Columbia Cool

I said it before and I’ll say it again. If you think you’ll have the time, you won’t. Before embarking on my journey, I wanted nothing more than to journal my travels and keep you up-to-date with the thoughts, feelings and experiences  of my adventures. However, I’m finding it difficult to find the time. Ironic, seeing as though that’s all I have. There’s simply just so much out there and far too much curiosity along the way!

So although my intention was to give you a daily digest of the who’s, what’s, where’s, when’s and occasional why’s, I realized that it would be narcissistic (and borderline selfish) of me to break it down like that. Too trivial.

So, now that I have made it from Orlando to Columbia and on to Pisgah National Park just outside of Asheville, NC, with a day trip to Charleston, SC in between, I thought I’d catch you up on my time in Columbia as I recharge my batteries (both literally and figuratively) before I head to Alpharetta, GA on Wednesday for Phish.

Here are the highlights in chronological (but no particular) order:

Columbia, South Carolina:  They say People make the place and my time in Columbia proves it! My “friends-who-I-met-at-Wanee-that-became-family” extended Southern hospitality like I’ve never seen it before. Sure they showed me around and probably stepped outside the norm (and maybe their comfort zone?) to acquaint me with the area, but spending time, catching up, sharing laughs and meeting their friends were by far the best! The rest was just icing on the cake. Second to them (and their best friends Katie, Brian and someone who goes by the alias Maximus Omega), honorary mentions include:Congaree National Park

Congaree National Park: This low-lying flood plain and forest was the first of what I hope to be many National Parks I get to visit. Still searching for the Cooter (aka Pseudemys) though! HAHA!

 

Me on the Saluda River in Columbia, SC.

Me on the Saluda River in Columbia, SC.

Saluda River: One of three rivers that flow through Columbia, the Saluda was one of the cleanest and coolest white water rivers I’ve ever seen – perfect for sitting on the cool, rocky banks and reflecting. I should’ve braved it in a kayak.

 

 

 

Cock N' Bull Pub.

Cock N’ Bull Pub.

The Kraken Gastro Pub / Cock N’ Bull Pub: Two of my friends’ favorite watering holes, they exuded both local color (or lack thereof, if you know what I’m saying?) and charismatic charm of the people that frequent them. Good food too, like a duck quesadilla at Cock N’ Bull and a brined and braised Pork Belly accompanied with a micro-green and crab salad as well as the local favorite, proper Poutin, at The Kraken were welcomed indulgences.

 

 

 

The "STP" at Groucho's in Columbia

The “STP” at Groucho’s in Columbia

Groucho’s Deli – This not-so-New York-style deli, has been curing hangovers with its “dipper-style” subs since 1941. If you’re ever there, don’t skimp; Go for the STP (roast beef, turkey, smothered in Swiss Cheese) or The Apollo Dipper (hot ham, turkey and swiss cheese), both served with their famous Formula “45” dip. YUM!

 

Hunter-Gatherer, Columbia's only Brew Pub. Hunter-Gatherer Brewery and Alehouse: Hunter-Gatherer is one of two breweries in Columbia, and the only brew pub that offers a well-rounded selection of craft beer (brewed on site) and an impressive compliment of food pairings. Starting out, I ordered their IPA and Pimento Cheese Spread, followed a pale ale paired with the Smoked Chicken Ravioli. Their burgers looked legit too! It’s warm, cozy and unrefined. My kind of place!

 

Beer flight at Conquest.

Beer flight at Conquest.

Conquest: Conquest Brewing Company is the only tap room in Columbia. Only about 6-months into their production, they (I mean, humbled brew master) offered a balanced portfolio of regular and dry-hopped pilsners, a Pale Ale, regular and dry-hopped IPA and a Stout. Located just across the street from University of South Carolina’s Gamecock stadium, this is one to keep your eye on! Cheers, guys! Keep up the good work.

 

Pearlz Oyster Bar: What a night! Definitely a place to make it rain! Their seafood-focused menu is something to explore. We sampled a variety of oysters, regional catches like Tile Fish and Barrel Fish, dusted corn fritters and a few too many lively libations, like the Dark ‘n Stormy cocktail (Myers rum, limeade, and ginger) Holy hangover, Batman!Pearlz, where Brian and I made it rain! Did I mention it was the best send-off ever?!

Pizza Guy: This is a locals only joint, but still friendly for a visitor – but then again I was accompanied with regulars? Anywho, it’s one of the few (only?) bars in Columbia that serves up liquor starting at 7:00 a.m. Mike, the man behind the bar, makes a tasty bloody mary, but I had a mimosa (or two or three) and a stacked bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich, both of which put me behind the power curve for the day.

Nothing says love like a home-cooked meal :)

Nothing says love like a home-cooked meal 🙂

If you know me then you’re probably not surprised that the highlights of this part trip are food-focused, and I haven’t even gotten to Charleston yet! But, my absolute favorite food experience during my stay in Columbia was the home-cooked meal my hosts made for me: Bacon-wrapped Venison tenderloin and kale chips. For a game-meat starved Florida boy, this was a real treat. Thank you, both! Delish!

 

So, aside from the state building, which still flies the Confederate Flag in the front lawn, an inside joke about neighborhood called Cottontown and a bike ride to Five Points, which is home Bone, Rugs and Harmony, a vintage consignment shop full of all kind of cool digs, this pretty much sums  up my stay in Columbia.They moved the "stars and bars" from the top of the capitol to the front lawn. WOW!

Next time, I’ll breakdown our time in Charleston, SC and fill you in on the fauna I found in Pisgah National Park. In the meantime, thanks for baring with me. If you need to live Vicariously Through.Me more often, find me on Facebook.

See ya there!

 

 

On the Road to Find Out

This isn’t your run-of-the-mill travel blog, but a physical manifestation of me ditching dogma and getting in touch my true self uninhibited by the layers of mainstream society. Inspired by life, science, music and mother nature, this is a chronicle of one man’s journey into the unknown and personal pursuit of purpose, inner peace, harmony with others and unity with the world in which we live.

Who is to say exactly when or why this quest for a more meaningful existence began? All I can say is that my previous life as a corporate communications professional just wasn’t adding up, nor was it all that it was cracked up to be.  And it wasn’t because I was not good at what I did. I was successful – at least according to other people’s standards. I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in a nationally-recognized mass communications program.  And over the last 10+ years, I was fortunate to amass a wealth of experience in the field, serving as a publicist, principal writer, public relations account executive, account manager at a full-service integrated advertising agency and most recently as  the first-ever social media specialist for an internationally renowned travel brand. I even earned awards, accolades, public speaking opportunities and published a few by-lined articles along the way. I was accomplished yet unfulfilled. Something was missing.

For all intensive purposes, I was doing everything that I was “supposed” to. From the outside looking in, I guess you could say that I had everything that most people seek to achieve: independence and financial stability by means of a fruitful career; I was driving a new new car and living on my own in a modest two-bedroom suburban home that was furnished to the “T”. I donned an  extensive wardrobe comprised of designer brands, and more importantly I had a loving family, friends, romantic flings and lots of weekend fun! But still I couldn’t help from asking myself, “is this all there is?”

As I told my friends and family who questioned my “plan” (or lack thereof) along the way, I sometimes wonder if having a wife, family of 2.2 children and a mortgage payment would’ve provided a greater sense of purpose and fulfillment. After all, a life of love is about doing right by and making sacrifices for others. The answer is maybe? But, I wasn’t about to over-commit only to be let down, as so many of others I know have done before me. These were choices they made – not desires of my own or even decisions I was willing to entertain. I just knew there had to be more and now I am risking everything to find it.

Truth in its simplest form.

Truth in its simplest form.

As of today, July 4, 2013, I’m poised to do what many students do after graduating college but never did. Travel. But this isn’t your typical “gap year” which has a beginning, an end and destinations in between. I’m walking away, leaving my income behind, liquidating  almost everything I own and worked so hard to gain, but most of all I am relinquishing the “model” and distancing myself from the creature comforts so many of us are not only married to but find identity in. This is freedom in its simplest form. This is about letting go and opening up to everything at the same time. It’s a solo sabbatical for the soul. My goal: To afford an adventure full of thoughts, feelings and experiences that will pave the way for a more sustainable and fulfilling future.

Family and friends don't count. They and the memories we share with them will always be with us. The rest is just stuff.

Family and friends don’t count. They and the memories we share with them will always be with us. The rest is just stuff.

But, believe it or not, this space is more about YOU than it is me! Despite the saying “It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else,” (Erma Bombeck) this is precisely what I intend to do. And not only do I trust that my thoughts, feelings and epiphanies will be safe and maybe even echo with you, but I realize they are less without you. To say it another way, it would mean a lot to me if they meant something to you. Why? Because I believe WE are spiritual beings having a human experience and these experiences need to be shared with one another if we are to uncover its meaning. So, if part of our purpose in life is to learn from each other then my hope is that  this community and my travels, will help facilitate a better understanding of self, others and nature.

So, to those who said they were jealous of what I am about to do, let this  inspire you and prove that you can too! For those contemplating a similar move, I hope to provide some resources, feature the stories of others pursuits, and share some lessons learned along the way in which you can hopefully find value. Equally so, I hope – no, trust – that you’ll want to chime in from time to time to provide some insights, suggestions, opinions and challenges to my sometimes progressive points of view. That is what is meant when I say to live Vicariously Through.Me.