For us, travel is all about the experiences. Here’s a look back at our some of our most memorable travel-related experiences of 2018 (in no particular order). 

1. Touring Italy 

Our tour of Italy was simply unforgettable! Deb from Italy Unfiltered and her husband, Massi the Driver, took us on foodie tours, showed us breathtaking views of Tuscany, and demonstrated how to remove a cork from a bottle of Prosecco with a saber in Valdobbiadene. We visited Venice, Florence, and Rome and Arianna and Alessio from KM Zero Tours taught us all about agritourism through visits to unique family-owned farms and vineyards. 

Montepulciano, Italy

One of the beautiful views near the Podere della Bruciata vineyard.

One of our fondest memories of our 2018 trip to Italy was toasting Prosecco with Massi and Deb at Cartizze Hill in Valdobbiadene.

One of our fondest memories of our 2018 trip to Italy was toasting Prosecco with Massi and Deb at Cartizze Hill in Valdobbiadene.

2. Staying at The Pioneer Woman’s Boarding House 

The Pioneer Woman’s Boarding House in Pawhuska, Okla., opened this year and quickly booked full through December of 2019. We were fortunate to stay in five of the eight cowboy-luxury themed rooms this year. We loved the small-town hospitality of the staff there, the cozy beds and clawfoot bathtubs, and the the made-to-order (and delivered to your room) coffee service in the morning. 

The Butterfly Room at The Boarding House was our favorite.

Steve and Ann at the PW Boarding House

We are always super excited to get a room at the boarding house.

3. Cooking with The Chef and The Dish 

Our cooking experiences with The Chef and The Dish allowed us travel to Italy and Spain without leaving our own kitchen. Through the magic of Skype, we learned how to make an authentic Italian meal (including risotto) with our friends, Jeff and Ciana. Then, a few weeks later, Ann learned how to make paella with The Pioneer Woman’s BFF, Cyndi (Hyacinth) Kane. Taught to us by expert chefs, the recipes and techniques we learned will be with us for a lifetime. 

Cooking with Cyndi (Hyacinth) Kane and The Chef & The Dish.

Cooking paella with Cyndi (Hyacinth) Kane and The Chef and The Dish.

Finished bruschetta with The Chef and the Dish

The finished bruschetta with the blackened toast and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese was the most authentic tasting we’ve had in the U.S. Yum! (Photo by Jeff Cloud)

4. Moving our daughter to Tulsa 

In May we became empty nesters when we moved our daughter, Meghan, to Tulsa, Okla., for nursing school. With the help of our Facebook followers, we were able to select just the right U-Haul truck for the move from our home in Nebraska to her new apartment Oklahoma. It was a bittersweet trip, but we could not be more proud of her and can’t wait to have another nurse in the family. 

Meghan apartment

Meghan stands in her apartment in Oklahoma right after unloading the truck on the day she moved in.

Meghan complete apartment

With unpacking and setup done, Meghan sits and relaxes in her apartment in Oklahoma.

5. Exporing Greece 

Ann checked off the top item on her bucket list with several stops in Greece during our Celebrity cruise this summer. We’ll never forget the awe-inspiring views of the white-washed houses and blue-domed churches in Santori or our slow climb to the top of the Acropolis. Greece was everything we imagined and so much more. 

Oia Greece

A blue domed church in the town of Oia on Santorini Island, Greece enjoys a commanding view of the sea below.

We took a slow walk up to the top of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece.

We took a slow walk up to the top of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece.

6. Learning about beer, wine, and spirits 

We had several opportunities this year to tour breweries, wineries, and even a distillery. We took a mixology class where we learned to put the least expensive ingredient into a cocktail first (in case you mess it up). We loved our agritourism tour, including a stop at Kinkaider Brewing, in central Nebraska and we had the most incredible wine tasting in the woods in Montepulciano, Italy. 

Kinkaider Brewing company, Broken Bow, Nebraska

A sample of Kinkaider beer in the delicious duck breast appetizer we enjoyed during our tasting.

Our wine tasting in the woods experience in Tuscany was one of our favorite travel experiences of all time.

Our wine tasting in the woods experience in Tuscany was one of our favorite travel experiences of all time.

7. Watching the sunset in the Florida Keys

We spent several weeks with Steve’s mom and dad at their winter home in the Florida Keys this year. One of our favorite memories from that trip was watching the bright orange colors of the sun, as it set into the Gulf of Mexico. We’d walk out to a dock after dinner and sit in silence as we counted the blessings of God’s creation and each other. 

Marathon, Florida, sunset

We loved watching beautiful sunsets while in Marathon, Florida.

Steve with parents sunset

Steve with his parents on a dock in Marathon, Florida around sunset.

8. Walking the streets of Pompeii

After a morning drive through the gorgeous Amalfi coast, we were not prepared for how amazed we would be when we walked thought the streets of nearby Pompeii. This incredibly well preserved Roman city, with its original structures and frescos, astounded us at every turn. Joined on the tour by Canadian friends, Roger and Jane Speer, we all could easily imagine what life was like there more than 2,000 years ago. 

Pompeii

Steve and Ann with our friends, Jane and Roger Speer in the ancient city of Pompeii.

Amalfi Coast

The beautiful Amalfi coast in Italy.

9. Road tripping across Iowa 

In late September, we spent a week exploring Iowa. Highlights included a night at Hotel Grinnell, a visit to the kitchen at Lagomarcino’s in the quad cites, and an end-of-season boat ride on the Lady of the Lake in Clear Lake. By the end of the trip, we’d discovered dozens of new destinations and attractions that make the midwest a great place to explore. 

Hotel Grinnell Iowa Penthouse Suite

Inside the Penthouse Suite of the Hotel Grinnell.

Lady of the Lake

Looking back over the wake of the Lady of the Lake boat in Clear Lake, Iowa.

10. Driving through the south 

The last week of 2018, we set off on a trip through the south, driving from Oklahoma to Florida. Our first stop in Bentonville, Arkansas, was one of our favorites. We visited Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the Walmart Museum there. In the Delta of Mississippi, we stoped in Greenville where Steve began his teaching career. He was reunited with school colleagues and former students. And, we enjoyed a big, juicy, broiled steak from the family table in the kitchen of the iconic Doe’s Eat Place. 

Crystal Bridges

“Trade (Gifts of Trading Land with White People)” by Jaune Quick-To-See Smith. This was one of the amazing pieces on display at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

Cypress brake

The cypress swamp or, “brake,” in Greenville, Mississippi is one of the last remaining original brakes in the Mississippi Delta.

We are so blessed to be able to do what we love and share our journey with others. It is our hope that in 2019, whether it is someplace close to home or on the other side of the globe, you’ll have the opportunity to go new places and experience new things, too. 

Travel well. 


PIN FOR LATER

  • What a privilege to be in @visitbentonville this weekend to celebrate the opening of @themomentary and our friend, @addie_roanhorse. Addie’s Osage ribbon work- inspired design is featured on this tower at the Momentary and it is just fabulous! 
This new space opens to the public Feb. 22 and general admission is free, thanks to the generosity of the @waltonfamilyfdn.
  • In @visitmasoncityiowa, you'll find the boyhood home of famous composer Meredith Willson. Perhaps best known for his musical, "The Music Man," Willson based the show in large part on his experiences growing up in his hometown.⁣
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Mason City has kept Willson's memory alive through an extensive museum and convention space, which we got to see on our hosted tour of the town, called The Music Man Square. A part of the experience at Music Man Square is a tour through Willson's childhood home.⁣
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Now is the perfect time to head to Mason City for a visit. Hugh Jackman is set to play Professor Harold Hill in a Broadway revival of, "The Music Man." With that show opening in 2020, all eyes will be back on Mason City.⁣
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@thehughjackman @musicmanbway
  • When the @museumofamericanspeed invited us to come for a complimentary visit, we weren't sure what to expect. ⁣
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Yes, the museum is chock-full of race cars, engines, history, and car-related memorabilia. But it also houses other collections like one of old lunch boxes.⁣
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We had so much fun standing and taking in the lunch boxes, looking and trying to find the ones we had when we were kids. Ann had "Charlie's Angels" and Steve had "Super Friends." ⁣
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If you're ever near Lincoln, Nebraska, check out the Museum of American Speed. It's a true hidden treasure in the midwest. ⁣
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What kind of lunch box did you carry to school? Any kids of the 70s and 80s who had the ones we had?
  • Sometimes you find things in your own backyard.⁣
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Just up the road from our home in Crete, Nebraska, we found the National Museum of Roller Skating. Our curiosity piqued, we stopped in and took a look around. There we found the world's largest collection of historical roller skates, costumes, and memorabilia. ⁣
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It took us back to our childhood and spending time at the roller skating rink (do kids even skate anymore?). We remembered crossing over on the turns for the first time and bending at the knees for "Downtown" by Petula Clark. So many great memories. ⁣
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Sometimes, we focus so much on getting away that we forget that we have some really interesting places close to home, as well. The next time you feel a hankering to go somewhere, maybe try going down the street. You never know what treasure you might find and what memories it evoke.
  • This was our Valentine’s Day dessert last year. Chef Kurtess Mortensen at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile created this memorable dish he called “Fat Elvis.” It was a chocolate bread pudding, served alongside banana brûlée and caramelized peanuts then topped with marshmallow cream, homemade peanut butter ice cream, and a candied bacon garnish. We are giddy with anticipation to see what he comes up with tonight! We are budgeting our calories accordingly. 😉
  • “Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures.”
– Lewis Carroll
  • It's been a long winter. I need to see flowers again! Are you with me?Let's talk about these flowers. ⁣
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We are often asked about our favorite place we've ever visited. While that question is hard to answer, we almost always mention Tallinn, Estonia, as a contender.⁣
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Estonia has an interesting history. Conquered in 1227 by Denmark, it never again enjoyed independence until  1920. That freedom was short lived, however, as the Soviet Union occupied the country in 1940. Finally, in 1991, Estonia regained its independence and has remained free ever since. The country joined NATO in 2004. ⁣
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Visiting Estonia, we could see the remnants of Soviet control. Large block buildings dominate the landscape. They are of Soviet Communist design: utilitarian in nature with no thought given to design. They look just like the buildings you've seen in movies about the Soviet Union. ⁣
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Now free, Estonians have done what they can to erase the gray days of Soviet control. The Soviet-style buildings are painted bright colors, and flowers abound in the streets. The people are warm, cheerful, friendly, and welcoming. ⁣
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Yes, Estonia is a wonderful country, and we can't wait to return.
  • Each year from late February to early April, hundreds of thousands of Sandhills Cranes migrate through Nebraska on their way north to their breeding grounds. It's considered one of the greatest spectacles in nature, so thousands of people come to experience this incredible time.⁣
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We traveled to Kearney, Nebraska, one of the best cities for crane viewing, last year. Because the best times to view the cranes is sunrise and sunset, we found ourselves with some free time during the day. It turns out that Kearney has a lot to offer in terms of things to do.⁣
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Scroll across our highlights on Instagram, and you'll find the stories highlights we made during our time there. On our blog (link in bio) you'll also find a post we wrote with ideas for 20 things to do in Kearney while you wait on the cranes. ⁣
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Put crane viewing on your bucket list. It really is one of the most amazing experiences we've ever had in nature. And don't worry about being bored between sunrise and sunset--Kearney has too much to offer.

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