Inspired Adventures: DC Chillin + My 5 quick tips to travel like a local

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[I love this city…but I probably wouldn’t want to drive here…]

Not too long ago, I took a little excursion to visit some friends in DC. Twice, I’ve missed out on the opportunity to visit this place and both times I was upset that I couldn’t go! So when the invitation presented itself again, I made sure to plan and prepare.

Plane tickets can be REALLY expensive, especially when your budget is super tight. Sure you can wait for the “glitch” deals, call a buddy, or save up, but sometimes it really just doesn’t work out that way, things come up and opportunities pass. I’ve been hearing about Megabus for a while and just never took it. I took this opportunity to get my own experience of it AND save a pretty penny.

The registration process was simple, I’m pretty sure I purchased my seats via my phone, but I need them to redesign their website…it’s low-key boring.

How I got there

I purchased my seats, front row center, about a month in advance. I budgeted not more than $50 for these tickets and was surprised with I came out $1 under. If you despise road trips or get motion sickness, this is not the mode of transport for you. It was a long trip, about 12 hours to be exact, but it was exactly what I needed to allow my mind to roam and my thoughts to clear so I can focus on something else for a change.

The rocking of the bus put me to sleep when I needed the rest and served as a type of cyclorama of the purple mountain majesty of the Appalachian mountains and the golden waves of maze through-out Virginia. I enjoyed it. It was like a mini-trip in a trip and was definitely appreciated.

What to do there

Although I really wanted to see all the historic monuments of the National Mall, I liked being able to see the real DC:

The congested streets; 50 million stop lights; crazy intersections; beautiful brown stones; re-development projects; layers and layers of history, legacy, and American heritage; and all the things that makes you appreciate the DMV- Tri-cities.

Pretending to be a local, I learned my way around and how to use the public transportation. Atlanta fails at this concept. All these opportunities for better transportation in the city that hosts “the world’s largest international airport and transportation hub” and we can’t get something as simple as public transportation right…but I digress.

I learned my way around with the Metro, Circulator, and city transit and strolled through Columbia Heights. I admired the beauty of Union Station with all of it’s Grecian architecture and history.

I faced my fear by going to King’s Dominion which is an hour drive outside of downtown DC and located in Virginia.

Nope! #notSoaApproved (with @seane87 @shanikameshae) #SoaInspiredAdventures

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Nope. Still not ready to conquer it yet.

This was more my speed…

Spinning while my hands up 🙌. cc: @seane87 #SoaInspiredAdventures

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Historical Journey

DC Chillin-quote-SOAinspired

DC is an OLD CITY. And like old cities, it’s rich in history. You have the one side where a land was developed under by our forefathers and set in ink some 200 years ago. But then you have the flourishing black history there. As I walked around Columbia Heights and basked in the richness of Howard University, I couldn’t help but be proud of the things we’ve done and the people and movements we’ve cultivated. I finally got to meet my Delta college roommates Lady Fortitude and saw the beautiful centennial glass of my assistants sorority. I paid homage to the brothers of Phi Beta Sigma as they had recently added a new plot on campus. My friend that I stayed with took me on a journey through their college experience. And I stared in awe at the clock tower. It was amazing.

Brunch hard!

I’ve noticed that people LOVE to brunch. And when they brunch, they brunch hard! To celebrate my friend’s birthday weekend extravaganza, we went to a really dope restaurant named Local 16, where for about $23 you can get truly unlimited mimosas or bellinis and enjoy delicious strawberry french toast and a plate of bacon. Our table of about 20 had so many drinks we had to start turning down mimosas in favor of water. We bathed in the sun and brunched to our heart’s content. It was delicious, but I wish they had chicken or turkey sausage!

Planting Seeds

My DC trip was really exciting and exactly what I needed at the time. I got to hang out with some of my many friends who live there, explore the city and all of its character and gave room for the opportunity to come back. Some of the best travel experiences I’ve had are the ones that make me feel like I live there. It’s like this trip allowed me to plant some seeds to spread my roots. It’s a beautiful thing to become a local in a new city where you can appreciate its quirks…like I did with finding the beauty in DC.

5 quick tips on How to Travel Like a Local

Exchange hotel for hospitality – do Airbnb or stay with someone you know

Stick to public transportation or Uber your way around

Save the tourist hotspots for another day

Walk to soak in the city

Stay in town or where the culture happens

I had a great time in beautiful DC. There’s sooooooo much more that I want to share, but I’m a writer by nature so…just check out My Story on Google+ below:

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Inspired Adventures: Mountain Majesty + 6 Things You Must do at Brasstown Valley Resort

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Brasstown Valley

Two weeks ago, Hubby and I celebrated our 2 year wedding/ commitment/ marriage anniversary. We weren’t sure what we wanted to do, but came up with a plan last minute that some rest and relaxation was definitely something we not only needed, but deserved.

I found an awesome deal on Groupon, but when I called the place to inquire about the deal, they gave me an even better price! Hubby and I spent 24 hours in the Brasstown Bald Mountains at the Brasstown Valley Resort just 3 hours north of Atlanta in Young Harris, GA. Serene and tranquil are an understatement. It was breath taking.

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Inspired Adventures: 7 Must Take Pics While on Vacation

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You know what taking a vacation does? It makes you want to go on more and more vacations! Lol! No seriously, taking a vacation is the perfect time to get that much needed break, rest, rejuvenation that you have been wanting for like ever! For me, my vacation was about two years in the making. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been doing some traveling over the last couple of years, but they were all about business. There was limited time reserved for play, so this vacation was the epitome of NEEDED!

Anyways, while on my cruise I noticed that there are some MUST TAKE PICS that you HAVE to do when ever you go on vacation…or honestly these could be your must take pics for the summer! Check them out!

 

The “I’m on a boat b**ch” selfie

SOA Inspired

What I ate

Atlantic Salmon with dijon mustard vinaigrette on Royal Caribbean

Sandy feet

Sandy feet | SOA Inspired

Picturesque view of the ocean

SOA Inspired

Sunset at sea

Sunset at Sea | SOA Inspired

Hammock Living

Hammock Living | SOA Inspired

We’re heeerrreeee!

SOA in the Bahamas

Disclaimer: All images in this post are the original copyrighted work of SOA Inspired. Please do not take without permission. If you would like to use these images, please send an email to hello@thesoabrand.com

Inspired Adventures: Frolicking in Savannah

Savannah, St. Patricks, Travel, Roadtrip, GA
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A couple of weeks ago, I roadtripped to Savannah for the weekend with some of my dearest friends…let me remind you that is was for St. Patrick’s Day. Would you believe that I didn’t even drink any of the green beer? Crazy! I know!

What I love about Savannah is that it is full of history and character. There’s not a corner you can turn and not be met with something that tells you much about it’s heritage. From the statue of canons by the seaside, to the monikers sharing the battles, everything in Savannah has a story.

The first night we were there, we drove around the downtown area watching in awe how sloppy drunk people were getting. It was like our own live reality show…well…it was real life! The second day we spent time laughing and conversing with each other in an apartment we had rented from AirBnB (I absolutely recommend using it). That evening we went to the historic Leopold’s Ice Cream Parlor. Can you believe it’s been around since 1919? I tried a few of the flavors, but the one’s that made me tingle was the lemon custard and the chocolate chewies and cream! I’m still in heaven from the taste of it!

We finished the first night with a few slices of Sweet Melissa’s pizza and a dance party right in the middle of the square. Have you ever seen Step Up…1-15? Yup. That was us in the middle of the square challenging all who dared to a dance battle…that was until the cops showed up.

Nonetheless. I enjoyed my time getting closer to my friends and making lasting memories that I know we will be talking about for a while. As I wrote in Revved Up this week, roadtrips are an amazing way to get out of the house without having to break the bank whether you are going far on a vacation or closer on a staycation.

Savannah offered me soooooooooo much with their history and heritage, libations and laughs. If you’ve never been, a few things you HAVE to check out while you’re there:

Paula Deen’s, The Lady and Sons Restaurant- we didn’t get to go because they were BOOKED!

Sweet Melissa‘s- some of the biggest slices of pizza I’ve ever had for a mere $3.50

Leopold’s Ice Cream Parlor– because…ole fashioned made ice cream

The squares- Savannah has a lot of them and all of them are filled with history

The Riverside and Savannah River- we didn’t get to go this trip because of time constraints, but when I went over a decade ago there were plenty of awesome shops, restaurants, and boutiques to check out!

Check out some of my inspired adventures from my frolicking in Savannah!

Revved Up: 10 Tips for Roadtrips

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I recently went on a weekend roadtrip to Savannah, GA with some friends over the St. Patrick’s Day weekend (post coming on Friday). It was awesome. The only thing better than getting sloppy drunk with your friends is watching other people get sloppy drunk with your friends. Roadtrips are a great and inexpensive way to get your butt out of the house! With the weather FINALLY looking great here in Atlanta, you can expect that more roadtrips will be had, even for just a day.

roadtrip tips

While I was in the car, on my way back home, I came up with this list for everyone to make the best out of their roadtrip! Check it out and of course leave a comment!

  1. The People– Have you ever been to a party and realized the party could have been so much better if different people were invited? Or maybe you were planning something with some friends, but no one wanted to contribute at all. Same thing goes for road trips: invite people who you get along with, who will contribute, who take initiative, who follow directions, and whom you can trust.
  2. The Location– When planning your destination, a good rule of thumb is to make it either cultural, historical, fun, or relaxing. It helps if you pick a place that is all in one. Even if you go for business, make it a point to discover something new about the town and catch some down time.
  3. The Fun– While on the road, you can do so many things to have fun and keep the morale and energy up. Purchase some board or card games. Pull out the tablet and watch a movie or three. There are so many car games you can play with some simple research in Google. For the longer car rides, make an effort to stop in each big city you pass through and create a scavenger hunt along the way. It doesn’t really matter what you do as long as it’s fun for everyone!
  4. The Ride– When I roadtripped to Charlotte to stay at the Ballantyne Hotel, I drove a Toyota Prius. It was the most gas efficient car, I had ever driven. Because it was a hybrid, I was able to save a ton of money on gas and it worked very efficiently. Do rent a vehicle that’s gas efficient, large enough, and current on maintenance. If you’re taking your car, make sure you get all of the maintenance up to date, change the tires, get that oil change, and take it for a pre-trip detail service. It’ll make cleaning the bugs off your car post-trip that much easier.
  5. The Trip– I am probably one of the most organized people I know. When it comes to roadtrips, not only do I want to get there quickly, but I want the drive to the destination to be as smooth as possible. Typically that takes pre-planning to do so. Create a schedule for bathroom breaks on the road (the best gas station bathrooms are usually QT, Loveable, and Racetrac. They do a good job of making sure the bathrooms are cleaned often), fill up early, get plugged in, wear comfortable clothing. I can’t stress this enough, nothing is worse than sitting in the car for hours wearing something that squeezes your gut, pinches your thighs, or makes you too hot. Wear something loose fitting and comfortable. I like to bring cozy house socks so I can take off my shoes and feel like I’m at home! Oh! Don’t forget your travel pillow…your neck will thank you.
  6. The Music– Nothing is better than a sing-a-long. Seriously, nothing! Ask the group to contribute or share 10-20 of their favorite songs for a mixtape/playlist, designate someone to create or find all of the music and be prepared for the mobile version of a karaoke lounge. Don’t forget songs that are filled with memories from when you all met!
  7. The Food– On roadtrips, you could be in the car anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days, it’s always a good idea to bring a bag full of snacks to keep you satisfied and hydrated during those long trips. Try to bring a diversity of snacks to not only satisfy your taste buds, but also to share with your buds in the car. A good list of snacks include: something sweet, something savory, your favorite snack, something healthy, something to keep you energized, gum and definitely water.
  8. The Reads– Although most of your time in the car will be filled with funny stories or though provoking conversation, it’s always a great idea to bring a couple of your favorite magazines or book(s) you’re currently reading. Check out apps like Flipboard or Feedly that aggregates your favorite content into one platform to catch up on articles, blogs, and news.
  9. Be Engaging. Leave the phone at your hotel and opt for your camera instead. Instead of posting what you are doing on Twitter, actually do it. Talk to your friends and have real conversations. No one likes being around a wallflower, this is your chance to really shine and make an impact on your friends.
  10. Immerse yourself in the experience. Take in your location. Stop for a moment  to really take in where you are; close your eyes, take a deep breath in, listen to the sounds, and feel your heart beat to the rhythm of the location. Take a quiet walk around the historic downtown area to submerge yourself in the history and culture. Say hello to a local and ask them their story. Eat what they eat. Drink what they drink. And most importantly, let go of the stresses of home, business, family, etc and really enjoy your roadtrip/ vacay.

Inspired Adventures: The Ballantyne Resort & Lodge Charlotte

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I had the amazing opportunity to stay at the Ballantyne Resort in Charlotte, North Carolina last week for the Smart Meetings one day event planner conference. But let me start from the beginning…

Ballantyne Resort and Lodge Charlotte, Starwood Hotels, Ballantyne

I drove up in my rented Prius, which by the way is the best car for a roadtrip since it’s gas efficient and drives really smooth, after being in the car for about four hours to this place that seriously looked like it should have been on a peninsula to itself. As I pulled in, my concierge Alan greeted me with a smile and made me feel instantly comfortable. He inquired about my stay, showed me where registration was and waited for me as I picked up my key and chatted with the registration managers. As I walked to the gold doors of the elevators, I looked in awe at the beautiful architecture of the not even 10 year old hotel. It had all the splendor of Southern charm with its dark woods, large bay windows, views of the golf course, and traditional afternoon tea…I’ll get to that later.

Alan proceeded to tell me a little bit of history about the hotel and the area and how it was all developed by one guy over the course of the last 20 or so years. We arrived to the second floor which over looked the lobby area and proceeded to my room. You know when you watch movies and things seem to move in slow motion? As Alan opened the door to my room and showed me everything the room had, it was like it was in slow motion. He showed me the private balcony overlooking the 18th hole of the golf course. He opened the double doors of the elegant bathroom which featured a garden tub, marble floors, and a marble pedestal sink. He told me about the in room snacks and the complimentary beverages. I asked me if I wanted a full tour of the hotel once I got settled in, to which I replied, “Absolutely!”

When I go to a hotel or resort or on vacation, I like to make myself feel right at home…after all, that IS the point right? I have a habit of taking out all of my clothes and styling them, I take out my shoes and neatly lay them near the foot of my bed. I stage my toiletries in the bathroom for ease of access. I always feel like if I take everything out and place them neatly, when it’s time to go, I won’t forget anything. Color me weird…

Inspired Adventures: The Ballantyne Resort, Charlotte | SOA Inspired

Once I got settled in, I found my way back down to the concierge desk to which Alan was waiting for me. He took me on my own private tour and told me all about their traditional Southern tea, which takes place between noon and two every day. Most days they have a theme. Like the Downton Abbey theme they were having as I left on my last day.

He took me to all the ballrooms, telling me that the hotel could accommodate up to three or four weddings on any given day and rarely do the brides run into each other. He took me to the ultra swanky Gallery Restaurant & Bar which also featured its own humidor and cigars. He showed me to the grand stair case, which was definitely grand. He showed me their beautiful outdoor pool which featured a private cabana bar and grill…unfortunately it wasn’t open, sad face. He then proceeded to take me to their spa on the opposite side of the resort. When I first arrived, I was seduced by something extremely fragrant. I love aromatherapy and use it often, so coming into this zen like space with its waterfalls and feng shui coupled with the soothing aromas made me want to book my next spa treatment. The spa is connected to their indoor pool area which also has two resistance pools plus a Jacuzzi….I wished I had brought my bathing suit.

Inspired Adventures: The Ballantyne Resort, Charlotte | SOA Inspired

Everything about the Ballantyne screamed Southern Hospitality…even when the faucet of the garden tub mysteriously came off as the housekeeper was cleaning the tub for me so I could use it, they were quick and courteous about correcting the problem and making me confident in using the tub. Oh and yes, I did luxuriate in that garden tub…felt like I was in Pretty Woman. Their service and great conversation made me feel at home even as they escorted me to Red Robin via their luxury shuttle.

It’s funny, being from Atlanta and travelling to Charlotte really made me notice how much of our Southern charm we’ve lost. Atlanta is like the sister who went to school in New York and came back home a slightly different person, where as Charlotte is like the older sister who stayed in town with the parents…she retained her cultural traditions. I really enjoyed seeing everyone’s smiling faces, the hospitality, and of course the relaxation. The food was delicious, compliments of Smart Meetings (which was the entire reason I was there) and the service was amazing. I would recommend a weekend getaway at the Ballantyne to everyone who wants to go somewhere quiet with a ton of charm.

Inspired Adventures: The Ballantyne Resort, Charlotte | SOA Inspired

Special thank you to Alan at the concierge desk for making my stay that much more special!

Check them out for yourself by visiting www.theballantynehotel.com and get some inspiration from my pictures below.

**Notice: This is not a sponsored post. The opinions and views expressed in this post are my own. I was not compensated to stay at the Ballantyne Hotel Charlotte**