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…



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!