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Travel Collection

Lana Hawk

As you can probably tell, I love taking pictures. Pictures of people, places, buildings, details, you name it. When we travel, I am constantly 10 steps behind with camera in hand. Adam already knows that inevitably I will disappear for a second before catching up with him. I love to soak up the details of a place and document the little things that make new cities, countries, and people unique and special. The doorknobs, the windows, the cobblestone streets, the rooflines, flowers, street views, all of it. I can't get enough. But of course, you probably already know that just be looking over the website a bit. We recently bought a house and I can't wait to choose images to fill our walls and shelves. Adam and I both want our house to be full of our art. Art we created, experienced, and that is meaningful. I love looking at images of trips and people and remembering those moments. And I want to share that with you.

With a few big years of travel under my belt, I have created quite the collection of travel photos. For awhile, I have wanted to offer these to others, to share the love I have for travel and new places. Finally, that is happening! I have created a collection of my photos on Pixieset to share with you and offer to you in print or digital form. I want to help you fell your home with images that let you dream and take you away from reality, even just for a second. To the beaches not eh coast of Italy to the streets of Bruges. So, click on the link below to view the collection. If you see something you like, you have the option to buy the digital or print copy and use it to fill your home with faraway places. And don't forget to keep checking back. We have more trips on the horizon and I am constantly adding more! So, take a look and let me know what you think. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or have a request of sorts (an image in black and white, etc.).


Day at Disney

Lana Hawk

Disney. My memories of Disney are a bit fuzzy. It was over 20 years ago and time can cause a bit of a memory predicament. I remember characters and a handful of rides. I remember the afternoon rainstorms and the parades. I also remember our hotel, the Wilderness Lodge, and the pool. It was pretty legit. I bought a Simba stuffed animal and was pretty excited about it. Vague memories, but good ones for sure. Adam went to DisneyLand way back as well and his memory is equally as fuzzy. So when we booked our trip to Florida, we decided to make Orlando a priority and hit up Disney for a day. When it came time to pick which Disney park we visited, we let nostalgia win out and went for the Magic Kingdom. A close second was Epcot, but we didn't want to spend a bunch of money on food and drinks to get the real flavor of the place!

So Magic Kingdom. Let me just say, I loved it. I love theme/amusement parks. I love rides and people dressed up. I love feeling like a kid and walking around the perfectly planned/themed buildings and restaurants. I love it. Let's just say Adam wasn't AS enthusiastic as me, but he still enjoyed himself. We went on a Monday in February hoping for shorter lines and smaller crowds. There were still lots of people there, but we strategized our rides and ended up never waiting more than 30 minutes for any attraction. We hit most of the major rides including Space Mountain, It's a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, Peter Pan, The Haunted Mansion, Teacups, Dumbo, Buzz Lightyear, etc. Unfortunately because of time and lines, we missed Splash Mountain and the Seven Dwarves ride. Oh well! We ended our day with dinner at the Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen. Food was really good and not to over priced. It was a fund day reliving a bit of our childhood and being kids again at Disney. The nostalgia of Magic Kingdom won the day and we loved seeing old classics like Swiss Family Robinson Tree House (a favorite movie as a kid). Thank you Johnson County Public Library for the teaching me all about classic Disney movies. We left before the fireworks to beat the crowds and caught a glimpse of them as we were driving away. Not bad for a Monday!

Here are a couple tips we learned from our day at Disney:

  1. Make a Dinner Reservation: I waited until a bit late to do this, but luckily reservations were still available. I would have loved to go to the Be Our Guest restaurant because the inside looks amazing, but the Jungle Canteen was a bit more reasonably priced and reservations were available. Why wait for a table when you can plan a little ahead and get right in? No brainer. Do this a bit further in advance if you want the super specialty restaurants.
  2. Bring Lunch and Snacks with You: I am so glad we did this. We grabbed peanut butter and honey from the Hampton and bought a loaf of bread from Walgreens. We packed up a few sandwiches and LaraBars and we were good to go. There are water fountains around too, so bring a water bottle. It saves time and money when you aren't constantly searching for somewhere decent to eat that doesn't cost a fortune. 
  3. Use Fast Passes Wisely: This was new to me. I only discovered this right before we went to the park. So, we didn't book ours in advance. Rookie mistake. Basically you get three fast passes to use in the park on any rides/attractions where spots are available. You get to schedule a time and skip the line, real VIP style. What we didn't know is that once you use your three, you can sign up for more if they are available. So if you book in advance, choose your fast passes for morning slots and once you use them, go sign up for more if they are available. Way to go Disney! 
  4. Take Time to Wander: We weren't all about hitting up all the attractions and running around like crazy people, that's not fun. We loved just walking through Disney and soaking in the childhood memories. We wandered through gift stores with no intent of buying anything, although I almost bought a coffee mug of Mickey and a million things for our nieces. Either way, we loved the kiddie/nostalgic rides and just spending the day there. No need to rush off and tackle a mile long to-do list because it sort of sucks the joy out of the happiest place on Earth, you know?

Obviously, Disney with kids would look drastically different. Trust me, we saw it all. I'm just thankful we weren't one of the ones looking for stroller parking and pushing around a passed out or worse, tantrum-throwing child. We will take our peaceful day at Disney and enjoy it!

What Disney suggestions do you have? I know there are some experts out there.

La Sagrada Familia

Lana Hawk

I have this thing with old churches in Europe. I love them. I love going in and wandering through them. Soaking in the vast ceilings and ornate interiors. They are beautiful and the sheer size of them is amazing. I mean how in the world were these things built so long ago? The trouble is, in a a lot of ways, they all start to look the same. You have the Gothic churches with their distinct ceilings, the Baroque churches with their ornate detailing, and everything else in between. I love them all, but they tend to run together once you've seen a few dozen of them. So if you are sick of the same old churches, there is one that blows them all out of the water.

La Sagrada Familia. Barcelona. GO!

One of our top priorities in Barcelona was La Sagrada Familia. To be honest, before planning our trip, I knew very little about the history of the church and Antoni Gaudi, the architect. I had heard of both and vaguely remember a 60 Minutes episode highlighting the long struggle to complete Gaudi's vision, but that was it. It didn't take long to learn a bit about La Sagrada Familia and for it to top our list for our time in Barcelona. If you have seen any pictures or read any reviews of this place, they are all true and also don't even tell the half of it. This place is one of the most amazing places I have ever experienced. And yes, it's an experience. It's huge yes, but more than that is every last detail has a purpose. The exterior reflects the birth, death, life, and glory of Jesus. We only really saw the birth and death side and that was enough. The entrance was on the side illustrating the birth of Jesus. It is the only side completed under Gaudi and some of that was even commissioned later. Either way, it is distinctly Gaudi. There is so much to look at it is nearly impossible to see it all. The opposite side takes you through the finally days of Jesus' life in detailed scenes around the exterior. The massive, endless, beautiful exterior and it's only partially completed. It awaits the completion of its large, center spire. When finished the central spire, representing Jesus, will be 170 meters tall. Gaudi designed the center spire to be exactly one meter shorter than the nearby Montjuic Hill. Gaudi believed his creation should not surpass that of God's.  Accompanying the center spire will be 18 other spires. Pretty crazy and that is just the exterior.

Now for the interior. Oh the interior. Have you ever imagined what Heaven looks like? Or just sat and dreamed up the unimaginable beauty of it? La Sagrada Familia is one of the places that feels like a glimpse of Heaven. You walk in and immediately your senses are overwhelmed. The perfectly placed stained glass windows flood the church with glowing light. Like the outside, there is so much to take in and see. Ornate, spiral staircases all around the edges. Ceilings with endless detailing, gold overlay, and just enough color to draw your gaze upward. The pillars all around the nave seem to go on forever and reach towards something unseen. They resemble a forest full of tall, thin, beautiful trees. There are hints of God's creation all throughout the church. Glimpses of the natural world with a Gaudi twist. Whimsical and powerful and beautiful and awe-inspiring. We wandered through the nave listening to our audio guide just trying to comprehend what we were seeing and how any person could dream up such a beautiful imitation of the natural world. We ended up going through the nave twice as once is just not enough.

The problem is, no words or pictures even do this place justice. I rarely say anything is a MUST SEE, but if you ever have the opportunity, this is a must see. I have never, and can almost guarantee I will never, see anything like this again in my life. Big statement, but it is true. It was a vision of a genius, of a man devoted to his faith and this church. He died nearly 100 years ago, but his vision lives on. The project was privately funded in the beginning and is now funded by visitors to the church. Antoni Gaudi took over this project in 1883 and worked on it until his death in 1926, leaving only a quarter of the project complete. Since then, architects have taken on the project with the intent of finishing Gaudi's vision and completing his masterpiece. The goal is to finish the project in 2026, 100 years after his death. It is a sight to see, finished or not, I can only imagine the finished project and the lasting legacy of Antoni Gaudi.

If you find yourself in Barcelona or in Europe for that matter, make the trip because you won't regret it. Until that day, a large number of pictures to give you an idea.

Wanderlust: Why I Travel

Lana Hawk

Wanderlust: a strong desire to travel

Yep. That about sums it up. The world is a fascinating place and I want to see it all. That hasn’t always been the case. I used to be content living in my own little world of small town Indiana and then small town Northwest Arkansas. I was fine seeing the same people and places and doing the same thing I always did. I was fine. Now, don’t get me wrong. I left those places and traveled across the US and to places like Mexico and the Dominican Republic. I even went on a mission trip to Honduras in college, but nothing prepared me for the change that happened when I went to live in London after graduation. I’m not sure what drove me to do it, but I decided to get a temporary work visa, connect with a substitute teacher agency, and up and move. I knew one person there with connections to two others. I went with no place to live outside of a hostel for a month, no set job, a limited amount of money, and having never traveled Europe before in my life. What was I thinking? There is no explanation outside of divine intervention that led me to London that year, but to say I am glad would be a gross understatement. Outside of marriage, there is no experience that has changed my heart and soul more than those six months. I had traveled before, but my vacations to the beach surrounded by other Americans were relaxing, not life changing. How can they be? They involved me experiencing the same life just in a different geographic location. London was different.

My six months in London introduced me to new ideas, cultures, viewpoints, and people.  Despite living paycheck to paycheck, commuting 3-4 hours each day, spending Thanksgiving and Christmas away from family, and working day-to-day in area schools; I would do it all again. Because despite the stress and sometimes overwhelming existence I had over there, I also had a neverending list of new experiences. I rode public transport daily including planes-trains-automobiles to work and across the continent, worked with all British colleagues, lived with four South Africans, met a neverending stream of Aussies and Kiwis, and rarely hung out with other Americans outside of my dear friend (and fellow wanderlust believer), Kym. I wandered solo through art museums, ran for buses, grocery shopped like a true Brit (Sainsbury shoutout), experienced the 100 days of darkness in London, and drank… a lot of tea. Seriously, a lot. And that was just London. The thing with London is it brings the rest of Europe to your doorstep. From there I saw Scotland, Ireland, France, Germany, Hungary, and Switzerland. I ate a crepe at sunset overlooking the Eiffel Tower. I wandered the Louvre for hours by myself seeing some of the most incredible art in the entire world. I skied in the Alps for crying out loud, which was quite the shock to my system after having only skied the hills of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Ask my brother, we’ve got stories of epic falls. I toured the Highlands of Scotland followed by Edinburgh Castle and a warm plate of haggis. I even had the chance to see and experience Budapest, Hungary with three Hungarians and two Austrians.

Since my London days, I’ve had the chance to return and see the coast of the Mediterranean, the David in Florence, St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, the stained glass windows of Sante-Chapelle in Paris, floor to ceiling mosaics of St. Mark’s in Venice, and the Colosseum in Rome. Two years ago, my husband and I spent five days staying in an apartment in Vienna that belonged to a family friend who happens to be German. We spent everyday walking through Naschmarkt indulging on falafel and pastries. We explored the city via a bike tour with a local guide. We ate Sache Torte and lingered in Vienna’s famous coffee houses. We even had the Liechtenstein Castle all to ourselves for a tour. Vienna became “our city” for the week because we let it. All of these experiences changed me, not because I left the country, but because I left the country AND experienced the culture and people. I saw history come alive and gained a new perspective. And to me, that is what travel is all about.

So why do I travel? Because every time I travel, I change for the better. Recently, one of my college friends went to Europe for the first time spending six weeks in London. You know what she said when she returned? “I didn’t know traveling would change me this much.” How true that statement is. You can’t fully understand or believe it until you experience something truly new and eye opening. Each time I see a new place, the world becomes both smaller and larger at the same time. I feel more connected to places across the globe (smaller), but I also come to realize how small I am and how truly vast and varied this world is.

So my advice to you? Go. I beg you, GO! Go see something you’ve never seen before and do something you’ve never done before. Make the sacrifices, save the money, hop on a plane, and see the world. And while you’re there, experience the culture, meet new people, allow your eyes to be opened to a different perspective, and allow yourself to be changed. You won’t regret it and you certainly won’t forget it.

For more reading on the beauty of wanderlust, go here and here.

It's Never Too Late

Lana Hawk

“It is not the language of painters but the language of nature which one should listen to…. The feeling for the things themselves, for reality, is more important than the feeling for pictures.”

-Vincent Van Gogh

One of the highlights of our recent trip was our visit to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. I must say, before going I was vaguely familiar with the life and work of Van Gogh, but had a lot to learn. This turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. Van Gogh led a fascinating, albeit short and tragic life. If you are unfamiliar with his story, he sold only one painting in his lifetime, was financially supported by his brother his entire life, ended up in an asylum after cutting off his own ear, and eventually took his own life. But, even in the midst of the tragedy, Van Gogh produced beauty through color and I left the museum with a few life lessons what will serve me well to remember.

  1. The support of family is paramount. Despite the lack of critical acclaim during his lifetime, his brother and sister-in-law never stopped believing in Vincent. They supported him financially and after his death (and the death of his brother) Vincent’s sister-in-law went on to show Vincent’s art to the world leading to his later recognition. Without their support, the most probable scenario is Vincent would have abandoned his work and moved on to something else thus depriving us of his genius.
  2. Color conveys emotion. Van Gogh was a master of color. He painted something like 27 self portraits all slightly different and all with a wide variety of color combinations to show his emotion and mood at the time. Apparently, if you study his self portraits you would get quite a glimpse into his internal world.
  3. Practice, practice, practice. He was constantly painting and trying new techniques. Each painting was a study in brush strokes and the use of color to convey the feeling Van Gogh wanted. His career was short-lived, a mere ten years, but he painted over 900 paintings. Some of his work was painted on the back side of another canvas. It was all in the name of practice.
  4. It’s never too late. Van Gogh didn’t start painting until he was 27 years old. His career lasted only ten short years, yet today he is one of the most famous artists of all time. His work is unique and he was a master of color and emotion, but he didn’t start until he was 27. Before taking up painting, he worked for art dealers, aspired to be a pastor, and even served as a missionary. All noble pursuits, but I am personally glad he decided to take up painting. What a lesson for us all that it is never too late to try something new.

That is the biggest lesson I learned from Van Gogh’s life. As long as I am here on this earth, living and breathing, it is NEVER too late.

It is never too late to…

  • Start a new hobby.
  •  Write a book.
  •  Start a blog.
  • Take a trip.
  • Call an old friend.
  • Make amends with those you have hurt.
  • Take up photography or sewing or crochet or watercolor or… fill in the blank.
  • Take a class or go back to school.
  • Learn something new.
  • Change your attitude.
  • Change jobs, careers, companies, etc.
  • Reinvent yourself.
  • Move to the city of your dreams.
  • Make new friends.
  • Get moving and healthy.
  • Break old habits.
  • Tell someone you love them.
  • or…Take up painting.

Life is too short for excuses, one being “it’s too late” or “I missed my window”. Although Van Gogh never reaped the benefits of his genius in his lifetime, the world would have been a little less colorful and a little less beautiful if he would have used the excuse of “I’m too old” or “it’s too late”. As long as God continues to give you breath in your lungs and a new day, you CAN and it is NOT too late. My prayer every morning is that I live each day to the absolute fullest. I want to learn and soak up all this world has to offer until God calls me home. My hope for you is that you do the same.

*Originally appeared on Old Pink House, August 2015

Travel On

Lana Hawk

Another tragedy in a city and country that is dear to my heart. A tragedy that makes you stop and think about the state of the world. A tragedy that makes you ask questions about privacy versus security and what that really means. Is it scary? Sure it is. Is it possible bad things could happen if you venture out? If you travel? That is always a possibility. But I will not stop traveling, exploring, and experiencing. And you shouldn’t either.

Traveling is something that strips you of all of our normal comforts. You are forced out of your comfort zone and into a world you haven’t seen or been a part of before. You are forced to be an outsider. To experience something and someone new. Travel forces you to be an observer with a heightened sense of how diverse and big the world truly is, while at the same time, making you connect with humanity in a way that transcends race, ethnicity, political ideology, and residence. Travel strips you of prejudice and forces you to engage with a culture and people different from you. You are no longer surrounded by people you know. They don’t experience life like you or see the world the way you do. They most likely have very different opinions of the world and politics and even how best to shop for groceries, but the beauty of travel is that doesn’t matter.

You see travel has made me realize how much I still have to learn about America, people, the world, and God. I will forever be a student to a world so vast and full of beauty and connection. I have to keep traveling to get out of my own way. My own bubble to remind myself that the world is meant to be experienced and God meant for us to connect with one another. To love one another. To be humble in our approach to life and realistic about our time on earth. Our time is short. So go. Go and experience. Go and connect. Don’t give in to the fear of the what ifs. When fear takes over we miss out on love. When fear takes over we miss out on experiencing an abundant life. Fear means we reject others and let prejudice cloud our judgment. So don’t give in to the fear. Instead, choose to go. Go and see the beauty waiting for you on the other side of the border, ocean, world. You never know what you may see.

**Photo taken July 2015 in Brussels, Belgium. Originally appeared on Old Pink House.


Pizza Pi, USVI

Lana Hawk

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? As a teacher that’s a question I often ask my students, but rarely ask myself or my peers. We assume that getting older and being an adult too often means working at a job that we don’t really like simply because it pays the bills. Or worse yet, working at job just because we got a degree in a particular field never giving a thought as to whether or not it’s a good fit. I am lucky because I have come across a number of people throughout my life who are making their own way, not stuck doing something because “that’s what you are supposed to do.” Friends who are starting businesses, freelancing, quitting traditional jobs to make their own. Recently, my husband and I made the trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) to see a childhood friend and her husband. They are two of those people making their own way and making it happen.

To make a long story short, my friend Tara got a degree in education, transformed into a charter boat chef, turned engineer/architect of boats, turned pizza boat chef, turned general contractor, and most recently a vacation rental owner/operator. Sasha, her husband, is an MIT grad, turned charter boat captain and sailing extraordinaire, turned engineer/architect of boats, turned pizza boat owner/operator, turned fund manager, and recently a vacation rental owner/operator. They ran charter boats for awhile then dreamed up the idea to start a pizza boat in the USVI. So, they bought a boat and custom designed and built out the interior to give them living space and a full kitchen complete with two pizza ovens. Out of their extraordinary effort emerged their creation: Pizza Pi. They didn’t study in school how to re-design boats. Neither one had ever run a restaurant, but they learned and struggled, and self-taught their way through the process. They worked their butts off and put in some major sweat equity into Pi and ended up with something unique. How cool is that?

We had the opportunity to spend time with them this February and see Pi, in action. We spent time snorkeling in Christmas Cove, touring the boat, and stuffing our faces with some of the best pizza we have ever had. Seriously. It’s so good. I highly recommend the El Cubano and the Banana Chocolate Snack Stix. And did I mention it is the #1 restaurant in St. Thomas on Trip Advisor? A well deserved ranking. Following the first season of Pi, they bought a condo on land and took on a full renovation themselves…while pregnant with their first child. They converted the condo into a studio apartment and 3 bedrooms of rentable space designed perfectly by Tara. The link to their property is below. Check it out and if you are ever in St. Thomas it is the perfect location for a great stay with restaurants and a beach a short walk away.

I love seeing people dream big, work hard, and live their unique life. Tara and Sasha may slow down a bit now that they have a little one, but they will always view life a little differently, making their own way. It is especially sweet that I’ve known them for a good long while (or my entire life). If you want to read more on these crazy kids, here are a few resources for you:

    •    Building Pi Blog

    •    Chicago Tribune article

    •    Trip Advisor: Pizza Pi

    •    Rental listing: here, here, and here


London Must See: Portobello Road Market

Lana Hawk

London. The city, the sights, just the thought of it all gives my heart a little jolt. London was my first solo international trip. My first European experience. It is where I met others from all over the world. Where I experienced life with four wonderful and crazy South Africans. London taught me how to navigate public transport including double decker buses and tube shut downs. London is a city buzzing with life and culture and some of the cutest little neighborhoods. While living in London, I fully immersed myself into the resident life. I occasionally made my tourist debut, but often times, I spent my weekends recovering from the work week and hanging/going out with my roommates. We brunched together on Saturdays and grocery shopped on Sundays. I sometimes feel a bit bummed I didn’t do more “touristy” things while in London, but in the end, experiencing life as a resident offered much more than adding another museum to my list.

Lucky for me, I have had the opportunity to return to London twice since my six month stay. Once with my childhood friend, Kari and again with the hubs. While back with my main man, I finally got to experience the beauty and chaos of the Saturday Portobello Road Market. You know, think the adorable movie Notting Hill. Streets lined with vendors, people everywhere. It was both my worst nightmare and also the most wonderful thing. Vintage treasures and antique beauties everywhere. I mean, with every step I saw something new and found myself drooling over just about everything I could get my hands on. Although I had been to Portobello Road and Notting Hill more than once, this was my first full on Saturday market experience. It was well worth the crowds and I would highly recommend adding this to your list of London must sees! Plan accordingly and be in London when the market is open.

**As a comparison, I have also been to Camden Market on a Saturday. For a funkier crowd, Camden Market may be more up your alley. I just loved the “quaint”, vintage, beauty of the Portobello Road Market.