Photos of 12 Years of Winter Travel Adventures

Mark and I in a field of lupine in New Zealand.

Adventure and freedom are two of my highest values in life. One of the ways they manifest themselves in my life is through the winter travel adventures of my husband and I embark on many years.

Over the time we’ve been together we’ve taken at least three weeks (and up to four months) off from work during winter to explore the globe. Our trips have been some of the most fulfilling, exciting, and memorable times in our life together.

The fact that we manage to take time for large chunks of travel despite modest incomes and sometimes being employed by other people has been a source of fascination for our friends and family.

This unique facet of our lives is something that most people know about us, so at this time of year when we see friends, neighbors and family they always ask, “Where are you traveling to this year?”

There are a few years we when we’ve decided to stay home in Wisconsin, but for the most part we’ve headed out in December and January in search of warmer and greener pastures.

As winter settles into the northern regions I suspect a lot of us are dreaming about vacations and tropical locations. I thought it would be fun to share with you the places we’ve visited over the past years as a way to help us all escape for a few moments to sunnier climates!

Photos of Many Years of Winter Travel Adventures

New Zealand

New Zealand is a country filled with breathtaking scenery, amazing parks, and friendly folks. We visited glaciers, beaches, mountains, cities, and small towns and had a wonderful five weeks. One of my strongest memories is from a day hike we took where we were standing on a beach by the ocean with ferns and semi-tropical plants around us and looking up at a snow-covered glacier. The ecosystems of the island are all mashed up against one another in a way I’ve never seen before.

This photo is from one of our favorite days of the trip. We were on a three-day trek in the mountains staying in a different hut each night with people from all over the world.


We spent a month in Chile hiking, exploring the many national parks, and meeting up with friends who were teaching a class there. It was our first time visiting the southern hemisphere and it was a revelation! We got to experience the summer solstice for the second time that year and every night the sun didn’t set until 10pm. It made each day seem extra long and luxurious.

This photo is from an arduous day hike that went up and up and up. But, the view of the Andes Mountains was worth it!

At the top of our favorite hike in Chile.


This was a solo adventure year for me! After quitting my job at the non-profit I worked for in Madison, I volunteered in Ghana for two months with a fair trade organization, Global Mamas. I lived with other volunteers in a house on the coast and traveled around to the various Global Mamas offices working on projects such as designing a new holiday ornament and interviewing some of the women for website their bios. It was fascinating to see the entire process of fair trade in action.

This photo is from Global Mamas’ main office in Cape Coast where this crew works with the seamstresses in the community to fulfill orders, inspect the final products, and pack everything up to ship to the US.

Group photo with some of the employees in the Global Mamas office.


We spent three weeks visiting friends in San Francisco, camping in the redwoods, hiking in Yosemite, and visiting my cousin in Los Angeles. Mark loves trees (he’s an arborist) so we made sure to visit big redwoods and sequoias as much as possible. We also pigged out on fresh food from the many farmers markets like mandarins, dates, and pistachios. The farmers market in Santa Monica in LA remains a strong memory – strawberries and tomatoes in January! What a different world.

We’re giving this enormous redwood a hug at Big Basin Redwood Forest.

Hugging a redwood during a hike in Big Basin Redwood Forest, CA


We were lucky enough to connect with a great couple in Maui who was listed on the WOOFing website. WOOF stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms and this was actually our second time working on a farm in Maui. It was fun to revisit this amazing island and check out some of our old spots from the year we lived here for three months. We stayed in a tent on a small CSA farm and helped harvest for their deliveries, work on landscape projects, and did lots of weeding!

Down the road from the farm was an abandoned pineapple farm where we could go and pick as many pinapples we could possibly eat. (Note: Not many. They’re so sweet!)

We stayed down the road from an abandoned pineapple farm in Maui. We ate a lot of pineapples that trip!

Puerto Vallarta Area, Mexico

Mexico is one of my favorite countries I’ve visited due to the amazing diversity of food, art, and landscape. This year we mostly explored the Puerto Vallarta area, which in all honesty wasn’t our favorite part of Mexico. My sister and her boyfriend joined us on a cabana on the beach on an island without any cars. We  had to take a boat trip to get there and it was walking paths only with a few people getting around in ATVs.


Drinking Corona and snacking on coconut with a view of the ocean.

Oaxaca, Mexico

I’d love to visit Oaxaca again some day. The unique and delicious food of this region, along with the colorful art and crafts were my favorite parts. We rented an apartment in Oaxaca city for two weeks and studied Spanish at a language school there. Afterwards we traveled to the Oaxaca beaches and to Mexico City before flying back home.

Here’s Mark in the town square (zocalo) of Oaxaca with a cast. He broke his wrist falling off his bike about a month before our trip.

Mark, with a broken arm, hanging out in the zocalo (square) in downtown Oaxaca city.

Big Island and Oahu, HI

Mark was due for a solo trip and I had just started a new job, so I stayed home to work and he left for a month to visit friends living on the Big Island of Hawaii. He stayed in a cabin with his friend’s family in the rainy part of the Hawaii and then spent a few days surfing and hiking on Oahu on the way home.

He didn’t take many photos on that trip, but here’s one from a hike on Oahu. You can see Honolulu in the distance.

The view of Honolulu from a hike on Oahu.

Belize, Guatemala, and Chiapas, Mexico

We spent Christmas on an island off of Belize and then had a jam-packed six weeks of traveling to see Mayan ruins, visiting with friends in several different locations, and living with Mexican families and studying Spanish in the capital city of Chiapas, San Cristobal de las Casas.

Mark left to go back to work and I stayed in Guatemala for three more weeks living with a family and going to language school. My Spanish was the best it’s ever been after that trip!

Taking a walk through the neighborhoods of San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico.

Costa Rica and Nicaragua

This trip was another full six weeks since we traveled to two different countries. We visited a friend Mark had met on a previous trip to Costa Rica, spent Christmas on the coast, hiked in the cloud forest, and met up with a friend living in Nicaragua to explore the southern part of the country.

Wow, we’re starting to look really young in these photos! Here’s Mark on our hike in the cloud forest of Costa Rica.

Mark on our hike in the cloud forest of Costa Rica.

I feel very grateful that we’ve been fortunate enough to design our lives in a way that allows us to take advantage of large chunks of time off to explore this amazing world we live in.

Do you have any special trips with memories that help you get through the cold, dark days of winter? Share with us in the comments below this post!


More travel posts:

Grateful Reflections on Travel in Chile

Travel Explorations of Nature and Beauty in Chile

Tour of My Garden: Early June





Leave a Comment

[email protected]
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
© 2024 All Rights Reserved. | Design by Rebecca Pollock + Development by Brandi Bernoskie