St. Louis + Destination


Travel & Nature Photojournalism

This has been a wonderful year of travel for me; I’ve had the pleasure of traveling quite a bit and the highlight of the year was our recent visit to the Dominican Republic. The last time I traveled internationally was in my teenage years, when we visited my mother’s family in the Philippines. After renewing my very-expired passport we booked our trip through Apple Vacations, which included round trip flights via Xtra Airways and our all-inclusive stay at Dreams Resort & Spa in Punta Cana. I hope you will enjoy this reflection of our trip.


The early-morning direct flight from Saint Louis to the Dominican Republic was uneventful and I slept through nearly all four hours of flight time. After landing at the Punta Cana International Airport, we were first prompted to purchase our $10.00 “Tourist Card”, passed through customs and were then greeted by Apple Vacations representatives who took us on a 45 minute bus ride to the resort. Our representative welcomed us to the Dominican Republic and delivered some pertinent information about our stay (for example, do not drink the tap water) while alerting us to points of interest along the way. The views along the drive were mostly agricultural; we saw many farms and a few shopping and retail areas in between.

Our primary reason for travel was to celebrate a wedding. Matt’s older brother, Clay, married his sweetheart at Dreams Punta Cana Resort & Spa. Our small party of 20 family members and close friends all stayed at the resort and had a wonderful time. It did not take very long for the stress and duties of ‘real life’ to melt away as we soaked in the warm, Dominican sun. After relaxing in the pool and touring the grounds for the first few days as more guests arrived to the island, the wedding was held and we eventually participated in an off-resort excursion off the coast of Playa Bavaro.

Upon arrival at the resort, we were warmly greeted and presented with champagne and shots of the native Dominican drink, Mama Juana; a concoction of rum, red wine and honey soaked in herbs and tree bark.

The resort is home to four resident flamingos, all eager to eat (or steal) your leftovers.

The Wedding

After days of poolside lounging, the wedding was held on November 2nd at the central gazebo on the resort.

After the ceremony, we ventured to the beach to take a few more portraits before attending the reception dinner.

The Wedding Party: Longtime friend Jennifer, sister-in-law Lindsay, Matron of Honor Sarah, Bride & Groom Angela and Clayton, Best Man Matthew, and longtime friends Brett and Dave.

The new Mr. & Mrs. enjoy a sunset stroll along the beach.

Congratulations, Mr. & Mrs. Clayton Kuehne!


In our final days in the Dominican Republic, we had some extra time to select an off-site excursion. After exploring our many options with our very helpful AM Resorts representative, we decided to book the Bavaro Splash excursion which included snorkeling, snuba diving and speedboating. We traveled by open-air truck to Playa Bavaro.

We enjoyed a calming boat ride to our destination, a shallow reef.

Despite having a strong love of the ocean and aquatic life, I have had a lifelong fear of breathing underwater via tubing, preventing me from ever snorkeling or scuba diving. As we traveled to our diving area, the crew explained each activity and taught us some pertinent underwater sign language.

Snuba diving is a blend of snorkeling and scuba diving. Divers wear a weighted belt and a snorkeling mask, but breathe through a regulator connected to an oxygen tank (via tubing) that floats at the water’s surface. I was thankful to have an encouraging snuba instructor (Ricky) that helped me control my breathing when I began to panic. I nearly gave up all together; initially as you breathe in there is a slight, but troubling, delay in air flow that made me uncomfortable. After spending a few minutes practicing underwater breathing while clinging to the oxygen raft, I finally felt comfortable enough to continue. We dove downward, pausing every two feet to decompress.

What I experienced under the ocean was nothing short of magical – a flurry of beautiful and exotic tropical fishes, multicolored sea urchins, vast corals and tall grasses. Our instructor gave each of us food to feed the excited fishes, and a local photography company took several photos of us enjoying our surroundings. I cannot wait until my next snuba diving experience, maybe in Hawaii or Australia?

Many thanks to the Ocean Adventures photo crew for taking some photos of us enjoying snuba:


Our final morning was cloudy, windy and rainy.

To my surprise, it did not take long for our nine days in paradise to come to an end. Our final morning was spent walking around the resort and saying goodbye to friends and family as we all parted ways. Our return flight was beautiful; the area between Turks & Caicos and the Bahamas was exquisitely dotted with teal and cerulean island chains.

Leaving the Dominican Republic was bittersweet.

As we flew into the Midwest, we could see that we were above some heavy cloud formations. With approximately 45 minutes left in our flight, our captain announced for all passengers to return to our seats and buckle up. A few moments later, he ushered in all flight attendants and personnel to do the same; we were approaching some very dense clouds during our gradual decent. As we entered the clouds a hush fell over the cabin, followed by a few moments of extreme turbulence and harrowing screams among passengers. Of all of the flights I’ve taken, this was the scariest moment, and thankfully our flight crew handled it with precision.

A moment of relief, after passing through dense clouds.

The remainder of the flight was quieter; we glanced nervously at one another with frail smiles, as if to reassure each other. Just as we landed, cheers and applause filled the cabin. We were thankful to be home, safely! All in all, we had an incredible stay in the Dominican Republic and will look back fondly on all of the memories we made there.

And so onto our next adventure…