Kathryn JohnsonTraveler Interview:  Kathryn Johnson

A junior at Luther College in Decorah Iowa, Kathryn Johnson studies Spanish in hopes of using her language skills in her future career and life. She is actively involved in a student-organized Spanish group called Hola/Enlaces which educates members about the struggles of immigration, and provides opportunities to volunteer teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) classes to a Hispanic population.

Kathryn’s passion for travel blossomed out of her love for foreign language, which led to a curiosity in culture and diversity.  In August, 2015, Kathryn plans to volunteer in France or Morocco before traveling to Spain for a semester-long study abroad experience.  This will be her first experience abroad, and she can’t wait to immerse herself in the culture of Europe.

We wanted to learn more about what fuels Kathryn’s passion to travel. 

The Jones:  What makes you want to travel?

Kathryn:  The idea of meeting new people and experiencing other cultures is what makes me want to travel the world.  There is so much more to see and learn about outside of Northeast Iowa and especially outside of the United States.  I can’t imagine myself not traveling because I believe that the experiences I will have during my travel will be some of the most important ones in my lifetime.  I hope that those experiences will teach me to appreciate the world on a more knowledgeable level.

Have you always enjoyed travel? What contributed to your love of travel?

Kathryn:  Yes, travel has always been one of my favorite things.  When I was little, it was the idea of vacation that made me want to visit new places and have fun.  Now that I’m older, I have realized that the reason I love to travel so much has to do more with the experience and the people I share the experience with.  Being able to look at things from a different perspective than I’m used to also contributes to my love of travel.

The Bean

Kathryn enjoyed visiting Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate sculpture nicknamed “the Bean” in downtown Chicago.

What is your favorite destination?  Why?  

Kathryn:  By far, my favorite destination is Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin.  I’ve traveled there numerous times with classmates, friends, or family, and I never get tired of exploring the well-known tourist town because there’s so much to do.

The Wisconsin Dells offers a wide variety of attractions including Mt. Olympus and Noah’s Ark which are huge amusement and water parks.  Visitors can feed the deer and the deer park, go on a historic tour in the Duck Boats, or explore the downtown shopping area, which is my favorite part of The Dells.

You are planning an international travel experience next year as part of your college experience. Why is studying abroad important to you?

Kathryn:  Studying abroad is an amazing opportunity that many students don’t even consider.  After college, many people find that they have commitments that hold them back from traveling whether it is their career, their family, etc.  Being able to study abroad during college is the best way for me to travel and experience new and exciting things because there is nothing holding me back.  It’s something that I don’t take for granted because this amazing opportunity is a way for me to expand my college education in the best way possible.

My favorite quote is, “In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.”  Studying abroad is important to me because I know if I don’t do it I would be missing out on so many amazing experiences.

Skydeck at Willis Tower, Chicago

Kathryn steps out on the Ledge – 1,353 feet above the ground – at the Willis Tower Skydeck in Chicago.

What destination has surprised you the most, either good or bad? 

Kathryn:  The first time I traveled to Arizona with my family, I wasn’t very excited about the trip. My parents had a vacation home near Phoenix, and my dad wanted to drive there to leave the car there for future visits.  I was not excited for the long drive from Northeast Iowa to Arizona, and since we were visiting in December, we ended up driving through a bad snow storm.

The trip, however, was surprisingly fun.  I love spending time with my family and going to places I’ve never been before.  Once we arrived, I had so much fun there because I was in a new, different place with the people I love.

From your travels, do you have a practice or insight that makes your travel experiences more enjoyable? 

Kathryn:  Planning is one of the most important things a traveler can do before heading out on an adventure, especially if there are specific locations that he or she wants to visit.  It’s important to be prepared.

I always have a list of everything I want to see as well as everything I need to bring.  It’s important to not over pack, but I’m always sure to bring a camera and a journal to capture my experiences so that I can look back on them.

Did you study abroad while you were in college? If so, what was the biggest benefit to your career? To your life? Please share your thoughts in comments below. 

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42 Fun Facts About Seattle, Washington

by Janis on September 3, 2014

Seattle, Washington

We called Seattle home for nearly 7 years, and loved the view of the Space Needle at sunset from the balcony of our apartment on Westlake Avenue.

In anticipation of an upcoming weekend trip back to Seattle, we thought it would be fun to do a little background on the city.

Here are 42 Fun Facts about Seattle, Washington:

1. The land that is now the city of Seattle has been inhabited for at least 4,000 years.

2. George Vancouver was the first European to visit Seattle in May 1792 during his 4-year-long expedition to chart the Pacific Northwest.

3. The Denny Party, a group of American pioneers – who left Cherry Grove, Illinois on April 10, 1851 in a westward-bound wagon party – is credited with founding Seattle because they settled at Alki Point on November 13, 1851.

4. Seattle was first economic growth boom was built on the timber industry. Early arriving developers converted a forest of trees more than a 1000 years old and 400 feet high into logs, and then milled timber for shipping to San Francisco.

5. The Klondike gold rush greatest boom period for Seattle after gold was discovered in Canada’s Klondike region in August 1896. Seattle established itself as the jumping-off point for transportation to and from Alaska and the gold fields of the Yukon.

6. The Boeing Company, founded in the Seattle area by William Boeing, was originally a boat company. Mr. Boeing was fascinated with flying and airplanes.

7. World War II meant significant growth for Boeing, when the US government suddenly needed tens of thousands of planes a year, making Boeing the largest employer in Seattle.

8. While Boeing closed plants and laid off 70,000 workers after the war, the company soon reinvented itself as the world’s leading producer of commercial passenger planes.

9. During World War II, Seattle was the point of departure for many soldiers sent to the Pacific. Many of these soldiers quartered at Golden Gardens Park.

10. Seattle is the birthplace of Starbucks, the world’s largest coffee chain. You can buy a unique mug (if you collect them) at the original Starbucks in Pike Place Market, first opened in 1971.

Smith Tower, Pioneer_square

Smith Tower is located near Seattle’s Pioneer Square.

11. Smith Tower, a 42-story building constructed in 1914, was once the tallest building west of the Mississippi. Now the top floors are condos.

12. When the Space Needle was built in 1962 for the Seattle World’s Fair, it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River.

13. In 1959, Edward E. Carlson, then president of Western International Hotels, sketched a vision of the Space Needle on a napkin as a focal point for the futuristic World’s Fair in Seattle, whose theme was the 21st Century.

14. Mr. Carlson’s vision for the space-age tower was inspired by the Stuttgart Tower in Germany.

15. The bridge that connects Seattle and Medina across Lake Washington is the world’s longest floating bridge. It is officially the The Governor Albert D. Rosellini Bridge at Evergreen Point. When you travel on I-90 from Seattle to Mercer Island, you travel on the world’s first floating bridge, built in 1950 

16. Medina is the home of the United States’ wealthiest man, Bill Gates, co-founder and former chairman of Microsoft. Mr. Gates has a net worth of $72 billion, according to the September, 2013 Forbes ranking.

17. In 1966, at age 11, Bill Gates won a dinner at the Space Needle restaurant offered by his pastor. Gates won the prize by memorizing the Sermon on the Mount -chapters 5, 6, and 7 of the Gospel of Matthew – and reciting it flawlessly.

18. Seattle is home to the world’s first gas station, opened on East Marginal Way in 1907.

19. The 1919 Seattle General Strike was the first general strike in the United States, with 60,000 shipyard workers walking off their jobs.

20. Today Seattle has two downtown cruise terminals and is a major departure port for Alaska and Pacific Northwest cruises.

cruise ship docks in Seattle21. During the 2014 cruise season, Seattle hosted 178 cruise ships calls, and more than 805,000 passengers.

22. Seattle is ranked the most literate city in the country, with the highest percentage of residents with a college degree or higher.

23. The Seattle Public Library system has the highest percentage of library card-holders per capita in the country.

24. Seattle was the first city in the US to play a Beatles song on the radio.

25. At 76 stories and 937 feet, the black-colored Columbia Center is Seattle’s tallest building and is 12th tallest building in the country. Locals nicknamed it the “Darth Vader” building.

26. As you can witness on the Underground Tour, Seattle was literally built on top of the old city after the Great Fire of 1889.

27. Seattle’s annual rainfall is less than that of Houston, Chicago and New York City.

28. People in Seattle buy the most sunglasses per capita than any other U.S. city.

29. Bertha Landes, elected 1926, was the first female mayor of Seattle, and of any U.S. city.  However, since Bertha, all of Seattle’s mayors have been male.

30. Only Murano, an island near Venice, Italy has more glassblowing studios than found in Seattle.

31.  Seattle has the second-highest per capita rate of live music performances in the United States. New York City is first.

32. More people bike to work in Seattle than in any other similar-sized city in the U.S.

33. Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet has the highest per capita ballet attendance in the country.

34. Seattle is the birthplace of Jimi Hendrix while Bing Crosby was born in nearby Tacoma.

35. Seattle was the first city to have police on bicycles.

36. Seattle has nearly 500 houseboats, more than anywhere else in the U.S.

37. The largest man-made island in the U.S. is Seattle’s Harbor Island.

the first Starbucks

The first Starbucks is near Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

38. Pike Place Market features the longest continuously operating farmer’s market in the US.

39. Kim Basinger, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Julia Roberts all turned down the role of Annie in Sleepless in SeattleMeg Ryan got the part instead.

40. After it was started in Oakland, California, Seattle was home to the second chapter of the Black Panther Party, founded in 1968.

41. The Washington State Ferry System is the largest in the country and the third largest in the world, carrying more than 25 million passengers each year.

42. Seattle’s Pier 52 is the busiest ferry terminal in the United States.

Have you visited Seattle, or do you live there? What “fun fact” can you add to this list? Please share in comments below.

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17 Fun Facts About Kodiak, Alaska

August 30, 2014

Located 250 air miles southwest of Anchorage, the city of Kodiak, Alaska is home to approximately 6,100 residents, and is the main city on Kodiak Island, the United States’ second largest island after Hawaii’s Big Island. Covering 3,588 square miles, Kodiak Island is 73 square miles bigger than Puerto Rico. You can visit Kodiak by cruise ship, […]

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Smoking Martinis, Hearty Food and Fun Vibe at 300 First in Rochester, Minnesota

August 21, 2014

During a one-night brief stay in Rochester, Minnesota, we were hungry after a long afternoon and evening of travel.  Yelp reviews led us to the 300 First restaurant within walking distance of our downtown Hilton Garden Inn hotel. Despite our 9:30 pm arrival, we enjoyed a hearty meal and some interesting cocktails. As we perused the menu, we ordered an […]

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