Year 1: The Pacific Northwest

In 2016, my brother, Jake, and I started one of my favorite travel traditions to date. He proposed that we take a trip together — something so successful that we’ve done it every year since. In the next several blogs, I’ll document those trips, the routes we took, and some of the adventures we had. For the first year, we decided on the Pacific Northwest as our destination. However, here’s a quick overview of the five trips we’ve done and the sixth upcoming trip scheduled for December 2021 (Year 6).

Year 1 (2016): The Pacific Northwest (Portland, Seattle, Vancouver)

Year 2 (2017): Cuba

Year 3 (2018): The Balkans — Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro (and London!)

Year 4 (2019): Luxembourg (and Paris!)

Year 5 (2020): Africa (South Africa, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania)

Year 6 (2021): Belize

Let’s start with Year 1.

Our Itinerary

Here are notes from the 2016 itinerary before our first annual trip to the Pacific Northwest. 

August 7 (Portland)

  • Arrive at @ 10:25 a.m. from Phoenix
  • PDX MAX Station Red Line to City Center & Beaverton to Providence to 0.3-mile walk to Northwest Portland Hostel and Guesthouse
  • Providence Park
  • Portland Timbers vs. Sporting KC
  • Powell’s City of Books
  • Pearl District: 97209
  • Find a venue to watch the Olympics


August 8 (Portland + Seattle)

  • Washington Park
  • International Rose Test Garden (free, opens @ 7:30 AM, 30-minute walking trail to get there from Washington Park)
  • Pittock Mansion ($10 each, opens @ 10 AM)
  • Lunch somewhere between these two
  • Salt and Straw Ice Cream
  • Must be at NW 8TH AVE & NW EVERETT ST by 1:45 PM for BOLT BUS @ 2 PM
  • Bus arrival @ 5:30 PM: 5th Avenue South @ S. King St in Seattle
  • Spend a little bit of time talking to our family friend who hosted us in Lower Queen Anne’s and getting settled
  • Dinner around 7 PM at Duke’s Chowder House
  • Sky View Observatory (Columbia Tower)
  • Molly Moon’s Ice Cream


August 9 (Seattle)

  • Pike Place Market
  • Opens at 9 AM
  • Eat breakfast here
  • Lunch: either near/in Pike Place or on Bainbridge depending on how much time we have
  • Ferry to Bainbridge Island – a 15-minute walk from Pike Place Market
  • Details: 12:20 ferry from Seattle; 3:50 ferry from Bainbridge; Cross time: approximately 35 minutes; $8.20 adult, $4.10 youth
  • Dinner at 8 oz Burger & Co.
  • Safeco Field for Seattle Mariners vs. Detroit Tigers – 7:10 PM game

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August 10 (Seattle + Vancouver)

  • Leave house around 8:00 AM
  • Breakfast before bus Top Pot Doughnut
  • 10–15-minute walk to the bus station
  • Arrive at bus 9:45 AM for BOLT BUS @ 10:00 a.m. bus
  • Arrive in Vancouver @ 2 PM: Pacific Central Station, 1150 Station St, Vancouver, BC V6A 4C7, Canada
  • Vancouver Lookout
  • Gastown Area
  • Granville Room


August 11 (Vancouver)

  • Grouse Mountain (opens at 9 a.m., walk 20 minutes to 999 Canada Place for free shuttle, tickets required for a ride that goes through Stanley Park)
  • Lunch somewhere between Canada Place Shuttle Stop and Granville Island Ferry Dock
  • Take the ferry to Granville Island
  • Commercial Drive Area for dinner/nighttime


August 12 (Return Home)

  • Flight @ 9:14 a.m. – fly from Vancouver to Seattle and Seattle to Phoenix


Memorable Moments

As I reviewed this itinerary from over five years ago, a few things stuck out to me. For one, this was the first trip I ever stayed in a hostel. We stayed in hostels in both Portland and Vancouver. During our stay in Seattle, we were able to connect with a family friend who was kind enough to let us stay at her home. While the hostels were certainly nothing special (especially compared to European hostels), the experience prepared me for all the travel I would do during study abroad. I’m glad I got a chance to see how hostels work and understand the process before traveling both with friends and solo in Europe.

I also remembered that this was the first trip that I used Lyft on. While researching for this itinerary, I made notes about using Uber to get to and from certain locations. However, as Lyft was still relatively new at this time, the company was offering big incentives for users. I downloaded it during this trip, and I believe we got around $30 worth of credit. I can’t remember if both Jake and I did this, or if it was just me. Either way, it helped us save on a lot of our travel costs when we weren’t walking.

Finally, this itinerary isn’t entirely accurate (I know for a fact a couple of the activities may have gotten switched in terms of timing, or we may have decided to eat somewhere different). However, I love that I have this five years later to look back on. While I remember a lot of this trip, there are elements I only remember because it was documented somewhere.


A Year 1 Anecdote: What Do Consultants Do?

We took our first annual trip in 2016. I had just finished my freshman year of college at Georgetown, and Jake had just graduated from Notre Dame a couple of months earlier. In October, he would start with McKinsey as a management consultant. Days before flying to Portland, he had returned from a post-grad Southeast Asia trip with friends. He was beyond jetlagged but still decided we should forge forward with the trip.

We arrived in Portland on August 7, and we had a full day of activities. As we discussed our plan for the next day, we knew our plans would be tight. One of the activities that Jake suggested cutting out on August 8 (you can see where I placed it in the itinerary above) was Salt and Straw Ice Cream. He thought it may make us late for the bus, and we didn’t want to mess with that. I didn’t disagree about potentially missing the bus…but I didn’t want to cut out the ice cream. I had read it was some of the best ice creams out there with the most unique flavors. I wanted in on that ice cream.

So, as an alternative, Jake suggested we go that night. Alright, I could live with that. Around 9:30 or so, we walked over from our hostel, and as we rounded the corner, we saw a line that wrapped around the side of the building. Jake immediately looked at me and said, “There’s no way.”

As I started to get in the line, I told him, “It’s supposed to be soooo good. Let’s just stick it out. They close at 11 PM. We’ll get our ice cream by then.”

The line moved slowly as we stood there. Very slowly. Jake wasn’t convinced. “Kelsey, they’re going to close while we’re still in this line. We’re never going to get anything. It’ll all be for nothing.”

He was beyond tired, and I could see that, but I was so intent on getting this ice cream. I did my best to keep the spirits high as we stood there for 30 minutes…45 minutes…60 minutes.

Time continued to pass and then we finally reached the steps of the store. We were inside. As we approached the front of the store, Jake started to look at the workers critically. You could see the wheels turning in his head. It looked like the reason the line was moving so slowly is that the workers had an incredibly individualized process with each customer that approached the counter.

He said, “You know, they should have someone out here providing samples of each flavor to everyone in line. That way, when you get up to the counter, you know exactly what you want.”

I just looked at him and said, “You’re really trying to improve their processes, aren’t you?”

“Yeah,” he said, “that’s what consultants do.”

And from that point forward, when anyone asked me what he (or any other management consultant) did for work, that’s what I told them.

Final Thoughts

That wraps up our first annual trip to the Pacific Northwest. It started the fun tradition that we always have to use our passports and go somewhere international. In 2017, we really leveled it up. Come back next week as we head to Cuba for Year 2!