A Modern Love Story

This incredible Wanderable couple share their even more incredible love story.

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Here at Wanderable, we’re lucky to support a community of smart, thoughtful, and adventure-loving couples who all dream of experiencing the world. Today, we’re honored to share the story of Shannon and her fiancé, Phil. Their relationship has been through life’s ups and downs, and Shannon would love nothing more than to surprise Phil with the dream ending – a honeymoon to Italy! See their beautiful registry here and read their story below. 

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What is your and Phil’s dream honeymoon?
Gosh, that’s such a great question! For as long as I can remember, we have always dreamed of visiting Italy – Rome, Venice, Florence, Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast – so many places to see! We love, love, love learning about foreign countries, their cultures, and of course their food! We are both adventurous and like to try new things, but we also appreciate relaxing on the beach with a drink in hand! I have no doubt that our feet will touch ground in Italy at some point in life!

Where do you plan on going? Why?
As I’ve mentioned, honeymooning wasn’t even on my radar, and I think both of us knew Italy was definitely out of the question, so we never even gave it a look. We also knew we might not be able to afford a honeymoon at all, so a location that was somewhat economical was of importance. Phil and I have dreamed of traveling the world – Italy, Greece, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Indonesia, it’s hard to pick just one! Initially we had looked at Mexico, and I hate to say our destination was based on financial reasons rather than fulfilling dreams, but there is a lot of truth to that. When it came down to it, we were focused on areas where we could fly on banked Southwest miles, or travel in the off season to save a little more – even if that meant dealing with the threat of hurricanes. Is it our dream? Not necessarily. After really contemplating this question, and considering why, I had to change course. I’m doing all of this to honor Phil, his love, and our new life together, so with that in mind, I know in my heart he would love to go to Italy.

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How did you know that Phil was the one?
After having both been married before, that’s a question I can’t say I’ve considered. If I get real about it, we both, at some point, thought we had already found “the one” previously, and that obviously wasn’t the case. However, we both learned a great deal from our marriages – we learned why they didn’t work and accepted and acknowledged our parts in that, but we also did a lot of self reflection and healing to hopefully be better people. If I had to pinpoint a time of knowing that Phil was “the one”, I’d say it was when I clearly understood that who I am was good enough. I know it sounds a bit cliche, but when you’ve lived the last 10 or so years in emotional and mental distress, feeling as if you are enough is like being able to breathe – we often take breathing for granted until it’s difficult to do so.

Phil’s acceptance of me and my fondness of him never really made me feel as if I had to impress him. I absolutely adore him and I’ve seen time and time again, his dedication to me and my boys. The past few years have challenged us in ways I didn’t know possible; from my diagnosis, to raising two teen boys, to helping my ex manage mental health and substance abuse issues, it’s been a very emotionally charged time in both of our lives, yet we seem to come out stronger each and every time we are thrown a curve ball. We laugh at some of it now, but quite honestly, I had no idea how drastically Phil would change my life.

I didn’t realize how much the little things really affected me. Your question has sparked some wonderful, reminiscent thoughts! I remember the first time we sat in a booth at a restaurant – on the same side when it was only the two of us – I had never done that before! And, he didn’t think it was gross to share a bite of my food or a sip out of the same glass. I remember the first time he held my hand – we were on our way home from lunch at an Indian restaurant – funny thing is, five years later he still holds my hand while we are in the car, even if it’s just a short trip to the store. He jokes how lucky he is to have found a loud Italian girl so he doesn’t need to turn his hearing aids up – although, I’m quite certain there are times when he turns them off!! HA! I actually forget that he’s hearing impaired; he’s been so since birth due to underdeveloped nerves. I love that he doesn’t use his disability as a crutch, but rather as a means of conversation and education – it’s just one more reason why I love him so much.

Together, we have learned what the other needs and wants. We know what the other likes to eat, the movies we enjoy, the best blankets for a good night’s rest, and if we prefer our socks folded or balled – for the record, he likes his socks folded so they don’t stretch the elastic! On a larger scale we talk about our dreams and visions for the future, come to each other’s side when there is a work-related struggle or family issue needing addressed, and have open conversations, no matter how uncomfortable, about our finances.

As for my kids, he loves them, and has no problem letting them know it! He treats them with respect, and makes certain they have what they need – he always has. He’s never faltered, understands his boundaries, and knows if that line as been crossed. He resolved a long time ago, that he would never have children of his own, and is happy that mine have accepted him – they refer to him as their “step-ish” dad, which we think is very telling and pretty funny too.

Phil and I have built a secure foundation that is laced with respect for each other, and because of that our connection blossoms, communication improves and our commitment deepens, and for those reasons, and I’m sure many, many more, I know Phil is “the one”.

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What does being able to take this honeymoon mean to you and Phil?
Let me start by saying that Phil has no idea that I’m doing this – he has no idea that I’ve set up a registry, have posted on various social media outlets to ask for help, or that I’ve been in conversation with you and your fabulous team at Wanderable. As far as he knows, I’ve dropped the entire idea of going on a honeymoon, so if I’m able to make it happen, it will be a HUGE surprise!

When we crunched the numbers and determined that we could either celebrate with a small backyard party or take our honeymoon, provided it was an economical location during the off season, we decided that time spent with family and friends was priceless. We will marry in a private ceremony this summer, and share that news with our guests via party invitations! Clearly we love surprises! While we would absolutely love the opportunity to celebrate our new life together in a far off land, I’m just not certain how it will happen. Taking this trip would illustrate how the unconditional love Phil emanates creates a domino affect. From this love a passion was born. My deep desire to make his dream come true was fueled by the kindness and generosity I see in others, and with their assistance, they solidify the power of love and what it can do, and that would mean the world to me – to us!

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Thank you, Shannon! We are wishing you and Phil the best as you continue to collect donations on your registry.

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What to Pack – Thailand Edition Featuring Ashley from Her Sparkle

The only Thailand honeymoon packing list you’ll need, by fashion blogger, Ashley Fehr Hajjar

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Ashley Fehr Hajjar of Her Sparkle is one of our all-time favorite fashion bloggers and wedding enthusiasts. ICYMI: Ashely has already given us the DL on what to pack for Hawaii and Italy and is back to share her tips on what to pack for Thailand.

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Ready for another edition of Her Sparkle’s What to Pack!? This time we are going {or dreaming of going} to Thailand 🙂

When packing for Thailand it’s ALL about bright colors & prints. These pretty prints will be perfect for Thailand’s gorgeous beaches. It’s important to note that Thailand is a modest country so don’t go overboard with any skin bearing outfits. Also, the basic rule for Thai temples is to cover your shoulders so the printed wrap would be a welcome edition to your packing list! xx

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Mara Hoffman Slouch Pants // Trina Turk Beaded Halter Top // Personalized Towel // Elephant Tank // Neon Print Maxi // Madewell Fringe Beach Tote // Michael Stars Print Wrap

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Well now you can all understand why we love Ashley and her packing lists so much. Thanks for all your tips Ashley! Now it’s time to plan all of our future trips and put these packing lists to good use!

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What It Feels Like to Win a Trip to Vietnam

Ever wonder what it would feel like to win a trip to Vietnam?! Kelly and John share their amazing story.

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We recently teamed up with Mr. and Mrs. Smith (side note: we are all obsessed with Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s gorgeous hotelsto co-host a Vietnam Giveaway and are so excited for our winners, Kelly and John! You know how there always seems to be that one hip and inspiring couple you know and love? That’s Kelly and John. They are wanderers at heart. In true adventurous fashion, they shared with us their how-to for enjoying life to the fullest and what they’re most excited to try in Vietnam.

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Kelly, what was your reaction when you found out you had won the contest?

My first reaction was of skepticism and disbelief. I received the email from Ann Marie [of Mr. and Mrs. Smith] while I was at work and talking with a co-worker. It was like “OMG, I think I just won a trip to Vietnam” and then I called Ann Marie to see if it was legit and she assured me it was. I was just super floored by the whole thing, I’ll enter these contests from time to time, you know, “The Downton Abbey” sweepstakes, “Win a Trip to Wimbeldon”, “Win a Trip to the French Open” (we’re both big tennis fans), I just fill them out and forget about them, never expecting to win, but this time I did! I called John and let him know and we both still cannot get over how crazy the whole thing is. We’re super, DUPER insanely, excited!

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What are you and John most excited about for your Vietnam trip?

The prospect of taking a REAL, proper, vacation! Overseas! To an exotic locale! On the beach! 5-star hotels! John has never been out of the country aside from Mexico and I’ve only ever been to Paris so having a real vacation is just a dream come true. Neither of us has EVER stayed in a 5-Star hotel. We plan on extending the trip a bit and taking a full two weeks. Seeing the temples of Angkor Wat has been on my bucket list for years and we figure, while we’re over there, let’s just go to Cambodia too! We both love Vietnamese food so we plan on spending a lot of time sampling the offerings of the various street vendors. We’re just so excited to explore a part of the world that’s so different from ours!

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We’d love to hear, where did you and John go on your honeymoon?

Well, we had initially registered for a Croatian and Slovenian honeymoon but because we didn’t have a traditional wedding (we were married in a courthouse in August 2012 and had a party the following October with our friends to celebrate), we didn’t quite make our goal, funding wise. Instead we used the money our friends donated through Wanderable and took an epic two week camping trip through the Eastern Sierras and the Cascades and back down the coast of California with our dog, Juniper. We both love the outdoors, camping, and hiking, and this turned out to be the ideal trip for us at the time. We had a blast!

Why did you choose to register for experiences over things when you got married?

Being an “older” couple (I was 40 when we got married and John 38, first marriage for both us!) we really didn’t have a need for household items, we already had them. Life and marriage for us at this point wasn’t about things or kids, it was just about spending the rest of our lives together. John’s mom had been fighting cancer throughout our engagement and she lost that fight the week that we were married. The importance of enjoying life to the fullest was really and profoundly made apparent to us. We’re both super adventurous and love new experiences, exploring different cultures and foods and really just seeing, smelling, hearing, laughing, loving, doing and living as much as possible! Our time here is short and our time together even shorter, why spend it in the aisles of Target registering for an espresso machine when we could be sipping espresso along the Dalmatian coast, or in this case, sipping Vietnamese Iced Coffees on the beaches of Hoi An!

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How amazing do Kelly and John sound?! Thank you so much, Kelly! And a huge shout out again to Mr. and Mrs. Smith for helping to make Kelly and John’s next adventure to Vietnam a reality!

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The Best Baked Sweet Potato Fries for 4th of July

These easy sweet potato fries, spiced with ginger and sea salt, will be a hit at your 4th of July barbecue.

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Instead of bringing the usual macaroni salad or chips to this weekend’s 4th of July celebrations, follow this easy recipe for a no-fuss dish that will be an amazing hit. Trust us – when we tested this recipe at a recent dinner party, it was completely devoured right away (even the cheese plate of Mount Tam was ignored!). After all, what is more American, irresistible, and beloved than a plate of homemade, spicy, sweet, and decadent fries?! Literally, these are the best baked sweet potato fries for 4th of July!

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Adapted from Barefoot Contessa

Yield: Large plate of fries, enough to feed 4

Potatoes:
2-3 medium to large sweet potatoes

To Glaze Potatoes:
2 tablespoons oil (we used olive, but toasted sesame would also be fantastic)
1 gallon plastic bag

Spice Coating:
2 teaspoon light sugar, preferably brown
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

To Cut Potatoes:
Trusted chef’s knife
Cutting board

To Bake Potatoes:
1 large baking sheet
Parchment baking paper
Spatula

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Prep your oven: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line the large baking sheet with parchment baking paper and set aside.

Mix the Spice Coating: In a small bowl, mix the sugar, ginger, kosher salt, black pepper, paprika, and cinnamon until combined. Set aside.

Cut the potatoes: Wash the sweet potatoes under hot, running water. Set upon a clean surface. Using your cutting board and chef’s knife, cut a potato in half, left to right. Then, cut each piece again in half, top to bottom. You should now have four pieces upon your cutting board. Take a quarter piece and cut it in half again, top to bottom. Continue cutting long strips, top to bottom, until the entire quarter piece has been cut into long strips. You can continue cutting into the potato as you wish, to make the pieces even thinner or smaller. Do this for each potato.

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Glaze the potato pieces: Throw all your potato pieces into the large, gallon plastic bag. Throw in the 2 tablespoons of oil. Hold the bag opening tightly with one hand and toss the bag around with the other. You want to evenly coat all the pieces with the oil for optimal glazing.

Coat the potato pieces: Dump all the oily potato pieces onto the lined baking sheet. Try to arrange a single layer of potato pieces. Then, using a small spoon or your hand, sprinkle the Spice Coating as evenly as possible over all the potato pieces.

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Bake the potato pieces: Bake for approximately 15 minutes. Then, use the spatula to flip all the pieces over and bake for another 15 minutes or until just slightly browned and crisped around the edges.

Enjoy!: We recommend pairing with a cold, frothy glass of beer and a big, juicy burger. 🙂

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HAPPY 4th OF JULY!  😎

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TourNative’s Best Local Tips for Traveling in Vietnam

TourNative has the best local tips for traveling in Vietnam.

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As the weather warms up, our team at Wanderable is dreaming about traveling to Vietnam. A country known for its beauty and energy, Vietnam offers travelers everything from peaceful beaches to bustling cities. With a country as unique and interesting as Vietnam, it pays to have some local insight. This is why we asked our friends at TourNative to share their best local tips for traveling in Vietnam.

TourNative is an innovative company allowing travelers to book authentic experiences with local guides. They have tons of experiences in Vietnam, which makes them the de facto experts, whether this is your first or tenth trip to Vietnam. Read their local tips for traveling in Vietnam, below.

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1. Definitely try out the local cuisine in Vietnam: Bánh mì, coconut water, Pho, coffee – all these things are best savored in random restaurants and next to carts by the roads.

2. You may run into some minor scams if taking a taxi in Vietnam, especially if you hail a taxi driver who goes by the meter, so always arrange your transportation through reputable companies. Or if you’re up for a thrill, enjoy a motorbike tour.

3. The traffic in Vietnam is incredibly packed. In big cities like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, cross roads with caution. Be confident: let cars avoid you, keep a consistent pace, and keep walking forward.

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4. Do not drink the tap water. Sometimes it is fine and sometimes it is not, but it is always best to be safe and carry bottled water wherever you go.

5. Remember to pack mosquito repellent with you. It’ll be extremely useful if you end up exploring Vietnam’s countryside trails!

6. The Northern, Central, and Southern areas of Vietnam have completely different climate, so pack accordingly if you’re planning on traveling to many different areas of Vietnam.

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Just like TourNative, Wanderable believes in enjoying authentic, memorable, and local experiences while traveling. Peek inside Wanderable’s top-rated curated experiences in Vietnam, to really bring your Vietnam trip to the next level.

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