Mastering Travel and Tourism

The past six months have been filled with an insane amount of writing. Ironically, none of it was for the blog.  I kept quiet about it, but in early 2015, I dedicated time and resources to a cause that I felt would help me to achieve a longtime goal of living in Spain. In the end, it simply didn't work out. The disappointment was devastating and left me feeling wounded.  Eight months passed before I was finally able to overcome my fear of trying again.  It was at that point that I began to ask myself what it was that I was most passionate about.  Travel and tourism.

Midtown Atlanta
For many years, I'd felt the desire to return to school and pursue an advanced degree.  Unsure of the course of study, I threw off despair and attended graduate school fairs and networked my way into information sessions.  With every handshake, the conversation would always shift to travel. Then came the handshake that would change the course of my life.  It was an admissions representative from a university with a tourism administration program.  I was floored when he revealed that the things I loved: travel, tourism, hotels, and events such as music festivals, all fell under the umbrella of hospitality. In the end, I chose not to apply because the program would have required me to relocate to a city that I wasn't thrilled about residing in. But never will I forget the guidance he provided. Soon after, opportunity arrived in the form of a highly ranked hospitality program at a renowned research university in Atlanta. And after dedicating months to the rigorous application process, I officially became a 2017 candidate for a Master of Global Hospitality Management.

Buckhead District
I'm proud to say that I'm well into my first semester and thriving.  It feels amazing to pursue my master's in a city that is often referred to as the hub of tourism in the southeastern United States. Through this experience, I've learned that life isn't meant to be one dimensional.  I'm a solo traveling corporate girl by day and college kid by night. Other than dedicating all of my spare time to reading, writing and researching, not much has changed.  I still travel, only now it's through the pages of hospitality and tourism textbooks. Reading case studies on my favorite hotel groups, presenting on the Cruise Industry and acing a midterm project on France have definitely helped to keep my mind off of the fact that I haven't been on an airplane in months.  It's not easy.  But, this experience has taught me that in order to possess a lifetime of travel, I have to temporarily set aside my desire to travel.  ♥︎

Born A Solo Traveler

I was born a solo traveler.  The only daughter of resourceful mother with three sons, I learned at an early age how to play by myself.  While my brothers were out doing the things that boys do, I played alone with dolls and discovered ways of entertaining myself.  Thirty years later, I'm still playing by myself.  But, that pink plaid bedroom in my childhood home with the white canopy bed covered in heart shaped pillows is long gone.  Now, I leave my heart on the pillows of hotel room beds in cities that I dream of calling home.

When I first began blogging and writing about my travels, my goal was to demystify solo travel and be a resource for anyone planning a solo trip.  Having lost count of my solo treks, traveling solo is admittedly second nature for me. In a world where comfort zones are crucified, I set out to debunk the myth that solo travelers are antisocial and socialize more.  I entertained brunches, phone calls and texts from friends who wanted to "catch up."  Only to discover ten minutes into the conversation that they were planning a big trip and wanted a travel consult.  It wasn't long before I realized that there were people in my life who engaged me, not out of genuine concern for me, but because they needed something from me.  The blogosphere is filled with stories of once close friends becoming strangers as a result of the other's love for the open road.  I'd hoped my story would be different.

In hindsight, I wasted so much energy trying to change what's naturally inbred within me.  The ability to go at it alone.  If following my passion and traveling the world puts people off, then so be it.  I'm no longer tasking myself with the responsibility of changing what others think.  My commitment to helping ease the solo travel fears of others remains strong.  But, gone are the days where I entertain those who momentarily set aside their resentment of my travels as a means to receiving travel advice. And in the spirit of that content little girl that still lives on the inside, I'm walking into each new day letting anyone or anything not for me, fall by the wayside.

A Monumental Birthday in Washington, D.C.

"Wear comfortable shoes," she warned.

Proud over packer that I am, I tucked four pairs of ballets flats and my favorite riding boots into my kelly green suitcase.  These were, in fact, my comfortable shoes.  Two days later, I texted the same friend who'd issued the warning and replied, "I needed you to specify sneakers."

That wasn't the only tip that would've proven useful in Washington, D.C.  As a DC first timer, I wish I'd known beforehand that the National Mall was long. Miles long.  Looking back, I expected at least one of my Mid-Atlantic friends to forewarn me and suggest that I book a hop-on hop-off bus or trolley tour for sightseeing.  Sure, I invested in a metro card, but with limited metro access near the Mall, it provided only temporary relief for a solo girl wandering DC's streets.

Prior to my trip, I had naive aspirations of visiting all of the memorials and monuments located along the Mall in one day.  With five days to spend, I planned on maximizing my visit to the fullest. Besides, everything looked so close on tv.  It may have sounded good in theory, but it was preposterous in reality.  Not once did I consider that I'd spend hours just taking in Abraham Lincoln's majesty.

What DC lacked in metro access, it made up for during meal time.  Each day, on the brink of despair from tired achy feet, I always seemed to happen upon a cool restaurant and wound up stopping in for a bite to eat.  Refusing to break my culinary travel habits, I managed to try seven new restaurants during my visit. In a perfect world, I'd devour a lobster roll from Luke's Lobster and a blueberry cheesecake pop tart from Ted's Bulletin every single day.

With so many free attractions in the city, it's only natural to want to experience as many as possible. The art enthusiast in me had dreamed of touring several of the Smithsonian museums. Once I discovered that the Smithsonian was actually comprised of 19 museums and galleries, I deferred my dream and immersed myself wholeheartedly into Smithsonian Castle and the National Museum of African Art.

Ashamed that I'd visited Spain's capital before my own nation's, adding insult to injury was the fact that I couldn't get a handle on DC.  I felt like a stumbling, fumbling tourist.  In a split second, the city would transition from a seemingly tame political playground to a very vibrant Chinatown.  Never before had I encountered a city with such contrasts.

Just when I'd cast all labels aside, my mind drifted back to the day I arrived.  My first impression of Washington, DC was that it was like walking through the pages of a U.S. History textbook.  Overwhelmingly rich in culture and history. But, that can be said of most major cities.  DC isn't just's monumental.  

Would I recommend DC for solo travelers?  Certainly.  Just as I started feel resentment for being forced to go the distance, I grew to like it. Next visit, I'll forgo fashion and settle for function with my sneakers in tow.  With a waterfront beckoning to be explored and an absurd amount of museums to roam, a solo traveler would have not one second to ponder being alone.

Chicago: Public Art Paradise

Art is a gift.  Whether it's performing arts or visual arts, you can tell a lot about a city by it's abundance or lack, of art.  After spending a frigid five days in the Windy City, it became clear that the mid west metropolis has an undying appreciation for it's residents and visitors.  That appreciation is evident in the public art displayed throughout the city.  With marvels at every turn, I wandered the city for hours on end.  Here is a glimpse into the public art paradise known as Chicago, Illinois.

Cloud Gate, Anish Kapoor

Crown Fountain, Jaume Plensa

Flamingo, Alexander Calder

Four Seasons, Marc Chagall

Looking into My Dreams Awilda, Jaume Plensa
Monument with Standing Beast, Jean Dubuffet

Paula, Laura and Inez, Jaume Plensa

Untitled, Pablo Picasso

Truth be told, the freezing temperatures nearly turned me into a southern belle with no desire to leave her hotel room.  But, as luck would have it, I was able to connect with the Choose Chicago Tourism Board a few weeks prior to my visit. Those Chicago loving individuals introduced me to the Chicago Greeter program which provides free, two to four hour guided tours of the city.  I was paired with Bobbie, an awesome greeter with an amazing spirit.  Many of the public art pieces that you see here were photographed during my tour with Bobbie.  I'm so glad that she and I braved the elements to explore this impressive city.  That's what Chicago does to you.  Even in the frigid cold, it draws you in and refuses to let you go.

Well Traveled: A Look Back At 2014

It was 1:00 a.m. on January 1, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia and I was walking around outside in the dark with a suitcase.  No, I wasn't drunk.  I'd just returned home from ringing in the New Year downtown with friends.  Just as I was about to crawl into bed, I recalled a conversation I'd had with a well traveled friend weeks earlier.  She said, "Travel is a habit.  The more you travel, the more you will travel."  She then began to tell me of a New Year's tradition in her native Cuba. Walking around with an empty suitcase is said to bring an abundance of travel in the coming year.  Regardless of what others may deem as pure superstition, I've traveled to more destinations in 2014 than ever before.

Downtown Atlanta

The month of March found me in northwestern Spain, a country as near and dear to my heart as the United States.  At the recommendation of a friend whom I'd met while studying abroad in Barcelona in 2012, I'd signed up to volunteer as an English Language Assistance to a group of Spanish business professionals. La Alberca, Spain was my first taste of Spain's countryside and I couldn't have asked for better surroundings or accommodations.

Peña de Francia Mountain
Abadía de los Templarios Resort
Downtown La Alberca

After eight days of nonstop English lessons, I ventured to Madrid, Spain and explored the city for six days.  My expectations of Spain's capital were minimal. Ironically, I found the city and it's museums to be quite majestic.  Not only that, Madrid earned the title of my favorite city in Spain for tapas.

Puerta de Alcalá
The Prado Museum

My return to the U.S. from Spain was prolonged in the form of a long layover in Paris, France.  As enchanting as the whirlwind experience was, the Paris layover was also exhausting.

Eiffel Tower from the River Seine

I rested for three months before hitting the road again and returned to the location of my first solo trip; New Orleans, Louisiana.  Two years had passed since my last visit to NOLA.  I was ecstatic to return for Fourth of July weekend and celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Essence Festival.  Prince headlining the festival was the highlight of my summer.  Scoring tickets to concerts on all three nights definitely made it an Essence Fest to remember.

The French Quarter
Mercedes-Benz Superdome

Before I could unpack my weekend bag, my mom began hinting at a mini family getaway for the month of August.  In need of a vacation from my last vacation, we took a three hour road trip to nearby Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. What better way to restore than along the Atlantic's Carolina Coast.

The Sonesta Resort
Shipyard Beach

With Thanksgiving and Christmas being my favorite holidays, it's a time of the year that I've always preferred to be surrounded by family.  For both, I traveled 75 miles south of Atlanta to my hometown of Macon, Georgia.  It was time well spent at home with family and friends.

Christmas Morning
Christmas Evening

For the first time in 11 years, I rang in the New Year in a new city.  The Windy City to be exact. Initially slowed down by the multiple layers of clothing needed to survive a midwest winter, I quickly regained my wandering spirit and roamed the city from sun up to sun down. Even in frigid weather, Chicago, Illinois is remarkable.

Cloud Gate at Millennium Park

It's been an incredible year of travel.  Not bad for a solo travel girl who blogs while maintaining a full-time career.  Oddly, of all my travels, Paris and Chicago were the only true solo adventures of 2014. The others provided the opportunity to reunite with old travel buddies, form new friendships and travel with my mom for the first time since grade school.  To be surrounded by others who identify with my passion for travel is a blessing.  As readers and supporters of Singles On Lifelong Adventures, you have my infinite gratitude.  I'm looking forward to a 2015 filled with mind blowing adventures! Happy New Year! 


Follow The Signs | Eating My Way Through New Orleans

Embarking on my first solo trip to New Orleans, Louisiana, I never imagined that I'd meet five women traveling alone just like me. We'd bond over sightseeing, dancing and mounds of creole cuisine. Having visited New Orleans on five occasions, I've been privy to the city's evolution.  But, there is one aspect of the city that never changes. The amazing food.  Try as a I might, I've yet to find a city that does food better than NOLA.  For that reason, I've compiled a list of my all time favorite dishes and the eateries that serve them.  Follow the signs as I eat my way through New Orleans.

Best Beignets

New Orleans is sprinkled with cafes serving great beignets.  But, I loathe having to stand in line for an hour just to get one.  Morning Call Coffee Stand is an answered prayer.  No matter how busy this 24 hour eatery gets, there is always seating in the spacious interior or exterior.
Tip:  Visit the City Park location and burn off all those calories with a stroll through the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden.

Best Brunch Buffet

Everyone has different buffet expectations.  For me, it has to be clean and the food must be freshly prepared.  You'll get both at Court of Two Sisters.
Tip:  They accept reservations.  Make one.

Best Fried Catfish

The seafood platters at Deanie's Seafood are atrocious.  In a good way.  I have yet to meet anyone who has finished their meal at Deanie's.  But oh, what a joy it is to try.
Tip:  There is always a line.  Your patience will be rewarded.

Best Pancakes

You know the pancakes are good when they don't need syrup.  The blueberry pancakes at Café Fleur de Lis are a great way to start your day.
Tip:  Beat the line by arriving as soon as they open.

Best Red Beans and Rice

I'm not a fan of sausage.  You can imagine my surprise when the waitress at Oceana informed me that andouille sausage was one of the main ingredients in their red beans and rice.
Tip:  Be prepared to have a little spice added to your life.

Best Shrimp Omelet

An omelet without shrimp is called scrambled eggs.  Jimmy J's Cafe won my heart with an omelet stuffed with large shrimp, sautéed spinach, red peppers and onions.
Tip:  The restaurant is small.  Get there early or you'll be waiting in this line.

Best Hurricane

Having sampled my fair share of Hurricanes, I consider myself to be a good judge of beverage.  Not a one compare to the Hurricane served in a mason jar at Daisy Dukes.
Tip:  Don't try to finish it as I don't think it's humanly possible.  

From no stars to five stars, I've dined at a plethora of restaurants in the Crescent City.  It's quite possible that a food critic or two will dice this list and balk at my choices.  That's to be expected.  We can amicably disagree. It's impossible to capture the variety and totality of New Orleans cuisine in one sitting.  One thing is for certain, I can always count on these restaurants to produce my favorite eats. Bon Appetit!

Three Reasons People Are Afraid to Travel Solo

I remember the day I boarded my first international flight.  I was a nervous wreck headed to the capital of Catalonia on my own.  Adding angst was that fact that I was alone.  In a futile attempt to calm my nerves, I arrived at the airport four hours prior to departure.  Having waited nine years to realize my dream of studying in Spain, turning back wasn't an option.
Flag of Spain

The story ends well. Spain reignited my passion for art, history and travel. Ultimately becoming the foundation for this blog.  As a solo travel warrior, I often meet people who wish they could do the same. When asked what keeps them from traveling alone, they begin to rattle off reasons why they're afraid to travel solo.   

"I'm afraid of not having someone to talk to."

When it comes to solo travel fears, I've heard them all.  But, this one holds the top spot on the solo travel fear list.  What surprises me the most is that it always comes from a seemingly outgoing person. The type of person who enters a room and by the time they leave, everyone knows their name.  It boggles my mind that this person lacks the self confidence to travel solo.  It's almost as if they don't trust themselves to meet people while traveling.  An effective way to test the solo travel waters and ensure tons of enlightening conversation is with a volunteer vacation.  I've experienced two amazing volunteer vacations; as a Hurricane Disaster Relief Agent here in the States and as an English Language Assistant in Spain.  With both, my days were filled to the brim with amazing encounters, all the while feeling as though I'd made an impact on someone's life. One might find it hard to believe that I'm extremely reserved and have to work at being outgoing.  If I can step off an airplane not knowing a soul and walk away with lifelong friends, anyone can.

Volunteering as an English Language Assistant in La Alberca

"I'm afraid of feeling lonely."

Loneliness is a part of life.  Nothing changes your perspective on loneliness like being in a room full of familiar faces and still feeling alone.  Better to be lonely walking along the Champs Elysées than posted up at a club full of frisky men who keep "accidentally" brushing up against you.  There is, however, a cure for loneliness while traveling. It's called a bike tour, food tour, or walking tour. Tours are a simple, yet entertaining way to meet others. I prefer walking tours because they tend to be less expensive and often times have a "pay what you feel" rate. Whatever your vice, there is a tour that caters to it.  Go a tour, or two or three.

Free walking tour in Madrid

"I'm afraid of what people will think."

I've met countless people who go solo, but don't want others know.  Whether it's a concert in the park or dinner at their favorite restaurant, they are no strangers to going at it alone. Sadly, they're ashamed of their own tenacity.  Caring more about what others think than their own happiness.  Let's face it. We live in a society of labels.  Not the kind stitched inside the garments of your favorite designer.  But those unwarranted labels that we place on others because it makes us feel comfortable with unfulfilled areas of our own lives.  People love to label solo travelers. As you embark on your solo travels, you will experience labeling and name calling.  I've been called crazy, different, and independent. Over the years, I've learned to let these labels cascade down my shoulders as if they were a new silk pashmina scarf.  I refuse to allow anyone to make me feel ashamed for having the audacity to travel solo. For I know that beneath the surface of all the name calling is an individual secretly wishing they had an ounce of the courage that I do.

Standing tall at Los Cuatro Postes in Ávila.

Do any of these fears ring true for you?  If so, I'd love to hear from you.