Let’s just start now by saying that I will not be mentioning this year’s politics or how many ways that this year has sucked. Because these things are true. I don’t want to minimize the pain of many people in any way, but I instead want to talk about the highs and lows in my travels. And speaking of travels, there were two countries visited but only one new one as well as 11 states, but two new. I was away from my own bed for over 130 nights. I also set a bunch of goals, specifically in regards to getting out of my comfort zone. I dubbed 2016 the year of discomfort, which came true for different reasons than intended. I followed through with some of my resolutions, leaving just two behind. But that’s what 2017 is for. It’s time for a fresh start before we gear up for battle.
I rung in the new year freezing my ass off while camping in Linville Gorge with my sister in Boone, North Carolina. It’s not my favorite pastime, but it was an experiment for my boundaries. A few weeks later, I traveled to a chilly New York City to catch up with friends, go to Travel Massive, and conquer fears by speaking on a panel at the New York Times Travel Show. I also started my first year as a full-time freelance writer, a leap I’d been trying to make for four years.
In mid-February, I traveled to Albany and South Georgia to see the places I’d barely passed through. I visited the town of Plains, where President Jimmy Carter lives, and the Civil War POW camp of Andersonville. Later on, I caught up with a friend I’ve known since I spent a memorable summer in Washington DC. And I celebrated the wedding of my friend Liza in Knoxville, Tennessee.
This month was spent exploring the Piedmont region of North Carolina, which I’d never visited despite its proximity to my sister’s house. My trip with Travel South brought be to Wilkesboro, Shelby, and ended in Winston-Salem. I also celebrated seven years of Caroline in the City!
In a month full of travel, I explored Aiken and South Carolina’s Thoroughbred Region before coming home for a few days for a sponsored staycation with the Loews Atlanta Midtown Hotel. From there, I visited my first and only new country for the year: the Dominican Republic. A dozen or so fellow writers (including my pal Blair!) experienced the best of Santo Domingo‘s food culture. I left directly from there for another press trip to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where I learned about the national park, the spa culture, and town itself. It was here that I found my story that led to an article for BBC Travel!
My family and I traveled to Athens, Georgia to celebrate my youngest sister’s graduation. We rented a big house on AirBnB and showed my grandparents the town. I left early to attend Shaky Knees Music Festival, where I saw two of my favorite acts of the year: St. Paul and the Broken Bones and Florence + the Machine. Later in the month, I flew to Miami to embark on one of the first Fathom cruises to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. I loved the experience as well as checking out Miami’s famous street art. My sister and I started our adventure out west shortly after, driving all day from Denver to Jackson Hole. I also was a guest instructor at a regional marketing college, speaking about tips for working with bloggers.
Speaking of Jackson Hole, our road trip through Wyoming and Colorado brought us to one of my dearest friend’s weddings in Lander where we stayed in a yurt, free hot springs in Saratoga, a frontier prison in Laramie, and a haunted hotel in Estes Park, just to name a few. I somehow also managed to squeeze in trips to LaGrange and Columbus, Georgia with side trips to Pasaquan in Buena Vista and the Little White House in Warm Springs. The month was capped off with a weekend in Mobile, Alabama. My sister Rachel left for a six-month residency in Monteverde, Costa Rica.
I finally celebrated a birthday in style, the first one I hadn’t worked all day for since I was 21. I spent it with friends in Dahlonega, Georgia, checking out all the wineries. I also went to Birmingham, Alabama for the first time, which I found to be a surprising city. I love what they’re doing with urban renewal and I got to see some of my favorite artists, namely Ryan Adams and Shovels and Rope, at Sloss Fest, a music festival in a historic steel mill. After that, I took a trip to Las Vegas to work a trade show and made time to live it up. This included a post-doctor-visit trip on the Linq High Roller, dinner at Giada and nighttime helicopter ride.
In late summer, I returned to New York City to work my second trade show of the season. I caught up with my dear pal Lauren, met up with fellow blogger Oneika in Long Island City, and watched the sunset over the Reservoir in Central Park with Dani and Kristin. There was also time for checking out the Oculus building and stuffing my face at bucket list eateries like Two Hands and X’ian Famous Foods.
This month was crazy professionally and personally as I completed a (sprint) triathlon during a press trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama, spoke at governor’s tourism conferences in Georgia and Mississippi, and spent a week that was meant to be relaxing but was spent working in Seagrove, Florida. I spoke about working with bloggers at the conferences in Atlanta and Natchez, respectively, and put another issue of The Knot Georgia to bed, on stands in early 2017.
Fall didn’t exactly arrive in my part of the world until late this month, but I still made the most of the cooling of the weather. I took a trip to Northern Alabama to check out the music history of Muscle Shoals as well as the attractions of Huntsville. Shortly afterwards I was bound for California to learn about Lodi, the state’s lesser-known wine region. My final trip of the month was to Helen, Georgia, a place I’d visited many times but was glad to return to. And for those geeks like me out there, I attended Walker Stalker in Atlanta and am now basically best friends with Josh McDermitt…. Or maybe I’m exaggerating.
I wanted to slow down as the holidays approached, but that obviously didn’t happen. I did cancel one trip but still made time for a girls weekend at Universal Orlando, Thanksgiving with my sister in Boone, and a long trip to the Great Smoky Mountains, pre-fire. I also went to two of my favorite concerts for the year. First, I saw Sia in a stadium performance where I got upgraded to the club level and sobbed through her opening song. Then I got to see St. Paul and the Broken Bones (again!) with a local high school marching band opening for them at the Fox Theatre.
The year was rounded up with a visit to Columbia, South Carolina and the surrounding communities with my friends Ruth and Jason. A week later, I was off to the coast for a quick research trip to Savannah, Georgia and then a stay at the Lodge on Little St. Simon’s Island, a place I’d wanted to stay for years.