For many people a favorite part of Christmas is cutting down a tree with their family. For me, it’s the moment when I open the ornament box and pull out the shiny treasures one by one. Mandy ornaments have special memories but my favorites are my travel ornaments.

In the first year of our marriage, Jonathan and I took a trip to Vegas with his three sisters and their husbands. We dressed up as Elvis and Pricilla to celebrate my sister in law’s wedding anniversary to her husband.

It was on this trip when the youngest sister introduce me to a favorite Christmas tradition. She took me to a souvenir shop and we both picked out a Christmas ornament to remember the trip.

Travel was sparse for us at first in our marriage. The hustle of being young in our careers, high medical bills, and masters programs meant there was little time for play let alone travel. Life went on we moved several times before we built a dream house in the forest. We continued to work way too much and the new house became just a place with with a lot of responsibility. It was someone’s dream house, but it turns out it was not my dream.

My dream was shifting. I longed for more peace, more rest, more time to enjoy nature and explore. After a year we decided to sell the house. A little patience and a lot of prayer eventually brought us to our little fixer upper. We could have demolished it but instead we saved it and made it home.

Five years later, we not only live in our little dream home, but the simpler living has also allowed us to get closer to a dream life. We have far less to care for which means we have more time for outdoor play. Our cost of living is lower now and the financial space has allowed us to help those in need, and honor our desire to travel. We also have incredible families that call us all together for family destinations full of memories.

This summer we celebrated 11 years of marriage and we’ve just started to honor our desire to travel. Each year I hope to add another ornament to the tree. Maybe one day I will pull out that ornament box with my children telling them all about our travels as we decorate.

I wish this for you too. A simpler life with less stuff and more time to be present in your life. Keep reading to be inspired by my favorite ornaments and our experiences in these amazing locations.

Torch Lake and Sleeping Bear, Michigan

Michigan may be an all time favorite. It welcomes adventure and delivers serenity. Read more about Torch Lake and Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Jekyll Island, Georgia

Jekyll Island is a southern gem complete with a historic town, sea turtle center, and their famous driftwood beach.

Mackinac Island Michigan

We traveled to Mackinac Island in the summer and I have not yet written. For now I will just say, this Island free from cars, but filled with bikes and horses. It’s an all time favorite spot that I will be writing about soon.

Myrtle Beach, SC

My husband and I have been traveling to Myrtle Beach since we were small children. While it’s a bit crowded, it’s affordable and an easy drive from the midwest. Past the high rises it’s still a beautiful beach perfect for play.

Captiva Island, Florida

We traveled to Captiva Island, Florida years before I was writing. Still it’s a favorite you won’t want to miss. Captiva is so small it feels like a private Island. Sitting in the Gulf of Mexico the waves are serene, the water is warm and clear. The variety of sea shells that wash to it’s shores have made it a welcome spot for collectors. Most people go for the Mom and Pop shops and restaurants that serve the community. The Mucky Duck, Bubble Room, and my favorite, The Mad Hatter are all a must during your visit.

Leave a comment and tell us about your favorite travel spots! Where should we go next? Lately we are really into lake adventures and would love your ideas.

Follow us on Instagram @GreenGurneys or like our Green Gurneys Facebook page. Tag us on your own adventures and show us your travel ornaments! We love to celebrate with you and discover new special places in this world.

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