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Four Things Friday | 8

I'm on my way to Charlotte, NC today, so the prompt for this week's Four Things Friday is very appropriate: four places I have been.

Hawaii | My parents took my brother and I to Maui for spring break when I was a sophomore in high school and my brother was a senior.  It was such a fantastic family trip.  Some highlights for me were going to my first luau, seeing the huge banyan trees in Lahaina, and driving through the rainforest while listening to Hawaiian music.  I tried snorkeling for the first time on that trip, too, but I didn't realize just how bad my fear of fish was...I seriously had a panic attack right there in the ocean as I was surrounded by fish!  I appreciated the experience much more as I sat in the boat looking at the fish from the glass panel in the floor of the boat.  (So ridiculous.)
A view from when we spent a day driving around the island of Maui through the rainforests.  GORGEOUS.

I went to Hawaii again during my sophomore year of college.  My college had a J-Term, wherein students took a course for the month of January to earn 4 credits.  There were also short-term study abroad options for J-Term as well.  At the time, I wasn't sure that I could handle a whole semester of study abroad, so instead, I decided to do a short-term trip.  The trip to Hawaii was a perfect fit for me: I already knew I loved Hawaii (although this trip was to Oahu, and I had only been to Maui before), the course that corresponded with the trip was in the Sociology department (my major), and the faculty member teaching the class was my advisor (I loved her!).  I spent a month traveling the island with my classmates and taking a 4-credit class while we were there.  We studied the history of Hawaii, the tourism industry, how tourism affects the native Hawaiian people, etc.  We learned about what life is like in Hawaii for people.  Spoiler alert: there is tons of poverty in Hawaii.  We toured an elementary and middle school in a rural area, and spent a day touring and volunteering at a homeless shelter on the island.  Talk about an eye-opening experience.  People tend to think of Hawaii as utter paradise, but the vast majority of people have no idea what life is actually like for the people who live there.  I absolutely want to go back to Hawaii again, not only to experience some of the fun touristy things (like parasailing, going to luaus, and visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center), but also to learn even more about the lives of Hawaiians.
One of the beautiful sunsets I captured during my month-long stay in Hawaii.

Alaska | My brother lived in Alaska for about 3 years - he moved there during my senior year of college.  My parents took Kevin and I there to visit him after he had lived there for a year.  It was such a fun trip!  We got to do a lot of fun, touristy things like visiting museums, exploring all the quaint little Alaskan towns, walking around the mountains, and going to all kinds of fun restaurants.  However, we also got to see a little bit about what life was like for my brother there.  He was a youth director at a church in Wasilla (yes, where Sarah Palin lives - he actually met her and spent quite a bit of time with her family!!), so we got to see what his church was like and have a delicious meal of freshly-caught salmon and moose at his pastor's house.  I'm not sure I've ever been anywhere so gorgeous - I want to go back again and see more of the state!
Me, my brother, and Kevin near the stream in Hatcher's Pass (aka, we were on a mountain!!).

Portland, OR | Kevin and I are a very non-traditional couple, so for our honeymoon, we knew we didn't want to do the typical tropical vacation that most everyone we knew had done for their honeymoons (not that there's anything wrong with that...we just aren't sit-on-the-beach kind of people).  We'd both so badly wanted to visit Portland and Seattle, so we decided to spend our honeymoon in Portland!  We had an absolute blast there!  In just a week, we packed a ton of things in: the Japanese Rose Gardens, the Portland Zoo, whitewater rafting, ziplining over a gorge, a day trip to Seattle to experience Pike Place Market and the Seattle Aquarium, driving to the ocean to see Haystack Rock (from The Goonies!), and more.  It was a fantastic way to start our marriage :)
One of my favorite views at the Japanese Rose Gardens in Portland, OR.

Yellowstone National Park | The summer before I started graduate school, Kevin and I went on an RV trip with his parents and his youngest brother, Michael.  We spent just over a week on the road, with the majority of our time spent at Yellowstone.  I absolutely fell in love with it!  I'm not much of a nature girl, so I was a little nervous about the whole RV situation and spending all of our time outdoors looking at animals and geographical features, but honestly, it was one of the coolest things I've ever experienced.  I was absolutely fascinated by all the different things we saw there, ranging from they geysers to the hot springs to the mountains to the waterfalls to the incredible was all utterly amazing.  I yearn for the day when we can go on another RV trip - we had such a fun time bonding while we drove, and I actually loved all the outdoorsy activities we did!
We woke up very early one morning to see wildlife, and we were lucky enough to see this mama pronghorn and her babies frolicking around for nearly an hour.  At one point, the babies were bouncing around within 2-3 feet of where we stood!  Amazing!
I'm mesmerized by water in nature, especially waterfalls!  My father-in-law snapped this picture of me staring at one of the huge waterfalls in Yellowstone.  It's one of my all-time favorite photos of myself!

Have any of you been to any of these places?  What are some of your memorable trips and vacations?

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