#PassportExpress passenger Danielle Elliott looks back on the final day in Portland.

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We thought our Monday night sunset soiree was it, that the trip couldn’t get any better. When it was announced that we’d board the bus and leave for Portland proper at 7:45a.m. the next morning, the group let out a collective groan. We just wanted another morning in the woods. But the Passion Passport crew has this way of knowing just when to push us along.

We rolled up to the bus as directed, sleepy-eyed after a night that some spent stargazing and others spent hanging around their fireplaces. No one wanted to be on the bus that early, but we slowly came to life as we rolled through the Columbia River Gorge, taking in the scenery one last time. By the time we reached Portland a few hours later, the energy was back. We were debating whether we’d hit the museums or the coffee shops, the zoo or the parks.

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The first stop was the Jupiter Hotel, a former motel that captures the Portland hipster vibe so well. They handed us free passes to the art museum, OMSI, and Japanese gardens, and filled us up on Blue Star donuts. At the back of the open-air lobby, they’d arranged yellow flower pedals into the shape of the Passport Express logo. We felt super loved.

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The majority of the group shot straight to Powell’s Books, the largest independent book store in the nation. The most eager jumped in cabs; another group of us strolled across one of the city’s many bridges and slowly made our way there. We spent the walk talking about projects and upcoming work – and I started to realize how little of this trip had been spent talking about our portfolios. As Fran described a story he did in Morocco, I wanted to hear more and more and more, I want to hear about every project all of these people had ever done. There’s just never enough time.

From Powell’s, we all started to branch off. Some went to the Ace Hotel to grab Stumptown Coffee and chill in the woodsy, succulent-filled lobby. A few met up with a group of Seattle-based photographers who’d traveled down for the day; others rented bikes and rode to the zoo or the Japanese gardens; one crew rode a street car to the other side of the city to get biscuits.

By late afternoon a bunch of people had gone back to the Jupiter, where our rooms were ready. The rooms are themed, and Kelly had the best surprise of all: she was in a Christmas room. Kelly could be Mrs. Claus in her next life, or might have been in a past life. Her reaction was priceless. There were gift bags compiled by Travel Portland: Powell’s totes inside each room, stuffed with Betsy and Iya rings, local chocolates and whiskey and salt, Happy Socks, Orox leather wallets, so many things. But as soon as they settled in and started processing yet another insanely generous city, it was on to the day’s main event: a rooftop party at the EcoTrust building.

Related:  Chance Encounters

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The party quickly became a highlight of the trip. We made mini s’mores and drank cocktails complete with fancy ice cubes. There were Willamette Valley wines and the finest local spirits, Bunk Sandwiches that I’ll be raving about for years to come. Betsy and Iya’s founders showed us the jewelry-making process, the Orox leather guys were crafting wallets. The owner of Salt and Straw (the ice cream shop that happens to be where Adam and Tim met two years ago) personally handed out two of his best flavors. There is no ego in Portland. All of these makers, founders of successful brands and shops, came out to meet us and hear our stories. It was a humbling night.

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And we didn’t let the party stop there. We all piled into Ubers and sped back to the Jupiter Hotel and the adjacent Doug Fir Lounge, where we spent hours in a photo booth and reminiscing around a fire-pit. Moments of this trip feel like we’ve known each other forever, like we’re packed four years of college memories into a two-week span. It must be weird to read these posts, because it’s been weird to be here. We arrived in Washington, D.C., slightly timid freshman. By Tuesday night in Portland, we were seniors, grasping at the final straws of this life-changing experience, trying to make it last forever.

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