A 600-Mile Family Trip to Wisconsin Turned Into an Amateur Photographer’s Dream

by Dhara Singh – Follow @BrownGirlMag

This post was originally published on  dharasingh.org and republished with permission.

After my trip to Greece this past May, I was craving another fun-filled, picturesque vacation. I flipped through Vogue’s travel section intrigued by both Mérida, Mexico and Prague, Czech Republic. I was practically drooling over how beautiful both these destinations were. Unfortunately, I soon realized that with a low budget THAT dream just wasn’t happening this year.

However, one weekend morning my parents told me in the upcoming days we were going to go on a 600 mile (not kidding you, 600 miles) road trip to visit several relatives in the United States, many of whom I had never met before. Initially, I was dreading the possibility of awkward conversations and being sedentary for so long, but then I spotted my DSLR resting on my desk. I thought “Hey, there might be some nice views to capture. It was another chance to finally practice photography.”

[Read Related: 10 Reasons You should Visit Greece with a Tour Group]

If I couldn’t splurge on an international vacation maybe I could take advantage of a domestic one.

I was probably the last person to think Wisconsin would be my vacation substitute (No offense to Wisconsin natives!). As an amateur photographer, I was proven wrong. I learned the state possesses some of the most stellar views, especially around college town Madison. There is immense character where you least expect it.

Dane County Parks Boating


My family and I were lucky to take advantage of one of the last evening boat rides that the Dane County Parks offered for the season. The boat ride lasted for a total of 90 minutes and took you on a tour of the beautiful Lake Monona. While we were on a motor boat and our driver described iconic sites in Madison, I was appalled that such beauty was visible at night.

As we saw municipal buildings and residences of the wealthy, there were silhouettes of civilians enjoying a night’s view of the lakes.


The sky was filled with hues of purples and blues. When the moon made its appearance, the twenty of us on the motor boat also enjoyed the glimmer of city lights.

[Read Related: 5 Not-So-Obvious Reasons for Traveling Solo]

Olbrich Botanical Gardens


In the crevasses of Madison, Wisconsin there was also a beautiful botanical garden with a treasure from Thailand. The intricate pavilion pictured above is one of a kind, being the only Thai Pavilion in the “continental” United States. The structure is surrounded by a luscious greenery and a rainbow assortment of fresh flowers.

I guess if you’re craving a visit to Thailand, but can’t afford it, you might as well come here for the breathtaking views. According to a nearby sign, the pavilion was a gift from the Thai government and the Thai Chapter of the Wisconsin Alumni Association to the University of Wisconsin—Madison.

If you think the interior pictured above is gorgeous then wait till you see the exterior pictured below:


Another helpful feature of the garden is that it offers a mini train ride. Both my uncle’s family and mine boarded this mini train ride through the botanical garden and maximized our sight-seeing experience. After the ride was over we set on foot to explore the natural intricacies up close.


I’ve been to several botanical gardens but this was my favorite to date. It isn’t enough to take pictures of flowers, but the pictures you take should paint a story. I can say with confidence there is no shortage of fairytale-like scenic spots in the Olbrich Botanical Garden. I’m not surprised people often come here to get married.


Overall my experience taught me to take advantage of every small trip. With the plethora of travel bloggers we see on Instagram and WordPress, we assume we need a passport to see some stellar views. This trip definitely taught me that is not the case because seeing beauty can just be a matter of visiting your family.

Dhara Singh is currently a private banking analyst at J.P. Morgan. While graduating in May 2016 with a Finance/Supply Chain degree Dhara also finished a minor in African, Middle-Eastern, South Asian Languages and Literatures. When she isn’t spending time in the crazy world of business reporting and metrics, Dhara loves to write about everything from the most taboo topics in conservative societies to modern day issues about women empowerment. Ever since she was 7, Dhara has been keeping a journal of all her writing. Her other hobbies include re-reading/watching the Harry Potter movies, exploring the window shops of Brooklyn, and watching shows like Brown Nation, in which currently her favorite character is Balan.

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