A Bucket List Anniversary

If you would have stopped by during these last two weeks you would have found me in front of my computer consumed by research–I spent my free time pouring over reviews, reading tourism websites, haphazardly scratching down random itineraries, and adding items of interest to my never-ending travel list. I ate, slept, dreamed, and thought about all things Italian, Greek, and Thai.

Trip Collage

Somewhere within the chaos of essentially planning three different trips at once my OCD kicked in, and I created a spreadsheet to organize my thoughts, track costs, and plan budgets–nerd alert! Seriously though, that spreadsheet was something fierce. ;-) And after calculating an estimated cost for each trip, Cody and I spent the majority of our nights discussing each destination and then essentially talking ourselves in circles for the next three hours… :) (Okay, to be honest, there are nights when we spend 30 minutes talking about what we want for dinner because neither of us can decide what to make–so you can’t be too shocked with our indecision about where we want to spend two weeks next summer. Right? Riiiiiiiight?)

Every night we would come to the same conclusion–they are all equally AMAZING! We couldn’t make a wrong choice, which really just made our decision even more complicated. This same conversation continued in happy circles until on a whim we pulled up Google Street View.

But wait, you mean you haven’t planned a vacation by taking an impromptu virtual-road-trip halfway around the world? That’s a completely acceptable way to decide on your vacation, no?

Well it worked for us, because within five minutes of “virtual road-tripping” we knew exactly which destination was right for us this time around.

Koh Tao!

Koh Tao!

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We’re headed to THAILAND!

With its clear, turquoise water, diversity of sea life, and incredibly cheap dives (I’m talking around $30USD per dive, folks!) the tiny island of Koh Tao is known to divers throughout the world. And not only is it a hot spot for divers, it’s also a hot spot to see (and dive with) whale sharks. Hello bucket list dive!

whale shark

We’ll be doing some island hopping and spending some time in Bangkok and the surrounding area as well. So here’s to our first experience in Southeast Asia (another new continent for us!), an amazing fourth anniversary trip, and hopefully checking off a few more bucket list items!

Have you been to Southeast Asia? Leave your suggestions of places to go and things to do in the comments below. :)

**I also want to take a moment and say THANK YOU to all of those who commented on my original post. Your advice about each destination was a big help in our decision-making process. Your words also pushed Italy and Greece up near the top of our travel list, so expect to see posts about these two countries in the near future. Thank you all!!**
Posted in Asia, Budgeting, Scuba Diving, Thailand, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Lava Trees

Located on the eastern side of the Big Island, just southeast of Pahoa town, is a state park known as the Lava Tree State Monument; and after a long day of road-tripping in your rental car this 17-acre park is the perfect opportunity to get out and stretch your legs. The trail is less than a mile long and there is no fee to enter, so bring your camera and a picnic, and enjoy a walk through this unique forest.

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Stay on the Trail my friends!

As you walk along the path you may notice that these trees do not look like typical Ohia trees with deep green leaves and bright red flowers, instead they look like giant rock statues–which is exactly what they are. After reading the signs within the park I learned that over 200 years ago a lava flow covered the area in scalding hot liquid fire, and the Ohia trees slowly burned as they were coated in lava. Once the lava cooled all that was left were these unique molds frozen in time within the jungle.

Lava Tree Collage

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So many faces looking back at me in this park...

So many faces looking back at me in this park…

No matter your location on this side of the island, you can’t help but think about Goddess Pele and her explosive power (especially when you are essentially playing on the slopes of the Kilauea volcano). And as the lava creeps towards Pahoa town I can’t help but think about all of the residents affected by this most recent flow. I guess when you live near an active Volcano you have to mentally prepare yourself for this type of disaster, but I’m hoping that Goddess Pele will somehow change course.

Sending my ALOHA!

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Gemini Decisions…

As I’m finalizing the details for our annual Christmas trip I’m also looking ahead into 2015–specifically thinking about our four-year anniversary next June. Three out of our next four (major) vacations have already been decided (if everything goes as planned), which leaves us with that lone fourth destination and brings us to our fourth anniversary. Coincidence? I think not.

Over the last four years it has been pretty easy to pinpoint our next destination: from the Bahamas, to the Southern Caribbean, from a few different adventures island hopping in Hawaii, and even our once in a lifetime trip to Norway with my sweet grandmother, all of these trips have always felt “right”; the right time, the right budget, the right destination. In fact, it’s hard to recall a time when we didn’t know exactly where we were headed next.

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This new feeling of the unknown is exciting. I look over my map of the world and am filled with wonder thinking about all of the amazing places we could visit. Locations scattered throughout the world are suddenly a reality instead of just a dream written down on a piece of paper. And while the locations are all starting to feel tangible, trying to decide between these amazing destinations is a little overwhelming. In order to help us narrow down our choices I have looked back to our bucket lists, my 101 goals list, and my personal “Dreams” list (a list with so many exotic locations it’s titled DREAMS). :)

At this point in time, my husband and I are discussing three different locations: Greece. Italy. and Thailand.

If we went to Greece we would spend our days island hopping–I’m picturing amazing sunsets in Santorini and wandering the streets of Mykonos. Of course, no trip to Greece would be complete without spending at least two days exploring the rich history of Athens.

Santorini

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On the other hand, there’s Italy… Venice, Rome, Florence… need I say more? Venice and Rome have both been on my bucket list since I sat down to create a bucket list, and Italy is also on my husband’s bucket list. That being said, we have told ourselves that when my husband graduates from the University we will celebrate by going to France and Italy… so do we wait two more years? or do we go now?

Italy

And to make a hard decision even more complicated, the beautiful country of Thailand has peaked my interest as of late. After reading about my fellow blogger’s experiences in this amazing area of the world, Thailand has moved from a destination on the edge of my radar to front-and-center. If we went to Thailand we would spend our four-year anniversary island hopping–I imagine that we would rent one of the many beachfront bungalows and go on endless scuba diving adventures… this destination sounds RIGHT up my alley.

Thailand

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So today, I’m asking for your help. If you have been to any of these incredible destinations, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave me your advice in the comments below…

σας ευχαριστώ!     Grazie!     ขอบคุณ! 

(Thank you! in Greek, Italian, and Thai) :)

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Maui Monday: Zippin’ Down Haleakala

The massive dormant volcano on Maui, known as Haleakala, is famous for its breathtaking sunrises and out-of-this-world landscapes, and last year close to 800,000 visitors* explored the boundaries of Haleakala National Park. While nicknamed The House of the Sun, Haleakala is more than just a place to watch the sunrise–you can enjoy one of the many challenging memorable hikes through the backcountry, stay at one of the three Wilderness Cabins within the park, book a tour and ride a bicycle down the side of this volcano, and even float down the slopes on a paragliding tour.

My dear husband will probably kill me for saying this, but he’s a little accident prone (and when I say little, I mean a lot). :) And if you’ve ever been caught in a traffic jam on the steep, narrow road of Haleakala you may agree that the idea of bikes and cars don’t mix. Sometimes it feels like the Indy 500 racing down those slopes after sunrise. As much as I love the thrill and adrenaline-rush of any activity considered “dangerous” we both agreed that we didn’t want to spend our precious vacation days in the hospital, so a bike riding tour was out of the question.

So you can imagine my surprise when on the morning of my 25th birthday, my sweet husband told me that he had booked us an adventurous and adrenaline-filled tour on those famous volcanic slopes… my heart skipped a few beats until he exclaimed: “We are going Ziplining!”

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Views of Maui's North Shore

Views of Maui’s North Shore

As a surprise birthday present, Cody booked the Skyline Eco-Adventures Haleakala tour: a 90-minute adventure comprised of five different ziplines scattered throughout the thick upcountry forest. The ziplines start small and work their way up to a grand finale where you’ll spread your wings and fly through the forest reaching speeds upwards of 45 miles per hour. Along the course you’ll cross an Indiana Jones-style swinging bridge, zip across lines perched high above the forest floor, and even test your fear of heights by stepping off a platform 70 feet above the ground (don’t worry about that first step, you are safely secured to the zipline!)

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Photo Credit

Zipline Collage

Here we go!

Cody zippin' down line 4!

Cody zippin’ down line 4!

The final line!

The final line!

Ready for the Grand Finale!

Throughout the tour you’ll learn about the native wildlife and hear about the conservation efforts by Skyline Eco-Adventures. For example, in the last ten years the company has planted over 2,000 native trees on Haleakala and the reforestation efforts are paying off as more native birds have been seen throughout the area. An afternoon of play in the Haleakala treetops AND contributing to a good cause…that’s my kind of afternoon! My only wish would be more lines and faster speeds :)

On our next visit I’m considering the Ka’anapali tour: 8 ziplines with expansive views of the Pacific–how can I pass it up? Would you go ziplining??

We survived! :)

We survived! :)

 Now, let’s talk about that paraglading tour…   :)

*Statistics provided by the National Park System
Posted in Hawaii, Maui, Risky Business, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Saturday Between the Hedges

Our trip to Georgia last year led to two football games in three days and an unfortunate (and also not our fault) car accident the night before the big game. We awoke that Saturday morning, sore and bruised from the accident but still incredibly excited to head to the game. We had traveled over 1,600 miles to watch our Bulldogs and nothing was going to stop us from participating in the many traditions at Sanford Stadium.

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Traditions like Tailgating. Trucks clustered together like the players in a huddle were the first sign of the tailgaters and as we got closer we saw that the red and black combination was on everything: from the tents, tables, and chairs, to the jerseys, hats, and coats, even some of the Satellite dishes represented the pride of the Dawgs. Some of the setups were immaculate–big screen TVs surrounded by top of the line sound systems, bbq grills and prepping stations large enough to cook food for the entire team–when it comes to tailgating some of these people spared no expense.

Tailgating Collage

The next tradition we didn’t want to miss was the Dawg Walk. Just across the street from Sanford Stadium is the Tate Student Center and before every game the players walk through a sea of students, fans, alumni, and the school band as they make their way to the field. It was Senior Night and when our star quarterback, Aaron Murray, walked through the crowd for the last time the fans erupted into cheers, applause, and complete celebration for our favorite quarterback, #11.

Aaron Murray!

Aaron Murray!

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The traditions before and during each game are what take it from a simple game of X’s and O’s to something more, something special. Those famous green hedges surrounding the field, the players breaking through the giant G banner, the tradition of holding up four fingers between the third and fourth quarter–you guys, it’s these small rituals that add so much to the experience.

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One tradition that continues to give me chills is Calling the Dawgs. At the beginning of the game as the teams line up on opposite ends of the field, the crowd roars throughout the stadium with a “Goooooooooooo…..”, and just as the ball is kicked they finish with “Dawgs! Sic ‘Em” and then four loud barks. Check it out here. I love tuning into the beginning of the game and hearing the Kickoff Bark, it gets my adrenaline going, every.single.time.

I’m sure there are many more traditions that I missed in just one quick visit, however, hopefully the next time I go I’ll be lucky enough to discover more…

I know the Bulldogs aren’t the only team steeped in tradition… What are your football traditions?

Posted in Football, Georgia, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

A Gold Medal Weekend Getaway

Park City

When I need an afternoon getaway or a relaxed weekend of spontaneous fun, I find myself taking the 20 minute drive through the beautiful Wasatch Mountains towards my favorite little mountain oasis: Park CityOur trips to Park City are never exactly the same… sometimes we spend the majority of our time shopping at Tanger Outlets in Kimball Junction; sometimes we spend the weekend relaxing at the resort–filling our days with swimming, snoozing, boozing, and ordering room service; and sometimes we go out for a wild night on the town.

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High West Distillery & Saloon

Bansky Collage

Try to find the three Banksy’s in town…

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Exploring the Travel Section at Dolly’s Bookstore (Dolly’s is named after their cat: Dolly)

The one constant in all of our visits is our time spent wandering historic main street; window-shopping, people watching, browsing the bookshelves of our favorite little Bookstore, stopping for a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants, and ending the day with dessert at Java Cow Ice Cream or the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. While Main Street itself is steeped in history, there was one historic landmark that had eluded us. Surprisingly, as many times as we had been to Park City, we never took the time to stop at the Utah Olympic Park located just a short drive from Main Street.

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Built for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, the 389-acre park houses a museum dedicated to honor the history and heritage of the Games held right in my own backyard. Displays with emotion-filled pictures, newspaper headlines, video clips and broadcasts, U.S. uniforms, and even the mold that created those sought-after medals are housed on the second floor of this museum.

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The site is also an active Official U.S. Olympic Training Site, so when you visit be sure to check out the world-class venues, including a bobsled course, six Nordic ski jumps, the freestyle aerials competition hill, and the training pool.

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A few uniforms from the local legends of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi

I am shocked that we didn’t get up here years ago!!

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It’s Football Season Y’all!

It never fails, this time of the year my poor blog always becomes neglected. Between the twelve to fourteen hour days at work and the busy weekends, unfortunately the new posts get pushed to the back burner for a few weeks. But today I’m back, Hi Y’all, and we are talking about one of my favorite seasons of the year! :)

The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting cooler, and the leaves in the canyon are beginning to turn… this time of year can only mean one thing: Football Season!

As avid football fans we’ve crossed the country attending different games each year–from a bone-chilling birthday weekend in Indianapolis, to a bucket-list experience in Arlington, exploring the quaint college town of Athens, and attending a wild game in downtown Atlanta–we just can’t get enough of the stadiums, the beer, the game, and that electric atmosphere.

Football game - pictures and plane tickets

First NFL game: Indianapolis Colts vs. Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys Stadium

Dallas Cowboys vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Our decision to attend a football game this season wavered throughout the spring and summer and as soon as we saw that our two favorite teams (the Colts and the Cowboys) were scheduled to play this year we were ecstatic! That is until the schedules were released and we saw that the game would be played the week of Christmas. Expensive flights, pricey hotels, busy holiday travel: No thank you!

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Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints

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Georgia Bulldogs vs. Kentucky Wildcats

While basking in the warm Hawaiian sun back in June I received an email alert about flights to Denver for less than $100 round trip. It just so happened that our Colts were playing the Denver Broncos in early September and visions of watching a football game in Mile High Stadium started floating through my mind. Leave it to me to try to plan a vacation while currently on vacation. I’m telling you–I have a problem ;-) I crunched a few numbers and ALMOST booked the airfare until I pulled up tickets to the game… Unfortunately ticket prices were MILE HIGH (see what I did there) ;-) and we were unwilling to pay more for nosebleed tickets in Denver than we did for tickets on Row 20 in Cowboys Stadium. The idea sounded crazy to me!

So for now, we are enjoying the football season with our dogs from the comfort of our front room. Hey, the beer is cheaper this way anyways. :) However, in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that we didn’t book our fall football trip until October of last year so maybe we will change our minds after all.

Do you like football? Who’s your team?

Posted in Football, Georgia, Texas, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments