Happy Birthday, Expedia Viewfinder

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Celebrating our one-year anniversary with travel reflections from the team

Time certainly flies when you’re traveling. That’s what we like to say around here. It’s hard to believe it was just a year ago that the Expedia Viewfinder blog launched with an inaugural team of 10 bloggers. Well 300 blog posts and thousands of miles later, we’ve grown to 12 bloggers and are celebrating our one-year anniversary. Happy Birthday to us!

In the months since the Expedia Viewfinder’s debut, our bloggers have done everything from paragliding over Hawaii to taking European cruises, dog-sledding the Canadian Rockies to perusing Moroccan markets. 

Trust me: These experiences and trips have been super-exciting for us. More than anything, however, we hope our adventures have been exciting for YOU as well, and that we’ve inspired you to broaden your own horizons through travel. We believe every trip is unique and personal; that every vacation has the potential to be transformational. By sharing our views, hopefully we’ve helped you find yours.

To celebrate our one-year anniversary, we asked our bloggers to share one of their especially memorable travel moments from the last year. Here, in no particular order, are their picks.

The team at launch, during TBEX 2013

Trish Friesen (a.k.a., Trip Styler)

Traveling an average of two weeks every month for my job as a trip stylist, you’d think I’d see the world though a jet-set lens. Yet my wonder—the driving force behind what I do—is still very much intact due to destinations such as Lanai. You don’t go to The Pineapple Isle to party or to immerse yourself in tourist activities. You go to, well, go your own way, meaning a) hike to the top of a ridge with such eye-popping views you’ll want to pop a bottle of Champagne, b) 4×4 to a deserted beach complete with a shipwreck, and c) stroll up to Sweetheart Rock to watch the sun paint the land a crimson-yellow color so unique it should be its own Pantone shade. My four-night island interlude saw me spend two days DIY exploring like I was on a Google Map-mobile mission, and two days dancing between the beach and the pool at the Four Seasons Lanai at Manele Bay. Here, my wonder-meter reached a paradise realm.

Beth Whitman

When in Rome, you eat. Just like I did for my Foodie’s Guide to Rome post. While I loved the cuisine, what I didn’t mention in that particular story was how blown away I was by the city’s ancient architecture and infrastructure. I ate, toured, and ate some more. But I worked-off my pasta meals with early-morning runs along cobblestone streets and past structures like the Colosseum. In some ways, getting to know a city by beating a path step-by-step is even more intimate than experiencing it through its food.

Anne Taylor Hartzell (a.k.a., Hip Travel Mama)

I’ll never forget the moment we arrived at the train station in Paris and made our way through the streets our boutique hotel in the St. Germain arrondissement. It was early evening, so we dropped our bags and grabbed a quick bite to eat at a little restaurant recommended by the concierge. After dinner, our little family of four (the girls then 5 and 9) piled into a taxi to see the Eiffel Tower for the first time. I still remember the anticipation as we passed each street sign, hoping to sneak a peek of the magnificent tower lit up at night. As we approached the final street, we all caught a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower in the distance, gleaming bright yellow and towering high above the city skyline. We gasped, and, as we approached, our daughters shrieked with delight.

The Hartzells in Paris

No Vacation Required

Summertime is here! For us that means one thing: Road trips. This season of car journeys has us thinking about one of our very favorite adventures – road tripping through the national parks in the Rocky Mountains of the American West. Our top three: Grand Teton National Park, with its impossibly jagged peaks; other-worldly Yellowstone National Park; and majestic Glacier National Park, our favorite of the bunch. There’s nothing like spending time in nature!

Carol Cain (a.k.a., Girl Gone Travel)

One of my favorite trips this past year was to the Peninsula of Samana, in the Dominican Republic. It was a special trip because I wasn’t just seeing this destination from the perspective of a traveler, but also as someone who was coming back home. This is a special place in my childhood memories. Friends became family, and the town and its people were kind to me. I have fond memories of swimming in the beaches and caves that I talk about in the post. Of course, getting up close and personal during the whale watching excursion is an experience I will not soon forget. For me, sharing this travel piece with our readers felt special and intimate, as if I was giving them a piece of my home. It’s a place I hope many others will get to explore too.

Kara Williams

Hands-down, my family’s favorite beach destination is the Riviera Maya, Mexico. We’ve visited this area on the Caribbean Sea at least every other year since 2001—it was my oldest child’s first international trip! We like it because we can reach Cancun quickly via a non-stop, four-hour flight from Denver, and we appreciate the plethora of all-inclusive resorts up and down the coast from Puerto Morelos to Tulum. Now that the kids are older, we seek adrenaline-rush activities on our trips to the Riviera Maya, namely ziplining at Xcaret theme park and swimming with whale sharks off the coast of Cancun. The whale-shark experience is amazing; we did it a couple years ago with our extended family, and everyone from my 10-year-old son to my 68-year-old mother-in-law participated. It’s exhilarating, exciting, and by far the most unusual adventure my family has enjoyed together in Mexico, or anywhere!

The Planet D after diving with sharks

The Planet D

Our favorite trip experience of last year was cage-diving with Great White Sharks off the coast of South Africa. It is an adventure we never thought we’d have the opportunity to try. This is something you only see on the Discovery Channel or in National Geographic! But there we were, stepping into a cage to witness the beauty and strength of these elegant creatures. There is nothing more thrilling than looking a Great White in the eye. You can feel their intelligence and curiosity pierce through the water as they swim by your cage to take a closer look. It not only was our favorite experience of last year, it was our favorite experience in all of our travels.

Midlife Road Trip

Of all the amazing Viewfinder-inspired travel moments over the last year, my absolute favorite occurred on Frederick Sound, in Alaska’s Inside Passage, while aboard a small-ship adventure. As we entered the sound we spotted a couple of humpback whales feeding off the starboard side of the ship. Everybody rushed to the side to snap pictures. Moments later we saw two more whales and everyone rushed to the port side to capture their picture. The further we got into the sound, the more whales we saw. We were soon surrounded by whales, many were almost close enough to touch. For the next four hours we witnessed literally hundreds of whales feeding, breaching and waving their flukes. Disney couldn’t have orchestrated a better show. The experience was absolutely surreal.  

Matt Villano

Expedia’s “Find your Storybook” campaign spotlights once-in-a-lifetime, fantasy trips. Naturally, then, my favorite experience in this last calendar year was reporting and writing about my family’s storybook adventure—a four-day trip to Yosemite National Park. The trip was a first for everyone except me—the first time either of my daughters had been to Yosemite, and the first time my wife had been there, as well. Over the course of four days, I watched with delight as the three of them fell in love with the place. The best part of our trip played out on the last night; the four of us hiked down to a soft bank of the Merced River and spent hours tossing rocks into the water. I taught the girls how to skip stones. My wife helped them build miniature dams. For those few hours, we were the only people in the entire park. And it was magical.

Cobblestone streets in Rome

Captain and Clark

The past year has blessed us with an incredible amount of travel experiences. We headed back to our adopted hometown in South Korea, honeymooned on three different Hawaiian Islands, explored the beauty of Croatia, and even found our story in Costa Brava, Spain. While it’s nearly impossible to choose a favorite destination, there’s one country that will forever be in our hearts: Iceland. Our trip to Iceland was a dream trip for us. It’s a destination that we always had wanted to visit. It did not disappoint. Our road trip through eastern Iceland was filled with both trials and treasures. We explored ancient Viking caves, chased the Northern Lights, dipped our boots in glacial lagoons, and navigated through harrowing snow storms. We also ate. A lot. Truth be told, two weeks just wasn’t enough and we’re hoping that this next year will lead us back to this magical island.

Kate Thomas (a.k.a., Travel with Kate)

Rome is an enchanting city, full of things to see and consume. One could visit numerous times and never really experience all it has to offer. But I think the secret to exploring Rome is to let the city guide you. Once you’ve gotten the lay of the land there, carve some time out of your itinerary to simply take it in, listen to those glorious accents, leisurely slurp up your pasta, marvel at the locals and let yourself wander through the streets. I wrote about this practice for the Expedia Viewfinder in a story about slowing down in Rome and enjoying parks to get great views. The experience helped me get in sync with the local rhythm of the city. It made for an unforgettable trip.

Expedia compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site, such compensation may include travel and other costs.

Spencer Spellman

Spencer Spellman served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Expedia Viewfinder blog until October 2014. Flying for the first time at age five and by himself for the first time at age seven, he's never been able to kick the travel habit. Getting his start in the travel industry a few years ago as a writer and editor for a travel guide publisher, the last three years has seen Spencer out on his own, gallivanting around the world and sharing his experiences for outlets that have included the National Geographic Intelligent Travel blog, 7x7 Magazine, Drink Me Magazine, AOL Travel, and Travel + Escape, just to name a few.

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