Celebrating Thanksgiving Abroad – Travel’s Influence on Our Traditions

Family are gathered, pies are baked, wine will soon flow, football is queued, and the bird is already releasing heavenly, succulent smells that will quickly infiltrate every corner of the house.  By the end of the day, tummies will be stuffed, the room will be full of laughter and games, and eventually, we’ll all pass out in a food coma before our first holiday movie of the year.

Does this sound like your home on Thanksgiving Day?

For us, Thanksgiving has always been about family, food, and celebration.  And while millions of Americans will be traveling home this holiday season, this will be our first abroad.  So how do we celebrate when so far from home?  And how has travel changed this American tradition for us?

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Travel Totaled my Car – How we Barely Escaped Eastern Oregon

Having never been to the far reaches of Eastern Oregon, we felt like this was a good time to get that knocked off our bucket list. Some of the highlights of the area are Steens Mountain, Alvord Desert, Leslie Gulch, and Jordan Craters. This would be our one last road trip before departing on our round-the-world trip. With it being such a remote part of Oregon, good preparation was critical as anything could happen. Fortunately we had an incredible trip, but it wasn’t quite what we expected.

Page springs campground

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Hidden Gems of Central Oregon: 3-Day Itinerary

Oregon is a beautiful place, especially if you know where to go!  Everyone typically thinks of Multnomah Falls or Timberline Lodge or Cannon Beach or Crater Lake…  While those are undeniably stunning, and everyone should see them at least once, there are some hidden gems far less frequented.  If you have a few days to spare, check out these unique sites in Central Oregon.

painted-hills-5

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Our Favorite Restaurant in 2018

We like to eat out quite often, and we tend to splurge more than we should. There are so many good restaurants that it is hard to pick a favorite. For us a restaurant is more than just the food it serves; it is also the experience. To be a favorite means that we enjoy our time there even without the food. A great restaurant has staff that is present when we need them, food that is timely and well prepared, and there’s a good atmosphere. The taste and quality also matters. After our Favorite Japanese Meal post, our favorite food shouldn’t surprise you. And that leads us to our favorite restaurant experience in 2018. Drum roll please….seattle-1

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Chicago: The Opportunity | LotsaSmiles Photography

It’s time to take another break – the holiday season is crazy busy!!  Are you swamped, too?  We have some exciting updates coming to our website, and more adventures on the horizon.  But for now, please enjoy this tale of another opportunity we had to travel on the corporate dime!


I learned from my father many years ago one very important lesson: take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way.  After all, you never know when you might look back on a “no” and wish that it had been a “yes.”  I strive to live every day by the mantra of “no regrets,” and thus far, it has served me well.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2011

When Aaron’s company decided to move its headquarters from Portland to Chicago, they offered him continued work in the new city, along with a relocation package.  To help convince us, they would fly us (both) out to Chicago for a weekend, show us some apartments and the city sights, and wine and dine us – all on the company’s dime.  We’re quite happy living in Portland, and Aaron hated his job at the time, so moving wasn’t even a consideration for us.

Aaron almost told them no, outright.  I thought he was crazy.

Free.  Trip. Continue reading “Chicago: The Opportunity | LotsaSmiles Photography”

A Weekend in Seattle

As I’ve divulged before, I love surprises.  And fortunately enough for me, Aaron loves to dole them out (when he can keep it secret long enough to actually surprise me).  He particularly loves to plan surprise trips.  So this year, for my birthday, he packed us into the car and just started driving north.  And for me the destination was a mystery.

seattle-31

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Miami – The Expense-free Redux

About a year after we vacationed in Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach, Florida, we had an opportunity to return through a last-minute vacancy in a business-organized trip.  Aaron’s company offered him the suddenly open spot, and much like the last time we were offered a free trip, we jumped on it!

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Of course our agenda was much different, given we weren’t really planning this trip, but it was still just as fun as the previous.  And the obligatory seminar was worth getting the airfare and per diem on someone else’s dime.

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Newport Oregon: A Coastal Gem

Oregon has some magnificent coastal areas that are more than just beaches. Several rock formations create some very unique landscapes that you cannot find anywhere else. Last weekend we enjoyed our time with family, an accommodation with a view, and some delicious seafood during our stay. The weather felt like it was summer even though it was early November.

Beach near Newport Oregon

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Florida: Our Journey to Key West

Throwback Thursday: May 2011

As a traveler, I’ve always loved going on road trips. There are times where it makes sense and other times when it doesn’t. This was one of those times where it didn’t make sense, at least not the way I did it. Oh, I have learned from my mistakes, but I decided anyway to drive from Fort Lauderdale to Key West and back in one day. This is about a 4 hour drive each way, and the way back was not forgiving. But I still had an amazing time that I will never forget.

key West Florida Marina

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Miami: A Ten-Year Celebration

Aaron and I have been traveling together for years.  We kept it local while funds were tight, but as we grew our savings, we were able to venture farther afield.  Ten years into our relationship, we wanted to celebrate with something special, so we flew the farthest we had been to-date: to tropical Miami, Florida.  (We hadn’t yet gone international; that wouldn’t come until our trip to Japan four years later.  And fun fact: Miami is actually 200 miles farther from Portland than Hawaii, where we honeymooned.)  It was one of our earliest major trips, and it only helped solidify our love of travel.  We tend to vacation hard, and this was no exception.

© Brianna Shade 2011

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