This post #2 in a two-part series sharing some of Miles team members’ favorite travel memories in celebration of National Plan for Vacation Day on January 29. Click here to read the first post in this series.
Life-size Mario Kart in Switzerland by Alexis Acosta
Picture this: snow-capped vistas as far as the eyes can see, quaint chalets dressed in festive lights and the aroma of mulled wine in the air. My family and I were fortunate enough to experience the magic of Switzerland during Christmas, and since, my view of the holidays has never been the same. We laughed, we cried, we partied and then died – no seriously, our flight back home was at 6am on New Year’s Day and I felt dead.
One of the best days of the trip was spent playing a game of life-size Mario-Kart. We started at the base of the mountain near Lauterbrunnen (which is a beautiful valley town with sweeping views of the alps) and took a funicular up the mountain to Murren where we were greeted by a tiny alpine ski village. There, we rented sleds and embarked on high speed race down the mountain bobbing and weaving through other racers and tumbling into each other. Though we were bruised and exhausted in the end, it was the best time of our lives. You know when you come home from a trip with bruises on your legs and elbows, there is an epic story to tell.
The Lion That Squeaked by Donna Sapolin
The canvas tents swayed in the cold Serengeti breeze, in tandem with the tall grasses cloaking lions, hyenas, wildebeests and jackals. I carefully followed the pools of light cast by the camp escort’s flashlight.
Reaching my tent, I unzipped the front, turned on the hanging bulb and met the glaring eyes of a large mouse, perched upright on his hind legs. My loud claps sent him scurrying under the flapping shower enclosure.
I quickly stuffed my over-the-counter drugs into a plastic grocery bag, hung it high from a towel hook, brushed my teeth and dove into the blanketed cot.
The nocturnal cacophony of snapping canvas, yips and low growls led to total sleeplessness. At 5:00 am, relief came in the form of the attendant’s lilting Swahili words of welcome—‘Jambo, Jambo!”—and the swishing sounds of water cascading into the outdoor shower bucket.
As I rose, I spotted my toothbrush on the ground and saw that my travel-sized toothpaste was missing. The next morning, my small bar of soap was gone.
I now count the tidy looting rodent among the most formidable wildlife I encountered during my African safari. In fact, I tell everyone I saw the Big Six.
Our “Trip of a Lifetime” Would Be His Last by Steven Keith
With my wife’s family roots planted in Austria — and extended family now living throughout Europe and the US — her oldest brother dreamed of coordinating a family reunion in Europe before aging relatives there would no longer be with us.
So “Uncle Werner” spent two years planning a special 10-day vacation throughout Austria, Italy and Slovenia that would take us to some of Europe’s most iconic sites and end with a family dinner at a gorgeous restaurant atop one of Slovenia’s highest mountains. We would swim in the Adriatic, tour centuries-old ruins, sleep in castles and eat like kings.
It seemed like an impossible dream of a trip, but my brother in-law’s passion to make it happen paid off. Last year, 20 of us took that “dream” trip and then gathered to enjoy a feast of local wines, fresh seafood, meats, vegetables, desserts – and, each other.
It was a magical trip with a storybook ending that became even sweeter after we returned home. That’s when Werner told us that the trip we had just taken was the highlight of his life. He passed away unexpectedly just a few months later.
48 Hours in Venice by Cynthia Kendrick
Venice – a city I only dreamed of visiting until my 30th birthday. After saving up, I made the dream a reality…and crammed in as much as possible in a very short time. As soon as I dropped my suitcases at my bed and breakfast overlooking a small canal, I was off! I took the vaparetto to Murano to see the stained glass and colorful houses on the outskirts of the island. I climbed the steps of Doge’s Palace to the attic, peered into secret chambers, marveled at the extravagant rooms and artwork, and gazed out from the Bridge of Signs. I sampled gelato, cannoli, seafood pasta and local wines; then walked those calories off as I meandered through cobblestone streets and hidden squares. I greeted passersby with an exuberant, “Buon giorno!” and fought my way across the crowded Rialto Bridge. I snapped hundreds of photos and created memories to last a lifetime. As I packed my bags to leave, I promised myself that this visit was only the first. I am already dreaming of my next adventure in Italy, and sharing the beautiful sinking city of Venice with my family.
Family Travels to Denver by Rachael Root
The one story that is a long lasting memory, engrained in my mind forever is a trip to Denver when I was 15 with my grandparents. Each year they brought a select few grandchildren with them to the soybean convention and Denver. During the convention we got to partake in the “kids program” which included going to a Rockies game, Elitch Gardens (then Six Flags), and some other horrible bus trip that I can’t recall. That wasn’t the best part.
The best part was walking 15 steps behind my grandparents because he was wearing his cowboy boots with his khaki shorts, the never ending (this will be cool) train ride out there with the creeping man telling me how pretty I was and experiencing homeless people for the first time. Oh, and losing my brother in the hotel, eating candy by the handfuls, and then finally talking my grandparents into renting a van and driving back to Illinois, leaving a day early because they had had enough of us damn kids…. Needless to say, that was the last soybean convention we ever attended. Oh… the memories and the moment I fell in love with my now home!
It Just Doesn’t Matter ... It Will be Stolen by John Deleva
On a red-eye drive from Krakow, Poland to somewhere in Romania we changed plans after border hassles and a few wrong turns made sleep more imperative.
Two a.m. in Kosice, Czechoslovakia offered few lodging options, but we appeared to catch a break near the main square of this medieval town. Bob pulled curbside and I jogged into a hotel lobby, feeling even luckier when I heard the clerk greet me in English.
“Hello. Are there any rooms,” I asked?
“Yes, 120 Koruna.”
“Great . . . where shall we park:
“It just doesn’t matter,” he responded, “it will be stolen.”
I laughed out loud, maybe his English wasn’t as good as I thought.
“It just doesn’t matter . . . it will be stolen.”
I told Bob. We noticed a security guard, and agreed to pay him to watch it, half-thinking he would take the money and run to Kiev to part it out. Nevertheless, we gave into our exhaustion and handed him the keys.
We jumped at every odd sound all night, maybe got 20 winks, but in the end: It just didn’t matter, the car wasn’t stolen and we learned to trust humanity a little more!
Luck of the Irish by Amber Racer
I just had to see Newgrange, and it was St. Patrick’s Day. My friend and I arrived to pick up the car—it would be my first time driving on the left side, on a highway, in Dublin. They handed me what looked like a hotel key.
“That’s the key.”
Got it. I remembered what the taxi driver said—“keep your side next to the line.”
And, we’re off, lost three times, around in circles (all those roundabouts) and zipped off into the countryside. Old stone walls lined the roads as we turned the narrow bends. It was a fitting entrance to the rolling grassland and Neolithic tomb rising over the hill. The final step was a path that swirled like the Celtic triskele.
Inside the tomb was an electric feeling, and the guide explained it still illuminates on the winter solstice after 5,000 years. I was fulfilled. It was back to Dublin. They didn’t charge me for petrol when I dropped the car off. We set off to Temple Bar to search for our friends, and what should we hear?
“Country Roads.” We followed it to find our friends singing on the other side and joined in the verse.
San Juan Islands by Andrea Kuskie
In 2017 an advertiser who is an Executive Director for a DMO in my market called asking if she could stay the night before flying out to the San Juan Islands for a rather impromptu trip to get out of town after a personal heartache, which I was experiencing as well. After two bottles of wine and lots of tears I choose to make a spontaneous decision. 3 hours before the flight, wearing sweats, my hair in a ponytail and no makeup I packed my bags in less than 20 minutes and headed to the airport. Texting my daughters and Laura Libby on the way, telling them I’ll be home in a week only confirmed to them that I HAVE lost my mind.
When I arrived at the airport, I was surprised to learn I was not going to the San Juan Islands in Puerto Rico which I packed my bathing suit and flip flops for, I was going to the San Juan Islands northwest of Seattle. Although it rained every day, I wasn’t prepared and I froze, it turned out to be a once in a lifetime experience that opened my eyes to a new world that lied ahead.
Horsin’ Around by Melissa Anderson
We were given instructions in the horse corral in South Dakota, near Mount Rushmore. We gathered our courage and we mounted our horses. My horse was named Tumbleweed and she was happy, well fed, and round, which meant she was a little bit hard to stay on. During the ride, I began to shift to the left. Despite instructions to yank the saddle and squeeze my thighs, I continued to shift to the left. After a little bit longer of shifting it was obvious that the entire group had to stop before I fell off and the guide had to help me remount. After my remount, not fifteen minutes later, my youngest daughter had her own problem. Her horse, Daphne, insisted on snacking during the route causing everyone behind her to stop. The guide handed her a riding crop and said ‘smack her hard!’ whenever she tries to eat. The rest of the ride was uneventful, but it is easily our most memorable vacation adventure so far.
Maybe, Maybe Not by Maureen Hennessey
Our ship from Italy to Greece went through a horrendous storm, swelling for hours, causing many to puke, I was one of them and had to share a sink with other people, toilets were full. Docked, hopped a train to Athens, no seats, only space was the floor between the cars in front of the bathroom. Arrive Athens, we’re under time crunch to get to the port to catch the boat to Paros. We hailed two cabs at the station. We asked the drivers if we can make it to the port by our needed time, their response was very cavalier, ‘Maybe, maybe not’! They proceeded to speed through the streets, following one another, then abruptly slowed down, pulled up to a café, parked along the curb and got out!! They both went in for a coffee!! We were signaling each other in the cabs like WTF??? We waited, they returned, we asked again if we’d make it, the response again, ‘Maybe, maybe not’. We pulled up to the port just as the horns were blaring, the five of us jumped out, ran as fast as we could, getting on the boat as they were starting to close the door.
2007 Everglades Challenge by Ed Francavilla
Dozens of crafts of all shapes and sizes stretched across Fort Desoto beach before daybreak.
Speechless McDonald's employees as we stood drenched in our lifejackets, after sundown in Placida.
Surfing 6’ seas, and nearly pitch-poling our double kayak on Lemon Bay.
Fireworks in the dark skies over Sanibel Island.
Stealth camping under the full moon on someone's back lawn in Fort Myers Beach.
The most delicious macaroni and cheese for brunch on Lovers Key.
Enormous stingray flying 2’ above the water, 4’ in front of our craft off Bay’s Island.
Damaged rudder cables, 2 miles from shore on Estero Bay.
Me dangling from Sweetwater Chickee by my legs to retrieve equipment in the boat 4’ below with the low tide.
Swarmed by no-see-ums at Shark river campsite in the Wilderness Waterway.
Hammerhead Shark floundering, as were we, in the shallow waters of Florida Bay.
Fighting 30 knot headwinds to cross massive Florida Bay.
Many friends, old and new, waving us into the finish in Key Largo.
Just a few of the unforgettable things my wife and I witnessed during the 2007 Everglades Challenge. Our intrepid 6½ day 300-mile journey to Key Largo was a memory that will last a lifetime.
Phantom Hull by Kate Bradshaw
No one said we’d be swimming through the guts of the 250-foot beast until about five minutes before we jumped in. It was my ninth open-water dive. My brain was awash with unlikely scenarios. The divemaster assured that I could swim outside the hull, navigating by the bubbles of other divers making their way through the wreck. Or, I could swim through; my choice.
Sunk off Grand Cayman in 2011, the Kittiwake was a WWII-era submarine rescue vessel decommissioned in 1994. Snobbier divers have derided her on internet forums for a lack of technical challenges – but that must have been before Hurricane Nate knocked her askew and shifted her 20 feet deeper.
A kaleidoscopic reef marked the start of the dive, but soon enough, the spectral maritime carcass loomed.
I almost turned around but forced myself to keep swimming toward the menacing structure (with, perhaps, help from my scoffing spouse of a dive buddy). When we reached the opening at the stern, I knew hesitation would turn into regret over succumbing to fear – so I pulled my body into the iron hull and committed to the dark corridors, the barnacle-encrusted machinery and the diagonal doorways that stood in my path.