After completing our Asia adventure, we returned to the United States via Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and came back to Nana’s place in Orem where we unpacked for a two-week whirlwind visit. It was anything but restful as we focused on accomplishing what was necessary before we headed abroad, again: Anna completed her 9 online school classes + final exams; Tyler took his needed finals and signed up for his next courses; Tera helped gather everything necessary to host a Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner and repack for our upcoming 3-month trip; Erik and Nana recruited the kids to help move furniture and clean out the house to get it ready to sell; and we all enjoyed treasured celebrations with friends and loved ones. We then headed out on our next adventure to South America, beginning with a perfectly planned stopover in Dallas to see family, followed by Miami for a temple trip and preparing to embark on the Norwegian Sun cruise ship.
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1 . Reconnecting with friends in Las Vegas and attending the Las Vegas Temple – We flew into Los Angeles from Singapore (18 hours of flight time) and started driving immediately north. That trip is pretty killer: Departing Singapore on Monday at 10am, flying for 17.5 hours, and then landing in the USA that same morning at 8:30am. Adding 16 extra hours to a travel day is pretty exhausting. Luckily, we had three drivers, so we were able take turns, as we were all super-sleepy and jet-lagged. We were graciously invited to overnight with the Lantz family in Las Vegas, a fantastic traveling family we got to know this past summer in Utah. The following morning, we met up with the Kelly family at the Las Vegas temple and for lunch. We caught up on the last 3-weeks of adventures and then parted ways as they headed south to Arizona and then Texas, and we headed north to Utah.
2. Completing online classes and taking finals at BYU – Anna was an online high school student machine while we were in Asia, enrolling in and completing 9 online courses. For the two-week stint in Utah, she was taking the bus down to BYU almost every day to complete final exams. Tyler joined her on a couple of days to complete a few finals of his own. They both did extremely well on their tests, and signed right back up for more courses to complete on our next trip.
3. Thanksgiving and Christmas celebration dinners with family – We had a Thanksgiving feast with Nana, Grammy and Grampy, and Nathan, Emily, Emily's best friend Alena, and Emily’s fiancée, Jonathan. It was a wonderful meal, and we even had to take steps to avert a proto-typical Thanksgiving meal disaster when Nana woke up and discovered that the Turkey had frozen overnight in the garage refrigerator. The following week, we had another feast with Erik’s older sister Kristin and her family, and then celebrated Pre-Christmas the following night with Nathan, Emily and Jonathan, since we won’t be together over Christmas. Emily and Jonathan will be spending Christmas with Jonathan’s family in Nashville, and Nathan will be going down to family in Texas.
4. Finalizing the real estate preparations for Nana’s house sale – When we came to Utah in August and September, we were able to help Nana move all the major furniture items into her new house. This time, we were able to help her move the “rest” of the house, and clean it out so that she could put it up for sale. Our days were filled with wall-patching and painting and cleaning and moving boxes and furniture, and we were grateful for the opportunity to assist.
5. More great Utah theatre and concerts – The accessible quality arts programs are definitely one of our favorite things about visiting Utah and Salt Lake Counties. We attended another pair of shows in the Greater Salt Lake Valley: the “Scarlet Pimpernel” musical at the Hale Theatre in Sandy, and a BYU production of “Radium Girls.” Both shows were excellent, Radium Girls being especially thought-provoking and relevant even today, thanks to the insights of the Dramaturg (a new word and position I wasn’t familiar with before). We also got to cheer Nathan on as he performed and accompanied in the BYU piano concerto competition.
6. A WHITE Christmas! – the Utah Valley weather cooperated quite nicely, and we were treated to 6 inches of fresh white powder, falling over two days and nights. The kids got the pleasure of making snowmen, throwing snowballs, making their own lemonade snow cones, and shoveling the snow from ours and the neighbor’s driveways and sidewalks. This added the perfect touch in creating an early Christmas vibe before we head off to spend the rest of the Christmas season south of the equator.
7. A family layover in Dallas – We began our trip southward with a flight to Miami, including a well-designed stopover in Dallas. Erik’s sister Katie picked us (Erik, Tera, Anna, Tyler, Megan, Jacob) up from the airport and whisked us over to Grammy and Grampy’s house for an early dinner, where Erik and Tera’s relatives had gathered. We got to meet the kids newest second-cousin 6-week old Alyx, and see siblings and nephews and nieces that we hadn’t seen since April when we drove back from Guatemala. We spent 80 minutes at the house engaged in familiar familial frivolity before rushing back to the airport to catch our flight to Miami.
8. Glimpse of Miami Beach – Upon arriving in Miami, we checked in for two nights at a Miami Beach condo/hotel. We found ourselves in a very residential section of the beach, with nary a restaurant or shop in sight. We were all excited for some down time after a busy two weeks in Utah. So, the entirety of our visit included a morning walk along the beach, an evening trip to the Ft. Lauderdale temple, college essay writing for Anna, and ordering in pizza and a movie. Friday morning, we all awoke with butterflies of excitement as we alighted into our Uber cars to drive to the Port of Miami, ready to board the Norwegian Sun. It was one of 7 cruise ships lining the Miami quayside, each one full of potential for a cruise through the Caribbean.
Plan? What plan?
Our first Gap Year was a fabulous "2017-2018 School Year" of travel: from the Netherlands to Jordan to Texas to Hawaii to Mexico to Central America to London and back to the Netherlands. Our "2018 Summer Vacation" took us all around Western Europe, back to the USA on a transatlantic cruise, a road trip through New York and into Canada, and ending up in Utah. We have now kicked off the "2018-2019 School year" with a trip to Asia. Follow along with us on our visits to new places, as well as revisiting some of our favorite places from our time living there. It's going to be great!!