Asheville is a beautiful city in the mountains of western North Carolina. It is a town full of art, eclectic shops, and breweries. There are also numerous wineries within 30 minutes of the city center. We were visiting family here in March 2020, when COVID-19 shut down the world. Therefore, we had to quickly get a long term Airbnb and hunker down, while doing some East Coast job-searching. We ended up remaining in the area for several months, unable to return to California. Although many places were not open, we were able to explore some delicious eateries (via take-out) and venture on a few gorgeous mountain hikes. We definitely miss our freedom to travel but are making the most out of this time to explore places close to “home” and spend time with one another.
While in Canada, and so close to the US border, we decided to visit Niagara Falls! We first looked into staying directly near the falls. However, we decided to be a little farther from the hustle and bustle of tourists and looked into nearby towns. During this mini trip, we were able to sight-see and do some wine tasting!
After all of our travels throughout Europe, we thought it was time to finally venture to one of our bordering countries in North America, Canada. We have a few friends from Toronto, where Brian has previously visited, so we thought it would be a nice place to start. It was a fun adventure exploring the city and visiting friends.
Last April, we took a cruise around the Caribbean with family. My parents had never been on a cruise before, so this made it all the more enjoyable. We sailed on a Celebrity Cruise ship, and I highly recommend upgrading to Aqua Class, if you do. This allows for less crowded dining halls, larger staterooms, and other added benefits and services that we all thoroughly enjoyed. Our cruise made four stops. We were fortunate to have wonderful weather throughout the week. It was definitely a good idea to travel before the heat waves started moving in and hurricane season began.
Before boarding our Caribbean cruise, Brian and I chose to explore Miami (where our ship was docked) for a few days. We both had been to Miami so decided to try something on the outskirts, specifically Coconut Grove. We had a fun couple of days touring the town, drinking wine, and enjoying the delicious food, all in great weather.
Nearing the end of our Australian Adventure, we flew to Tasmania for a few days. Being farther south, the weather is typically a little cooler here, so we recommend bringing clothes appropriate for the changing temperatures. Also, be prepared for some foggy mists. Brian and I are apparently great at bringing along the fog with us to otherwise picturesque sites.
After the cruise, we made our way to Melbourne. This was probably my favorite city out of all our Australian destinations. Fortunately, we were also able to stop here again at the end of our trip before flying back to the US. The food was a primary highlight of this city, having some of the highest rated culinary spots in the world. This is also where we saw the most wildlife (actually in the wild!) and enjoyed many excursions along the coast. There are even vineyards nearby that are definitely worth checking out if you like wine, or just pretty scenery.
The primary reason for our Down Under journey was to go on a two week cruise around New Zealand. I have never seen a country so clean and people who care so much about their environment. This was definitely something that stuck out to me. Our cruise, departing from Auckland, was to make 12 stops. Unfortunately, after two days at sea, our only stop in Australia, Kingston, was canceled due to weather. Therefore, we had four full days at sea in rough water. And I got quite seasick. However, after the early setback, our trip went pleasantly smooth.
In 2019, Brian and I joined family on a two week New Zealand cruise. This is a large part of what prompted our decision to take a year to travel full-time. We wanted to be able to see as much of that part of the world as possible. Therefore, we planned a six week stay in Australia and New Zealand. We truly loved just about everything in Australia. I often say that of all the places we have visited, this is the one place I could see myself living (if only it were not so far away!). The countries are quite clean, the people very friendly, the wildlife amazing, and the food delicious. It was also inspiring to see how they work together as a community to keep their space nice and help to make it better. It has been devastating to watch the impact that the current wildfires are having on this beautiful space and their incredible wildlife. As I write this, my thoughts are entirely with those affected by the fires. Although far, I hope to return one day in the not so distant future.
Although not as populated or touristy as some of the other islands in Hawaii, the Big Island remains our favorite Hawaiian destination. We choose to stay near Waikoloa Beach on the Kona side. We love the low traffic volume and abundant sunshine it offers. There are many beach days to be had on this side of the island, while only a 2 hour drive to the Hilo side takes you to the lush rainforest-like views and volcano. We have family that has a house on the island, and are so grateful to be able to stay here during our visits!