2017 Top 10 Trip Countdown

At the end of each year, I have spent the time to reflect back to my personal growth, and a lot of it comes with lessons learned through trips, people I’ve met, time spent, and memories made.

That said… here is my top 10 trip countdown!

10. Washington D.C.

If looking to do a weekend trip to see the most popular memorials DC has to offer this can be a weekend trip. I recommending seeing: Lincoln Memorial, then White House, Washington Memorial, and Martin Luther King Memorial. For me this trip made the top 10 because it was a nice reminder that although I have a lot I want to fit in a weekend trip, that being in the moment is most important. This trip I remember dragging on from arrival until 1-2am in the morning, and although all stops on most itineraries were met, there wasn’t a particular spot that I just lived in the moment. For 2018, I’m going to get where I want to go, and spend time there being present. Well, there is a moment with red,white, & blue popsicles that sticks out, and playing at a game bar, but besides the point… haha.

9. New Haven, Washington and Milford, Connecticut

If a Gilmore Girls fan, or just trying to marvel over expensive homes, perfect roads, and quiet beaches, then Connecticut may be for you! This is a fun weekend trip, especially if only for a weekend. The entire state spanned over just three hours, and had lots of cute boutiques and small-town feels.

8. San Francisco, California

I left my heart in San Francisco. This was another city toured by the Big B Bus Tour, which was perfect given that getting nearly anywhere here was hilly, and time consuming! This particular trip stuck out in my mind because I had seen a few things that I hadn’t seen in years, or at all: The Painted Ladies (more commonly known as the Full House, house), Alcatraz, and the downtown Pier area, where there was many small shops and museums. Additionally, the many scenic views from many perspectives reminded and humbled me that although I’ve seen many pictures of the beautiful city, that my vantage point by being present is most valued (for me, so travel on!).

7. The 2017 Eclipse, Simpson Illinois

Never have I ever…been a place where half of America drove to, in order to share the same experience at the exact same time. After going directly to Illinois from work, to camping with work colleagues… this trip is an unforgettable one. This made the top list, as I remember the moon covering the sun and the whole sky go dark, everyone go quiet, and then being humbled that as important as our every day lives are… that we are just a small piece of this entire universe.

6. Miami Beach, Florida

This is definitely a place one must visit… during the day the city has miles of beach that welcomes you to natural beauty, and at night the calm beach vibes turn into a salsa/reggae tunes. There has not been such as a place that has both business, beach, and nightlight moods in one place. On this trip a Big B Bus Night Tour was taken, which I would definitely recommend as it acclimated tourists to hidden areas where celebrities live and guides you through the Havana District where many movies were created.

This trip made the top 10 as nothing went as planned, but ended up being one of my most memorable nights in my travels. The only goal all weekend was to hit the beach and soak up the sun, but a part of planning ahead is the unknown if Mother Nature will cooperate. This time, she did not with there being LOTS of rain that particular weekend. But as the saying goes, “life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, but learning to dance in the rain.” So! That is exactly what happened, fun in the ocean with rain sprinkling. Then ending the night with a evening walk, and the best food and drinks at Mangos!

5. Sequoia National Park, California

Sequoia National Park is the perfect place to visit if looking for scenic drives and HUGE sequoia trees. If you’ve never seen one it is certainly worth the day trip over to this national park. My fear, is not seeing things I’ve always wanted to see because I chose to wait too long. These trees were a must! To see photos and read in books the huge trunks of these pieces of nature I could only imagine, but now can envision from personal experience! P.S. Take the General Sherman stop, preferably visit before the sun fully rises to enjoy the quiet paths and the sound of your breath as you make it to the biggest tree in the country.

This trip, similar to Miami Beach, reminded me to go with the flow and to accept what can’t be changed in the moment. After a long drive, from San Francisco to Sequoia National Park, with many detoured roads due to forest fires, the destination was made. But what happens when you’re ready to take a first camping experience and you have everything except tent polls. Yes, this happened. Admittingly, my first reaction was not pleasant, and throwing the tent over the windows while the warm 100+ degree weather heated the car causing periodic middle-night car starts, it made for an experience. If not, at minimum a lesson for the basics… I mean who forgets tent polls.. this one. All-in-all it was funny looking back at it, and after spending the next night in Fresno to purchase a cheap Walmart tent and extra tent polls for the following nights in Yosemite.

4. Yosemite National Park, California

This was definitely top 5 worthy due to its beauty, challenges, scenic stops, late night fire talks, and nummy s’mores. What stands out most to me was the 8-mile North Dome trail. Having never really hiked a trail, this was quite the challenge what I found was the journey to the desired location was quite wonderful, and I’ve always been one for the motto “it’s the journey, not the destination.” If you’ve never been to Yosemite and looking for a day-trip hike that isn’t too difficult, I recommend this hike! A helpful tip would be to carry a liter of water for every two miles walk, especially if the weather is hot. When visiting it was about 90 degrees. The nice thing about this hike, was a lot of it was shaded until the last mile, when you overlook the Half Dome. And, when you’re at your destination weather doesn’t matter… you take it all in!

3. The Big Island (Kona), Hawaii

Okay I’m going to be honest. I don’t know how Hawaii made it as a (U.S.) state, I need to read up on the history. The length of time to travel from Michigan to Hawaii, was just as much as it was to go to the Philippines and Europe. That’s a crazy thought! Now, I’ll tell you this was the first trip in my travels that challenged me in planning, because I have to: learn that there are many islands, that cost differently to get to each, and each provide different terrains and activities to do that are vastly different. Once I figured out the different islands, and considered the various costs my mom and I decided on the Big Island. Flying into Kona was certainly a memorable experience watching the plane land to rugged land, when I had always pictured luscious greens and beautiful birds. Landed, got “laid,” and took on this annual trip with my mom that was unforgettable. The Big Island provides: traditional late night luaus, beautiful volcanoes, rocky beaches, macadamia nuts, exotic flowers, fresh fruit, submarine tours with WWII ships, GORGEOUS waterfalls, and cave tours.

2. Iceland

Can you believe the idea of visiting Iceland came from a country song? Yes! “Die a Happy Man,” by Thomas Rhett. I remember hearing this beautiful song, and thinking “this guy is willing to give everything up he wants to see for a woman?” One line said, “if I never get to see the northern lights…” and I thought… one day when I meet my future man and maybe I will have to give up some moments I’ve always wanted, and before that happens I better see these Northern Lights! I know that sounds ridiculous, but it is so very true! So, needless to say, I started doing some research of cheaper places to visit in February that allowed this experience, with the symbolism of February being my birthday. And, well Iceland didn’t disappoint! And, the Northern Lights dancing along the sky was something I’ll never forget. The beautiful country provided MANY different experiences.

The southern part of the country is historic, rooted from the Viking days, and from volcanoes that changed the geography of the country. The eastern coast has beautiful and unforgettable black sand beaches and glaciers to hike. The northern region of the country is known for taking a snowmobile to the tops of glaciers, and you can’t visit Iceland without visiting the city of Reykjavik, that was quaint, quiet and walkable offering many mini shops, seafood, and iconic buildings and landmarks, and the infamous Blue Lagoon.

I definitely recommend this trip for 20-30 somethings, but as a helpful tip, be prepared to spend a lot of money on food, due to everything needed to be imported into the country. I would say the average meal was about $40 USD.

1. Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota

My favorite trips have mixed in: historical symbolism, road trips, family, loved ones, and new experiences. This trip provided all of these! This was the first time for all those who had come on this trip in taking an RV across the country. I am long overdue to share some of the RV experiences, but for those considering a visit to Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota not only has a mountain with four presidents on the side of the mountain, but is home of Bear Country, the antique Drug Store (that is comparable to a mall with country antiques and fees), Crazy Horse, Falls Park, and Railroad tours that allow you to take the beautiful state all in.

This trip is for all ages! If you want to be ambitious, I challenge you take it in an RV!

Hawaii Underwater

Motivational Rant:

I am deeply motivated by learning, which has been my motivation and drive toward visiting new places and meeting new people. Each place I visit is an opportunity to become more educated on the places unknown, unseen and with people I haven’t met. 

Although some know my travels as tackling this endless bucket list of places I want to see… it is as equally rewarding to try new things in the places I visit. 

Life. An opportunity to know everything we want to know. For me, learning comes in forms of understanding and hearing new perspectives, and viewing the world from a new vantage point. Each place I visit is a piece that lives and continues on in the blogs I post, pictures I take, videos I create, but most importantly the memories I keep with me. 

This brings me back to the beautiful state of Hawaii. And, let’s marinate in that thought… Hawaii is a state? Hawaii, located in the middle of Pacific was closer to New Zealand, Australia and Asian islands than my home state of Michigan. Yet, it is a part of the U S of A. What a thought! 

Before this visit, when I had thought of Hawaii I pictured luscious, greener palm trees, white sand beaches, deep blue oceans, sweet songs of birds, etc. But little did I know that the memory that would live on would be seeing Hawaii underwater, from a submarine that is!

The Experience:

Imagine, cradling back and forth in the Pacific Ocean in a tank, small face sized windows, hard McDonald-style seating, shoulder to shoulder with strangers and no seatbelt. Then, the captain of the ship telling you that it is about that time to descend in the depths of the Pacific Ocean. You take one last peak at the shore line that is about 2 miles away and begin to question if this quest is for you. As you descend downward your ears pop and you see the meter to the left of the captain increase in 5 feet every 15 or so seconds, indicating how far below surface you are submerged. Anxiety releases when you see the first fish. Meek water, dull colors, and just silver fish. 

50 feet under… you notice that the ocean floor is a ways down, but in view, you see more fish swimming. Why here? 

60 feet under… you grab the one you are closest to and start to appreciate a world you never knew. You swam in it, but this is new life, a different life. 

80 feet… coral. No, the coral is not the color of that you see on Finding Nemo, instead it is gray and white, impacted by the pollution we humans have done. Light bulb, you are important, but is nature too is and we need to respect it. 

100 feet… ocean floor. Quiet, no one talks. A calming sense of appreciation, success of reaching the bottom, you look out. And, to your surprise you near a ship wreck. We did that… but there’s hope. Many fish have claimed this ship as home, coral has grown, fish are playing. To the fish the best home is the mess we humans left behind… ironic right? 

The Lesson:

We all have our preconceived notions of what it is we see, or I should say… what we choose to see. But we should spend the time to frequently reflect on seeing things from a new perspective. In positioning ourselves with a new point of view we can truly appreciate our world and all walks of life (standing, or swimming), and more importantly, learn. In learning we can become more than what we are, and help more than we think.

Annual Mother/Daughter Trips

What I have learned in my 26 young years on this earth is that we should concern ourselves with quality, not quantity. I have too learned that the meaningful relationships I have built are worth the additional work and effort. 

Since 2014 the relationship I have been working to build is that with my mother. As we age, sometimes we drift a part from those relationships that have the strongest bond; that with family. 

  • 2014- Southern Spain
  • 2015- Philippines
  • 2016- Australia & New Zealand
  • 2017- Hawaii Island

I write this not to boast of my travels and growing relationship with my mom, but to serve a moment to self-reflect on your most meaningful relationships. And ask, what can I do to invest in that more, and to allow the relationship to grow? And, to share a piece of me with you.


Where was this photo taken? Read “3 Waterfalls You See on Hawaii Island.”

Life lesson learned in Hawaii: Live in the moment. I am one who constantly thinks and plans the next move, and sometimes I have forgotten the purpose of the trip, which is to live in the moment and appreciate each moment with my mom. This can be applied in every day life… we can go through the motions of our agenda and forget purpose. The life lesson is to take time throughout the day to appreciate where you are now and what you have while you have it. This trip, with many beautiful scenic routes will be one that lives on, but the parts I will remember the most will be the unplanned parts: buying fresh lychee from a farmer, drinking fresh coconut water from the actual coconut and eating the coconut meat afterward, getting coffee and refreshed by “the best day ever, Steve,” running in/out of the hotel pool to cool down from the sun , seeing lava light up the night sky from a volcanoe 2 hours from our hotel,  and eating healthy breakfasts at a nearby open window restaurant near the hotel.