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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Top Six Favorite Trips

Today is a funky fun Friday.  
Two things for you today:

First, check out Naomi in Wonderland to read my interview on her blog.  Naomi is the gorgeous girl behind the Belgian travel blog.  She's currently in Australia and her posts are making me weak in the knees (diving and snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef anyone?).  Naomi also has a soft spot for California (we share a deep love for Monterey), and I am proud to say I have even turned her on to visiting Salt Lake City and it got the number 9 on her 10 must see U.S. cities.  Utah Represent

Over on her blog she shares a monthly travel blogger interview series and I was over the moon when she asked me to be involved.  Head on over to her blog to see my interview, and read about the time I walked into a water fountain in Miami.  And then check out today's post where I share six of my favorite trips. 

I thought it was going to be really hard to pick a few of my favorite trips, but I am proud to say these six stood out to me more than most.  Looking back at these trips, I smile at all the awesome memories, disasters, and photos.  These are the six trips that make me stop and think how lucky I am to live this life.  Forward and onward: 

1.  Northern California Road Trip:  This was my first time to California, and there is nothing like seeing California from your car (trust me!).  Having the freedom to drive wherever you want and see so many aspects of the state on your time schedule is key.  We saw so much of Northern California from Lake Tahoe to Napa Valley, Sausalito over the Golden Gate Bridge to San Fransisco, Monterey, and driving the Pacific Coast Highway down to Big Sur.  California is truly a dream with mountains, oceans, and everything in between.  It is a state that has a little bit of everything, and then so many of the special little things.  Vineyards and sealions, I loved dipping my toes in the Pacific under CA's famous bridge.  This was definitely one of my best travel adventures so far and top 3 road trips. 

View of San Francisco from Sausalito 
Big Sur, view of Pacific Coast Highway and Bixby Bridge 
California Road Trip Video Recap

2.  Madeira Island, Portugal: There is something so special about visiting somewhere exotic, somewhere no one has really heard of. Somewhere you haven't really heard much about.   Getting to explain a wonderful new location to friends and family is really special.   And that is Madeira.  While popular with European travelers, American's rarely make it out to this amazing island.  The island of Madeira is owned by Portugal and perched in the Atlantic, about 900 km off the coast of Morocco. This island is adventure lovers paradise, with mountains, spectacular cliff sides, and of course the cool blue water of the Atlantic.  Scuba divinglevada hikes , mountain biking, cable cars, toboggans and beaches.  Lets not forget the amazing food and culture (and of course the famous Madeira Wine). Madeira has it all.  And being able to experience it with my family (my parents and 3 sets of Aunts and Uncles) made it even more special. Brush up on your Portuguese before you go and take a famous ride down the streets of Madeira in a toboggan. 

Western Shoreline of Madeira
Western Shoreline of Madeira
Mountains of the Interior - Pico do Arieiro Madeira
Mountains of the Interior - Pico do Arieiro Madeira
Madeira Recap Video 

3. Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal: You may be thinking its not fair to list two Portuguese islands in this post, but they are so different and both deserve to be on the Katie Wanders favorite list.  I left the Azores in complete awe that an island so beautiful and untouched still exists.  The islands (there are nine) of the Azores are like Madeira in the sense that they are not very well known here in the states.  However, while Madeira is very touristy with the Europeans, Azores never really experienced the same boom in tourism.  This was also the island my parents were born on, so the sense of history and nostalgia makes this place that much more special.  Beyond my love for the island rooting from my family tree, what I really love is that the Azores still has that concept of open space, old culture and tradition. Tourism is really just starting to grow on the island.  No crowds and the sense you are back in time.  The scenic rolling hillsides with hydrangeas and many (many) cows set against the blue Atlantic is something you have to see for yourself. Plan enough time to do some island hopping around the amazing nine islands that make up the archipelago of the Azores.

Church and beaches of Sao Miguel, Azores
Blue and Green Twin Lakes - Sete Cidades- Sao Miguel Azores
Blue and Green Twin Lakes - Sete Cidades- Sao Miguel Azores
Coastline of Sao Miguel, Azores
Coastline of Sao Miguel, Azores

4.  Bonaire, Netherlands: Like Madeira, what made this trip so special was the people I went with.  And again, it was a lesser known spot to travel and explore.  This trip was a big one for me because in a sense it was the first "big" trip I had gone on sans family or significant others.  I worked hard, saved up and joined a group of my friends on an amazing dive trip to the lesser known of the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao).  The island itself is simple in the fact that there really isn't a whole lot to do there besides scuba diving (fine by me!).  But the diving is spectacular, mostly from the shore in crystal clear warm waters of the Caribbean. I had an amazing week with a wonderful group of people.  We spent the week diving, eating, and drinking our way around divers paradise. Bonaire made my list even though I spent a few days with an awful allergic reaction that resulted in a trip to the ER and a nickname "Cootie Katie".  If you are a diver, you need to visit the B of the ABCs. 

5.  Puerto Rico:  Puerto Rico this past February was such a great trip.  At first I was kind of "eh, its Puerto Rico, cruise ships and chaos" but after an amazing week on the island, celebrating a friends wedding and spending time with friends, my perception of Puerto Rico changed.  Why?  Many reasons,  First, Puerto Rico is an easy flight to warm weather in our rough winters.  It is a territory of the United States meaning easy travel, no passport, same currency, english everywhere, and just overall a really easy (and really cheap) travel destination.  The island is large and has something for everyone.  Culture, shops and restaurants in Old San Juan are a must.  And then there are all the fun outdoor activities: from paddle boarding to scuba diving, even hiking in the rain forest.  Puerto Rico had a lot to offer on a limited budget.  I loved that I could spend time at the beautiful resorts of Condado, and not to far away, be riding my bike around the boardwalk in search of meat on a stick and $1 beers. 

Puerto Rico Recap Video 

6.  Southern Utah, Mighty Five and Highway 12:  It would only be right to give Utah a spot on my list.  Because Utah is what ignited my love for travel.  Utah gave me the new found freedom to see the west, and the courage to just get in my car and drive.  It was at a perfect time in my life and I loved being in a new place so far form home with so much to see.  

There are so many amazing trips around this beautiful state, but the one that sticks out the most is my trip to Southern Utah to drive along Highway 12 through Escalante and see the last two National Parks on my Mighty Five Tour (Utah has FIVE national parks within its state border!).  Southern Utah is an amazing place, and so different from Salt Lake City and the mountains.  While the city is hustle and bustle, skiing and mountains, Southern Utah is desert, waterfalls, red rock, and National Parks.  Prior to this particular road trip, I had  spent some time in Southern Utah and had seen three of the national parks: Arches, Canyonlands and Zion.  This trip wrapped up the last two and the amazing drive in between.   Picking apples at Capitol Reef National Park, the cows in Dixie National Forest with the leaves changing, beautiful Escalante and Hiking to Calf Creek Falls.  And then walking among the hoodoos in Bryce.  This trip was just one amazing sight after another.  The National Parks were the wonderful bookends of a gorgeous scenic drive and hike through Escalante.  It took a while but Utah has won a piece of my heart and this trip will always be one of my favorites. 

I hope you enjoyed a glimpse of my favorite trips here on Katie Wanders so far.  I can't wait to see this list grow and change as I explore more of this beautiful world. 

What are your favorite trips?


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you so much! They have quickly become my favorite part about these trips, putting together these fun videos!


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