About 30 years ago, my stepsister got in the car with her college roommate and drove west to Seattle. She never came back. Well, she does come back for the holidays and all, but once she arrived in Washington State, she’d found her home. My family and I headed west for our vacation this year, and as we travelled the Pacific Northwest, I could see why she made the decision she did. The forests and steep hills plunging down to the sea, the deep greens of the temperate rainforest, and rows of snow-capped mountains are hard to beat.

We began our visit in Seattle and spent a day with the locals. First up was a visit to Starbucks Reserve Roastery on Capitol Hill, where we enjoyed some coffee infused cocktails and lunch, while we watched the beans travel overhead through the roasting process. Seattle is definitely a coffee town and the roastery like is Willy Wonka’s factory for the caffeine-addicted. Our after-lunch sightseeing drive around town included a visit to see the salmon swim up the ladder at Ballard Locks and a walk along the beach before heading to a fish market for an amazing piece of salmon for our dinner.

Heeding an off-handed comment by a friend, we drove the next morning to Deception Pass. But missing the turn for the popular scenic bridge, we found ourselves alone on a rocky coastline at Bowman’s Point. This became one of the highlights of our trip. Cooler than we imagined, we zipped up our fleeces and hiked along the shoreline, watching crabs run across the sea floor in crystal clear water. It was one of those lucky moments of travel serendipity.

The lush forests surrounding Vancouver

Vancouver is a constant favorite for us. This lovely, cosmopolitan destination offers everything a city should: a thriving music scene, museums, restaurants… But it also is surrounded by natural beauty. With Grouse Mountain just across the water, and Whistler about 90 minutes away, you can quickly get to skiing or hiking. Vancouver is also laced with green spaces and parks, so you never feel the city pressure. Our favorite stop this time was the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, followed by the best meal of our trip at Sage, surprisingly also at the university. What an incredible meal – fresh seafood, innovative flavors, and impeccable service. We were lucky to enjoy a stay in a newly renovated room at the wonderful Fairmont Vancouver which was a real treat. I’ll be back there in a few weeks for a meeting and I’m looking forward to returning!

Our roadtrip continued, with three days in Washington’s National Parks. From our home bases at the Lake Quinault Lodge and the National Park Inn, we explored Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier. Olympic offered wonderfully peaceful hiking in the Hoh Rainforest, the crash of the ocean at Ruby Beach, and the amazement of some of the worlds largest trees.  It was otherworldly. But my favorite remains Mount Rainier. In spite of some harrowing guardrail-free mountain driving, there’s so much to do here. The hiking takes you through high alpine meadows filled with wildflowers. Views stretch to the high glaciers with their incredible walls of snow. And dark forest trails wind along absolutely clear glacial rivers. It is breathtaking.

Travelling the Pacific Northwest put me back in touch with the things I love about being on the road: the accidental discoveries along the way, the rare opportunity to be in places of total quiet, and the chance to go off the grid – no WiFi, no phone, no TV. We don’t have a lot of that in New Jersey, one of the world’s most connected places… We really enjoyed it and you might, too.

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About the author

As Vice President of Engagement at Next Level Performance, Susan serves on the board of the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), and chairs the IRF Research Committee. She has also served on the board of the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) and is a past president of the Recognition Council, and a past member of the Performance Improvement Council and the Incentive and Engagement Solution Providers (IESP). She is interested in the strategies and benefits of employee engagement, incentive, and recognition programs. An avid traveler, she is also passionate about the art and science of incentive travel. Favorite travel destinations: Costa Rica, Iceland, Switzerland, and Maine.

Susan Adams
Vice President of Engagement
sadams@nxlperformance.com