Get out – now!

By Jeanne Reynolds

A couple years ago, my husband hosted an awards trip for people from his department at work and their spouses. If you’ve read many of my previous posts, you know we’ve built our someday-retirement home in Beaufort and have fallen in love with the area, so he decided to hold the conference there. The group stayed at a charming bed-and-breakfast inn in the historic area, dined one night in a wonderful waterfront restaurant and another in the moss-draped backyard of a century-plus-year-old home. Throw in some carriage rides, art galleries and strolls along the river walk, and a great time was had by all.

No, I’m not working for the chamber of commerce or visitors’ bureau on the side, so why am I telling you this? Because of the three dozen people on the trip, my husband and I were the only ones who had ever been to Beaufort before.

Big deal, you say, but wait: His company is based in South Carolina, with headquarters in Columbia. In fact, nearly everyone on the trip has lived in this state their whole lives. Yet they had never ventured the relatively short distance to check out a town Southern Living magazine and who knows how many other lifestyle publications can’t stop gushing over.

Admittedly, Beaufort isn’t exactly on the way to anywhere (except maybe Parris Island, and I doubt many Marines are reading this anyway). You pretty much have to mean to go there. But this is my point: South Carolina is full of wonderful places you have to mean to go to – beautiful, quirky, unexpected places you’ll never see unless you get up and go. And it’s so worth it.

Let’s take Yemassee, for example (it’s near Beaufort, by the way – giving you a two-fer here). Population 966, it’s home to:

  • A company that makes incredible (and expensive) granite-type countertops with oyster shells embedded in them.
  • The hauntingly beautiful ruins of the mid-1700s Old Sheldon Church, burned down in both the Revolutionary and Civil wars.
  • A golf club so private it makes August National look like a neighborhood open house.
  • A dive bar that serves weekly standing-room only steak dinners.
  • A farm that raises monkeys for pharmaceutical research.
  • An antique store that doubles as a deli and catering company.


Show of hands: How many of you have been to Yemassee? Or even heard of it? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m guilty, too. I’ve lived in this state for almost 30 years and I’ve yet to hear a performance at the Newberry Opera House or eat at Yoder’s Dutch Kitchen in Abbeville. And until just a few years ago, I’d never stepped inside the State House.avenue of oaks

Yes, I’ve seen homes decorated for Christmas in Camden, trod the trails at Historic Brattonsville and Congaree National Park, kayaked to Shell Island near Edisto and bought boiled peanuts at Snider’s Crossroads – but that’s barely scratching the surface of the oh-so-many places to see in our state.

Need ideas? (After all, you don’t know what you don’t know.) Find inspiration on the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism website, or Google “places to visit in South Carolina.” Or just get in the car and head to the next town over – the one you never go to because, well, it’s really not on the way to anywhere. Be sure to take the back roads, and stop anywhere that looks interesting.

Take a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon or a long weekend. Whatever you do, just get out and go. There’s so much more out there than you – or I – can imagine.

My Day at Magic Kingdom

by Tina M. Cameron

I have always been independent and not wanting to miss out on things because of being single. I attend NASCAR races alone, rock concerts, college football games and today, Magic Kingdom. I had friends say that I was crazy, and some said I was brave to travel from Columbia, SC to Orlando by myself. The trip to the Magic Kingdom came out of wanting to go to Orlando for The University of Alabama’s season opener on September 1st. You see, I am a huge college football fan-moreover the Crimson Tide. This is where I am presently a student in the RN to BSN Distance Learning Program and the university that my oldest son earned his Mechanical Engineering degree from- so, it holds a special place in my heart. So last year when they announced that the season opener would be in Orlando I decided I had to attend. I also decided I wanted to go to Magic Kingdom. I arrived at Disney’s All Stars Sports Resort at 1:45 p.m. today and stepped into the Magic Kingdom at 2:30 p.m. I felt like a kid in a candy store. 20180830_203132

With the help of friends who have recently gone and my cousin Christy, I planned my rides carefully using my three Fast Passes. I was also able to make a reservation nine days before arriving at The Crystal Palace Restaurant which is a buffet style restaurant with the Winnie the Pooh and friends’ characters.

The last time I was at Disney was 20 years ago with my children and parents. My, how things have changed. There are Magic-bands that you are given to use as your ticket, your hotel key at the resorts and to use as your Fast Pass to skip the traditional waiting lines. It is fascinating to me the way that technology has changed even a trip to Disney.

In writing this blog post today, it was not my intent to promote Disney, or college football, but, to inspire people – including women – in getting out and doing things. It doesn’t matter if you are single, if there is something you love to do or dream of doing, then do it. You only get one life and I am trying to make the most out of mine. I do get tired somedays and I don’t get out of my pajama’s. But, fifty years have now gone by and my life is half over. I think that is why I am trying to do as much as I can while I still can. I am finally getting my four-year degree. So, go live your best life. Do things you are interested in and don’t be afraid to travel alone or be the only one in a restaurant surrounded by Winnie the Pooh characters and families. As tired as I am while I am typing this, it was one of the best days of my life. And, tomorrow, I’m off to Animal Kingdom!

Mama Mia!

By Jeanne Reynolds

Abba fans, sit back down — this isn’t about their song or the movie (and now a sequel) by the same name. But it does sum up my recent trip to Italy.

You know what it’s like when you look forward to something so much for so long, it can’t possibly live up to your expectations?

This trip was nothing like that. It. Was. Amazing.Tuscan countryside

What did I like best: the scenery, the art and architecture, the mind-warping antiquity, the food, the wine?


A quick overview of our itinerary: Direct flight from Charlotte to Rome, 3 nights there including a private day-long tour with a guide, drive to Tuscany for 4 nights in Siena, drive to Sorrento for 2 nights there, and finally back to Rome for our flight back the next day.

We didn’t come close to seeing it all, but we saw a lot: the Vatican, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica and Square, Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Roman Forum, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, catacombs. And that was just in Rome. In and around Siena we climbed winding staircases up towers (400 steps in one case), marveled at museums full of priceless treasures, visited towering cathedrals and walked ancient medieval streets. Near Sorrento, we traveled up and down an impossibly narrow cliffside road with hair-raising turns, and then in a chairlift to the top of the Isle of Capri (yes, while wearing capri pants!). On the way back to Rome we visited Pompeii near the foot of Mt. Vesuvius and were overcome with wonder and sadness at a lost civilization.

Ignoring well-meaning advice from family members, we didn’t even consider a prepackaged, city-a-day group bus tour. That kind of trip has some advantages, but it wasn’t the experience I craved for my Italian adventure. Instead we stayed in very small bed-and-breakfasts I found online (I highly recommend and found our own way around using maps, GPS, phone apps and helpful locals. A couple of our accommodations were wonderful, one was mostly convenient, but all were clean, affordable and safe.

When we wanted to eat — and did we ever! — we asked our B&B hosts for First pizzarecommendations or just walked until something looked good. The results ranged from good to extraordinary, usually accompanied by the local house wine (or vino della casa, as we like to say). We tried wood-fired pizza with a thin, crisp crust, fried artichokes, Tuscan-style steak with rosemary and olive oil, grilled squid, crusty bread and of course, pasta. It’s hard to describe what was so wonderful about it, but fresh, local ingredients using old family recipes and al fresco dining are hard to beat. And the gelato … one of us had it every day (sometimes twice). It’s that good. And no, sadly no, nothing in the grocery store freezer case can possibly replicate it.

And guess what? Neither of us gained an ounce. Because first, the meals impress with flavor rather than size, and second, we walked an average of 5 miles a day, up and down hills and stairs. (Remember that tower? 400 steps up means 400 down, too.)

Of course, wonderful doesn’t necessarily mean perfect. Trying to figure out when we could park where in Siena without a ticket or a tow was challenging, and let’s just say Americans have a different standard when it comes to public bathroom facilities. And despite the GPS, maps and road signs, we frequently got turned around trying to find our destinations.

So, now that I’m a wily veteran of la dolce vita (that’s a joke, of course — we could go to Italy every year for the next decade and not experience all its wonders), here’s some advice:


Yep, that’s it. I was going to include a 7-point list of tips about protecting your passport and cash from pickpockets, how to tell if the gelato is homemade and which shop in Anacapri is best for handmade Italian leather shoes (surprisingly affordable, by the way). But there are dozens of guidebooks that can tell you that and a whole lot more.

And really, this isn’t about Italy. It’s about finding a way to visit the places and do the things you dream of. Life is too short not to.

That’s the advice I hope I remember myself.



Eating Clean and Healthy on the Road

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Did I mention that I was in USA Today?  I struck up a Twitter conversation with their travel writer, and the next thing I know, I’m in the article. Pretty cool, huh? Anyway, I’ve been meaning to write a post on eating on the road, and now seem about as good a time as ever to do just that…

In my job, I’m fortunate enough to travel to some pretty neat places for sustainability training: Kansas City, MO.; Madison, WI; and Washington, DC, just to name a few. BEFORE my lifestyle change, I always enjoyed eating at local restaurants to get a flavor for the locale, but now that I’m a clean eater, it isn’t as easy.

In general, restaurant dining isn’t easy. Even when you pick something from the menu that you THINK would be pretty basic, there are some sneaky additions that throw you off.  If you read this blog, you probably know that most chicken in any grilled chicken salad is chock full of sodium and that something as simple as a lean steak is often topped with butter.

I will give a shout out to Kansas City’s Blue Bird Bistro, a delicious all-natural restaurant, as well as my sustainability cohorts, Keith and Julia, who pulled out their adventure fork to accompany me there during our last trip. Their menu featured great options for even the cleanest of eaters, and it was a really nice experience to boot.

Conference food also leaves a lot to be desired.  Many of the meals are working meals, featuring boxed lunches with processed meats, chips and, if you’re lucky, maybe an apple.

My nutrition counselor, Traci, taught me early on to take responsibility for myself and not to rely on anyone else to get it right, and that was wonderful advice. When I’m in a new dining situation, I always check out the menu beforehand, eat before I go and/or bring my own food so I’ll know there is a clean and healthy option. It may sometimes look a little weird to bring a lunch bag of goodies, but it looks a lot less weird when I slip into a size eight skirt. (Like I did today!)

With the many carry-on baggage restrictions, it’s pretty hard to bring too much food aboard, so I’ve learned to shop local markets upon my arrival. The past year, I’ve even discovered local markets that offer online shopping and delivery, which allows me to place the order before my trip and have it delivered within hours of my arrival.

Here is a list of the standard foods I like to have on hand in my hotel room:

  • Whole wheat bread
  • Peanut butter
  • Fruits like bananas, raisins, grapes – things that don’t HAVE to be refrigerated and are fairly portable
  • Salad veggies such as Bibb lettuce, cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots (If the hotel has a mini-fridge)
  • Nuts
  • Light soy milk (again, depending on a mini-fridge)
  • Instant oatmeal (can have for breakfast or dinner)

I’ve also learned to pack the following:

  • Paring knife (checked baggage only!)
  • Measuring cup (my favorite is a silicone cup with assorted measures)
  • Ziploc or reusable bags (for sandwiches and snacks)
  • Lidded plastic containers (for salads)
  • A set of utensils (I like a real set, not plastic)
  • Sweeteners (Equal and Sweet n Low are still vices!)
  • Travel water containers (one for water, one for soy milk)
  • Insulated lunch bag
  • Cloth napkins (not necessary, but a nice touch)

And finally, here are a few tips:

  • Don’t be shy about bringing your own food. It used to feel weird, but people are actually usually jealous that my food is better than what they’re being served.
  • Dress it up! I bring a couple cute cloth napkins and reusable sandwich bags. It makes it more fun.
  • Check out facilities beforehand. Is there a mini fridge? A microwave? Is there a local market that will deliver? The hotel staff is always very helpful.
  • Check with conference staff beforehand. Given enough time, you can usually get a vegetarian or vegan option. Be careful, though. I once got a “vegetarian” plate that included a whopping helping of French fries.
  • When purchasing food, keep your receipts. I think I was the first person who turned in a Whole Foods receipt in my travel reimbursement, but the APWA was happy to pay for it as they would regular meals. In fact, I spent less on groceries for three days than some people did for a single dinner.
  • Be prepared. There MAY be something you can eat, and if so, you can always save your lunch and/or snacks. But better to be safe than sorry.
  • If dining out is part of the program and/or you just don’t want to miss out, go to the restaurant’s website beforehand and check out the best options. You can even do that on your smart phone. Also, don’t hesitate to ask for substitutions, special preparations (grilled vs. fried) and/or ingredient lists.

What tips do you have for eating on the road?  Any special restaurants or markets to recommend?  Is there a hotel, facility and/or meeting planner that has been especially accommodating?