Our Favorite Trips of 2018

2018 was a big year for travel, but not quite as big as we expect for 2019. We are clearly addicted to exploring new places and having new experiences. Here are our top 5 travel locations in 2018.geiranger-fjord-5

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World Highlights: Our Favorite Costa Rican Animal Encounter

Costa Rica is known for their wide array of fauna.  From crocodiles to sloths, birds of every color, bugs, frogs, etc., there’s so much to look at and appreciate.  While we were there, we went on numerous canopy tours and boat rides, all to catch a glimpse at the elusive wildlife.  And Costa Rica delivered.

But which was our favorite animal encounter?

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

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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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Early Retirement Achievement Unlocked: Put in Notice

The first major step has been taken on the path towards traveling the world. I just put in notice to leave my job on April 15th. The experience was quite nerve-wracking, but I did it. The reaction from my bosses was not quite what I expected.

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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.

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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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Photostory: Seagull Attack at Kyrping | LotsaSmiles Photography

We’re taking a small break this week, as we were crazy busy preparing for and running our home anime convention, Kumoricon (did you know we’re in charge of the convention’s official video and photography?).  That’s one event we’ll both actually miss considerably next year.  I’ve always said I wouldn’t miss Kumoricon for the world… but that’s precisely what we’ll be doing!

Anyway, we’ll be back next week with some more Florida stories, but in the meantime, enjoy this fun photostory from one of our campgrounds in Norway, Kyrping!


We saw plenty of fauna in Norway (though certainly not as much as in Costa Rica).  And while the species didn’t really surprise us, their behaviors did.  We passed lounging yaks, curious goats, and baying sheep (were we in Norway or Scotland?).  And I was attacked by a seagull.

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Read the full article: Photostory: Seagull Attack at Kyrping | LotsaSmiles Photography

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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