Home Love; it’s where the heart is

Nomad life is something else.

I’m always torn between feelings.

On the one hand, I really love living in another country. I enjoy visiting new places and seeing the world. On my own terms, I make my own decisions. It’s great.

On the other hand, sometimes you miss your people. Back home, I had no shortage of connections in many forms. 

Some were spiritual connections; they helped me dig deeper beyond the surface of matters. Some were fun connections, never nothing to do! Some were soul connections — we just vibed. Some were long-term, loyal connections that I’ve spent years with!

I do miss the camaraderie that living at home allows. I grew up in Atlanta. I got used to the city because it was home. I could make friends wherever I went. It’s like it infected you with a sweet pride or something. 

Southern hospitality could be a myth or the best thing that ever happened to you, depended on the day haha

I now see how much I miss companionship. One of my good friends came to visit from the States with our mutual friend, and my heart was full the entire time.

Felt good catching up; just being in good company. 

It felt good having familiarity around. Travel can change you. And since embracing my natural introvertedness, traveling has made it that much easier to isolate. Although I don’t think it’s a good thing, I genuinely am not bothered being alone. So I have to catch myself when I notice I’m having too much me-time.

But having my friends in town just lit up my world! 

Huay Kaew Waterfall – my favorite lil local spot

Hugs and excursions and laughs and good food. Friendship is like the gift that keeps on giving.

Maerim Elephant Sanctuary: (mud)bath time!

I wouldn’t change my decision to move, for sure. I’m enjoying so much about life; I’ll have to do better putting them into words. 

Spending time with one of my loves was absolutely everything. Our mutual friend — I met her in my girl’s Zumba class when she was an instructor many years ago — is super cool, and definitely the life of the party. I can go and keep going, but this life makes you slower. Especially in Chiang Mai. It was cool switching up the energy a little bit.

I got to get away from the computer for a while and just enjoy this magical city. It’s easy to get comfy like you’re a local and not take advantage of all the close-by interesting or fun things there are to do here. It was nice to go on some adventures, and to have some girls-night-outs.

I am so grateful for the wonderful, authentic people in my life. There are over 7 billion of us on this earth; it’s nice to make some wholesome connections.

In true Gratitude Awareness fashion (insert plug: check this month’s edition of Expat Divas — a magazine catered toward women of color who travel; I’m a contributor discussing how to incorporate a gratitude journal into your life daily to manifest blessings!), I am grateful to be surrounded by amazing people. 

My friend circle is healthy. I’m not the smartest one I’m surrounded by, so I can learn from others and grow. I’m learning to weed out the unnecessary and focus on being my best self.

Cheers to incredible friends and connections! 

p.s. Everyone has an open invitation to visit!

Nomadic Identity

I’m noticing a thing about nomad life: You have to be so much more careful protecting your identity. Everything you do becomes who you are.

If you go hiking, you’re a nature enthusiast. If you try vegan restaurants, you’re edgy. If you check out a few bars, you’re living on the wild side.

This era of appearances can make the truth a bit harder to see. Sometimes, it’s downright invisible.

What you cannot rely on as a nomad is the convenience of reputation. Instead, people are seeing you for who you present at face value. And that, you can imagine, may not always be in the ideal light.

You don’t get a friend-pass because folks know you don’t handle conflict well. You don’t get a girl-pass because the moon and the influx of feminine energy is is effin with your insides. You don’t get a black-pass for not wanting to do black shit every day.

Familiarity has its perks. It doesn’t take twice as long to tell a story because you have to fill them in with all the background details. Instead, trust flows like water. Suspicions are reduced. So when you happen to do something “out of character” the handy compilation of history comes through with a caption to remind people, “Oh, Dani’s just having a moment.”

But as a nomad, you don’t get that moment to behave strangely with no consequences. Each moment is your social responsibility, and social responsibility is quite a responsibility when adding a layer of newness to the equation.

It’s fantastic meeting new people. I love listening to folks’ story because everyone has one, and no two are alike.

But. I might not want to be held to my social decisions a year from now. Maybe I made a left when I should have gone right, figuratively speaking. We are all trying out different turns in life, and everyone’s GPS is in a different language.

The thing about a story is we are each writing ours exactly the way we want it told. Sometimes, we exaggerate, but we’re hopefully mostly telling the truth. [Mind you, whether we like it or not, personality and energy speak well before our mouths. smile]
Just a part of being human.

[Sidebar:: The key is finding someone who is telling their story as authentically as possible.
Finding as many someones trying to not only live in their truth but speak in their truth as well. This, I’ve come to learn, is not easy. But, I think the closer you endeavor to be your own authentic self you will attract like-energy.]

The bright side is being a nomad affords you the chance to tell your story as often as you like, and change it when you want to start over.

I’m discovering my identity, and how I want to tell my story. That’s what I came for. That’s what I left for. Not to get caught up in generalizations. Not to get distracted by the same western problems. Not to confine my mind, my body, or my soul into any box – literal or figurative.

I didn’t leave America to form or subscribe to generalizations. Nor did I go to be filed under any.

I left to learn. I left to expand. I left to transform.

From the outside looking in, some of my actions may not have looked like the best choices. Some were, some were not. But, I’m new at this solo-traveling, nomad life so I’m giving my own self a pass.

Mistakes are allowed. Without them, we don’t learn. Without learning, we are bound to repeat.
So now, I prefer to describe life as a custom pathway. Not a racetrack.

My task: Control the pace.

Forest Gump said, “Life is like…”

So yesterday my wallet was stolen while my friend and I were at the beach, enjoying the beautiful waters of the Andaman Sea. We were just returning to our things, ready to grab a bite to eat and possibly head to another beach when that sick feeling came over me. I was sure where I’d left my wallet, but it wasn’t there.

After the initial thought discovery dissipated, my mind jumped into repair mode: Turn off the cards. Fortunately, the thieves didn’t get to do much spending. They’d charged one of my cards at a nearby restaurant for 500 Thai baht, which is roughly equivalent to 15 USD. A “pricey” meal for Thailand, but a loss I could stomach.

Being a solo traveler, it’s important to be safe and always aware of your surroundings. I admitted to myself I was not overly precautious about my surroundings because of the mysticism of the beautiful ocean, the smiles on people’s faces around me, and the comfort that comes with traveling with a companion.

The thing, though, is it’s impossible to take every single precaution, but I have learned a valuable lesson (one that will cost me a few inconveniences, but nothing detrimental… fortunately!).

  1. Never keep all your forms of payment in one source. I typically don’t do this either. I happened to have all three of my debit cards in my wallet at the same time, because I was traveling. Usually when I reach my destination I will keep one card behind in my accommodation. And I never travel with my passport unless absolutely necessary. I obviously forgot to do this, and now I remember why I do.
  • Listen to your intuition. I am almost certain I know who swiped my wallet, and the exact time it happened. A little voice in me told me to ask my friend to put my purse in his bookbag while we were in the water, but I pushed it aside as paranoia. Special note: Paranoia, when it’s common sense or intelligence, is not only a good thing – it could one day save your life (or, at the very least the rest of your day while on vacation). Don’t push it aside. Act on it if it makes sense.
  • Be gentle with yourself with bad things happen. Listen, you can be the smart and well-traveled and still get taken advantage of. You cannot control the actions of others, nor can you predict their behaviors 100%. I beat myself up after realizing what had happened because I kept thinking, “I knew better. I’m never this stupid.” The thing is, we are all susceptible to the evils of this world. And sometimes we encounter situations we cannot understand the meaning of for us. “Why did this happen to me?” I don’t believe in coincidences. Yes, I provided the opportunity for the setup, but I think much more level-headed when I remove myself as victim and insert myself as student of life.

I’m writing this on the patio of a beautiful Airbnb condo with a step-out pool and ocean view. I have decided to be grateful for my blessings, instead of wallowing over an experience that has now happened and of which I have no control over – whether I’m stressed and sad about it or not. Things could have gone far worse. I’m not alone, and I’m not broke. My ticket home is already paid for, and my friend has resources should I need help (special note to self: Travel with someone who has access to resources, just in case!). My cards can’t be used, and I have cash at home I can use until I get my replacements.

Shit happens. Sometimes it happens to us. It’s natural to feel sucky at first. Of course, I felt violated for being robbed and disappointed in myself for letting my guard down. Beating yourself up over the past isn’t going to make things better. In fact, research has shown stress actually has a negative effect on our bodies physically. It’s nearly impossible to be productive, positive, or grateful when we’ve triggered stress through our brain. It cuts off reason and positive action, because those chemical receptors have now been charged. Breathe, forgive the perpetrators for taking advantage of you, forgive yourself for setting up a situation for you to be taken advantage of, put on your best dance playlist with a glass of wine, and enjoy life!

Shit happens. Sometimes it happens to us.

Be wise, but be free. Be strong, but be willing to accept help. Be kind, but be in-tune.

Life is good. It’s all about perspective.

When I Knew…

A couple of weeks ago I was under severe anxiety. So much so that I wasn’t sleeping  a full night’s sleep for going on six days. My mind was restless and every single worry I could think of was swarming in my head every moment of every day.

The primary factor causing my anxiety centered around the looming presence of my going abroad to teach. I have decided that I’m moving to Thailand to teach English, and could not be more excited! But, with that comes a lot to do!

Imagine the stress and work it takes to move. Now, imagine doing so to another country. Now imagine moving to another country where you do not speak the language. Now imagine moving to another country where you do not speak the language, and doing it alone. Insert major freak-out! On top of that, I was facing some dilemmas that had me questioning whether I’m making the right decision.

I have spent the past, oh, four or more years working toward this goal. Before, it was just a dream. But as time passes by, and my ten-year work anniversary is approaching (the date I decided to benchmark for how soon I will leave), the ever-present dream is becoming a reality. I’m now a few months away from what is very possibly the riskiest, most-adventurous, scariest decision of my life. And there are so many unknowns. It’s the unknowns that worried me the most. Of course, I know I can’t solve every single issue that surfaces, but when thoughts of them arise I can’t dismiss them. This is my life I’m talking about. What the heck am I doing!

So I was concerned about how smoothly this getting to Thailand and finding a job and a place to stay was going to go. I’ve been in contact with alumni from the academy I received my TEFL certification on their Facebook page, which has served extremely useful and comforting in facing all my ignorance. Many have suggested I should have no problem at all finding a job given my credentials – I have a Bachelor’s in English, two master’s degrees, one of which is in education, the 150-hour TEFL certification plus the optional 30 hours in Young Learners and Business English I chose to add on, 20 practicum hours including a minimum of 6 hours of direct teaching/tutoring, and experience in teaching, tutoring, and professional training. The minimum requirements (I hear) of most Thai employers is that one simply be a native-English speaker and possess a Bachelor’s degree in any discipline. Right. I’m good.

But, I’ve never done this before. I have responsibilities. I have debt. Maybe if this were ten or so years ago, when I was fresh out of college and full of optimism about the world and its effect on me I might have approached this journey differently.

But this is not ten years ago.

I can’t just leave everything I know on the whim that I’ll be good without any assurances. I just can’t. I don’t think that way. Never have, and definitely can’t for such a huge leap as this.

One night my emotions had hit a peak. Perhaps I was running on fumes from having so little sleep, which affected my ability to be my normally positive self.

I had a moment where all the emotions rose up from my gut and pronounced themselves through tears of frustration, confusion, and surrender.

I cried over memories of abandonment that created the independent soul I am today. I cried over the idea of being 30-something and not married like I’d planned, which sparked questions like “Am I doing this to run away? Am I going to be happy?” I cried at the thought of leaving my beloved Champ, who is my baby in every sense that it could mean to a loving pet parent with no human children. I cried over the joy I feel for setting my mind to something and going after it, while at the same token thinking, “Why do I have to be so dern strong-willed; this is why I’m single!” I cried about feeling lonely, being afraid of being alone, and moving to a country where I could possibly face that lonely several times over. I was miserable. I was sad. I was exhausted. I was losing the energy to self-motivate.

So I prayed. Out loud. As I cried. Asking for a sign. “Higher power, higher being, higher self, Universe, angels and celestial beings, God, mom, someone. Am I supposed to do this?”

I went to bed just hoping to sleep the whole night through.

I woke up the next morning about five minutes before my alarm went off. I wanted to cry again just out of sheer happiness! I slept!!

It was a sign. Something was shifting.

I reached out to a contact of an organization I’d been eyeing for a while – Greenheart Travel. Their mission at its core is primarily to make the world a better place through travel.

It is no secret that travel changes one’s perspective. Those who do not travel, who only know their surroundings and are not exposed to other cultures and ways of life are significantly at a disadvantage from those who do. I remember my first trip to another country with my sister. It opened our eyes and sparked a desire to travel the world even more. We were changed forever.

I emailed the contact, Sara, asking if I could be added back to their subscription list. I’d previously subscribed for updates, but, after seeing the program costs, decided I couldn’t afford to fork over more money in this transition. I’d already spent about $1000 on the TEFL certification, and, having my credentials, was fairly confident I would have no problem finding a job and a place to stay. Fairly.

Until I wasn’t.

Sara responded quickly that I was confirmed back on the list. I wanted to do the program, but the program costs were just not ideal for my budget.

I remembered I saw a post on their Facebook page that they offered a scholarship, funds of which would apply toward the program fee.

But I was a day late. The scholarship deadline had passed just the day before.

I emailed Sara and humbly asked if there were any way I could still apply. I figured, what’s the worst that could happen. If the answer was no, it was no, but I had to try. I had to ask.

Sara responded if I could get all the materials to her as soon as possible I could be reviewed. Another sign!

The requirements included a letter of recommendation from my supervisor, a video essay about my interest in the program and how I’d use it to be a change agent, and a photo essay of my hometown.

Time was not on my side, but I was determined to do everything in my power to submit all materials by the next day. I just had to try.

I ran to my supervisor and explained everything. I’m so fortunate to have a great relationship with my supervisor. He has come to the rescue on so many occasions – including this one. He helped me think of great landmarks or attractions I could snap photos of, and even added ideas to the list long after I’d left his office. He also allowed me to leave work a little early so I could get started on getting material for the photo essay.

Before leaving the office, I worked on my video essay. I recorded very possibly about 15 videos of myself, each one of which I felt was getting progressively worse. I was nervous and uneasy. I wanted it to be natural and relatable, but I either would leave something out or didn’t address all the questions they asked or went over the allotted time or the lighting was off or my eyes weren’t bright or or or… but I didn’t have much time, so I wound up going with the very first one and uploaded it to my YouTube so I could move on.

Thankfully, I work downtown where there is now no shortage of awesome places to attract visitors. I walked. I snapped. I walked. I snapped. I walked. I walked. I walked. I got my steps in for the day just in that treck alone! It was warm out, and I was sweating through my blazer, but I needed great captures. I wasn’t yet sure how I was going to present them, but I knew I was collecting some great material. On the way home I stopped by a few more popular tourist spots and local spots to capture yet more, so I could pick and choose my favorites.

The photo essay became this very blog, and I couldn’t be more proud. I’m a big fan of Thrillist when I want to see a new city, so I used some of its familiar format to make my own best-to-see in my city. I was very happy with the end result. Not bad for project with a time-crunch!

I worked hard to get everything in as quickly as possible. My supervisor sent me the recommendation letter that night. “Ready or not, these materials have got to get to Sara immediately!”

She accepted them and told me I should hear back within the next week if I was selected.

The wait was killing me. I resolved to go to yoga and a manifestation class to take my mind off my anxiety, and to remind me I really can’t do anything about what I can’t control anyway. I’d have to hope for the best. I’d have to believe that I did everything in my own control and surrender to patience. I’d have to know that what is meant for me is already mine.

Yoga saves lives man, I’m telling you.

A couple days later, I received an email from Sara – CONGRATULATIONS! You are a scholarship recipient! I was through. The. ROOF, you hear me! This scholarship means that I can commit to the program without as heavy a financial burden. The scholarship basically covers half the program fee. The other half I can work on. That I can live with. If I work hard enough in my side hustle and budget properly, I can raise the money and be just fine.

This program includes an orientation that will help acclimate me to Thai culture, guaranteed placement, assistance with Visa douments, basically everything that I was nervous and anxious about. On top of that, I’d be starting with a group of individuals, which means I wouldn’t be alone! I may not be able to pick where I’ll work, and that was a little unnerving at first, but worst case – the contract is only six months if I hate it. Or, I’d love it and the placement could land me somewhere I wouldn’t have discovered on my own. I chose to focus my energy on the latter.

Being accepted into this program not only solidified the idea that I am on the right track and this is going to be my reality but also eased the fears I had of doing this on my own. Because of Greenheart Travel, I have a plan. I can officiate my departure. I know where I’m going and when and have a guide along the way.

I’m strong, but I’m very human.

I am beyond grateful for this opportunity, and thoroughly looking forward to my next steps, knowing I have a team behind me that has my back and my best interest at heart. And sure, I am paying for these things, but the way I see it, Sara has gone above and beyond in her communication and for that reason alone I’d recommend this program. She’s professional, friendly, and seems to understand what an anxious, inexperienced world traveler like myself is going through.

So. There you have it, folks. I’m going to Thailand. And now I know for sure I’m meant to. These signs weren’t for nothing. It’s when I knew I was headed in the right direction.

This is happening. This is really happening!

Until next time!

Atlanta, GA., you rock!

Atlanta, GA. Home of some of the best eateries, historical districts, and sports events of the South. Walk, bike, or commute via train and bus, this eco-friendly city has become the mecca of new businesses, non-profit organizations, and musical entertainment. Here are some of my favorite must-see spots if you’re visiting my home town. A little bit of fun, a little bit of history, and a whole lot of sunshine and good food! I’ve loved this city since I was little… I think you will too!

 

 

Downtown Atlanta has no shortage of things to do. Make your first stop a tour of the CNN center – you can even star in your very own newscast!

Must do: Grab exclusive CNN apparel at the CNN Store.

 

And directly across Marietta Street, near Ted Turner Blvd, take a stroll, grab a juicy burger, fries and float at Googie burger, or let the kids run through the ring fountain at Centennial Olympic Park – which was built and opened during the 1996 Olympic games. Now the park boasts several events and visitors throughout the year. Depending on what time of year you’re in town, you could be in for a special performance treat, and often for FREE! Downtown Atlanta’s newest attraction near Centennial Park is Sky View – the 20-story high ferris wheel. It’s a great way to see all of Atlanta, and even catch a glimpse of Stone Mountain far off inn the distance!

Must do: Do some people watching! No, really. This park’s scenery alone is perfect for doing absolutely nothing.

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There’s an ongoing debate among transplants to Atlanta and natives between Waffle House and IHOP. The famous American chain, many of who’s locations are only in the South, will fill you up on delicious breakfast food, served diner style, without pinching the wallet. Go’head and get your hash browns scattered, covered, and smothered – it’s the southern way 😉

Must do: Have the pecan waffle. I mean, it is “waffle” house after all 🙂

 

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Believe it or not, the Georgia Aquarium is a non-profit facility that is home to thousands of marine animals, profits of which go toward aquatic research. The Aquarium holds over 10 million gallons of water. How’s that sound if you’re thirsty!

Must do: Take a gander through one of visitor’s most favorite exhibitions – the Ocean Voyager Tunnel. Feel like you’re under the sea as you watch an assortment of fish, whales, and turtles swim over your very head. The experience is breathtaking!

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Atlanta is also the birthplace of Coca-Cola, and around here we call it soda not pop thank you very much. Cool fact from Coca-Cola’s website “Did you know? The first servings of Coca‑Cola were sold for 5 cents per glass. During the first year, sales averaged a modest nine servings per day in Atlanta.” Think about that the next time you pay $1.69 plus tax for your beverage! Mmmmm. Ice cold fizz.

Must do: The World of Coca-Cola museum. Learn about and sample colas from all around the world!

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Did someone say football? No, not the NFL… College Football! Check out the College Football Hall of Fame to find out how your favorite team scores around the nation! Georgia is home of the UGA Bulldogs, GSU Panthers, and Georgia Tech Buzz. With all the visitors to Atlanta each day, there’s pretty friendly rivalry to discuss… or not so friendly haha Go Panthers! (yes, I’m a GSU alumna)

Must do: Walk over to Stats to catch a game and grab a cold beer. You’ll probably work up an appetite after all that friendly competition!

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The Atlanta Streetcar is the perfect way to hop off and on in downtown Atlanta to take in all the attractions. So, if your feet are getting tired, or the little ones just need a break, let the streetcar take over for you. You can pick up the streetcar at several locations throughout downtown, and for a minimal fare. Sit back in a climate-controlled motorized trolley and hop off and on through the Fairlie-Poplar, King Historic, and Sweet Auburn districts.

Must do: Visit the King Memorial Center. The first stop on the streetcar, and loaded with history from our favorite native civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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The National Center for Civil and Human Rights is a must-see attraction in downtown Atlanta. Nestled in the heart of downtown Atlanta, on land donated by the Coca-Cola company, the Center for Civil and Human Rights is an interactive, cultural experience enjoyed by all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds. You’ll leave learning much about civil rights, human rights, and the dignity for all.

Must do: Sit at the lunch counter exhibit. Sometimes history is painful, but this exhibit makes the discrimination of some brave African Americans during the Civil Rights era real and literally in-your-face.

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MARTA – It’s smarta! Five Points MARTA station is the center of it all. Although it’s name comes from the convergence of the five main streets of downtown Atlanta – Marietta, Edgewood, Decatur, and the legs of Peachtree Street – the train station has become more popularly known for it’s center convergence of the north, south, east, and west lines of the MARTA train lines. Directly south will take you to the airport, while either direction north can take you to Doraville or shopping in Sandy Springs. Head west for the Atlanta University Center, or far east and take a hike up Stone Mountain. Leave the car, and hop on the train. Grab a day pass for easy off-and-on access.

Must do: Visit Underground Atlanta. Once a thriving underground merchant shop, now rich with history and a food court that’s sure to have something for everyone!

The South’s LGBTQ community calls Atlanta home. From bars to events, there’s no shortage of activities, establishments, and must-see events. When you’re ready to leave the bustle of downtown Atlanta, hop over to East Atlanta village – just a couple exits east of downtown’s Capital. East Atlanta Village is a hip, concentrated, friendly local mini-town, and the location of Mary’s – voted Atlanta’s best gay bar 5 years in a row!

Must do: Everything. EAV has something for everyone. Suki Suki Collective – a mash of food vendors all in one convenient location. Stop in to Grant Central for a slice of delcious pizza, or Tomatilla’s if you’re feeling Tex-Mex, or 5 Thai for sushi and noodles, or Argosy for a cold beer and some people watching on their open patio. Can you tell I love EAV?? Yep. No shame.

 

In summary, as you can tell, I love my city! There’s so much to do, and there’s definitely something for everyone. These are my favorite attractions, but they only scratch the surface. I’d love to hear about your favorites when you’re in my city!

 

(Special note: This post was created as part of a scholarship entry. The pictures in this post are original captures made by me.)

(Update note: I got the scholarship!!)

Hold on… Be right back!

Hi, Everyone!

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything. The past month has been a whirlwind of final papers, studying, graduation, celebrating, decorating, and traveling. I think I’m finally coming up to rest. Actually, I did a lot of that on my vacation. I think one day I slept most of it all the way through! I know, I know, who wants to sleep on vacation? Me! Especially when the sleep includes a top floor balcony with rushing winds from the ocean, light sounds of a bustling Waikiki street below, and a full tummy of healthy goodness! (the featured photo is my view from the condo – Perfection right? Just wait until I share the moon shot)

When most folks think of vacation they imagine taking full advantage of the entire trip, not missing a beat – running all day and partying all night. Well. I’m here to tell you that kind of vacation is exhausting and far behind me. Vacation also means relaxation. Besides, a trip like that sounds to me like you’ll need a vacation from vacation when you return home.

I did have a great time though – I wasn’t asleep the entire time! I’ll post a full blog, including pictures and places I checked out soon. Perhaps after I pack… I do need to do laundry. Oy. The best part about vacation… is… not unpacking! I did post a few pics on my Instagram, but I was really enjoying myself too much I unplugged for a bit. That’s allowed every now and then right? I’ll have to check my social media rulebook and get back to you.

I just wanted to pop in and make sure you’re still there 😊

Until next time! See you soon!

Mountain Getaway

Who says a vacation has to be expensive, or far? Not me. In fact, I think inexpensive vacations are the best – easier on the wallet and the conscience.

This year for my birthday I decided to do something different. I knew I wanted a cabin experience in the mountains because I was in serious need of some quiet. After about a 15 minute search on Google that led me to a Living Social deal for a 3-night stay at Paradise Hills Resort in Blairsville, GA I was pretty much sold.

My birthday fell on a Monday, and I’d only taken off work Monday and Tuesday, but the deal was valid for stays Sunday through Thursday only. After speaking with Matthew and asking several questions comparing their current Girlfriend Getaway special with the Living Social deal, I decided the Living Social deal was actually perfect. I would check out Tuesday, but because checkout is at 11, having the third “night” meant we could roll out of bed whenever we wanted to and take our time getting back on the road. Matthew, by the way, was an exceptionally pleasant and patient employee. I probably called three times to ask multiple questions before actually booking, and each time was like the first. I’m a sucker for customer service. It can make or break my decision to do many things. After my experience with Matthew on the phone, he was the primary reason I didn’t want to book a stay anywhere else.

But what I’d found after searching their “Events” calendar was I was going to be coming in town for a weekend wine tour – it was Perfect! I hadn’t even heard about the Georgia Wine Highway before, but I had a feeling mountains, cabin seclusion, and wine tastings was going to be the perfect combination.

What I learned, more so from my wine talks with the local winemakers on our tour, was for some time now (no one seemed to know definitively how long this has been going for – some say about 5 years; others mentioned this could be the 7th year) the Winegrowers Association of Georgia have teamed up with winemakers in north Georgia in several cities to create a wine-highway-tour. For $40 per person you get to visit 20 wineries to sample their wine (and of course purchase the ones you fell in love with). Each winery has 4-6 wine options you can taste, which they follow up with by giving you a brief history of the selection and suggested food pairings.highway

I had such a great time!!!

We packed up the dog, grabbed some groceries from the store, and took a short little drive (about an hour and 45 minutes) up to the north Georgia mountains.

I was getting more and more antsy as we neared our resort. The winding roads of Blood Mountain are not for the novice driver. It had started drizzling a bit as we got closer, which began to shift my mood. I’m a sunshine lover. I know rain serves its purpose too, but I didn’t want that while I was driving.

When we turned into Paradis Hills resort, I couldn’t help but feel calmer. The little town Blairsville was quiet, lush with trees, and inviting. Paradise Hills fit in nicely.

When we entered, we were greeted by… guess who! Matthew! I was so happy to meet him in person. Any anxiety I’d felt instantly melted away. Especially when we purchased our wine passports! passports

You can hit the highway in any way you prefer, but to maximize time and also not get too far so we could check-in when the cabin was ready we decided to head north, to Crane Creek Vineyards. crane creek

Champ had been in the car for the majority of the time (he’d gotten out to potty and stretch his legs during our stops to the store and for gas), so what I loved about Crane Creek is the land was huge and they had a beautiful black lab who greeted you on the porch. They said Champ could run around – leash free, which just made my day. We took our bottle of purchased wine to their dock and just let nature do its work. I was so at peace. My soul was happy. “This trip is going to be perfect,” I remember saying. And it was.dockdock2

After hopping over to Young Harris – the college town – we were back off to Blairsville.

Back at Paradise Hills we chatted it up with Amy – our cool, friendly wine professional, while we waited to get our check-in details.

We were assigned to Bear’s Paw, a one-bedroom cabin just up the hill from the main building. Bear’s Paw comes with a covered porch, full kitchenette, fireplace, bathroom with jet tub, separate bathroom with the toilet, and a loft-style setup that leads to the bed. The wine and woodsy decor were artfully constructed. The cabin was spacious and efficient. I walked around beaming. So much so I forgot to take pictures! (I’m new at this blog-your-life thing. I’ll do better. Promise!)

The view from our cabin of the mountains was breathtaking. Amazing how much peace that quiet, simplicity, and air bring you. lookout

I didn’t want to leave. We’d do more wine highway the next day. I whipped up some vegan-friendly food, and had, of course, more wine. The kitchen had everything I needed. I’m glad I decided to bring my favorite, no-fail spices: garlic powder, chilli pepper flakes, Himalayan salt, pepper, smoked chipotle, oregano and olive oil. It also helped that we grabbed my savory cooking staples – onion, bell pepper, and a garlic bundle. So I knew we’d be good, food-wise. We also, fortunately, grabbed some snack foods, that I typically don’t do, but with wine you must be sure to eat and stay hydrated, so some bottled water and pretzels came in handy many times.

tacoshashhash

The next day, Monday, was my birthday. I think it’s safe to say I was tipsy the entire time!  We ran into some fellow wine highwayers who were wearing these cool wine glass holders around their necks and thought “How cool!” I mean, who wants to bother with remembering to hold their wine glass?

I thoroughly enjoyed that day! And the best part about it being your birthday is folks are always so generous and happy to please on your special day. I received a couple extra pours from several places – happy times!

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You don’t have to purchase the wine you taste, but after several tastings you’re bound to fall in love with at least one. No really! Bottles ranged in price, depending on the winery. The least expensive bottle I recall trying was somewhere in Cleveland, I believe at Habersham, at about $14 for their muscadine wine – which was insanely sweet! If you don’t like sweet wine, you probably won’t like it. I was open to trying everything! The most expensive wine was definitely at Yonah’s Mountain. Yonah’s property was nothing short of beautiful. The young lady who assisted us there said they often have weddings booked out for months, and I could see why! The land was enormous, but exqusitely desinged. Their most expensive wine I tasted was priced at about $65.

The next day we visited the lake for some fishing, had more wine, and just took in the sights. The rain from the night before – which was probably the most theraputic storm I’ve ever had in my life – made the ground very wet, but the roads were clear since everyone was at work.lake

I can’t express how amazing the trip was. I wish I’d documented more. But I was too busy taking it all in and enjoying. For just under $350 (excluding wine purchases), this past weekend getaway was just what I needed to reset. If you’re local to Atlanta and love wine

If you’re local to Atlanta and love wine, you should check out the wine highway week. It occurs once a year, and features all the wineries and their unique product. pour wine

If you’re local to Atlanta or it’s surrounding area, I encourage you to explore the mountains around you. You’d be surprised how calm and satisfied you feel.

We saved a lot of money by buying groceries and cooking on-sight. I’d recommend doing that so you can really cut down on driving around those winding roads after dark. Since going vegan I’m more a fan of eating home-cooked meals anyway. It was darn near unheard of to not eat meat up there in the mountains!

If you are looking for a cabin experience, I highly recommend Paradise Hills. Their staff are friendly, professional, and resourceful. The property is wholly scenic and sufficient. You can feel the effort of their passion in every detail. Our cabin did not include a hot tub, but there are some that do. They also offer larger cabins for biggere groups. The cabins are pet-friendly – a huge sell for me – and rent pet crates for a flat fee of $10 if you do not have your own.

Overall, the experience was incredible. The Wine Highway Week tour was a pleasant, opportune surprise. I’m sure I would have enjoyed the getaway without it, but, let’s face it, nonstop wine in any situation makes it a winner!

Just some more pics we snapped. Like I said, I’ve got some practicing to do with capturing moments!

Cheers to 32! Thanks for reading!