Hunting for Hearts

We’ve always considered ourselves lucky to be able to plan when and where we travel. But the wheel turns, and sometimes life intervenes with other obligations and priorities. And 2019 was such a year.

Mackintosh House stained glass and chair

But we did manage to squeeze in a few fun trips, and it’s Valentine’s Day and time for the annual Gallivance Hunt for Hearts.

A month-long, counterclockwise train journey around the UK, four weeks camping in the American west, and a quick hop to Vegas Baby proved, once again, that hearts abound … if you just know where to look. Enjoy.

Every year we scratch our heads on the origin of this ubiquitous heart shape, and one discovery got us a bit closer to the answer.

In his book The Body: A Guide for Occupants, Bill Bryson says,

“The heart looks nothing like the traditional symbol associated with Valentine’s Day and lovers’ initials carved in tree trunks and the like. (That symbol first appeared, as if from out of nowhere, in paintings from Northern Italy in the early fourteenth century, but no one knows what inspired it.)”

Liverpool, England has much to offer, but one reason visitors flock here is because it’s the birthplace of The Beatles. And after a ride down the leafy “Penny Lane” and up to the walls surrounding “Strawberry Fields” it came as no surprise that the ruby red gate had a stylized heart pattern.

On Valentine’s Day, “All You Need is Love,” and Fer & Keiko’s cartoon heart made the point on John Lennon’s tribute wall in the Museum of Liverpool.

The Mesa Verde area in southwestern Colorado is a wild and natural place, and the Ancestral Puebloans didn’t use romanticized heart shapes in their petroglyphs. But that didn’t stop the National Park Visitors’ Center from trying to make a few bucks selling glossy hard rock hearts – there must be a country song title there somewhere.

It’s hard to believe, but this is our eighth year of Hunting for Hearts Around the World. So wherever you are, hug your sweetie and have a fun day!

Happy Valentine’s Day,
James & Terri



We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

33 thoughts

    1. Thanks Peta. That construction barrier is a perfect example of the heart symbol showing up all over the place, and sometimes, where you least expect it. Happy Valentine’s day to you and Ben. ~James

  1. How very lovely! Happy Valentine’s, you two! 🙂 🙂 Those stones are crying out to be pocketed so I can keep running my fingers over them, and who doesn’t love Lennon? Sadly there won’t be much kissing and cuddling going on at ours this year, sniffling and coughing getting in the way a bit. But I expect I’ll make it up to him another time. And there’s always chocolate!

    1. Jo, it’s funny you mention rubbing polished stones, because I have the same compulsion. I have a river-polished agate that I can’t resist – it’s such comfort there in my pocket. 🙂 Our version of worry beads? Sorry you’re not feeling well. Hopefully it’s nothing exotic. Have a bit of chocolate with your meds to celebrate the day. ~James

    1. Thanks Darlene. It’s always fun digging through our photos for the year to find the hearts and reminisce about the place where we took the photo. That dog sign photo was taken in York not far from our hotel. ~James

      1. I’m not surprised the sign was found in York. York is one of my favourite cities in the world. We got married there 43 years ago!!

  2. Your annual heart post is always such fun to see! I’ll bet that during your travels you are often surprised at where those hearts pop up!
    Wishing you lots of hugs this Valentine’s Day!

    1. Marilyn, as we said in last year’s post, we really don’t “look” for hearts, but after all these years, we see them automatically … well almost. And yes, we are surprised at all the places they turn up. We hope that you have a great Valentine’s day as well. ~James

  3. Thanks, as always, for this Valentine’s Day treat! You amaze me with what you find, and sometimes I have to look twice to see what you saw! (Cast in point, the clock hands!) I’m even starting to look for hearts myself after your influence, and we found some heart-shaped stones at the Sea of Galilee.
    So, happy Valentine’s Day to the two of you, and thanks for making us more eagle-eyed when it comes to hearts!

    1. Rusha, we’re glad to have made a convert, and I’m anxious to see your heart-shaped stones: Sea of Galilee … not bad. And full disclosure, sometimes we photograph hearts and don’t notice them until we download the photos. Case in point, in Liverpool we took a photo of a John Lennon statue on the corner of the Beatle-famous Mathew street, and there was a small heart in the shot. The photo didn’t make it into the post, but the heart was there. But, luck counts too eh? ~James

    1. Thanks for the comment Ann and for dropping by the blog. It’s interesting that you enjoy looking for the details as well. One thing that I’ve learned about blogging is that it’s made me a more observant traveler. Knowing that I could be blogging about just about anything that I see when I travel, makes me pay closer attention – which is a very good thing. ~James

  4. Interesting to delve into where the use of the heart shape first started. Lovely valentine’s post (as always). I’ve seen heart shaped polished rocks at many NPS store and thought those have nothing to do with this area but yet they seem to sell. Maybe because we “love” our national parks?

    1. Good one Laura. We do “love”our National Parks, and on our last camping trip out west we found the gift shops to be very well stocked with interesting items. Arches was particularly nice and had a number of interesting history and geology books that were pertinent to the area. We don’t normally pick up much of this stuff, but I admit to dropping a few bucks at Arches. ~James

  5. Love this! I too am a heart hunter and have been collecting ‘hearts in nature’ for years. Once you start looking, they are everywhere! I’m new to WordPress but you’ve inspired me to write about it.

    1. Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog. These Hearts posts are lots of fun to put together, and in fact, they’re popular with our readers as well. So I would encourage you to write a post (or two) and include some of your photos. Best of luck with your new blog. ~James

    1. Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog. Looking or hearts is a fun couples’s project, and a good way to notice details when you travel. Give it a try. ~James

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