Beach Day

Today was a perfect day! After enjoying some coffee on the beach and going on a run this morning, I came back to an omelet made by my dad! What an awesome guy! We all headed to the beach around 11 and were there all afternoon enjoying various activities. It was 70 degrees and sunny which felt like paradise to us! It was never hot enough to make you sweat, but not cold enough that you needed to bundle up. There also wasn’t any wind which made for an awesome last day in South Carolina. 

Hula hooping aerobics class!
Spike ball!
Reading is such a treat! Switched to the pool for a few hours!

So much fun was had by all! Sometimes all you need is a nap, a walk on the beach, a good book to read, a long bike ride, a fun treat, and/or a fun visit with a friend. It has been so fun to just be able to relax and enjoy the weather, beach, and our family! Tomorrow we will start the 20 hour drive home, and luckily a few of us will be able to hop in with Grandma and Grandpa. We have done many road trips with all seven of us, but we are all a little bit bigger now! The rest of the night will be enjoyed playing rook, hot tubbing, reading our books, and relishing our last night of relaxation. We are trying to take advantage of every minute!

Bikes and Full Bellies

Day Two on Hilton Head Island did not disappoint. I was up early enough to catch the sunrise, so I made some coffee, grabbed my bike, and then promptly turned around. It was cold, even for a Minnesotan, and the wind was strong, so I opted out of a mouthful of sand and decided to enjoy the morning inside. After finishing my coffee, I decided to bundle up and go for a run. It took a few minutes to warm up, but it ended up being a perfect way to start the day. I ran down to the beach first to check it out and had to run back quickly because the strong winds were really whipping the sand around. There were many friendly people out running and walking, so it was fun to start the day on a cheerful note!

Empty beach this morning!

After waiting for the rest of the family to wake up and eat breakfast, we decided to go on a bike ride! As part of Hilton Head’s conservation mindset, biking is a common mode of transportation. There are bike paths everywhere, so we decided to take the 7-mile trek down to another beach where there were many shops and restaurants. My mom, dad, Carol, Daniel, John, Peter, Aaron, and myself were those that went on the adventure.

Not many cooperative bike riders for the pic!


The seven mile trek took approximately an hour, so by the time we got to the beach, everyone was ready for some food! We chose a local joint called Daniel’s and had the opportunity to get some seafood! They also had a buy-one-get-one deal so Johnny was pumped that he could get TWO 3/4 pound burgers. That guy can pack in the food! Any time you are on the coast or have an opportunity to have fresh fish tacos, I would highly recommend it. The tacos I had were SO good; what a treat!

10/10 would recommend

Everyone left the restaurant with full bellies and we continued our adventure by checking out the new beach. However, the wind was also strong on this side of the island, so we quickly turns around before we all had tons of sand in our hair. You can tell it was cold because we Minnesotans are all bundled up! Even though it was 60 degrees, the wind made it a pretty chilly day! It was still fun to be in a new place and feel the sun on our faces.


Serious wind!

The boys left after checking out the beach and the rest of us stayed to check out the shops in the area. A few of us grabbed a souvenir or two, and the made the 7- mile trek back home. Since we had left in the morning, the clouds cleared up and revealed clear, sunny skies! The only downfall on the day was all of our sore butts; the bikes are pretty nice, but the seats were pretty rough! On the way back, we passed a few golf courses which is what Hilton Head is known for. You see golfers everywhere here!  Despite the chilly weather, we had a great afternoon adventure! 


After relaxing, golfing, and/or playing rook, we all too the trek to Golden Corral, a Keranen vacation tradition! We have been going to the Goldan Corral for many years, whenever we have been able to find it. Most of the time we have gone in Florida, but whenever we can find it in a city we travel to, it is a bonus! The Goldan Corral is a buffet that has a grill station where you can get steak or ribs and other high quality meats. It is honestly amazing to observe how much food my brothers can eat and how much it makes them happy. 

So many empty plates, so many full bellies!


The also have a legit dessert station and all of the kids were running back for all-you-can-eat ice cream, gummy bears, cotton candy, and other treats. They even have a chocolate fountain to dip things in! It is thepitome of American gluttony but you’ve got to indulge every once in awhile! For all of the first-timers, we heard many rave reviews! I love seeing how happy food makes everyone, especially my family! Tomorrow we are hoping to have another beach day, so we will see how the weather cooperates!

Hilton Head Island

We have arrived in South Carolina! Daniel, Johnny, myself, and a few of the Kruses flew out after class on Tuesday to join the family who drove down on Saturday. This trip our family was traveling with the Kruses, Bruce and Julie Bekkala, and Grandma and Grandpa Tormanen. We heard that the weather had been awesome, so we were excited to leave the 40 degree weather behind in Minnesota. Our flight got in around midnight, so we just got settled in and went to bed so we could be rested for our first full day! 

First time biking with a map! Beautiful landscaping despite the hurricane that hit in October.
What a way to start the morning!
 

This semester, I started a new routine of waking up about an hour earlier than I have to. That way, I can start my morning with a good breakfast and enjoy a hot cup of coffee in the peace and quiet. There is something about the stillness of the morning that is seriously addicting. It has since become one of my favorite parts of every day! Our resort is pretty close to the beach, so I thought it would be fun to start my day there. Even better, we rented some bikes to get around, so I got to start the day with a refreshing, beautiful bike ride. What a start to vacation!

The beaches here are similar to North Carolina; grassy with soft, white sand. Very beautiful. The beach was full of people running and walking, starting their day with some exercise. It felt pretty amazing to be able to drink my coffee while hearing the waves crash, seeing the beautiful ocean, and feeling the warm sun on my cheeks. Well, even though it felt pretty warm to me, most people were in pants and hoodies. There is nothing like spring break to reveal you are from a Northern state! After heading back to the condo to eat some breakfast and collect a few siblings, we headed back to the beach! Being able to lay in the sand, feel the hot sun, and read a good book was such a treat. The weather was perfect today, not too hot, not too cold, revealed by Anna and Johnny’s massive sunburns. Because there is not blistering heat, is easy to stay in the sun all day!


Because we have such a large group, we are able to play a full game of beach volleyball and everyone has a partner for any activity like Shuffleboard or going on a bike ride. Traveling with friends makes everything more fun!

Ahh this is the life!
Does our skin reveal where we are from?!
 

We all spent the morning at the playing around the beach and everyone jumped in the ocean (we were the only ones even touching the water). But, our beach day was cut short because we were going zip lining in the afternoon!  We ziplined with Hilton Head Zipline and everyone had a great time, even though a few had quesy stomachs and shakey knees before we started. Each group had two guides that were great!  The course was about 2 hours long with a variety of line lengths which was fun to experience!

We were split into two groups: the boys and Amy, and the girls. Our guides were trying so hard to get us to yell and scream at each line, and it took us awhile to get giggly enough to play along. By the end, we were screeching at the top of our lungs, laughing, and our guides were so proud. It was fun to Zipline again after Thailand! The feeling of flying through the air definitely doesn’t get old! It was interesting to see how different the liability and safety process was. The rules in Thailand were a lot more lax and their safety presentation lasted about 90 seconds compared to the 30 minute demonstration we did here.

Because Hilton Head Island was built from a conservational perspective, there are no buildings higher than the trees in the area. Lucky for us, the course had a few really tall trees, so we were at the highest legal point you could access on Hilton Head Island! There are also no streetlights here because sea turtles that hatch follow the moon back to the water and if they see lights, they don’t make it to the ocean! It’s interesting to see how different areas have different policies regarding the animals and environment.

We all got nice nicknames! “Crazy Carol” “Amanduhh”

After eating, we all were pretty wiped out, and spent the evening visiting and enjoying the resort at the hot tub, playing shuffleboard, and biking around. The best part of vacation is that we can just chill! Fortunately, we have three more days to bike, swim, laugh, visit, and explore Hilton Head! What a great start to the week!

Vancouver, Canada

Well, I couldn’t stay in the US for long. I think once you use your passport once, collecting stamps becomes an addiction. Nick got his passport a few weeks before we started planning our trip to Washington, so we thought it would be the perfect opportunity for him to get his first stamp! Vancouver is actually only about a four hour drive from Seattle, straight up Interstate 5, so the drive feels quick and is pretty easy. Again, we left early enough to beat traffic and were on our way. Similar to our adventure to Olympic National Park, we had a pretty loose itinerary and just a few places we wanted to see. This trip reaffirmed this type of traveling- it is so much more fun to have flexibility and just see where the day takes you!

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Perfect weather!

Crossing the boarder was very quick and easy except we had to ask to get our passports stamped. Did you even go there if you didn’t get your passport stamped?! Plus, it was Nick’s first time using his passport, so we had to make sure to get stamps. We stopped at the visitor’s center to grab a few maps because we quickly realized we did not have the ability to use Google Maps anymore. We both would recommend renting a GPS with your rental car for the $10 or whatever it is if you are planning on driving in another country! It will make your life a lot easier! I struggle with directions, so it was interesting to try and get to our destinations with me as the primary map reader-you learn a lot about someone when you travel with them:) Nick has a lot of patience!

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Not pictured- the other four maps that needed to be cross referenced!

Our first stop of the day was to the Canadian staple coffee shop, Tim Hortons! These were literally everywhere. They are famous for their coffee and treats and they also have food at some locations. At this point, I was so hungry I was hangry, so their food and coffee tasted like a 5 star restaurant to me! I think all my travel partners have learned that it is in everyone’s best interest to keep me fed:) We stopped here for coffee later in the day, and it was just as good; the caffeine was also pretty effective!

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Vancouver is known for it’s suspension bridges, so we decided that was a must-see. There is a pretty famous one that costs about $40 to cross, but that seemed pretty steep to walk across a bridge that was most likely going to be packed with other tourists. So, we opted for the free option which was a smaller bridge over Lynn Canyon, and it was perfectly fine! The suspension bridge is part of a small protected area and hiking grounds, so we were able to stretch our legs after many hours in the car. We actually got to the park at the same time as a bus of day care kids, so it was pretty busy, but it was nice to be outside looking at pretty scenery!img_2618

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Very narrow bridge over a gorge!

The suspension bridge was high above a river and there were nicely wooden trails all the way down to the bottom where there was a nice area to swim and hang out. We made our way to the bottom with the day care kids!

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The river water at the bottom was crystal clear and there were many rocks to jump off which made us instantly regret not wearing our suits, but we decided if we had time at the end of the day, we would come and jump in! Unfortunately, it was a pretty steep trek back up to the top of the canyon, so we really wished we could jump in when we got back to the car! However, we needed to keep the day going, so we made our way to Stanley Park. This is where things got interesting with no GPS, but we made it! Maybe driving without a GPS is actually just a good test of a relationship?!

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Stanley Park is located on a little peninsula-shaped piece of land. All of the land on the peninsula is part of the park, so there are many paths and things to look at and explore. The largest path follows the water and you are able to see the city of Vancouver from across the water! It was very beautiful! One of the things that we noticed the most about Vancouver was that it was very clean. Especially once you got to the tourist area downtown, it was apparent that this city had a lot of money. Robin told us later that this was because immigrants that come to this city have to have a minimum net worth, so they maintain a very wealthy population. It was very obvious!

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Beautiful city!

There was a lot of green and chrome in this city. The buildings all had beautiful architecture and reflected the sunlight in different ways, so the city looked like it was expensive and shiny. After walking around Stanley Park for awhile, we walked along the boardwalk next to the fancy buildings! This is where their large event centers are as well as where the Olympic cauldron was!

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You know the city is posh when they don’t have ANY tourist shops. Nick was determined to find a sweatshirt in Canada and found one at the very beginning of the day, but passed it up thinking there would be many opportunities to buy one. We literally looked for hours, and did not find one! Even though he was pretty annoyed, I thought it was hilarious. Lesson learned-if you find a sweatshirt or souvenir you like, just buy it!! We had to get tacos on the way back to improve his mood 🙂

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You can see a ski plane in the back of the photo! There was a lot to watch on the water!

We were pretty beat after walking up and down the boardwalk so many times, so we decided that the perfect way to end the day would be jumping in the river at the bottom of the canyon we visited earlier that day. So, we made our way back, ran down to the bottom, and jumped in!  IT WAS FREEZING, but very refreshing after a long day! It was also some of the clearest water I have ever seen! We saw some cliff jumpers there who were jumping into narrow columns of water and sliding off of natural waterfalls/waterslides. It was impressive to watch.

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After drying off and grabbing some coffee to fuel our four hour long drive home, we were on our way! It was another long day, but again, worth it! We didn’t even want to count how many miles we drove while on this trip! If you are in the Seattle area, Vancouver is a great day trip option. If you are not interested in driving, you could take a train up and stay a night as well! One day was enough for us, but again, it was a busy, long day with long hours in the car, so you have to be okay with that. It was fun to get out of the country again, even if it was just to Canada! Really the only difference that you notice is that instead of mph, speed limits are in km/hr and you buy gas by the liter. But, we got a passport stamp and many fun memories out of the deal! Besides not finding a sweatshirt, I would say that Nick had a pretty awesome first international experience!

 

Olympic National Park, Washington

Nick and I made the trek to Washington in August (2016) for an end-of-the-summer adventure. Joan and Rob were nice enough to open their home to us and they were very gracious and welcoming hosts. After spending a day relaxing around the Tacoma area down by the Puget Sound, we decided to spend the next day of our trip exploring Olympic National Park. After Thailand, I knew that there wasn’t a lot of value in extensive planning, but had found a few things that we wanted to see. Kaye recommended visiting the Hoh Rainforest and we read about Ruby Beach, but we didn’t know much else about the park. Joan had been to the park many times and shared a few of the itineraries with us. After looking at the map and listening to her recommendations, we decided we were going to do a loop around the park and peninsula, despite the many hours of driving it would add. It total, it was about a 20 hour day, but it was worth it!

We started our day early enough to beat the rush hour traffic and made our way north towards Hurricane Ridge. Joan had told us about the many fun memories she had there and couldn’t say enough about the views, so we knew we had to stop. After a few hours of driving, we stopped in Port Angeles to grab some snacks for the rest of the day and stretched our legs along the boardwalk. You could see Victoria, Canada across the water along the horizon! It was a little bit nippy in the morning, but it the sun was peaking out and we knew it was going to be a beautiful day.

 

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I LOVE THE MOUNTAINS!

Much like driving through Yellowstone or other national parks, we wound our way up the ridge on a narrow two-way road. It was pretty foggy at the bottom, but as we made our way up, the fog broke and revealed amazing scenery. We stopped at almost every overlook to take photos and appreciate what we were seeing; our parents and grandparents would have been so proud!! We have both been to the mountains before, but Hurricane Ridge was so unique because if you turned 360 degrees, you could see dense forests, snow-capped mountains, and the ocean. It was magnificent!!

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Nick turned out to be a great travel partner!

After reaching the top of the ridge, you can park your car and do some hiking to explore the area. There was a nice visitor’s center and paved trails around the ridge, so you could see all of the different viewpoints. The sun was warm, but the breeze was cool and refreshing! Even though Thailand was amazing, it is really hard to beat cool, brisk air with the warm sun on your shoulders. It was nice to stretch our legs and breathe in some fresh air before spending another few hours in the car.

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Love seeing the different climates!

After we hiked around for awhile, we decided we had better get going to our next destination. Even though Joan warned us that the rainforest might be dry, we decided that we may as well check it out while we were in the area. After all, it is one of the largest temperate rainforests in the US! We drove another few hours through peaks and valleys and also got to see some pretty beautiful lakes, so it went by pretty quick! To our surprise, the rainforest was actually very lush! The lighting was very dim and diffuse due to the canopy and overcast skies, so I didn’t get a picture to fully capture the magical feeling that this place exuded. It really felt like we were in the movie Jurassic Park!

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These both are Google pictures to help you get an idea of what it was like!

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Literally everything was covered in moss, and if it wasn’t covered in moss, there was probably a fern growing there. Grandma Anne would have LOVED it! Additionally, because the area gets almost 14 feet of rain a year, the trees were SO tall. Everything about this place was magnificent; it was fun to be able to witness such a unique climate after just being on top of Hurricane Ridge! The rainforest has a bunch of trails that bring you to a variety of different plants and covered trees. You leave feeling like you just stepped back in time for a little bit, we both would recommend it!

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After going through the trails in record time (we really need to learn how to stop and smell the roses instead of being so efficient all the time!) we stopped to eat at the “Hard Rain” cafe. Very clever. We filled our bellies and were off to our final destination, Ruby Beach! I found an article on Ruby Beach when looking for fun things to do in Washington, and it said that it was a perfect place to relax and watch the sunset. However, Nick thought that it might be fun to have a fire because it was getting pretty nippy, so we went in search of wood. Also, because it was a national park we thought we should probably ask before starting a fire on the beach. We found a little gas station and the cashier said that there isn’t really any official rule about fires so the worst that could happen would be that park officials would just ask you to put it out. That was good enough for us! We grabbed some supplies and then made our way down to the beach.

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A lot more grey on this side of the world!

If you have been to the Oregon coast, this beach was very similar. It was really rocky but was so beautiful. Ruby beach is actually part of a long stretch of coastline that is protected as part of the Olympic National Park. We had some time before sunset and explored some of the tide pools and rock formations along the water. It was fun to think about how big our world is and how different each ocean climate is. The Pacific ocean offered a rocky, windy, chilly environment where the Indian Ocean offered a warm, moist, white-sand environment. The same salty water, but two totally different experiences. This is why traveling is so awesome!

img_2554Ruby beach was really crowded and there were not any dry places to start a fire, so we decided to go down a few beaches to Beach 4 where there was actually sand and some drift wood to collect. After many hours in the car and our active activities, it felt so good to be able to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenery in front of us. We both noted the fact that not many people get have a fire on an empty beach next to the ocean, listening to waves crash and wood crackle. This will always be a special memory!

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A great way to end the summer!

After enjoying the sunset and relaxing by the fire, we decided we better start our 3 hour journey back to Joan and Rob’s. We talked for awhile about our day and realized that we had been on a mountain, in the rainforest, and on the ocean, all in 12 hours! The itinerary was pretty strenuous, but we would both highly recommend doing this loop if you don’t mind being in the car for many hours. It is not very often that you get to see so many climates and environments in such a short period of time! We both went to bed exhausted but content at a day well spent. This being my first trip after Thailand, it was fun to make special memories with a new travel partner in the US! It helped me realize that you don’t always need to use your passport to have a great adventure-even though we went to Vancouver a few days later. The US isn’t so bad after all 🙂

Home Sweet Home

It has been almost exactly one week since we flew out of Chiang Mai for the last time, but it feels like a lifetime ago. It almost feels like I never left! The journey home felt way longer than the trek to Thailand, and by our second flight, we were over it. Luckily, on my 14 hour flight from Dubai to Chicago I got to sit right in the middle of two engineering students, one from India and one from Pakistan. I would always rather pass time chatting with someone, so it was really fun to be able to share what it is like in our own countries and share our college experiences. What was interesting is that most Americans are scared of the Middle East, but the student from Pakistan was nervous about coming to the US, and his family even told him to keep the fact that he was from Pakistan a secret. One of the coolest parts about traveling and meeting people from around the world is that you realize that for the most part, people are just people, regardless of their religion, culture, or heritage. It is pretty humbling to realize.


When we finally made it to Chicago, we all were running on fumes. Our flight had over 1,000 checked bags on it, so we waited for almost an hour until we got out bags. Customs went very smoothly as well as getting to our last terminal, but security took forever. By the time we got to our gate we were all super hungry, thirsty, and falling asleep, but we still had a two hours until we got to board. Let’s just say we all have forgave each other for our terrible attitudes during that time. It felt so good to know that we were in America, but we were still so far from being home. We were all trying to stay awake so we could just go to bed when we got back around 9pm, but we could not keep our eyes open. I literally woke up when our plane landed in Minneapolis! I can’t tell you how good it felt to drive away from the airport, knowing I wouldn’t be on a plane for a long time.

Tourist till the very last day!

It was really fun to be able to spend the weekend with our people! We got to experience being a local celebrity at church and share many quick synopsises of our trip. How do you condense an entire month of traveling into an answer for, “What was your favorite part?” I really should just give out business cards with my blog link so people can fully understand our experience:)

Celebrating Anna’s confirmation!

Doing American things was so unreal. Having the freedom to drive my own car has been a luxury! The grocery store was full of foods I recognized and I knew exactly where to find what I needed. My kitchen had pots and pans to cook with and all the flavors were exactly as I remembered. One thing about American food that is different is that the flavors are extreme. Compared to the Thai processed foods, things here are really salty and really sweet. For example, in Thailand, they don’t even have salt on their crackers, and some crackers here, you literally have to scrape off salt so your mouth doesn’t pucker. The only thing about American culture that has been a little weird is that it feels like I walking around in my underwear after wearing longer shorts in Thailand! It will take a little getting used to for sure.

Maya does not like to look at the camera…

Going back to work was another amazing thing. I was just floating around in a happy bubble because I got to see blood, pull IVs, solve problems, connect EKG lines, and talk about nursing for an entire 8 hours. I didn’t realize it was such a big part of my life, until it felt like I was literally feeding an addiction when people would ask for help or try teach me something and I was just pumped. It feels really good to use your brain after a month of coordinating meals and transportation. Don’t most people smile when they hear that the next patient coming out of the operating room is a kidney transplant?!

One thing I have realized since I have gotten back is that there are many different versions of home and family. Going back to my parents house for the weekend was one home and family, and then going back to my apartment and my roommates was another version. It sounds a little weird, but going back to work felt the same way. I spend so many hours on the floor I work on with the same people, and while I cringe at the cliche, we really are a family. Work to me is to the point where if I am ever stressed with school and have two papers due the next day and an exam, I love going to work because I can’t do homework, I know exactly what to do to do a good job, I learn cool things, and I get to be with some great people while getting paid! It’s pretty rare to find this with a job, so I am going to try really hard to find something similar when I graduate.

It was really fun to share my hospital experience with my coworkers! Most were pretty shocked and would reply with, “Well good thing we are here!” Maybe I was able to give people perspective for at least a few minutes before the complaining started again:) Even though cleaning and making beds are my least favorite parts of my job, I now can complete the tasks knowing that not everybody gets the luxury of a clean bed or clean equipment. It still blows my mind.

The weirdest thing about being home is that nothing has changed. Besides a few new songs on the radio, warmer weather, and some new posters at work, everything is the same. It is almost as though I pressed pause when I left and play when I got back. This is both comforting and scary at the same time because if we don’t travel and switch things up once-in-a-while, our life can go past in a blur of everyday monotony. However, one thing that has changed is me. I have seen and experienced things that have given me new knowledge and perspective that those who were not on the trip can’t understand. After thinking about how valuable this trip was and how much it opened my eyes, I got really scared I wouldn’t get to go on another trip before life got too crazy, so Beth, Maria, and I started planning our next one, just to make sure that it happens. I really thought it would take more than a few days to feel like the next trip needed to be in the books, but I really should not be suprised. There is only so much time before life gets really busy and really expensive, so I feel like every opportunity I have to travel needs to be seized.


The summer is going to fly by and then all that stands between me and being a big kid is two semesters! It is both exciting and terrifying. I will be using this blog for my next adventures, whether it be local, domestic, or international, so stay tuned! Thank you for following our crazy adventure and being so willing to share our excitement, photos, and stories. Until the next trip!

Day 26: Goodbye Thailand!

Our departure day has arrived! After our many adventures, flights, and change of plans, we will be making our long trek home. Our day started very early, and we were out by the beach at 6am to take a long tail boat back to the mainland. We were greeted by a beautiful sunrise. It seems that Thailand wants us to remember it well because it has treated us to some great views the last few days. After everything that has happened this trip, every good experience is considered a win and our goal is just to get back to America. This sunrise was a great start to our journey home.

After getting to the pier, we grabbed a taxi to the airport. We got to ride in one of the truck taxis one last time. It was pretty cool to get to have another authentic Thai experience even on our last day. Again, it was a beautiful morning, and we got to enjoy the fresh air while taking the last bits of Krabi in.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get through the morning without any bumps. For some reason, my ticket was not confirmed so I had to bounce between counters and eventually just buy a new one to get on the flight. We are so happy that we will never be taking another Air Asia flight. Even though we appreciate the cheap prices (usually around 50 USD) we have taken 6 flights with this airline in the last two weeks and have had our fair share of drama. I honestly would have paid anything to get on that flight- the goal at this point is just to get back to America! Our flight was very smooth and Randy was waiting for us right where he always is outside of terminal two. He actually was waiting for us in that spot the last two weeks, waiting for our call that we were coming back early. What a great guy:)

After we got back to Randy’s, we were treated to one last delicious Thai meal complete with mangoes and sticky rice! They would have been so ashamed with how we have been eating. I will always remember Kun Pa’s cooking very fondly when I think of Thailand. I only wish that I knew what it was so I could try order it at a restaurant! We had the afternoon to finish packing and rest our eyes. Laura hasn’t been back to America for almost 6 months and has most of her things from London still, so it was interesting to watch her try get all of her things into her bags under the 50lb weight limit. She made it!

Right before we left, Kun Pa and Kun Mae performed a string ceremony for us. It is a traditional Buddhist ritual that they use to keep good spirits with those wearing the strings and the bad spirits away. They were wishing us a safe trip, good health, good fortune, and good grades in college. (We all will be needing the spirits with us in our last year of college, let’s be honest!) They ended their wishes by asking us to come back to Thailand to visit. Their eyes shone with tears and it was so touching because their wishes really were sincere. This family has taken us in as their own daughters, granddaughters, nieces, and cousins and have shone us nothing but love since we have arrived. We all really have a second family and home here in Thailand.

As we said our final goodbyes to the family, our hearts were really heavy. It wasn’t until this moment that I truly experienced a bittersweet moment. Even though I am so excited to get back to America and my people there, I will really miss Thailand and all of the special people I have connected with here.  It is pretty amazing that we have such great people on both ends of the world both bidding us farewell and waiting excitedly for our arrival. We are so lucky and so so thankful!

We stopped at a gas station to grab a few of our favorite Thai treats and then made our way to the Chiang Mai airport, our second home in Thailand. We all got to get one last bear hug from Randy and held on extra tight as we said goodbye. We can’t say enough how thankful we are for the experience him and his family have given us.  They all hold a special place in our hearts!

After checking in, we were treated with the surprise that we got to sit in the Bangkok Airways lounge before our flight! They had free snacks, coffee, and good wifi so we were so pumped. We are not sure why we got to be there but did not ask any questions. We are going our good fortune continues for our next four flights back to Minneapolis!

We are at the Chiang Mai airport now and will fly to Bangkok, then Dubai, then Chicago, and finally Minneapolis. We have about 36 hours of flying and sitting in airports ahead of us so we are settling in with Game of Thrones and our iPads! We are hoping for smooth flights because we can not wait to be back!