Bringing your vacation home

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Graffiti in Athens that will be incorporated into a tattoo design

Ok, so you’ve planned a fabulous vacation and you’re psyched to create some amazing memories after the fact. Here are some tips that I have learned through my travel adventures to bring the memories home.

  1. Invest in a good camera. Why you ask? I’ll explain through a recent aha moment that I’ve experienced. Last year I had an amazing opportunity to go to my #1 dream destination of Ireland so I decided to invest in a Canon IOS 7D camera. I took some amazing pictures that more than supported the cost of the camera. But now what? Well,… The first thing that I did was to make a book through the standard IPhoto application on my Mac which turned out incredible and sent a copy to my friend that traveled with me as a memorable birthday gift. The second thing I did was to blow up my favorite pictures to use as as artwork throughout my house. I did a significant amount of research; reading reviews, looking at pricing and shipping charges, etc. and decided on Nations Photo Lab. The enlarged photos were received in about a week with the largest being a 3’x4′ enlargement that will go above my couch after I frame it. It turned out, well… I was speechless (in a good way) about how well it turned out. I’ve even had friends ask for copies. The third thing we’ve done with photos is to stream them to our apple TV when we have parties. This is a great way to share photos without being that person, or couple, that traps people in a room while endlessly going through photos. You know… Like that person who traps people at a party and endlessly talks about their cats. You know what I’m talking about. This way people who are interested can look at pictures and it ends up being a great talking point.
  2. Create a book. As I mentioned above, this can be a great way to capture and share your experiences and it is relatively inexpensive and easy to do. While I used the application that came with my mac, there are endless applications and photography websites that allow you to do the same thing with the cost usually ending up around $20. The book is a great way to share experiences at work, at home or through a unique present.
  3. Enlarge pictures for artwork around your home. Again, invest in a good camera so that you can blow up the pictures and the artwork alone will pay for the camera after a couple of great pictures.


    Copper plate purchased in Santorini Greece and Masks purchased in Mykonos Greece.

  4. Budget for some artwork or souvenirs that will add value to you’re memories for years to come. I invested in some masks of the Greeks gods and a handcrafted copper plate while In Greece, some pottery in Italy and wooden dishware in Hawaii. Lets face it, we all have stuff for our homes that look good, but don’t have much meaning. By investing in items that draw you in on vacation, you can create memories for years to come. Not only will you relive your memories when you see them, friends and family will ask about your unique furnishings that will provide ample opportunities to reflect on your experiences.


    Cufflinks from Sweden, Key West, Murano Italy and Saint Petersburg Russia

  5. Look for items that you would wear on a normal basis back home and invest on them while on vacation. You’ll save a ton of money as they are a lot cheaper where they are made and they quickly become talking points when people notice them. I often wear cufflinks and I cannot tell you how often people comment on these, often leading to stories about travels and new connections that otherwise would likely have not come up. While my objects of choice are cufflinks, the same could work for other jewelry, shoes, hats or just about anything that you appreciate. If you are worried about how to get these items home, most stores will ship for you, even overseas. If not, it is usually pretty easy to find a Fed Ex or other global shipping company. I would recommend paying a little extra and having the items insured. While we have never had any damage to items shipped, it does provide peace of mind while you are waiting for the items to be delivered after you get home. If you are unsure if it is worth the investment, take a photo of the item and take a business card from the store. If you find that you are regretting not getting the item, you can always e-mail the store with a picture of the item to arrange a way to purchase and ship it.
  6. Bring home a cookbook from the area or region that you visited. One of the best parts about traveling to new places is trying new foods. While in the moment, it is easy to be awed by new flavors which we quickly forget once we get home. Cookbooks are a very easy and inexpensive way to relive and recreate some of those memories. For example, say you just returned from Scandinavia and loved the meatballs and loganberry jam, smorsbord and many other foods that you tried. Flip through the cookbook that you brought home and plan a scandinavian dinner party. If guests want to bring something to contribute, ask them to bring a drink or cocktail that is from the region. They’ll have fun getting creative and learning about what’s popular in other regions and cocktails are taken care of.

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    Sink vessel we purchased in New Orleans after Katrina

  7. Incorporate items into your home.  We were visiting New Orleans shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit and found a sink vessel at the farmers market that we fell in love with.  So what did we do?  We bought it and brought it home as carry on luggage and ended up designing a complete bathroom remodel with this vessel as the centerpiece.  Every time someone uses the guest bathroom, they always comment on this piece and it’s a very unique and cool way to relive this adventure.
  8. For the more adventures travelers out there, body art can be a great way to keep the memories alive while telling a story. I have been collecting images for years that will eventually be incorporated into a living tattoo that will tell the stories of my adventures. Once I get this started, I share the compiled images!

Just because you are home, doesn’t mean that the adventure has to end. As always, thanks for reading and please share any comments or thoughts that you feel can help to contribute. If you appreciate this blog, please share via social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc)

Life is short, make it an adventure!


Image from the Coliseum of Rome that may end up in a tattoo.

The Big Island, Hawaii… Volcanoes, Beaches, Hiking, Coffee… And a great frick’n tan!

The Big Island, Hawaii… Volcanoes, Beaches, Hiking, Coffee… And a great frick’n tan!


Volcanic coastline – Southern coast of the Big Island

Aloha!    Before I start, I feel like I should confess that I actually avoided Hawaii for years.  I thought, how can a place that is so hyped up actually live up to the expectations?  Besides, every time I looked up Hawaii online, the tourist areas looked so congested.  I pictured shoulder to shoulder people pushing their way through to their limited spot on the beach.  I have to admit that I could not have been happier to be so wrong!

In 2011, I came across a deal through for a package deal to Oahu, Hawaii that was just too good to be true and I immediately fell in love with both the Island and the spirit of Hawaii.  So when it came time to book our Christmas vacation, an annual tradition to escape the madness that the Holidays always bring out, it was easy to give the Big Island of Hawaii a look.  We decided to fly out 1st thing in the morning on December 24th.  That’s right, we flew on Christmas Eve.  Much to my surprise, the plane was not even full and I had a full row to myself.  What a great way to start a vacation!

Evening sunset from a hiking trail from Hapuna Beach

Evening sunset from a hiking trail from Hapuna Beach

After quite a bit of research, we booked the Hapuna Prince Beach Hotel,  which was only about an hours drive north of the Kona airport on Queen Ka’Ahumanu Highway on the Kohala Coast. This is a hotel that I would book again without hesitation. The Hotel had the best buffet that I have ever had, and I am usually not a fan of buffet eating, but I do love good yet healthy food.  The location was ideal as it is one of the sunniest spots on the entire Big Island and let’s face it, the Big Island is small enough to go anywhere for a day trip, so isn’t it worth it to come back to one of the sunniest and most beautiful beach locations on the Island?  I thought so.  It is also the perfect place to go whale watching and snorkeling. We booked an excursion through the concierge at the Hapuna Prince beach hotel and not only did we get up close and personal with several whales, but we had fantastic sea turtle sightings and went snorkeling along a beautiful black sand beach.

Sea Turtle

Sea Turtle following us, eating algae off the boat.

Amazing sightings during a whale watching cruise

Amazing sightings during a whale watching cruise

OK, so speaking of day trips, plan ahead and make reservations if you plan to rent a vehicle as supplies are limited.  While a convertible may sound sexy, I suggest going with a 4×4 Jeep on this Island.  Keep in mind, that is is primarily a volcanic island and if you want to get off of the main road, and you will, you’ll really need a Jeep.  And think of it this way, when that sexy convertible is stranded alongside the road, you’ll be actually soaking up the sun on some deserted beach or getting a workout from a nice hike.  So I guess the Jeep really is the sexy choice here, eh?

Hiking the lava fields at Volcanoes National Park

Hiking the lava fields at Volcanoes National Park. My inner geek, which I am proud of, felt like we were hiking through Mordor!

The Big Island of Hawaii is deceiving since it is a volcanic island made up primarily from lava flow formations.  And this is something that you will see a lot of and the one thing that does get “old” after a while unless you make the most of it or get off the main highway.  To make the most of it, I suggest taking a day trip and hiking Volcanos National Park on the SouthEast side of the island.  Plan to go early as you do not want to get stuck out in the lava fields after dark, especially if you do not have a flashlight.  Which may have happened to us, but man was it fun!  Even if I did wreck a branch new pair of shoes.  On the way back, if driving along the southern coast, plan to hike out to the green sand beach.  It’s a bit of a hike and you’ll need a Jeep or similar vehicle to get close, but it is worth it.

Green sand beach, aka Papalokea Beach

Green sand beach, aka Papalokea Beach

For a stark contrast, take a drive up the Lush North Kohala Coast, and you will not be disappointed.  While on your drive, look for Kohala Burger and Taco in the small Kawaohae Shopping center.  I had one of the best seafood civeche’s here (it was a daily special and I do not believe that it is on the regular menu) and amazing fish fajita’s!!!  You’ll find lush and breathtaking views, great hiking with State Parkland, cute little towns with unique shoppes and a lot of local artisan works for sale.  We found a great set of wooden dishes and bowls made of a local Hawaiian hardwood at a little shop in Hawi.  The store owner even shipped them to us so that we wouldn’t have to worry about how to get them home.  Once you’ve reached Hawi, you are almost to the end of the road in which you’ll find the Pololu Vally, with an incredible view and some nice hiking.

At the Waipio Valley Lookout - Big Island, Hawaii

At the Waipio Valley Lookout – Big Island, Hawaii

Slightly to the west of this area is Hamakua Coast and an easy drive is the Waipio Valley Lookout.  This is one of many great sites for some great pictures in addition to good hiking trails.  There are several beautiful waterfalls in this region, several of which are viewable from this lookout point.

Locals outside of Hilo, packing up after a gathering, of sorts.

Locals outside of Hilo, packing up after a gathering, of sorts.

Should you keep going east, you’ll eventually make it to Hilo, which is where a lot of folks fly into and out of the Big Island.  This is also the only area on the island where we wished we had bug spray. This is the rainforest side of the island and is lush and full of life, but very wet and can have a lot of mosquitoes.  We decided to spend our time in this area very randomly and we just simply explored.  As a result, we ended up driving down a valley to the ocean and came across a local gathering of families.  Some were preparing food and cooking out, while others were surfing, or attempting to surf.  It was awesome to see people who lived there, truly living there!  While in Hilo, save up your appetite for the Hilo Burger Joint.  Seriously!  While I have my list of upper end restaurants that I love, some of the best food I have ever found has been street food, or small places like this one. I think I had the best burger of my life here.  They also have vegetarian options, so there is no excuse not to go!

And last but not least, if you are going to the Big Island, plan to spend a day in Kona.  After all, this is the only place in the world that Kona coffee comes from and there are plenty of coffee plantations that hold daily tours.  We took the tour at Greenwell Farms which was really cool to see the process close up and actually see the coffee bushes at different stages.  Plus the property was filled with avocado and multiple fruit trees.  It was hard not to daydream about buying a lot and moving to Hawaii while on the plantation tour.  Hmmm.. Someday???

Tim’s Recommended activities

  1. Hike to the green sand beach, locally referred to as Papalokea Beach
  2. Take a whale watching and snorkeling cruise
  3.  Hike the lava field at Volcanoes National Park
  4. Drive up to the Northern Coast for some amazing views and hiking at Pololu Vally and then head to Waipio Valley
  5. Soak up the sun at the beautiful Hapuna Beach
  6. Drive to Hilo
  7. Spend a day in Kona and take a coffee plantation tour


  1. Kohala Burger and Taco
  2. The buffet at Hapuna Beach Hotel
  3. Kohala Burger and taco

As always, thank you for reading and please feel free to share if you found this helpful or if it made you daydream about moving to Hawaii as well.

Life is way too short, make it an adventure…



Scandinavia – “We live until we die” -The Danes

Scandinavia – “We live until we die” -The Danes


Colorful waterfront at Nyhavn. Pedestrian walking area filled with restaurants.

In 2012, my partner and I booked a Baltic cruise with Atlantis Events and spent some extra time in Denmark prior to the cruise and in Sweden after the cruise. Now, I know there has been a lot of recent controversies and issues with cruise lines, but I still think that this is a great way to visit different parts of the world. Especially if combined with some land time either prior to or after the cruise, or both; which is our preferred method.  I also feel that it is fair to mention that with a cruise line, you get what you pay for and if you are in a place in life that allows you to book a specialty or niche cruise that is in alignment with who you are or your interests, it may be well worth the extra cost.  Simply to minimize the length of this blog, I am going to speak to our time in Denmark, Russia and Sweden as these areas were the most memorable for the time we spent.

“We live until we die” – Popular saying amongst the Danes.  No wonder they are amongst some of the happiest people in the world!  Upon our arrival into Copenhagen, we fell immediately in love with the city.  We  booked the Admiral Hotel, overlooking the Copenhagen waterfront.  The hotel was a great find and it was in a great location.  We were in the theatre district and steps from Amalienborg Palace, great shopping, and Nyhavn (see picture above) which was full of great restaurants, shopping and street performers in the afternoon and night.  We were about a 10 minute walk to the Stroget, which is the longest car free or pedestrian shopping district in Europe and about a 15-20 minute walk to Tivoli Gardens, which was not a draw for us since we do not have children.


Trekroner Fort viewed from a Hop on Hop off boat in Copenhagen

On of the very first things that we do in any city this size, is to buy a pass to the “Hop on Hop off” buses.  This is a great way to orient yourself with a new city and a very economical means of transportation throughout the city as well, stopping by historical points of interest and popular shopping districts. In Copenhagen, you also have the option to combine your passes with “Hop on Hop off” boats. We also like to be fairly active and sometimes this means renting bikes, but with all the great canals in Copenhagen, we decided to rent kayaks for a day and we explored the city by canal which I highly recommend for anyone with kayaking experience.  For those who have never kayaked, not to worry, there are plenty of group kayak tours who provide you with lessons and then tour as a group.

Most of our time in Copenhagen was spent walking the city, grabbing trying new foods by grabbing small meals here and there and popping into local pubs and trying local brews and drinks.  We also spent a good amount of time seeing the sights via the hop on hop off bus and doing a little shopping/getting design ideas for our house.  The Danes have an incredible way to mix fun and function and this is very noticeable in the local independently owned stores.  We found more items that we wanted to buy in Denmark than anywhere else but decided against it since it was the first stop of our adventure.  Oh well, I guess that just means we’ll need to go back.  Don’t you just love a good solution to a problem?

We did eat at 2 restaurants that are definitely worth mentioning.

Tim’s Restaurant recommendations for Copenhagen:

1.  Salt. Toldbodgade 24, Copenhagen. Located at the Admiral Hotel.  I am not usually a big fan of Hotel Restaurants, but this proved to be an exception.  We ate out on the terrace which was perfect as there was limited seating so it was not crowded and had a beautiful and peaceful a view of the waterway with some pedestrian traffic, but just enough for some good people watching.  The menu was completely in Danish, so I ordered based on our waiters advice and had an amazing meal.  My partner did the same thing and he was raving about his meal as well.  There are heat lamps out on the terrace, so at evening descended we stayed comfortable despite the dropping temperatures.

2.  Tight. Hyskenstraede 10, Copenhagen. Some friends booked a reservation here, so I had no idea what to expect.  the space was very cool with a mixing of contemporary and old world charm.  We had a large table on the lower level towards the back and had plenty of space for a group of 8.  The food was awesome.  This was one of our first meals in Copenhagen, so between everyone at our table, I think we ordered the entire menu and it did not disappoint.  The Beef carpaccio was incredible for a starter and I had the duck for my main meal which was just as good.  And of course…We had desert.  I think we tried everything and I con honestly say that you cannot go wrong but I would encourage you to try something new of that you may not ordinarily order.  You won’t be disappointed.

After a couple of days in wonderful Copenhagen, we boarded the Holland America Eurodam which was a great ship with brief stops in Warnemunde, Germany and Tallinn, Estonia which then brought us to Saint Petersburg, Russia.  Now, I’ll be the first to say that I greatly underestimated what to expect in Saint Petersburg, but WOW.  Just WOW.

Small Baltic Island off the coast of Russia

Small Baltic Island off the coast of Russia

Upon our arrival to Saint Petersburg, it was a very cold first impression.  It felt desolate and concrete.  And by concrete, I literally mean concrete.  There we bunker style concrete apartments everywhere, a throwback to the cold war era.  It definitely was not a warming, welcoming site however that soon changed.  Now, one thing to keep in mind is that you need to have Visa’s in Russia, even for the day so a group of us booked a private 2 day tour through DenRus tours ahead of time.  DenRus also secured day Visa’s for each of the 8 people in our party.  Private tours can be spendy, but we more than got our value from having a local navigate us through town and show us the sights, provide us with insight,provide historic content all while keeping us entertained.  Our host was AWESOME!

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We visited Russian iconic sights such as the Winter Palace, The summer Palace, Peterhof (the palace of Alexander the Great), the Hermitage Museum, the Church of Spilled Blood and many, many more impressive sights.

One of the most surprising sights was actually the subway platforms.  I know, right?  From my understanding, it’s the deepest subway in the world at 105 meters or 345 feet deep.  Once we reached the subway platform after a lengthy ride down the escalator, we were blown away at the floor to ceiling marble and the intricate carvings that made up the pillars along the platform to the rows of crystal chandeliers.  We rode the subway to the next stop which was just as impressive.  That’s one of the amazing things about Saint Petersburg,  there is this incredible juxtaposition of  cold and warm, grand and humble, excessive and  modest.

One room at the Winter Palace - Yep, that's all gold!

One room at the Winter Palace – Yep, that’s all gold!

We spent about 4 hours in the Hermitage Museum, which I also learned is the largest Museum in the world and may just house the finest art collection in the world.  A person could easily spend several days in the Hermitage and not see everything.The church of Spilled blood is another place that a person could spend a lot of time.  As I say that, its fair to say that I am not religious at all, but I do appreciate the symbolism, the history and the artistry. Overall, I found Saint Petersburg to be a beautiful yet intriguing city which I would love to visit again someday.  I walked away from Russia with a very new perspective and appreciation.  I also walked away with a love for beets and borscht.  Who knew?

View of Gamla Stan from Skansen

View of Gamla Stan from Skansen – Stockholm, Sweden

We ended our trip in Sweden, with Stockholm becoming my new favorite city in the world.  The city is incredible as it has preserved many of the buildings that would have been destroyed in other European cities during previous wars.The city is very clean and the people, well the people are extremely inviting and honestly look to be about the healthiest and happiest people I have ever seen.  People there just had a very healthy glow as well as great style!


Gamla Stan


Sodermalm, just across the bridge from Gamla Stan

We stayed at the Nobis Hotel, which is an architectural beauty in itself.  It’s possibly the most beautiful hotel that I have stayed at.   The staff were all beautiful as well, not that it matters, but it did stand out.  And the service was fantastic.  The hotel was also ideally located in the higher end shopping district and only blocks away from Gamla Stan, the historic old town of Stockholm.  The streets around the hotel were filled with shoppes and sidewalk eateries and bars, all of which had fantastic food.  Something to know about me….  I love food!  No, I mean I really love good food so it’s rare that I would say what I am about to say.  I don’t know that you can really go wrong in Stockholm whan it comes to great food.  Sure there are going to be one offs, but it’s such a hot spot on the world menu right now that the great food visionaries have pretty much won out all over Stockholm.  I say this so that you don’t make the same mistake that we did as we waited for hours for a highly rated restaurant and ended up walking somewhere less highly rated only to have an amazing and much less expensive meal. Some of our best meals were lunches at small sidewalk bistros and dinners at small terrace restaurants in Gamla Stan.

Similar to what I mentioned about Copenhagen, I recommend buying passes to the “Hop on Hop off” bus to see some sights and become quickly oriented with the city itself.  Stockholm, also similar to Copenhagen, is an extremely walkable and bike-able city.  We literally walked just about everywhere and did not even come close to doing all of our “to-do’s”.  Although I would rather miss some things and have a great time than try to do everything just to say that I did.  I look at it as another opportunity to go back for another visit. Next time we WILL make it to the Ice bar!  Which sounds silly due to the fact that we live in Minnesota, which is colder than Sweden.  Oh well…I would recommend taking the time to visit the Nordiska Museet or Nordic Museum and the Vasamuseet or Vasa Museum.  The Vasa Museum is unique in that the entire museum is built around a war ship that was almost perfectly preserved in the Baltic silt when it sank during its maiden voyage back in the 1600s.  Close by is the Skansen open-air museum which is a great way to spend a chunk of your day, especially if the wether is nice.

I also feel that I should mention that the train system throughout Scandinavia is super easy to use, and it’s often worth it to pay the little extra for 1st class.  We took the high speed train from Stockholm to Gothenburg and had free WI-fi and ample leg room and storage.  The train is a super easy and comfortable journey, and I am 6’3″, so I often am a little less than comfortable when traveling mass-transit. I would also recommend taking a train, even if you do not have a particular destination,  just to see the rural countryside and other parts of the country. Take an overnight train across the country.  Sleep on the train and then you have all day to explore before you take an overnight train back. It was gorgeous and worth the train ride just for the sights!


Folk art painted on a wall in the Nordic Museum

As always, thank you for reading and feel free to leave comments or suggestions for others.

And remember.  Life is way too short, make it an adventure…


Ireland: “Take the world nice and easy and the world will take you the same”


Seascape in the Connemara region

“Take the world nice and easy and the world will take you the same”. I saw this on a sign in Dublin and it has stuck with me ever since.  That’s just one of the many beauties of Ireland…. It becomes a part of you.

For as long as I can remember, I have always dreamed of going to Ireland.  I have always been captivated by the people, the lore, the music and of course… I kinda love Guinness.  So in 2011 when a friend of mine said that he always dreamed of going to Ireland since his family was originally from there, the trip was set in short order.  We arrived in Dublin in July, 2011 and immediately started a memorable adventure.

We stayed at the Brooks hotel which was a really nice hotel and perfectly located to explore with its close proximity to the trendy and fun Temple Bar area which has great nightlife, Grafton Street for shopping, Dublin Castle and St. Stephan’s green.

Our first stop was the Guinness Factory at St. James Gate which was a nice walk from our hotel.  If you like Guinness, this is worth the stop.  We took the tour which finished off at the very top of the factory in the Guinness pub with a 360 degree view of Dublin.  Although I have to admit, several people looked like they were going to loose their Guinness as it’s completely enclosed by glass and pretty high up.  Ohhh, good times!

The next day we visited Trinity College to see the Book of Kells exhibit which was incredible.  Almost equally breathtaking was walking through the library, which sounds odd, but it was like walking through a movie set where the library shelves are several stories high dark hardwood filled with century old books.  We filled our first couple of days with these sites, some shopping and several pints of local brews.  We quickly became fans of O’Neill’s Pub as they had a great selection on tap and great live traditional music.  It was very easy to melt into the woodwork and simply enjoy the sights and sounds.

Dublin is a great city to simply explore, grab a pint, people watch, catch some live music or do a little shopping.  There are great restaurants and pubs everywhere and the Temple Bar area is full of funky shoppes.  You can easily spend a couple of days full of doing very little, but having a fantastic time doing it.


Pub in Cavan with a group of young musicians

One our third day we decided to drive up to Cavan County to do some research on my friends family.  It just so happened that Cavan was hosting the world largest Irish Folk Music festival as we pulled into town.  This was incredible, with fantastic music flowing out of just about every door that we walked by.  We ended up spending a good deal of time in the pubs listening to music.  The most surprising thing was that most of this music was played by school aged children that had more talent than I have in my little finger.  I also quickly learned that the pubs in Ireland are often family and community gathering places.  Big difference from the States, eh?


Previously, the world’s largest telescope on the grounds of Birr Castle

From there we decided to drive towards Galway on the Western side of the Island. With no real itinerary, we decided to get off the main roads and randomly explore. We came across Birr Castle which housed the world’s largest telescope for 75 years, built in 1845. We spent a good chunk of time exploring the grounds before continuing our journey where we came across Clonmacnoise Castle and ultimately ended up in Galway.


Beautiful, energy filled Galway


MMMMM! Oysters and Murphy’s stout at a local pub

Galway was probably my favorite city for many reasons. At 7:00 in the morning, sitting at a coffee shop in the square, live music was already being played. All the pubs served incredible seafood and there was just an incredible energy everywhere that we went. Galway is also a great location to venture off to the Connemara region, which is drastic in its topography. Some areas look like what I would imaging a moonscape to look like, while others are lush and full of life. We spent a day driving through Connemara where we came across Aughnanure Castle and then the magnificent Kylemore Abby and Victorian walled gardens.


Kylemore Abby in Connemara


Me leaning against the entrance wall to Kylemore Abby


Ghostly and beautiful prairiescape in Connemara

The drive back to Galway was mostly coastal and full of suicidal sheep…EVERYWHERE!  I will forevermore associate Ireland with sheep, vast untouched areas of raw and rugged beauty,and a simpleness that I have yearned to go back to.

From Galway, we decided to head south to Killarney and stopped along the way at the Cliffs of Moher.  For the most part the weather was beautiful and in the 60’s until we reach the cliffs where the temperature dropped to the 40’s with a pelting rain.  It was still absolutely beautiful!  A good rule to follow about dressing for the weather in Ireland, dress in layers.


Cliffs of Moher

Upon reaching Killarney, we settled in at the Lake Hotel which reminded me of an old world hunting manor.  The rooms all have a lake view and there is woodwork and old world character throughout.  The restaurant was also one of the best we experienced in Ireland.  We spent most of our time in this region hiking as the Lake Hotel borders a National Forest in which we hiked through a rhododendron forest at least 20 feet high on our way to Tok Waterfall.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  Our last day in this region, we decided to drive around the Ring of Kerry.  A friend advised that most tours go counterclockwise, therefor we went clockwise to avoid the traffic which was a very smart idea.  Well, except for the occasional freakout where a huge tour bus was heading straight for us and the road was only wide enough for one vehicle.  Ehhh, we dealt with it…  One of us may have been screaming.  After all the hiking and screaming from the near death driving experiences, we decided to end our time in Killarney with a guys spa night at the Europe Hotel and Spa.  This was the BEST spa experience I have ever had.  Period.  Prior to the massages, they had us spend an hour or two in the men’s spa equipped with a salt water inifinity pool, steam room, sauna and a shaved ice machine to cool down. We probably hiked a good 20 miles so I feel pretty comfortable stating…Real men do spas!


The beginning of our drive around the Ring of Kerry


Small coastal village in the Ring of Kerry

From this point we are heading back up to Dublin, with a stop in Killkenny where we stopped to see the Rock of Cashel.  Which, by the way, is not a rock but an old castle with ravens nesting in the walls.  It was a bit eerie and cool at the same time as the property also housed a very large graveyard with ornate gravestones.  Not only was it fun to explore the castle but we also hiked the grounds and came across some other old buildings and gravestones… And sheep.  Always sheep.

While we  were in Kilkenney, we noticed a lot of people taking pictures around us.  It was just odd at first and then it became aggressive.  After exploring the town we were sitting in the hotel lobby having afternoon tea.  Um, yeah… we had afternoon tea, which was actually pretty good and a calming way to plan the rest of the afternoon and that night’s activities.  Anyway, there we were, minding our own business and a younger middle aged woman comes running up to me with a camera, squatted about 5 feet from me and started taking close up pictures.  Come to find out that there was a huge rugby tournament in town and I apparently am a dead ringer for one of Irelands top rugby stars.  So not only did we have an amazing vacation, but I left feeling like a star…If only for a day.

Well, I could go on and on, but this is a long enough post for now.  I hope you enjoy.  I cannot wait to go back and I hope that you find your way to the Emerald Isle someday as well.



Rock of Cashel


Sheep. Good bye!

Puerto Rico – Tropical bliss without a passport

San Juan, Puerto Rico 1/1/2013 to 1/12/2013

If you are ready for a tropical get away but do not have a passport, Puerto Rico is an excellent choice.  Since it is a US Territory, no passport is needed.  Visit the historic forts, do some shopping, try regional foods, go hiking through the rainforest, go kayaking through a bioluminescent bay or spend the day caving and rappelling.  There are no shortages of activities!


Castillo de San Cristobal, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Every year we decide to try to escape the cold and the craziness of the holidays by jet-setting off to a warm tropical paradise. It’s something that I suggest everyone try at least once in their lives. We usually leave a day or two prior to Christmas, however we decided to leave on New Year’s Day this year due to the flight specials. Some deals are just too good to pass up. We like to stay in the area that connects Old San Juan to Condado. It’s centrally located and you can practically walk to just about any restaurant, shop or event in either Old San Juan or Condado. This year we stayed at the Hilton Caribe. We picked it because it actually has a beach, which is surprisingly not common with San Juan hotels. The Hilton Caribe is a nice property, nothing overly special and there were a good amount of young families. We usually try to avoid places with too many kids but this was not too bad. The accommodations were nice with an impressive fitness center, pool and lounging area were great with a fantastic sunning deck that jets out into the ocean. I would recommend avoiding the restaurants as they are very pricey and quality was not very high, although we did not eat at Morton’s. With that said, below are some recommendations of amazing restaurants that are within walking distance, starting with my favorites.

Tim’s Recommended restaurants:

  1. Ropa Vieja – 1025 Ashford Avenue, Condado This is one of our absolute favorites for local food mixed with Cuban influences. It’s a small place, so get there early. The beef is amazing, but anything on the menu will be fantastic.
  2. Casita Miramar – Ave. Miramar #605, Esq Calle McKinley, San Juan This is a small local place as well, so get there early and ask to sit out on the terrace if it’s open. The menu is written on blackboards and can change daily depending on what is fresh or in season. Amazing seafood. I had crab stuffed avocado which sounded odd, but was one of the best things I ate the entire trip. Also, try the sangria. They usually do a white and a red. The red is my favorite. It does pack a punch for sangria and they are easy to drink!
  3. Lima (Peruvian) – 667 Ponce de Leon This was a wow restaurant that we happened on by chance when we were going back to Casita Miramar and an older local woman that we stopped and talked to because she was walking her dog, pointed us here. I decided to be adventurous and order the octopus salad. I figured, it’s just a salad, so if I don’t like it it’s not much of a waste. I could not have been more wrong. Everything on the menu, even if it looks like a starter, is a full meal in itself. We ordered enough food for about 6 adults. Unfortunately, there was only 2 of us. And before I forget…. OMG, the octopus salad was delicious!
  4. Pure and Natural – 1125 Ashford We like to eat pretty healthy so this place was a great find, although easy to miss. It’s pretty much just frequented by locals and does not look like a place to eat from the outside. We walked by it several times while looking for it. They have an all natural menu and tend to run out of ingredients, so it’s good to have a backup order in mind. They also do fresh juicing and smoothies. Least expensive and really good food, especially the Ahi.
  5. Pikayo – Conrad Condado Plaza This is more of a gourmet foodie chef run restaurant which means it is a bit pretentious, however the food was very good.
  6. Al Denta (Itialian) – 309 Calle Recinto Sur Good late night place to grab food. This was more like the Italian we had in Italy, so it’s definitely good and sits out on a small terrace. We ended up talking with several tables around us as it’s an environment that really leads to social behavior.

When in doubt, check out Trip Advisor as there are a lot of fantastic restaurants throughout the Island, but keep in mind it is always best to get to a restaurant in San Juan early in order to avoid long wait times to be seated. I am also a big fan of finding the nearest grocery or convenient store to stock up on water, snacks and even your choice of alcohol, if you drink. This can save you a LOT of money in the end and make it easier to splurge on the items that you really want to spend your money on and make a few memories in the process. Speaking of…. We created some pretty amazing memories by splurging on a couple day and even a night trip. These are all worth it, but again, I’ll start with my favorites and go down the list.

Tim’s Recommended Adventures:

  1. Caving with Aventuras Teirra Adentro.  Check them out at  Now, I have done quite a few adventures throughout my worldly travels, however this is at the top of my list.  this was incredible, but not for the timid.  First of all, you have to sign a waiver that basically states that you may die.  After that, the team at Aventuras puts you through a training period so that you are as prepared as you can be.  Then the fun starts by actually getting down to the cave opening.  This starts off with several ziplines and ends with a 350 foot rappel into the mouth of the cave.  OK, that alone was worth the cost of the adventure, but then the rest of the day was spent exploring the caves, including an underground cliff jump in the pitch dark about 20 feet down into an underground river.  There are also scorpions, crabs, mud pits…..  Let’s just say, this is an adventure you will always remember!  The picture below is our team at a very well earned lunchtime.  Keep in mind:  Bring synthetic clothing as you will be wet.  Also, be prepared for whatever you wear to be destroyed.  It’s that fun that it will kill your clothes.  True story!

    The mouth of the cave that we rappelled some 300+ feet into to start our caving adventure


    A well deserved lunch in the cave

  2. Kayaking in one of Puerto Rico’s 3 bioluminescent bays.  You may be asking yourself, what in the heck is a bioluminescent bay?  It is a bay that is filled with glow in the dark plankton that creates a magical experience at night, especially noticeable the closer you are to a new moon. We choose the bay in Fajardo due to time constraints.  The bay in Vieques, known as Misquito Bay is supposed to be the best in the world but it takes a little more planning as it’s on Vieques Island.  When we booked our trip on Expedia, they had a special going in which they provided a free excursion of our choice through the Puerto Rico Board of Tourism. We decided on a night kayaking trip through the Fajardo bioluminescent bay and booked this trip with our hotel concierge.  Super easy.  This was a really fun night.  We were picked up right at the hotel and after about a 45 min drive we were ready to start our trip.  It starts by kayaking into a through a lengthy mangrove tunnel, which was very cool by itself.  As we got closer to the bay, we started to notice that the water from the oars was starting to glow and that the water had a faint glow that followed any movement.  Once we were out in the actual bay, the water around the fish and turtles swimming glowed.  It reminded me of something magical or something you would see in a Disney movie.  A couple things to keep in mind: wear a swim suit and flip flops.  
  3. Hiking El Yunque rainforest.  This is a great day trip if you are looking to get a little exercise, see some of Puerto Rico’s natural beauty, climb to the top of the watchtower or go for a little swim at the bottom of a magnificent waterfall.  El Yunque is only about a 45 minute drive from San Juan and has some great hiking trails and breathtaking views.  to get directions and learn more visit:


    View from the watchtower in the El Yunque Rainforest

  4. Rent a jeep and explore the island!  This is an easy way to get out and really explore Puerto Rico.  Grab a map, or don’t, either way it is a full day’s activity if you wish to drive the island and see the diversity of the island and the Puerto Rican way of life.  A word to the wise:  If you plan on going during a high volume time such as Christmas, reserve your vehicle early as there can be limited supplies of vehicles for rent on an island.  the picture below is the view from the watchtower down to the coast.
  5. Spend a day in Old San Juan. Old San Juan has a charm that you just will not find anywhere else.  From the blue cobblestone streets to the small funky shoppes to exploring the old Spanish forts, Old San Juan has a little something for everyone.  There is also a very cool park that I recommend if walking to Old San Juan from Condado that starts just after entering Old San Juan from Condado.  The park has quite a bit of charm and will take you almost the entire way to ”downtown” Old San Juan.

If you have any thoughts or additional places or adventures to check out, please feel free to add a comment.  Otherwise, that is it for now. Until next time, make your life an adventure!


Life is too damn short, make it an adventure!


Venice, Italy 2007


Small Baltic Island off of the Coast of Russia 2012

That’s basically my philosophy in a nutshell. Life is too damn short! In my years (2 decades) of working with people and their finances, it was common to hear people’s dreams of travel, yet there was commonly a barrier for people to take the leap and just go. So, I am hoping that my stories, pictures and adventures will help to inspire you to “just go”. There will never be the perfect time, so go ahead and make the call, pack up the bags, get ready to see new sights, try new foods and create an amazing adventure and memory.

When I was younger, I packed up my bags and moved to Alaska for an adventure that lasted 6 years before moving back to Minnesota. That, my friends, was just the beginning. Since that time I have been fortunate to visit such amazing places as Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Russia, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Antigua and Barbuda just to name a few.


Nyhavn in Copenhagen, Denmark 2012

I’m starting a little late in the game with this blog thing, so have some patience. I am going to post previous trips and activities to the best of my recollection and then stay on track as we move forward with future adventures. So keep checking back to get caught up on previous adventures as well as adventures that are still to be had! I would love to hear your stories and recommendations as well.


Big Island, Hawaii 2012