Monument Valley, Utah

Location: Monument Valley, Utah
Date: February 2017

I took a new job in February 2016, and it’s been phenomenal for my travel schedule! When we hosted a conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, I knew I’d be taking some additional time to explore an area of the country I’ve yet to really see. Additionally, I just needed some personal time to be outside, away from my phone, and to get my head straight. So obviously, a trip through northern Arizona and southern Utah was in order.

Just across the Utah border is Monument Valley. It might look familiar if you’ve ever watched a John Wayne movie as the location was the setting for many western films. Personally, I just loved this area for how different it is from the East Coast. And one of my favorite things to do is hop in a car and explore. This area was perfect for that.

Utah Monuments Valley February 2017

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Stepantsminda, Georgia

Location: Stepantsminda, Georgia
Date: July 2015

No, the state of Georgia didn’t suddenly acquire a mountain range. Stepantsminda is located in the very north central portion of the Republic of Georgia, about 10 miles south of the Russian border. I like to go off the beaten path, so a trip to this town sounded right up my alley.

Just outside the town, is Mt. Kazbek, the seventh-highest peak in the Caucasus Mountains, sitting at 16,558 feet. And just below Mt. Kazbek is a tiny church that overlooks Stepantsminda. A quick Google image search was all I needed to know I wanted to see this church for myself. It wasn’t an easy feat to get here as we battled flooded roads, mountain roads, and cows. The view I present here is from the hotel we stayed in (a surprisingly luxury hotel for such a remote town). The church is clearly visible on the left side of the photo. If you like a challenge, make plans to visit. You won’t regret it.

Kazbegi Georgia July 2015

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Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Location: Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
Date: November 2012

There are a million things I love about Istanbul, but the Hagia Sophia is near the top of the list. The history is so rich as the building shuffled between Christian and Muslim cultures. Today, as a secular museum, you can see the years on this building for yourself. And there have been many years as the building dates back to the sixth century. If you find yourself in Istanbul, make sure to pop in and see this beautiful building for yourself.

Haigia Sophia Istanbul November 2012

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Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Location: Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Date: May 2016

If you know anything about me, it’s that I take full advantage of the opportunities life presents. So, when my good friend said he was getting married in Africa, he knew I’d be the first one to send in my RSVP. In addition to the wedding in Rwanda, which I’ll share a photo from later, I had a six-day safari in Tanzania’s northern parks. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life.

One of my goals with this blog is to keep each post short. I am normally verbose, but am learning to be more concise. That means, one photo per post. Out of the 4,000+ photos I took in Africa, 138 were deemed shareable. Then I boiled it down to this one that I felt was iconic of the entire experience. Each of the four parks we visited was unique, but this photo captured the wild, yet oddly calm plains of the Serengeti.

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Australian Outback

Location: Uluru, Northern Territory, Australia
Date: July 2015

The summer of 2015 saw one of my biggest adventures yet. Six weeks abroad, making stops in five countries along the way. But, the majority of my time (five weeks) was spent in Australia. And yes, Sydney is lovely. The Gold Coast is splendid. The Great Barrier Reef is amazing. But, the Outback was so much more fun than I anticipated. We spent an entire week out there, and the sights were spectacular. But, the night skies were incredible! This picture is pretty neat in my opinion, but to see these stars and the Milky Way with the naked eye was something I’ll never forget.

Australia Milky Way August 2015

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Hobbs Pond, Maine

Location: Hobbs Pond, Hope, Maine
Date: September 2011

Sometimes you just need a break from life. I was at that point in the fall of 2011 and decided to retreat and explore new areas. That brought me to a small cottage on Hobbs Pond, which lies just outside the small town of Hope, Maine. And by small town, small even by my Iowa small-town standards. I had a lovely week with this view, full of rest and relaxation to recharge my batteries. And as I explored a large portion of the state that week, Maine quickly became one of my favorite places to visit in the United States.

Lisbon, Portugal

Location: Monastery of Jeronimos, Lisbon, Portugal
Date: October 2013

You might recall that in October 2013, the United States government went through a three-week shutdown. At the time I was working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and I entered the shutdown with a little bit of trepidation not knowing when (or if) I’d get paid next and when we’d be going back to work. I spent the next two weeks cleaning and baking like mad. I think I only spent $1.87 during those two weeks to buy a bottle of water one morning before going to volunteer at a food pantry.

By the time week three rolled around, I was antsy and stir-crazy. I also was nervous about the fact that I had a previously planned trip to Portugal coming up. Turns out, Congress passed a budget, I went back to work for one day and then boarded a plane the next … turning my three weeks out of the office into a little more than four. The image above was the first thing I saw when we landed in Lisbon. It was a beautiful day and a great way to stretch our legs after an overnight flight. The monastery dates back to 1495, and the inside is even more spectacular than the outside!

Portugal Lisbon Monastery of Jeronimos October 2013

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