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

  • Last week, we had the pleasure of making handmade pasta (via the internet) with our friends, Deb and Massi, who were in their home kitchen in Italy. ⁣
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You can read all about it, and get the recipe, on our blog. Yep, you guessed it, the link is in our bio. ⁣
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We met Deb and Massi of @italyunfiltered a few years ago when they created an amazing food and wine itinerary for us. We've remained friends and it was so good to see them, even if they were a world away.
  • We were supposed to be in Rochester, Minnesota, this week for Ann to see a cardiac sarcoidosis specialist about some recent issues with her heart. Of course, we did not travel to Rochester for her scans and doctor visits because of the coronavirus outbreak.⁣
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Instead, her cardiologists called her from their homes and her scans and tests will likely be delayed until June or July. We'll keep in close touch with them if anything changes, as well. We are so grateful for all of the healthcare professionals who are continuing to work crazy hours from home as well as in our hospitals around the world.⁣
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This is such an unprecedented and stressful time for all of them. Words will never be enough to convey our gratitude for the roles they are playing in the battle against this deadly virus while caring for those with other diseases and illnesses at the same time. ⁣
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Every healthcare provider we've talked with in the last two weeks has had the same message for those of us who don't have to go to work at a hospital. ⁣
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Just. Stay. Home.
  • Yesterday was Day 16 of social isolation for us. Because of Ann's underlying heart condition and suppressed immune system, we've cooked all our meals at home (no takeout). We've starting to get more and more creative as time has gone by. ⁣
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Last night, we made chicken and shrimp vindaloo and learned online how to make homemade naan.⁣
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It wan't as good as our favorite Indian restaurant, The Oven, but it did satisfy the craving we've had for Indian food. ⁣
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What are you craving these days?
  • We moved our living room furniture around this week and put two swivel chairs near the sliding glass door. Each day, we take time to turn around, rest our minds, enjoy in the view, and just be. #webelieveinhome
  • Our daughter, Meghan, is a cardiac ICU nurse. Despite all of the current uncertainties in healthcare during this pandemic, early this morning she put on her scrubs and went to work a 12+ hour shift. 
She is not alone. Across the country and around the world, healthcare workers are putting the safety of themselves and their families at risk to help others. It's what they do. Every. Single. Day. 
We are incredibly grateful that there are selfless people like this in the world and we pray for them and we hope you'll join us. 
We couldn't sleep this morning, so we wrote instead. Click on the link in our bio to read our morning thoughts and prayers.
  • Trying to decide where we’ll travel this weekend. Covered porch? Living room? 😉
  • We are staying home. 
We've been here for almost a week now because Ann is one of "those people." You know the ones. Those people with an underlying health issue. Those people with a suppressed immune system. One of those people who could become seriously ill, need hospitalization, and even die if exposed to the coronavirus.  Those people need your help to stay safe and live. And all you have to do is stay home when you don’t NEED to be out.

Over the past few days, we’ve seen photos, videos, and witnessed first hand people of all ages (but mostly young people) gathering in groups for what us mid lifers would consider “non essential” reasons: birthday parties, movies, youth sports practices, St. Patty’s Day celebrations at the bar, spring break at the beach, and the like. 
We don’t understand it. 
We try not to judge. 
But just for a time during this worldwide pandemic, could we ask people who are participating in non-essential activities to consider who “those people” most at risk really are?

Those people are already battling serious illnesses.

Those people want to see their grandchildren grow up.

Those people need to do their jobs as nurses and doctors.

Those people are first responders. 
Those people run the grocery store, and the pharmacy, and the gas station. 
Those people pray for you and your generation. 
And what about those other people? 
The ones you know.

Those people who made sacrifices to meet your needs.

Those people who took care of you when you were sick.

Those people who went to your games and cheered you on. 
Those people who taught you in school.

Those people who helped you pay for college.

Those people who cooked your favorite dish for you.

Those people who taught your Sunday School class.

Those people who have forgiven you.

Those people who will always love you unconditionally.

We keep wanting to scream, “It’s not about you, it’s about those people!” But the truth of the matter is, IT IS ABOUT YOU. 
You have the power to help.
You have the power to influence others.
You have the power to flatten the curve.

And by not changing your behaviors, you also have the power to harm. 
How will you choose to use your power?j
  • We’re sharing your postcards and encouraging you to help others and stay positive. 
If you’d like to send us a postcard, mail to: Postcard Jar, PO Box 334, Crete, NE 68333.

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