It has been said that a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. It was Aug. 27, 2011, that Ann and I took our first step together as we walked down the aisle at Westminster Presbyterian Church as a husband and wife. Since that day, we’ve been on an amazing life journey. As we celebrate our fifth anniversary today, we thought we’d share some of our most memorable experiences. As we look back, we are thankful for the opportunities we’ve had, and are even more grateful that we could experience these things together.

Honeymooning in Costa Rica

Great weddings require a lot of planning. I was happy to be involved in planning our wedding. I told Ann from the start that I trusted her judgment—I just wanted to work on the honeymoon. I cooked up a wonderful week in Costa Rica with what Ann called the perfect mix of relaxation and activity.

Tabacon Hot Springs Resort and Spa is, by far, one of the most romantic, relaxing places on earth.

Tabacon Hot Springs Resort and Spa is, by far, one of the most romantic, relaxing places on earth.

We basked in a volcanically heated river on the side of Arenal Volcano, took a zip-line adventure 400 feet above the treetops, and enjoyed what is probably the most romantic dinner of our lives—in a private gazebo in the rainforest served by our own chef and waiter.

What an exciting way to start a marriage -- zip lining 400 feet above the tree tops in Costa Rica.

What an exciting way to start a marriage — zip lining 400 feet above the tree tops in Costa Rica.

We loved exploring the rain forest and seeing the incredible plant life in Costa Rica.

We loved exploring the rain forest and seeing the incredible plant life in Costa Rica.

We loved the Costa Rican coffee and gallo pinto in the morning. We enjoyed the smells of the flowers and the views from the mountains. We cherished our time on the beach and the opportunity to dip our feet in the ocean. And most importantly, we fell even more in love with each other there. Pura vida at it’s best.

Treatments at the Mayo Clinic

Anyone who has been married will tell you that everything doesn’t always go just as you planned, and there really will be a time to remember your vow to be there for each other through sickness and health. Over the past few years we have made more trips to Rochester, Minnesota, than anywhere else.

One of the world's best medical treatment facilities - Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

One of the world’s best medical treatment facilities – Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Two and a half years ago, Ann was diagnosed with a rare immune disease called cardiac sarcoidosis and has had surgeries and treatments at the world-renowned Mayo Clinic there. 

Recovering from thoracic surgery at Mayo Clinic's St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota.

Recovering from thoracic surgery at Mayo Clinic’s St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota.

While these trips are no vacations for either of us, they have brought us closer together and have helped us treasure every day we have together. The Mayo Clinic is a place full of answers, help and hope and we are always grateful for the opportunity to go there.  In the end, our time spent in Rochester has been a big part of our first five years and even though it doesn’t always bring back the happiest of memories, it is a part of our journey.

Taking pictures in Alaska

In 2013, we took our first cruise and went on a family vacation to Alaska. 

A beautiful reflection shot, taken from a moving train en route to Anchorage, Alaska.

A beautiful reflection shot, taken from a moving train en route to Anchorage, Alaska.

Here’s the thing about Alaska: it is stunningly beautiful. Everywhere we turned we were confronted with another jaw-dropping vista of mountains, ocean, glaciers, and wildlife.

We took a helicopter ride to the top of glacier where we were able to sip glacier water and explore the terrain.

We took a helicopter ride to the top of glacier where we were able to sip glacier water and explore the terrain.

Our whale watching tour was amazing. When we got back to shore, Steve asked Ann, "So who did it feel to be in photographer's heaven?"

Our whale watching tour was amazing. When we got back to shore, Steve asked Ann, “So how did it feel to be in photographer’s heaven?”

Where else on Earth can you find yourself on a small boat watching humpback whales dive literally 10 feet away while salmon jump over their tails, and gaze out across the water to admire a rainbow rising up over a mountain? It is truly a photographer’s heaven.

Meeting new people

We love to meet new people. Whether it is introducing ourselves to those sitting next to us at a bar or restaurant or shaking hands with people we’ve just met at a conference or event, we just love meeting new people. Over the past five years we’ve met some incredible people like innkeeper Jeanne in Chadron, Nebraska, and the staff at Luminae restaurant on the Celebrity Eclipse. We’ve developed new relationships with fellow bloggers, our readers, and travel enthusiasts. And, we’ve made some great new friends along the way.

But few meetings will be as memorable as the night we were invited backstage after a Garth Brooks show in Las Vegas to meet the country music legend and his wife and singer Trisha Yearwood. People often say, “Pics or it didn’t happen.” Well, here you go. For what it’s worth, Garth and Trisha are as gracious and kind as you’d expect.

Down to earth, personable, and boy can they sing! Our once in a lifetime experience meeting county music artists, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood.

Down to earth, personable, and boy can they sing! Our once in a lifetime experience meeting county music artists, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood.

Picking up our daughter from school

From Spain. Via Rome. As you know, all good parents make sure their children get home safely after school, and Ann and I are no exception. That’s why we we made the trek to Salamanca, Spain, last summer to pick Meghan up after she’d spent several weeks there studying Spanish. We were so proud of our daughter and all she had accomplished there and it was a real blessing to be able to see where she had studied, visit her favorite museums, and meet some of her teachers. 

Meghan studied Spanish Salamanca, Spain.

Meghan studied Spanish Salamanca, Spain.

And we loved Salamanca. It is a historical city dating back to Roman times and we savored every moment spent sitting in the open air cafes on the square, eating paella, drinking amazing wine and listening to bands playing traditional music.  As long as we were headed across the ocean, we stopped first in Rome, admired the incredible history there and enjoyed pasta at a sidewalk cafe before boarding a cruise to Spain. It was an amazing trip.

Our view of the Forum in Rome, Italy, seemed like it was right of a history book.

Our view of the Forum in Rome, Italy, seemed like it was right of a history book.

 

Exploring our home state, Nebraska

When Ann and I were married, I hadn’t done much travel in the state of Nebraska except on Interstate 80. Ann insisted that we take a trip around our state. She and Meghan had taken annual Nebraska trips for close to a decade and she said there were some pretty special things to be enjoyed if we just got off of I-80. Well, she was right.

Nebraska

A road in the Sandhills of northwest Nebraska near Crawford. Definitely not I-80.

One place she took me that blew me away was Toadstool Geologic Park. I’ve been twice, now, and both times I’ve been awed by the beauty and unique geography located in Nebraska. Last Spring we shared another experience that was a first for both of us: The Sandhill Crane migration.

We watched thousands of Sandhill Cranes gather at sunset on the Platte River near Grand Island, Nebraska.

We watched thousands of Sandhill Cranes gather at sunset on the Platte River near Grand Island, Nebraska.

Seeing the cranes land on the Platte River at sunset is an almost mystical experience, and it should be on your bucket list. Turns out Nebraska is a pretty special place if you just stop and look around a bit.

Watching the sun rise and set

Every day, God gives us two beautiful light shows that fill the whole sky: sunrise, and sunset. We have always tried to slow down and enjoy these moments when we can.

View of the sunset from our cruise ship in Nassau, Bahamas.

View of the sunset from our cruise ship in Nassau, Bahamas.

Whether it’s a fiery sky turning orange and red as the sun dips into the ocean, or a glistening sunrise in Estes Park or the Florida Keys — these are times to be savored.

Watching the sunrise over the mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes, Colorado.

Watching the sunrise over the mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes, Colorado.

A day of rejoicing with the sunrise on Easter morning from the Florida Keys.

A day of rejoicing with the sunrise on Easter morning from the Florida Keys.

When you stop and think about it, there is nothing made by human hands that can even compare.

We’ve been really fortunate to have been able to travel as much as we have the during these first five years of our marriage and we don’t take one trip for granted. Whether it is across the ocean or just down the road, we have always managed to learn something new on our adventures. We’ve experienced something different. And we’ve created memories together that will last a lifetime. None of us knows what our futures will hold. Only God knows whether we’ll have more days filled with or joy or sorrow, sickness or health, plenty or want. The important thing is to enjoy the journey and to remember that most of the time, the only trip you’ll ever regret taking is the one you don’t.

  • On the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, there is a point where you round a bend and see this view, with the Atlantic Ocean on the left, and the Caribbean Sea on the right. ⁣
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Ann took this photo several years ago when we visited St. Kitts for a day while on a cruise in the Caribbean. ⁣
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We met our friend, Mikey Tross, on the island and with the help of a local driver and guide, we toured the entire island in a day. ⁣
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We climbed to the top of Brimstone Hills, saw the beaches, at at Fredo's (a local restaurant) and toured Caribelle  Batik at Romney Manor. ⁣
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St. Kitts is a beautiful island and the people there are incredibly generous. If you haven't already been there, add St. Kitts to your bucket list.
  • The Grinnell, Iowa, Chamber of Commerce offices are located in a former bank designed by famed architect, Louis Sullivan. The architect built a series of "Jewel Box" banks, called that because they resemble jewel boxes.⁣
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These buildings are intricate in detail and rich in their finishes. The next time you pass near Grinnell, it is definitely worth the stop to step into American architectural history.
  • In downtown Kearney, Nebraska, you'll find @mccuesnebraskataproom, home to all sorts of Nebraska libations. When you visit, you can choose from a large selection of beers, wines, and even liquors all made in Nebraska. It's a fun environment where regulars welcome visitors, and fun is had by all. We look forward to going back one day and know that a visit to McCue's will be a part of our visits to Kearney in the future. ⁣
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@visitnebraska @visitkearney
  • A rite of passage...⁣
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The Swinging Bridge in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, has thrilled residents and visitors alike for decades. When it was originally built in 1929, it was the only way to cross from one side of Bird Creek to the other. Today, there are other bridges, but the beloved swinging bridge still spans the creek and dares folks to cross.⁣
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Long-time residents will tell stories of rieding their bikes across it when they were kids--and it should be noted that back then it didn't have the chain link side guards.⁣
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No visit to Pawhuska is complete until you've tried The Pioneer Woman's chicken fried steak AND crossed the swinging bridge. Go ahead and try...we dare you!⁣
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@TravelOK @VisitTheOsage
  • While looking for a coffee shop in @visitkearney, we stumbled into a really cool store. @elevate.people is a locally owned business specializing in both leather goods and in helping people around the world build better lives for themselves. ⁣
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All of the leather goods for sale here are handmade by people in third world countries. Elevate, it turns out, is a non-profit that gives local artisans small, low interest loans to get started in the leather making business. When loans are repaid, the money is loaned out to another craftsperson so they can get started. Meanwhile, Elevate provides access to a market to sell the goods produced so the worker continues to be supported. They also have an online store.⁣
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We have purchased several items from Elevate, and have loved all of them.⁣
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@visitnebraska
  • After a day of tests and appointments at the Mayo Clinic, this was a perfect place to relax and unwind.⁣
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We were treated to a complimentary stay at the brand new Hilton in downtown @minnesotas_rochester. Located near the Mayo Clinic, it's an incredibly beautiful hotel with nothing but the best amenities and top-notch service. One of our favorite places in the hotel is the hot tub in the pool area. How can it not be? Look at this place. And yes, it's as relaxing as it looks, especially at sunset. ⁣
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The room in this new luxury hotel are just as nice. We enjoyed it so much that we changed our travel plans and booked a second night on our own dime. It's our new go-to hotel in Rochester, Minnesota.⁣
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@minnesotas_rochester @exploreminnesota @hiltonhotels
  • Our hosted food tour in @visitkansascityks began with a bar-b-que spread from several local restaurants. Needless to say, we had to sample a little bit of everything because it was for science. We enjoyed ribs, smoked sausage, brisket, pulled pork, smoked turkey, burnt ends, rice, beans, and even warm potato casserole. ⁣
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If you love bar-b-que, head to KCK. Trust us, you'll love it. Just wear your stretchy pants.
  • Steve writes: When I first set my eyes on the outside of the Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona, I was unimpressed. In fact, I thought it was plain ugly. Construction continued, and I returned several times over the years, each time finding more to like about it. Finally, on a visit with Ann, the inside of the Cathedral was open for a visit. So we went inside.⁣
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Architect Antonin Gaudi's creation is brilliant. The way he uses stained glass to bring color to the stone inside, combined with the shadows created by the shape of the stone is breathtaking. Truly, this cathedral might be the most impressive one I've seen anywhere. This place should be on your bucket list. It's worth a trip to Barcelona to see it.

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