BKD Life

2021 Travel Destinations

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BKDers explore the beach, see the mountains, and cruise around the U.S.

This summer, BKDers ventured to Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Hawaii, and the Bahamas to snorkel, swim, camp, rest, and reconnect with family. In addition to beach getaways, BKDers also visited national parks, river towns, and even hiking trails in the Pacific Northwest.

Swimming with dolphins in the Caribbean

At the beginning of July, Erica Brown, a manager in BKD’s Houston office, enjoyed a first-time visit to Ocho Rios, Jamaica, with her husband Michael. The couple flew into Montego Bay and was shuttled to Sandals Royal Plantation, about a 90-minute drive from the airport. As a rare getaway from the kids, a two-and-a-half-year-old and a four-month-old, they had one goal: sit on the beach or lounge by the pool and enjoy the moment.

Erica and Michael’s beach view from their room at Sandals Royal Plantation.

Erica and Michael’s beach view from their room at Sandals Royal Plantation.

Erica enjoyed a four-night stay in Jamaica, where she ventured to Dolphin Cove Ocho Rios to swim with dolphins and interact with sea life.

Erica enjoyed a four-night stay in Jamaica, where she ventured to Dolphin Cove Ocho Rios to swim with dolphins and interact with sea life.

“Having two small kids, it’s so important to get away, just the two of us, and have time to talk, eat, sleep, read a book, etc., without getting interrupted. We’re so lucky to have a small village (both sets of our parents) that helps look after the kids and dogs while we’re away,” says Erica, who was able to sleep in late, have important conversations, and—believe it or not—finish a book.

For their one off-property excursion, Erica and Michael went to Dolphin Cove Ocho Rios, which offers a natural environment for swimming with dolphins and interacting with sea life. During their 45-minute dolphin swim, they swam belly-to-belly with dolphins, took photos with them, and even boogie boarded while the dolphins pushed their feet. At the end, the trainers let Erica and Michael feed and spend a little extra time with the dolphins. They also strolled through Dolphin Cove’s Jungle Trail, which is home to exotic birds, iguanas, snakes, and additional plants and wildlife.

“Engagement-moon” scuba diving in Saint Lucia

Taylor and her fiancé Austin take an unforgettable trip to Saint Lucia.

Taylor and her fiancé Austin take an unforgettable trip to Saint Lucia.

“Picture yourself relaxing on a catamaran cruise around an island covered in beautiful greenery, volcanic beaches, small villages, and two dramatic tapered mountains. You’re in Saint Lucia,” says Taylor Fletcher, a senior consultant in BKD’s Dallas office.

Saint Lucia is famous for those two mountainous volcanic spires, the Pitons. During their visit, Taylor and her fiancé Austin enjoyed a catamaran cruise around the island, where the guides led them through several areas and explained the different fish and kinds of sea creatures found in each. They were then led toward the Pitons for photos, followed by hours of snorkeling and scuba diving. Since they’re both scuba certified, the couple enjoyed scuba diving several times throughout their visit. They also experienced Hobie sailing (a kind of catamaran), kayaking, and water skiing.

“We planned on having our destination wedding in Saint Lucia, but ultimately landed on Jamaica next year,” says Taylor. “Since we moved away from our original plans, we decided to still visit Saint Lucia as an ‘engagement-moon.’ It was the perfect romantic getaway!”

Connecting with locals in Long Island

After nearly two years without any travel vacations, Little Rock Director Stacey Atchison and her husband Ian revisited an island in the Bahamas for the fifth time. “We got married on Long Island in 2014, so it holds a special place in our hearts,” she says. 

This year, they shared one of their favorite vacation spots with their two good friends, who were part of their limited circle during the pandemic. The couple stayed one night in Nassau, where they stopped in several local bars and eateries, and then made their way to Long Island for the remainder of the trip, where the game plan was to pick a new beach each day. The trip was full of snorkeling, seashell hunting, and plenty of conch salad, fresh fish, Caribbean macaroni and cheese, and rum punches.

Since Long Island isn’t incredibly populated, people often run into the same locals and visitors throughout their stay. While talking to some of the fishermen, Stacey met one young man who was from the same small Florida town she grew up in. “I had to text my dad and, sure enough, he knew the fisherman’s dad! Talk about a small world,” she says. “We’ve met many locals on Long Island over the years and getting to see them and catch up is always special.”

During their stay, Stacey and Ian took a fishing and sightseeing trip through part of the island they hadn’t yet experienced, where they fished over a sunken airplane and, since it was shark mating season, saw more sharks than ever. Ian even took the plunge into Dean’s Blue Hole, the second-deepest blue hole in the world at 663 feet deep, from a cliff 40 feet high.

Stacey and Ian’s view from their condo in Long Island.

Stacey and Ian’s view from their condo in Long Island.

Stacey and Ian on a fishing and sightseeing trip, exploring a new part of the island.

Stacey and Ian on a fishing and sightseeing trip, exploring a new part of the island.

Traveling through the Pacific Northwest and around the U.S.

Since purchasing a camper in January, Director Steven Cunningham and his family have explored various state parks, national forests, and commercial campgrounds nearly once a month. Most recently, Steven, his wife Sam, and their three young boys stayed at a river house in New Braunfels, Texas, as part of Sam’s family’s 60-year-tradition. The family has loaded up on all sorts of summer fun: fishing, rope swinging, jet skiing, bike riding, and even ice cream making. “We’ve even flown the BKD flag on the camper!” he says.

In July, Karen Fleming, a director in BKD’s Illinois office, joined her husband and children, as well as her sister and her kids, on a trip to the Pacific Northwest, where they hiked the 5.6-mile Tolmie Peak Lookout that climbs more than 1,000 feet in 2.8 miles. The trail leads to the Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout, revealing spectacular views at an elevation of 5,920 feet.

Steven helps his son Will master the art of the rope swing.

Steven helps his son Will master the art of the rope swing.

Karen and her family hike the Tolmie Peak Lookout Trail and soak in the views of Mount Rainier and Eunice Lake.

Karen and her family hike the Tolmie Peak Lookout Trail and soak in the views of Mount Rainier and Eunice Lake.

“We were so lucky to hike on a clear day and have an unfiltered view of Mount Rainier and Eunice Lake. Our kids have memories to last a lifetime, and I am so blessed to have gotten to experience this hike with them!” says Karen.

Disconnecting and reconnecting (and fulfilling tooth fairy duties) in Maui

National Tax Administrator Susan Thiessen, husband Cameron, and five-year-old daughter Olivia revisited Maui for a little more than two weeks near the end of May. They traveled on the Hana Highway, one of Hawaii’s windiest roads, to explore one of Susan’s most memorable locations during her visit more than 30 years ago: the black sand beach Honokalani, located in Wai’anapanapa State Park. They also visited Paia, another favorite destination, which is a quaint town immersed in surf culture, art galleries, shops, and restaurants. Olivia even spent time creating her own art at one of the local galleries. The trip also included a pleasant bike ride to Turtle Town, an excellent snorkeling site.

“One of Olivia’s favorite things to talk about was her experience getting to snorkel,” says Susan. “We brought our own gear and walked to a nearby beach with a shallow reef and plenty of sea life for her to see tropical fish, sea urchin, eel, sea turtles, and fish sleeping on the ocean floor.”

For Susan, watching Olivia conquer her initial fear of snorkeling and discover the excitement of a new experience was one of the highlights of the trip. She’s also grateful for the space to practice yoga oceanside on several mornings. With the personal vacation motto to disconnect and reconnect, being intentional with fun family adventures and taking time for individual passions like yoga was an important part of the experience.

Olivia’s first snorkeling experience in Maui.

Olivia’s first snorkeling experience in Maui.

Susan and Cameron bike to Turtle Town for the day.

Susan and Cameron bike to Turtle Town for the day.

The family divided their stay between a local resort, jeep camping in a rooftop tent, and bunking with Susan’s sister and her family, who reside on the island. While camping in the rooftop tent among the Maui chickens, Olivia lost her second tooth, catching the tooth fairy off guard. 

“The tooth fairy could not have been less prepared! This seems to be a theme because she lost her first tooth while on vacation snow skiing in Colorado. Good thing the tooth fairy can fly,” says Susan. 

If you want to spot these BKDers on their next vacations, try catching up with them in the Colorado mountains, Park City, Utah, Dauphin Island, Alabama, or Panama City.

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