Imagine discovering, as an adult, that you've got a long-lost sibling living in another part of the world. It may sound like the far-fetched plot of a television drama series, but for Amanda Gordon and Roger Horikoshi, it's reality. The half-siblings were born in Seoul, South Korea, and were adopted by separate families as children, having no memory of each other. But thanks to some DNA testing and Travel + Leisure's new video series, Meet Me in the Middle, the pair not only found each other, but also met in person for the first time at L'Auberge de Sedona Hotel in Sedona, Arizona — the midpoint between Amanda's home in New York City and Roger's home in Honolulu.
After their once-in-a-lifetime trip exploring Sedona and making up for lost time, we caught up with Amanda and Roger. It turns out, the siblings extended their reunion with a subsequent trip to Hawaii, where Amanda spent a few weeks with Roger's family. Here's what they said about their time together.
Travel + Leisure: How has this experience changed your life?
Roger: The experience of discovering Amanda, and then getting to meet in person, has grown my family tree like I never would have imagined. It stirred up conversations with Amanda and with my family about ourselves that we'd otherwise never have, and it's enabled a wonderful evolution of our relationships that brought us closer together.
Also, having our meeting by way of a curated T+L vacation and sharing it publicly turned the experience into a triple play on my bucket list of life memories!
Amanda: It has truly been the silver lining of 2020-2021. This pandemic has personally brought job loss, and so much darkness to the world, but being able to find my half-brother, connect with him, and spend time together is something beyond what I thought was possible! It was such a fun surprise when I discovered Roger was also adopted and raised in Hawaii. It brought me immense joy knowing that we were on the same wavelength about wanting to connect with each other and I love that each of our families are excited to have a newly extended family!
Did your first in-person interaction play out the way you imagined it would?
Amanda: I honestly didn't know what to expect in terms of how we'd officially meet in-person, since the whole trip had an itinerary that was unfolding in real-time to keep the surprise. It was pretty funny ahead of the big reveal, because we were staying at the same hotel and didn't want to accidentally run into each other. When I was about 10 minutes from the hotel, I texted Roger to stay clear of the lobby! Luckily, he had just finished checking in and was on the way to his room. Success! The next morning, I was fully prepared to ugly cry, but once I saw Roger, I was simply overjoyed and smiling ear to ear!
Roger: It was mostly a lot of excitement and a bit of shock that our actual meeting was not only happening, but [happening] in such an epic fashion.
Do you think meeting in Sedona added something special to your first interaction that meeting in one of your hometowns wouldn't have offered?.
Amanda: Absolutely! It was great being able to explore a new city together. Everything was a new experience for both of us to truly make new memories together. Sedona will forever hold a special place in my heart now. The red rocks and open sky are so breathtaking, and so different from Manhattan and Hawaii, so it was nice that we both got to experience a new environment and do activities we wouldn't normally do in either of our hometowns.
Roger: Neither of us had visited Sedona before, so it was cool to have a mutually novel setting. The meeting location itself was a remarkable oasis, like something straight from an animation or storybook.
How did the continued part of your reunion in Hawaii go? Did you learn anything else interesting about each other, or discover anything else you have in common (like both learning to drive in a Jeep Grand Cherokee)?
Roger: Our family here was overjoyed to meet Amanda! I was surprised by how many things Amanda and I have in common, as she loved trying all the local cuisine and exploring just about anything. I'd known that Amanda loved the arts, but I was blown away that she knew pretty much all of the artists behind the "POW! WOW!" murals. It was also interesting when Amanda mentioned that she seems to have luck, as I feel the same, and it's probably based on our similarly optimistic mindset on life.
Amanda: It was wonderful! Not only did I gain a brother, but I also gained an amazing sister-in-law, Ashley, and two adorable young nephews!
I was happy to learn that we are both people who will wake up early for a good daybreak destination (I highly recommend Makapu'u Tide Pools) or catching a beautiful sunset (we hiked Koko Head Crater the day I landed!) We also discovered that we're both huge fans of Reggie Watts and Marc Rebillet! As a music and comedy fan, I was very relieved to know my brother has good taste in both!
Towards the end of the trip, I was able to take some photos at Kualoa Ranch to show my dinosaur-loving nephew. It was so sweet, because after returning to NYC, he made his own conclusion as to why I wasn't in Hawaii and told his parents, "Aunty went to see dinosaur bones." My heart absolutely melted!
Has this experience inspired you to plan family reunions in various cities in the future?
Amanda: The invite is always open for Roger's family to come to NYC or to visit my parents in Texas. I know my family would love to visit Hawaii to meet our newly extended family and I love traveling, so I am always down to meet somewhere new, or revisit places I've been to before, to create new memories with them. I think once the kids are older we'll be able to plan future family reunions. I haven't been back to Seoul yet, so I think that would be an amazing international destination we could explore with our families in the future.
Roger: With our families in several places [across the country], Amanda and I are stoked about the endless possibilities for a future meetup!