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!

 

 

Early Insights

Traveling is an eye opener…in more ways than one. In addition to the sights, sounds and surprises that find you along the way, you’d be surprised how quickly you can learn in just the first couple of hours of being on the road. So no matter how prepared you think you are, you might want to think again.

In this post, I’ll share what’s caused me to think twice. First though, I want to let you know that I made it to my first destination: Columbia, South Carolina. And what a great time it is! But, before I recall the experiences this awesome southern city has offered me over the last few days, I want to take a step back and share with you a few of insights I’ve gained in just the first few hours of my first, open-ended road trip adventure.

What I was able to consolidate down to in just three weeks.

What I was able to consolidate down to in just three weeks.

You need more time. If you think you’ve allowed yourself enough time to prep and pack, you haven’t. Although the idea of journeying had been brewing for a year or more, I’ve been running through the logistics in my mind ever since. Before I left, I was fortunate to have almost three weeks of uninterrupted time to focus on closing out in Orlando. Ridding myself of most material possessions. Checking out of the house I was renting. Moving. Paying off any remaining balances on bills and utilities as well as preparing for my upcoming trip. I’m an intricate planner, live by to-do lists, do my best to schedule and anticipate as many eventualities as possible, but it didn’t prove to be enough.
Intending to leave at 8:00a.m. on a Monday, I found myself up extremely late the night before and running three hours behind the next day due to trivial to-do’s – things I was meant to do but just didn’t have the time. My miscalculation caused me to skip Savannah, Georgia, one of the first planned stops along the way, which brings me to my next point:

Farewell fare at Mom's favorite fast food place. WaWa, I will miss you.

Farewell fare at Mom’s favorite fast food place. WaWa, I will miss you.

Flexibility is the ticket. Unless you’re away on business and have to literally schedule every meeting, meal, networking event and “must see,” I say stay fluid. I’m finding it’s helpful to have a rough sketch of where I want to go, what I want to do and when, but marrying yourself to an itinerary really only seems to impose limits and cause stress. That’s not what traveling is all about. So, out the window it went, and here are the realizations that took its place: Don’t over-plan and remember to take your time! Before you go, say your “goodbyes” and “see ya later(s)” over a meal (no matter how casual it may be) even if your timeline doesn’t allow for it. You’ll miss the people you’re leaving behind and having face time with them before you leave gives you something to remember and hold on to. Skip a stop along the way to provide more time (and consideration) for the people you are going to see – in-so-far you can come back and see it at a later time. Stop often and don’t rush along the way as long you stay in touch and keep your peeps up to date.

You won’t get to it all. Naturally, you’ll want to look into and plan the time you’re going to spend at your destination. Must sees, highlights, historical and natural landmarks are all very important in ensuring you get to experience the destination and everything it has to offer. If a week (plus or minus a few days) seems like plenty of time to do and see it all, it’s not. A few days can’t kill curiosity, but don’t sweat it. As I said before, stay flexible. The people you’re traveling with and those you’re going to see will want to contribute to your experience, and it’s important that you allow them to. I, personally, was flattered to see the care and concern my friends put into my time with them. More often than not, they’re right, and the list you made as an outsider was based on commercial interests (Food Network and Travel Channel) or other travelers’ reviews (TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google Local, etc.) who may or may not share the same interests and values as you. So, stay open to it all, and don’t be afraid to substitute one activity or point of interest for another. Chances are you won’t “miss out” and might just be pleasantly surprised. I know I was.

The other thing that will keep you from being the Energizer rabbit that keeps going and going and going is down time. Everyone needs it, but few pencil it in. By not allowing yourself to relax and just be, not only will you run yourself ragged, spend more than you may be able to afford, or worse, put things-to-do in the way of the personal connections you’re there to make. Seek to find the balance between entertainment and the human need to build relationships and just be. You (and hopefully those you’re visiting) will be grateful you did.

My Mazda. My mode.

My Mazda. My mode.

What can go wrong, will. It’s Murphy’s law. While I’m happy to report that nothing has gone “wrong” (yet), I anticipate something will. Things break and mishaps happen. It’s all a part of the journey, and it’s all good! As a traveler, it’s important to anticipate them but not let less-than-ideal situations cloud your perception or stand in the way of appreciating an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. For me, my 2008 Mazda 3 is my one and only mode. With approximately 70,000 miles on it prior to my departure, I had it checked out before I headed out. The dealer gave it a “green light go” and said everything was perfect. It wasn’t. And although its not the mechanics fault, nor does it effect its running condition, no sooner did I get to Columbia and started running around town with my hosts – who I must say have not only accepted me as family but shown me Southern hospitality like I’ve never experienced before. Love you guys, really do! – the passenger-side door / lock mechanism broke. Now closed, the front right door will not open, but it’s no big deal. I could’ve worried, stressed and paid out the ass to have it fixed, but I didn’t…at least not yet. My mates will just have to play Dukes of Hazard by hopping in and out of the window or climbing across the console from the driver-side door. Worse things could have (and probably will) happen.

Yesterday (Thursday, July 11th) was testament to that. My Wanee music family and I were on our way to Charleston, South Carolina to eat, drink and beach our way through this quintessential coastal town. About three quarters of the way there, we hit heavy traffic and had to play “stop and go” for several miles. As we did, we noticed the car would not coast. Something was hindering the front right wheel from spinning freely. We could smell the brakes, and we could see smoke. So, we pulled over onto the shoulder, let it cool down and tried to loosen the caliper. No sooner did we stop; we were on our way. What was most telling (and an insightful embrace of the nature of exploring) was my friend’s – an experienced road tripper – post on Facebook: “It’s always an adventure.” And that’s exactly what it is. It’s just a matter of how you accept the unexpected.

Gas goes fast. This fact needs no explanation except to say that when you’re driving to and from work and running errands around town, a full tank seems sufficient. Locally, it may be, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little surprised by how fast gas goes and how little a full tank really is when you’re going the distance. Even with decent gas mileage (32 MPG highway), I burned through about one and half tanks just getting to my first port of call. Maybe it is the wind resistance caused by my mountain bike I’m toting on the back of my car?

Anyway, I’m just five days into my trip and feel like I’ve already learned more than I ever could in the “race” I used to run. I can’t wait to see what else comes to light along the way.

Have you learned a lesson you’d like to share? Please do. Just put it in a comment below. I thank you, in advance, as it will help prepare me for what might be next.

 

Red, White and BOOM!

Me at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. A foreshadowing event? I think so!

Me at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. A foreshadowing event? I think so!

Red, white and BOOM! Just what the world needs…another blog. As fledgling and obscure as this may seem, my intent is that it will mirror the spirit of my adventure. Evolve, grow and take on a life of its own, but it has to start somewhere, right?

Made public on July 4th, 2013, Vicariously Through.Me celebrates life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in its most literal, non-governmental form. It acknowledges the right to be who you are, do what you want to do and to live life to its fullest without letting excuses and rationalizations get in the way.

For me personally, it commemorates my independence from the confines of the status quo. Having recently resigned my position and walked away from my corporate career, I’ve consolidated everything I own into a handful boxes and reduced my overhead (mortgage, rent and utility-free) to allow for an open-ended, nomadic journey for the soul.

By means of this albeit ambiguous collection of stories, thoughts and travels, my life is taking a new direction – a frivolous pursuit of freedom. But that is not to say it does not have a purpose. It does. And the value will be actively participating and paying witness to what my – no, our – higher calling turns out to be.

In the meantime, much like your Fourth of July celebrations, it will be filled with fireworks, food, festivals, family, friends, funk and most importantly FUN!

But, what it’s missing is you! It needs your eyes, but more importantly your thoughts if it is going to thrive. So if freedom, as it is described here, speaks to you and means as much to you as it does for me, I hope you’ll consider being a part of a renaissance and reformation in the making by sharing not only this, but your points of view.

Have a happy and safe Independence Day.

Go ‘Murica!

 

 

 

 

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.

Going Rogue

There will be haters, doubters, non-believers and then there will be you and me proving them wrong.

There will be haters, doubters, non-believers and then there will be you and me proving them wrong.

Welcome to Vicariously Through.Me, an evolving life story of a communications professional going rogue.

Created in the Summer of 2013 on the precipice of doing something epic in life, Vicariously Through.Me recognizes the value of unique perspectives and experiences, including your own. It was born out of a necessity to embark on a quest to find meaning and a greater sense of purpose in life, and it is dedicated to the hearts and minds that are seeking to escape the materialistic tendencies that can so often dictate the course of our lives.

Told in the first-person through the eyes and adventures of an overly-consumed and under-liberated 30-something, it acknowledges that it’s a little late to the table in terms of travel blogs. That’s why this is exactly what it’s not.

Surely, it serves as a platform to share my adventures, expand on my experiences, and tempt your senses with the tastes, sights and sounds of travel. (Please don’t call me Shirley.) But, it also promises transparency, honesty and humility in the thoughts, feelings, frustrations and fears that motivated me to leave it all behind and begin again.

Because I do not presume to be the first person or the last to drop out of the rat race in search for something bigger, Vicariously Through.Me is not special, but it is as unique as the perspective and chronicles of one man’s journey to make sense out of an otherwise meaningless model. My own.

I hope you will accompany me on my journey and consider writing your own story as we move forward in navigating the uncertain terrain of an interpreted life.

It’s an honor to invite you live Vicariously Through.Me.