Top 10 Trips Celebrating Friends and Family

The Top 10 Trips in 2018 driving to Taormina Sicily

I’ve done a lot of travel this year, both at home and abroad. But there is an overall theme for most of my 2018 travels– friends and family. We’ve celebrated big events, moves, return to health, and firsts. I am so proud to have been in a position to share them with you. Thank you for all your support, congratulations, and best wishes. And although I don’t have any international travel plans in the works for 2019, here’s to some great experiences Celebrating Friends & Family.

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  1. Top 10 Celebrating Friends and Family
  2. Road trip— Texas, New York, Mississippi to Kansas
  3. Legacy Museum, Birmingham AL
  4. Steven Transforms into a Unicorn
  5. Ashley’s Promotion Naxos Italy
  6. Volleyball Tournament
  7. Grand Bazaar, Istanbul Turkey
  8. Deep Dish in Chicago
  9. Wine Tasting with my Dad in NewYork
  10. Meeting the Girlfriend in Catania Italy


2018– The Top 10
Travels– Celebrating Friends and Family

2018 delivered many blessings to our family. We started the year off in Texas. I survived a nine-state road trip with my husband and my son. And we were able to cross off a few new cities from my bucket. We welcomed a new family member and witnessed a return to health for my father. We got to Celebrating Friends & Family, enjoy a military promotion, a re-enlistment, and a relocation to Kansas.

welcome-to-Missouri-sign Top 10 Trips Celebrating Friends and Family

Texas -> Mississippi -> New York -> Kansas 

After a month-long road trip from Austin to Kansas to Mississippi up to New York and back to Fort Riley. We stopped along the way in Montgomery, Alabama, Little Rock, Arkansas, Columbus, Ohio (twice), and St. Louis, Missouri. We filled up two cars 13 times, crossed 16 state lines, fought the traffic, and each other too many times to count.

However, this repositioning trip could have been a disaster. My son and husband and I got in a huge argument and my son packed up his belongings and left the hotel in Ohio. I had a very sleepless night, imagining all the terrifying things that could have happened to him with no money, transportation, or plans. In the morning I convinced my stubborn husband to find him at the Motel 6 down the road and convinced him to a truce.

Legacy Museum 
Birmingham, Alabama 

Although emotions were still raw, our detour to the Legacy Museum in Birmingham was well worth it. The museum opened to the public in April 2018. The eye-opening museum is located in a former warehouse where thousands of enslaved people were trafficked during the height of the American slave trade. Visual presentations dramatize the enslavement of African Americans, the evolution of racial terror lynching, legalized racial segregation, and racial hierarchy in America. In addition to rarely seen first-person accounts of the domestic slave trade, critically acclaimed research materials, videography, and exhibits. Although many of the events were familiar to me, the Legacy Museum helped me understand the history of racial inequality and its relationship to everything from mass incarceration to police violence.

Military Promotion Ceremony
Manhattan, Kansas 

As you know by now, our move to Kansas was very traumatic. Neither one of us wanted to move to Kansas. But, I didn’t have much time to fret about it. Because we had to find a place to live, set up the house, and plan his ceremony in less than 30 days. And I am proud to say, it was a great success. I feel he’ll allow this one liberty. This one opportunity to praise his accomplishment and share a journey– while not entirely mine– with you. How many people can say they have reached the top of their profession? How many people can say they are a real-life unicorn?

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A Re-enlistment Ceremony
Naxos Giardini 

Thankfully, we were able to put Kansas behind us with a trip abroad. Italy is one of my favorite places to visit. And my daughter has lived there for the last three years. Although, Ashley doesn’t claim to like living there. Sicily is an interesting place. It’s modern yet tribal at the same time. And I think the mafia has a lot to do with it—but you didn’t hear that from me.

More or less, I think it’s just the need to be dramatic. Yes, the pasta is a little more al dente. Yes, the roads are horrible. And yes, trash seems to be a problem. However, I can overlook all the above to live on such a historical island in the Mediterranean.

So I made my second trip to the island off the coast of Italy’s toe for Ashley’s re-enlistment ceremony. I can’t even tell you how proud I am of my daughter. She just completed her 10th year in the Navy. This was her 3rd re-enlistment and my husband performed all three. With a combination of good fortune and her dedication to her profession, it won’t be the last one either.

Rooting for my Grandson
Catania, Italy 

I am being nice by saying my grandson hasn’t impressed much on the athletic field. When he was younger he preferred picking dandelions to run with the football or fielding baseballs. And although he showed a little promise on the tennis clay, it turned out to be short-lived. So in combination with a massive growth spurt and a renewed interest in athletics he has started playing both basketball and volleyball.

And guess what? He ain’t half bad. He’s pretty darn good. I get to wear my Kamren button in the stands while his traveling volleyball team split wins with a team from Rome.

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Shopping for Chocolate
Istanbul, Turkey 

Although the bizarre isn’t the cheapest place to shop, it’s way more fun than a modern shopping mall. The #grandbazaar is definitely worth visiting if you go to #istanbulturkey alone or with a guide. I would have needed breadcrumbs to navigate the maze of streets and alleyways.

I had a ton of fun following my husband’s shiny bald head through the colorful shops lined with spices, gold, and tea sets. Overhead lanterns in every shade of the rainbow hang from the ceiling. And buskers tease and cajole passersby offering delicious treats like chocolate. We sat in one such stall enjoying morsel after morsel while we sipped on fragrant teas that cured everything from insomnia to anxiety.

Deep Dish & Italian Beef
Chicago, Illinois 

It had been years since I had enjoyed a deep dish pizza. And there is no better way to have one than on my first visit to Chicago. Coincidentally, I had been to Chicago more than a dozen times. However, I had never left the airport. But that wasn’t the only Chicago treat I enjoyed. The Italian Beef sandwich at Al’s Italian Beef. But after speaking to a local at our hotel. We decided to eat at Johnnies Italian Ice in Oak Park instead. The legendary eatery in Elmwood Park typically has a line snaking in one side and out the other.

And we weren’t disappointed. Finely chopped green bell peppers and onions sprinkled with oregano. A hot giardiniera consisting of carrots, peppers, and cauliflower arranged over a messy, juicy, thinly-sliced beef, in Gonnella bread dipped in au jus. It’s messy. And best eaten on the spot– at the counter inside or one of the curbside tables.

Wine Tasting with my Dad
Rochester, New York 

Many of you know my dad is a cancer survivor. The prognosis was scary just two years ago when I flew from South Korea to New York to comfort him after surgery and chemotherapy. At that time, he was told to get his affairs in order. But I am happy to say today he is cancer-free. And again, we were able to sip wine together at a vineyard in upstate New York.

Casa Larga is a sweet little winery outside Rochester, New York. The Finger Lakes Wine Trail boasts dozens of tasty wineries to choose from. And it’s proximity to the city makes it a great venue for an afternoon spritz with my favorite guy. I think he enjoyed learning about the different wines and I know he enjoyed the tray of delicious cheeses served too. I know because he asked for the wrapper. And while his preferred aperitif is still Jack Daniels, he has been known to enjoy a glass of sweet wine now too.

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Meeting my Son’s Girlfriend
Catania, Italy

Last year I had a chance to visit my son in Italy. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to meet his girlfriend Vanessa. One of my top 10 trips Celebrating Friends and Family was to meet her. Vanessa came down to Sicily to meet us for a few days. She turned out to be a lovely girl, with a great sense of humor and wits to match.

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3 thoughts on “Top 10 Trips Celebrating Friends and Family

  1. Thanks for sharing and congratulations to your husband for making CW5, that’s quite an accomplishment. And cheers to you for being in that awesome position of support.

    1. Thank you. I am very proud of him and it’s been an honor to serve in any capacity. It sounds like you’ve served too, so thank you too.

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