Some people make resolutions on New Year’s Day. Not us. We make reservations. It has become a bit of a tradition for us to sit in bed on New Year’s morning, sip mimosas and finalize vacation plans for the year. The best part of the day is when I get to click the, “complete booking” button.
This year, though, was a little different. We booked and started saving for our big trip of 2018 about 18 months ago. Still, we had a lot of planning to do, so our annual mimosa time (we did NOT change that tradition) was full of making travel decisions for 2018. What did we talk about? I’m glad you asked.
Our little Postcard Jar blog is quickly growing into more than just a hobby. One of our biggest conversation topics for this new year revolves around how we will create a home business in the travel industry. Last year we dabbled in selling postcards and postcard jars. In addition to keeping some retail options, we are doing some travel consulting, and may even lead a trip or two. Obviously, we’re still trying to figure out a lot of things and in the meantime, we’re working hard on our blog and doing a lot of volunteer work in our community.
More time in Oklahoma
Our first trip of 2018 will likely be back to Oklahoma. We would like to travel to Tulsa to look at school our daughter might be interested in. Of course we’ll have to stop in Pawhuska so we can visit our new friends there, enjoy a chicken fried steak, and sip a Handy’s pop or 12.
We fell in love with Oklahoma this year and are excited for our daughter, Meghan, to explore the possibilities of attending nursing school in Tulsa this year.
The great American road trip (or two)
As I write this, the temperature is -3 where we live in Nebraska, which makes us question our life choice of living in the Midwest. As a result, we have talked about taking a road trip south this winter to escape the brunt of the cold. I spent six years living in Mississippi, and Ann lived in South Carolina. We’d each like to take the other on a stroll down memory lane. We’d also like to head to Arizona where Ann spent time living with her dad when she was younger. I’ve heard an awful lot about Arizona; it’s high time we took a trip there so I can see it for myself.
We have really started to enjoy road trips in the U.S. and having the time to stop and see things along the way.
National Track Championships
Ann and I help lead college ministry at our church and several of our college “sons” are seniors on the men’s track and field team so this is their last year to compete. With a more flexible schedule this year, we’re excited to be able to travel to the NAIA national championship meet to see them run. We’ve booked our hotel for Pittsburgh, Kansas, for the Indoor Championships in March. Now the guys just have to do their part and qualify. The outdoor meet is in Gulf Shores, Alabama, and we’re looking into traveling there in May, as well.
A return to Rochester, Minnesota
Over the last four years, we’ve made more than a dozen trips to Rochester, Minnesota, for Ann to be seen and treated at the Mayo Clinic there. It’s time for her to have a follow up with cardiology to monitor her cardiac sarcoidosis and she will need to have a chest CT to make sure the tumor she had removed from her lung has not returned. With me not at school this year, we’ll likely expand the trip a little and try to see more of Minnesota while we’re up there. One place in particular we’d like to go is Roseville, located between Minneapolis and St. Paul, which makes it an ideal location for exploring the Twin Cities. We also have friends and family in the area we’d love to see.
The big one
In June, we will set off on our biggest trip of the year, and maybe our lives. It is a 10-night cruise from Italy to Greece and back aboard the Celebrity Reflection. We can’t wait to see the sights of Rome, Malta, Sicily, and Greece and reconnect with some cruise friends we met a couple summers ago. We hope to add a few more days to this vacation to visit other places in Italy like Tuscany and Venice. The best part is we’ve been planning (and saving) for this vacation for almost 18 months, now, so by the time it gets here, hopefully all we’ll have left to do is enjoy it.
Conferring with experts
We just learned of a bloggers’ conference in Prague that takes place two weeks after our cruise, so that is a definite possibility. We’ve wanted to visit the Czech Republic for some time, and this might provide the push we need to make the visit. The fact we’d already be on that side of the Atlantic makes it much easier to go.
In September, we’ll head to the Finger Lakes region of New York for another TBEX conference for bloggers and those in the travel industry. That is an area of the country we’ve wanted to explore, as well, and autumn seems like a perfect time for a visit. Along the way we’ll likely take in Niagara Falls and other sights in the region.
We attended the TBEX conference two years ago in Minneapolis/St. Paul and made a lot of good connections.
Spending time with our parents
It was such a blessing this year to have time to spend traveling with our parents and we’d like to do more of that this year, as well. We took my mom and dad on a trip through the Nebraska Sandhills last summer and would love to take them even further west (and northwest to Toadstool Geologic Park) if we’re able. We also had a great trip with Ann’s mom to Oregon and she’s already talking about wanting to travel to an away Husker game this year. Speaking of the Huskers …
Steve’s mom and dad take a minute to enjoy the view across the Dismal River valley in the Sandhills.
Carol has seen this stove in action on TV many times, and enjoyed checking it out for herself on our trip to the Drummond Ranch near Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
Go Big Red!
As you know by now, we are big Nebraska Cornhusker football fans and look forward to football season every year. This year promises to be extra special as we have a new coaching staff that promises to bring a new scheme and a return to the Husker culture of old. Fingers crossed! We’ll plan our travel schedule around home games and may even try to take in a road game if we can. We hear The Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is an OK place to see a game.
We love going to Husker road games. Last year we traveled to Eugene, Oregon, to see the Huskers play the Ducks.
Concerts, shows, and attractions
Finally, sprinkled in thought the year, there are a number of concerts and shows we’d like to see. We love everything from the symphony to musicals to modern country music, so we are always looking to see a show. We are lucky to live close to a place like the Lied Center in Lincoln, and we already have tickets to several great shows in 2018.
When we’re not traveling, we love to see shows at the Lied Center for Performing Arts in Lincoln, Nebraska.
The great unknown
It is impossible to know on January 3 where, exactly, the year will take us. We know we have a lot of work ahead as we grow our blog and our business and that will be a big focus of our year. Undoubtedly, 2018 will bring new opportunities that we don’t know about today, and just as assuredly, things will happen that will prevent us from being able to do everything on this list. No matter where the year takes us, we will make the trip together, and that’s what I’m looking forward to the most.
Have you been to any of the places we listed? Is there any place else we should consider? Please let us know in the comments below.
That’s right — Teshhamitroy. It’s our new family name for the week and includes the first two letters of all of our last names. We are taking our daughter, Meghan, and four college students on a family vacation to … wait for it … Branson, Missouri!
Steve and I help lead the college ministry at Crete Berean Church and these four young men (among others) we met at church have really grown to be a part of our family. Three of them are from St. Kitts in the Caribbean and one is from Los Angeles. They have been working, studying, and doing research here in Crete, Nebraska, this summer and weren’t going to get to take a vacation like many college students.
About a month ago, we asked them if they would be interested in taking an old-fashioned family road trip with us and I think it was De’Andre who stood up first and said, “Let’s go!”
So, about 20 hours after arriving back home from our journey to Mexico, we’re loading up a rental van with five 20-somethings and headed to The Ozarks. We hope you’ll follow along … it’s bound to be a knee-slapping good time.
We are so impressed by our friends, Matt and Jennene Anderson, who still take their three kids on old-school family vacations. You know the ones – where you load the kids in the family truckster and drive across the country to explore new cities, visit National Parks, learn about history, and try not to make anyone cry.
The Anderson family sets out on a road trip in summer 2016.
Last summer, the Andersons reviewed their travel map and decided they’d explore some of the southern states they had not yet seen.
The Anderson family colors in states they’ve been to after each trip. This is what their map looked like before their summer trip in 2016.
They sent us several postcards from their road trip, including the first postcard from the iconic Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri. The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial is a National Park Service unit authorized in 1935 to commemorate St. Louis’s role in the westward expansion of the United States during the 19th century.
In addition to the 630-foot stainless steel Gateway Arch, the site also includes a Museum of Westward Expansion and the Old Courthouse, scene of the Dred Scott case, which is a major landmark in the story of the Civil Rights movement in the United States.
Next, the Anderson family sent us a postcard from the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.
They had never been to Nashville before and were so excited to see the historic Ryman Auditorium. The family’s next stop was Atlanta, Georgia, where they caught up with some friends and visited the Georgia Aquarium.
They wrote that Matt was not a fan of the traffic in Atlanta, which is understandable, considering his daily commute to work in Nebraska is approximately two minutes.
The last stop on the Andersons’ adventure through the south was Bourbon Street in New Orleans — or what their youngest, Grace, referred to “crazy street.”
This summer, the Andersons are exploring the Mountain West and we are hoping they send us some more postcards. We have to say, it is so refreshing to see families who still take vacations like these. It really demonstrates that you don’t have to book plane tickets, visit amusement parks, or jet off to a tropical resort to have a great time together.
Matt and Jennene are both great teachers in our public schools here in Crete, Nebraska (Matt teaches high school science and Jennene is a middle school music teacher). We’re even more impressed by the incredible lessons they are teaching their own children about the history of our country, the value of exploring new places and things, and the joy of spending quality time together as a family.
(*Vacation photos courtesy of the Anderson family)
When you’re traveling next, send us a postcard at: Postcard Jar, P.O. Box 334, Crete, NE 68333.
I think I was born to travel. My first trip (aside from the one through the birth canal) happened when I was only five days old. I flew on a plane from South Carolina, where I was born, to Nebraska to meet my grandma. I haven’t really stopped traveling since.
I was just five days old when I took my first plane ride from South Carolina where I was born to Nebraska to meet my grandma.
My mom had me when she was 24. She was single and working full time as a sports writer for a newspaper in the south and it was just the two of us until she married Steve when I was 16. And while we didn’t necessarily have a lot when I was growing up, she always made sure I knew about the world around me. She made it a priority for us to travel, and over the years I learned so many important lessons through our journeys together.
I’m 22 now and just so you know, I’m not big on blogging. But as I thought about it, the lessons I’ve learned traveling with my mom have made me the woman I am today, and I just wanted to share those lessons with all of you.
#1 – Try new things (unless it’s horseback riding)
I’ve tried a lot of things for the first time while traveling with my mom. I rode in the back of a Jeep to the top of a butte at Fort Robinson, ate vegetable curry with my hands in Sri Lanka, and drove a car through a buffalo refuge not long after I had gotten my driving permit. You have to understand, I am not a natural risk-taker and trying new things often took a lot of encouragement and an occasional bribe.
Just after getting my learner’s permit, my mom made me drive through herds of buffalo in Custer State Park in South Dakota.
Because of my mom’s encouraging words threatening voice, I have tried a lot of new things I probably never would have done otherwise. I have butchered a chicken and cooked it for dinner, repelled down a cliff (it was actually a small hill, but still), and sang karaoke to Demi Lovato’s Skyscraper one night on a cruise ship in front of complete strangers.
While in college at Southwest Baptist University, I spent time in Bolivia on a mission trip where we helped butcher chickens. This was a first for me.
Looking back, I’m so glad to have had so many new experiences — with one exception. Horseback riding. When I was little, my great grandmother put me on a pony at a festival and I was forced to go round and round on an animal I clearly feared. I don’t really remember the experience, likely because I was so traumatized by the whole ordeal and blocked it from my memory. However, I have a Polaroid picture to prove it happened.
Clearly, as you can see by the look on my face, I did not enjoy my first pony ride. Pay special attention to the way my fingers barely touch the saddle horn.
Somehow, at age 20 I found myself back in the saddle (pun intended) during a study abroad in Spain. I did NOT want to go on this group excursion. But thinking back to all the times my mom encouraged me to try something new, I threw myself up onto that horse (literally) and ventured out on a horseback ride from hell.
No one told me we were going to swim in a river on a horse. Never again!
The 2+ hour ride had my adrenaline pumping — but not in a fun or exciting way. That horse took me thrashing about through trees, sand, and even a river. When the ride was finally over, I called my mom and told her she’d be proud of me. “I rode a horse and only cried twice,” I told her. Needless to say, if anyone ever asks me to go horseback riding again, be assured, it’s a no from me.
#2 – Pack like a minimalist
Over the years, I think I’ve pretty much perfected my packing technique. I am now able to efficiently pack for any trip in under half an hour. That wasn’t always the case.
Upon my return home from a month-long trip to England earlier this year.
From a young age (especially during my middle school years) I thought I needed to have everything with me at all times. For example, even a walking tour of Chicago had to include a large shoulder bag filled with at least twenty items such as my bible, a full water bottle, an umbrella, a deck of playing cards, two pairs of sunglasses, an electronic Spanish dictionary, and of all things, my retainer in its original case. Needless to say, by the end of the day, my shoulders were bruised and I knew I had made a terrible, terrible decision.
I still cannot believe I toted around this huge shoulder bag all around Chicago. What was I thinking??
After years of ignoring my mom’s suggestions to simplify, today I have finessed my packing list (in a Google doc, of course) and now only take the essentials when I prepare to travel. She was right. Less is more.
#3- Keeps things in perspective
When I was in 6th grade, my mom and I went to Sri Lanka for a month-long mission trip. My mom had been praying for a group of single mothers there for several years and in the fall of 2004 she felt God leading her to go there. A few months after making a decision to visit this place on the other side of the globe, Sri Lanka was devastated by a tsunami that killed more than 31,000 people there. My mom spent the next year saving vacation time and doing fundraising for our trip that was set for December 2005.
My mom and I helped distribute food to mothers and their babies while in Sri Lanka.
We spent a month in tsunami camps giving medical aid, setting up a library in a school, helping hand out bananas at food clinics, and working with kids who had been homeless or abandoned.
We spent a lot of time in Sri Lanka with kids and families who were hungry and homeless after the devastating tsunami.
Upon returning to my middle school back in the states, it really hit me just how blessed we are to live here. I remember having a very difficult time during our lunch break when I watched kids in America dump half of the food on their trays in garbage cans because they didn’t like the way it tasted. I couldn’t help but think of the kids we’d served back in Sri Lanka and how they begged for another banana or a few grapes and I had to turn them away because we had no more food.
That trip, during some of the most critical years of my life, changed my world view. It gave me perspective. It helped me really appreciate being born in the U.S. with all of the opportunities, freedoms, and resources we have here. It helped me understand world hunger, poverty, and disease.
My mom and me exploring Asakusa, Japan.
My mom and I have also traveled to Japan and Europe together and each place we’ve been, I’ve learned more and more about the different cultures, religions, foods, and customs of the people who live there. Those experiences continue to give me a better perspective of the world around me and help me recognize that often, my “problems” aren’t really problems at all when compared to those in real need. I’ve been fortunate to be able to go on several Christian mission trips on my own to places like Bolivia and the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota.
I spent my Spring Break in 2015 serving at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota where we provided activities like this Easter egg hunt for children there.
Today, traveling for me isn’t always about seeing a new place or having a great vacation. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy those things. But I also realize I have been incredibly blessed to grow up where I have and that I have the opportunity to bless others by serving them where they are.
#4 – There truly is no place like Nebraska
At my elementary school in Crete, Nebraska, each year fourth graders study Nebraska history. The summer before I started Mrs. Kalkwarf’s class, my mom thought we should go on a trek through Nebraska to prepare, with several educational stops along the way. We really had no idea whatsoever where we would go but we just headed west and made it up along the way.
This picture was taken on our very first Nebraska road trip somewhere in the Sandhills. It was the first time either one of us had been there.
We took the highway instead of the Interstate, making stops at the Pony Express Museum in Gothenburg, Ole’s Big Game Bar and Grill in Paxton, and we even sipped a sarsaparilla in Ogallala at the Front Street Review. Then, we ventured north, and drove through seemingly endless miles of rolling Sandhillls.
Chimney Rock is a geologic rock formation in western Nebraska that once helped guide pioneers on the Oregon Trail.
It was a trip I’ll never forget. We had such a good time exploring our home state, we decided to make our Nebraska road trip an annual event. We’ve done something together in Nebraska almost every year since then.
I loved exploring places in Western Nebraska with my mom, including Toadstool Geologic Park.
While I have now visited more than half of the states in the U.S., I have such an appreciation for my home state and can truly say there is no place like Nebraska.
#5 Appreciate the arts
From a young age, my mom always taught me about the importance of the arts. I remember her bringing me a book about American artist Mary Cassatt after she’d seen some of her work on display at an art museum when she was on a business trip in Washington, DC. I still have that book on my bookshelf.
From the book “Mary Cassatt,” by Mike Venezia.
We read the book often at bedtime and several years later, mom took me to a museum where I got to see an original painting by Mary Cassatt. Cassatt has always been one of my favorite artists because her artwork, which often features mothers and daughters, reminds me of my mom and myself. For that reason, I was thrilled when one of my final projects as a student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha involved presenting a piece of artwork at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha.
One of the highlights of my undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha was giving a talk in Spanish about a piece of art by Mary Cassatt.
Naturally, I chose the one Mary Cassatt painting at the museum to feature in my presentation. Speaking about the artist that had ignited my interest in artwork was one of the highlights of my undergraduate studies.
Even though we didn’t have a lot of money when I was younger, my mom always found a way to take me to live concerts, plays, or musicals, especially when we traveled.
Ain’t Misbehavin’ was just one of many performances I’ve seen with my mom at the Lied Center for Performing Arts in Lincoln, Neb.
When I was five, she saved up her money and told me we weren’t going to do Christmas presents that year, but instead, we were taking a trip to New York City. That year, I saw my first Broadway musical, Beauty and the Beast. I’ve never forgotten that experience, because it ignited my interest in fine arts. I even played the role of dinner napkin/townsperson in my high school’s production of the Disney classic.
After seeing Beauty and the Beast on Broadway as a 5-year-old, I was so excited to be cast in the musical my first year of high school.
#6 Walk with purpose
The summer after my sophomore year of high school, my mom reluctantly agreed to take two friends and me with her on a business trip to Kansas City. While my mom worked, my friends and I were allowed to explore some of Kansas City. My mom has spent a lot of time in large cities while on business trips and knows they can sometimes be dangerous. She gave us very specific instructions on where we could go and what we could do.
My friends, Dulce and Amy, and I had a great time exploring Kansas City while my mom was working there.
During her lecture on safety precautions, she emphasized that we should always walk with purpose. She told us to keep our heads held high, to not be scared, and to make sure we demonstrated confidence. While these were great tips to keep us safe and discourage anyone from messing with us, I’ve also come to realize that walking with purpose has an even greater meaning.
I did a study abroad in Salamanca, Spain, my senior year of college where I walked several miles each day alone. I often heard her voice in my head saying, “Be confident and walk with purpose.”
As I have gotten older, I have always kept my mom’s words about walking with purpose in mind. I thought those words when I decided what to study in college and when I felt called to go on a mission trip to Bolivia. I thought about her instructions when I was walking the streets of Salamanca, Spain, during a study abroad and as I made plans to travel solo to England earlier this year.
My friend, Sienna, and me during my trip to England in January 2017.
Traveling with my mom has taught me so much and I don’t think I’ll ever forget the lessons I learned along the way. Our journeys showed me how find my purpose, hold my head high, and be confident in who am in God and in this world. And those are all things I can take with me wherever I go.
A couple years ago, Steve and I took off on a 6-day journey to find out for ourselves if our home state lives up to its then new slogan, “Nebraska Nice.”
We wrote about some of the nicest things we saw — calling them our 2014 “Nebraska’s Nicest Nine.” The list was compiled from the places we traveled that summer on our 1,260-mile journey that took us west to North Platte, then off I-80 around Lake McConaughy to Alliance, then to Scottsbluff/Gering, up to Chadron, across Highway 20 to Valentine, and Norfolk, then down through Columbus to home.
These nine are the nicest sites, attractions, and people we found on that particular trip off the beaten path–a place definitely worth going.
Our Nebraska’s Nicest Nine:
#9 – Cody Park – This unique park in North Platte was filled with a wide variety of animals (including white peacocks), a carousel, ice cream shop, and lots of smiling faces.
#8- Wildflowers and prairie grasses – We were stunned (and so were our sinuses) by the incredible displays of purple and gold wildflowers and the prairie grasses throughout the state.
#4 – Circle C in Cody – Students in this small town (that refuses to die) built a a straw-bale building and now run a supermarket – the first here in more than a decade.
#3 – Neon Bar and Grill – Perfectly seasoned and grilled steaks and excellent service earned this restaraunt a place in our Top 9. The fact that it was (by far) the cleanest restaurant in which we ate on our trip, moved it all the way up to #3.
#2 – Toadstool Geologic Park – There’s nothing like Toadstool anywhere else in Nebraska (or likely the world). It is located 19 miles from Crawford in the far northwest part of the state — but feels like you’re on the moon.
#1 – Innkeeper Jeanne Goetzinger – We saw a lot of great attractions on our trip. But honestly, nothing compared to the people we met along the way. We found that it is people like Jeanne, that make Nebraska especially “nice.”
Not so nice? You be the judge. Carhenge. We spent about 15 minutes at this Stonehenge replica made of old cars near Alliance. On our way back to the car, I asked Steve what he thought. He said, “It was everything I imagined and less. Much less.” Personally, I thought it was pretty cool.
What do you think? What are the nicest things you’ve seen in Nebraska or your home state? Let us know in the comment section below. We’d love to hear from you.
We’re Steve and Ann Teget. We spent more than two decades in corporate America and public education before Ann’s health and Steve’s aversion to middle school girl drama convinced us to try something new. Now we are making the most of midlife and telling authentic stories about extraordinary travel. And yes, we send ourselves postcards.