-in-all, the Uintas were fantastic. A+, 100%, 5 stars, we’d go back.

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.

Boston 2021

It felt great to travel again, even if it’s just in the US.

We chose to go to Boston because we wanted to go somewhere we didn’t need a car and had a lot to see. Turns out, Boston was perfect. The food was amazing – our place was right next to the North End so walking into the North End for amazing food and desserts was no hassle. We walked about 50 miles in our six days in Boston and more than offset that calorie burn with huge meals like pizza at Ernesto’s and fantastic desserts at places like Bova’s.

We had a great time in Boston. There was plenty to do and it was super neat to be in Boston on July 4th – the town came alive with all sorts of independence day celebrations. We had a wonderful Chinatown tour and stopped at quite a few of the major sites in town. We walked the entire greenway and stopped at many of the installations along the way.

There were some surprises. On the positive: pretty much everything we ate was incredible, playing on the beach during sunset on Cape Cod is something I’ll never forget, Boston seems to be filled with late risers so walking around in the early morning was super quiet and fun, and there were so many family activities we could do that were free or super cheap – like walking tours and playing in all the fountains along the greenway, and the history / architecture was wonderful; our central location made everything accessible within a 15 min walk. On the negative: Provincetown in Cape Cod was a let down and the weather went from cold to blistering hot to tropical storm. In the interest of making lemonade, we ran around to a couple museums like the old south meeting house and the old state house during the tropical storm and we were the only people there!

The biggest surprise was Tropical Storm Elsa. Elsa hit right as we were about to fly out and we actually flew out of the storm – one of the photos is the edge of the storm as we flew out.

All in all, Boston was 100% awesome. 5/5 would do again. It was cathartic to get out and resume normal activities after being locked in for the last year.

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.

Vegas 2021

We went to Vegas in March but I forgot to write about it. It was great but there were still a lot of pandemic restrictions so it sorta felt normal.

The hiking was phenomenal. We had a fabulous time hiking in quiet solitude since no one goes to Vegas for hiking. There was just us and Search and Rescue at one trailhead in the Valley of Fire State Park; they were busy doing search and rescue stuff so we didn’t see them. The weather wasn’t great, it snowed a bit, but it did create beauty – we drove back from the Valley of Fire State Park by Lake Mead and watched the sun break through the clouds / snow and create a spectacular scene. 

The food was great too – Vegas is two hours behind us so getting breakfast or donuts at 5AM in Vegas is no big deal. We did something new, we went on a self directed food tour, and it was a lot of fun. It was in old Vegas and it was super neat to go to three different restaurants with wildly different food.

About a month after we visited Vegas it became crazy – everyone is done with COVID. We heard the mayor say, “for all intents and purposes, Vegas is sold out of hotel room and rental cars for the indefinite future”. That’s wild!

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.

Five Years Home.

Six years ago we packed up all our belongings into a Toyota Corolla and drove from Upstate New York to Minnesota through Canada officially starting our world trip. I can still remember two distinct feelings: the first feeling of being free – it was the first time in my life where I didn’t have a boss, a teacher, or someone else deciding my time, and the second, feeling like I was staring into the abyss and the abyss was staring back at me. At that point in time, I had worked at different jobs while going to school since I was 14; I never had a gap year, studied abroad, took a summer off, or had any other common youth event / engagement that gave me a large break from work or international travel exposure. We had no certainty we would find jobs on our return, lots of people did not recommend we go on the trip, and we didn’t really know what was going to happen. It certainly felt like the Rubicon was crossed.

Five years ago I remember landing at Dulles airport in Washington DC and re-entering America. I was kind of nervous since we’d been gone for 13 months and had passports full of stamps and thought that maybe someone would be at least a little curious. It was the most anti-climatic entrance ever. In fact, I’m not entirely sure we entered the US correctly since I’m pretty sure we missed some important steps and no-one collected the customs form we were given on the airplane. All of a sudden we were in the US and that was that! In no time we were able to find jobs and get back to the daily grind.

Little did we know what our world would look like five years after our return home: we’ve had quite the amazing journey. We’ve been successful in our careers, we’ve added to our family, we’ve laid down some roots, and we’ve even had a bit of traveling! Who knew some of the habits we developed when traveling, like what we eat and how we spend our time, would carry over to our daily lives in the US?  We’ve been fortunate. We’ve had great luck in our personal lives and our professional lives since we’ve been back, pandemic included. Knock on wood the trend continues!

We spent a bit of time thinking about the last five years and our perspective on life. Turns out, not much changed in our thinking, feeling, or planning compared to two years ago: https://word.christopherwagner.org/?p=8250 and our thoughts on the places we visited https://word.christopherwagner.org/?p=5912: Shortly after we landed we started thinking about when we’d be able to take a break and travel again; I did some basic math and I figured it would be around seven years. Turns out my math was mostly correct but I hadn’t penciled in a pandemic and travel ban for Americans.

We’ve explored some new and oldies-but-goodies areas of the US and thoroughly enjoyed the sites, the smells, and the sounds. The US is a very special place and we are happy we were able to learn more about the US by leaving and traveling abroad. There seems to be a general dark cloud over the US, especially now with the election, but America is still the best place for someone like ourselves and will probably continue to be a great place for a very long time.

We were able to sneak in a trip to Spain two winters ago and we were looking forward to more international travel starting this year. It seems the world is on hold until a vaccine is released, everyone gets COVID, or people just get sick and tired of staying home. Our hearts ache for all those we met during our travels who’s livelihoods depend on tourism. We met incredible and industrious people who helped us along our way and gave us an incredibly enriching experience. The pandemic is taking a terrible toll all over and it’s not just due to illness. Permanent structural changes seem to be underway and it’s looking the world will be quite changed the next time we want to travel.

Never in a million years had I guessed the five year update of returning home would be a story about how everything is great for us but awful for many others. Hopefully, life resumes quickly.

I put some photos below of some of our favorite events / sites / whatever from the last two years. Enjoy the photos!