Our EDventures 2018 –

A World of Learning!

The end of a year is always a great time to reminisce and relish the memories of another epic 12 months of travel. In 2018 we traveled to six states: Kauai, Nevada, Washington DC, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York, and Utah. We also visited eight countries: French Polynesia, Croatia, Italy, Ireland, St. Lucia, Barbados, Antigua, and St. Kitts. In our home state of California, we explored Balboa Island, Santa Ynez Valley, and the Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea area.

More importantly, we celebrated some pretty exciting milestones. My husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary, and we officially became a family of all teens. So what did we “learn” along the way? Well, quite a bit in fact! For example, did you know that a gulet is a Turkish boat or that sea cucumbers don’t have brains? Keep reading to find out what else we learned this past year.

Kauai is the Wettest Place on Earth

Our first trip of the year was to Kauai. We learned that Mt. Waialeale averages 450 inches of rain each year. And that's what gives them the credibility to boast at being the wettest place on Earth. Of course, depending on where your information comes from, you might read about other places in the Hawaiian islands or in Asia touting the same claim to fame. But no one can deny that Kauai has an incredibly lush interior filled with waterfalls and always seems to be raining. This plethora of water also made Kauai the perfect place to grow sugarcane. Each pound of sugar requires two thousand pounds of water. Since water is not in shortage on Kauai, irrigation canals were dug in the 1800s to bring water down from the mountains to the sugarcane plantations.

Gettysburg is So Much More Than a Battle

Anytime we have a chance to visit a place we have read about, we always gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the events that took place there. Gettysburg was all that and then some.  We spent our elementary and middle school years reading books, doing projects and learning about the Civil War and the battle of Gettysburg. But being able to walk the battlefield with a knowledgeable guide far exceeded anything we had previously learned. From bullets lodged in the walls of homes to retracing the steps of Pickett's Charge the events of those three days came alive for us. Gettysburg was more than a three-day battle, it was a turning point in our country's history that would eventually end the Civil War and slavery.

A Book Collection Can Become a National Treasure

While on our East Coast history tour, we also stopped in at Monticello for a visit. Many things caught our attention here. For example, did you know that Jefferson was a great inventor, architect, and book collector? We learned that he sold his library in 1815 to the United States Library of Congress.  Their books had been lost to a fire when the British burned the Capitol in 1814. While visiting Monticello we were able to visit his library, see his replaced book collection, some of his inventions and the desk where he wrote.

Sea Cucumbers Were Made for Boys!

Ok, this wasn't our first experience with sea cucumbers. And so I have no idea why we didn’t learn these fascinating facts until this year! While in Moorea and staying at the Taoahere Beach House, we found that the entire coastline was filled with these pickle-like creatures. Every day we swam, snorkeled and kayaked in the bay in front of the resort, and we found them in vast quantities. They are squishy to touch and basically dull to watch. We all got curious about their lifespan, diet and other details which prompted us to do some research. But the two most interesting facts that literally sent our boys into a fit of laughter were…  they breathe out of their butts, and they have no brains. Enough said.

French Polynesia is Possible on a Budget

This year we enjoyed our third trip to French Polynesia and discovered a budget-friendly option.  The sound of places like Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Moorea have long been the envy of travelers in search of perfect, pristine beaches and aquarium-like water. It is true that this corner of the world is not usually included in budget options, but this year we discovered a way to do it for less.  Here’s what we learned… ferry to Moorea for just $15 instead of spending hundreds of dollars on a flight to Bora Bora. Then rent a car and book the Taohere Beach House or an Airbnb option.

A Mud Flat Can Become a Multi-million Dollar Property

Balboa Island in Newport Beach is one of the wealthiest pieces of land in all of California, but did you know that it began as a mud flat? It was nothing more than a 2-acre head of mud when a visionary in the 1800s had big plans for it. By dredging sand, he increased the size to 35 acres and then sold plots of land for $300-$600.  Today the island is filled with multi-million dollar homes. Some are available for rent, and this is a lovely spot for a vacation.

A Gulet is a Boat

When we first set out to rent a boat in Croatia, we were looking for a catamaran.  We had never heard of a gulet before (pronounced gooleh).  We soon became familiar with them as they are very popular in Croatia.  A gulet is a classic wooden yacht that originated from Turkey. Although their original purpose was for fishing, today they are built specifically for tourism. As far as I know, gulets for tourism only operate in Turkey, Greece, and Croatia. It ended up being the perfect choice for our us and our 12 guests. They are wide vessels with lots of room and come with a full staff.

Croatia is the Land of Islands

While on our gulet, we learned that Croatia has 1244 islands to explore and just 48 of them are inhabited.  This made for endless choices on how we wanted to spend each day. Our captain was flexible and full of great ideas. Most days we just woke up and decided where to head after breakfast. In a week, we visited only five islands, so clearly we'll have to do another boat vacation in Croatia some day.

The Gateway to Big Sur is Named After a New Yorker

The Bixby Creek Bridge hugging the California coastline might be the most photographed bridge in the United States. Constructed in 1931, and standing over 250 feet high, it is considered to be the gateway to Big Sur. A pioneer by the name of Charles Bixby fell in love with this coastline and spent many years traveling back and forth between the East Coast and the West Coast. Then in the late 1800s, he purchased the land where the bridge stands today. Years later when the bridge was finally built, it was named after Bixby.

Ireland (like everywhere else) Has a Tragic Past

The inside of Kilmainham Jail
The inside of Kilmainham Jail
We learned about the tragic story of James Connelly, a young man with great convictions and a hope for a better Ireland. He was part of the Easter Rising of 1916 and as a result, was tried and executed. It was his death that brought about an outrage from the Irish because of the manner-in-which he was executed. Severely injured from the fighting, he was only expected to only live another day or two. But nonetheless, he was sentenced to be executed. They carried him by stretcher to Kilmainham Jail and tied him to a chair where the firing squad shot and killed him.  Our entire tour of Kilmainham Jail was one of the most interesting places we visited in Ireland. The docent-led tour was provided an excellent overview of Ireland’s recent history which included not only the Easter Rising of 1916 but also the Potato Famine.

Real Sea Salt Makes Delicious Ice Cream

On a lighter note in Ireland, we thoroughly enjoyed the delicious handmade ice cream at Murphy's in Dingle. We learned that they harvest seawater from the Irish Sea to make their ice cream. With flavors like Sticky Toffee Pudding and Caramelized Brown Bread, it was hard to choose, but I can assure you they were all delicious!

Some Trees are Stranglers

While in St. Lucia on the Rainforest Adventures tour we learned about the strangler fig trees.  Wow, these trees are amazing! They begin as a seed high up in the canopy layer of the rainforest and then work their way down the trunk of their host tree. The vines eventually grow into trunks of their own and grow down into the soil on the rainforest floor. It’s so backward from the way trees usually grow. While on the canopy zip lining tour we had some great views of these massive beings.

Of course this is just a sampling of what we learned this year. Each destination and experience brings with it a new appreciation for some marvelous creation or understanding of a piece of history. Travel also invites us to learn about people, cultures, food, languages... and the list goes on.

What did you learn this year? Let us know by sharing in the comments below.


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