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Chasing Summer: a journey through the South

For the past two months I’ve been off adventuring with one of the best travel buddies ever, my friend Marieke.

This is how I met her:

Feb 2010- I had just arrived to Townsville, Australia to study abroad for the semester and was worrying about where I was going to live. I couldn’t find on-campus housing and was instead placed in a hostel near the Uni until I could find my own place. I had never been to Australia before, never lived off campus before either, and in general was feeling kind of anxious about meeting people and finding my way around a foreign country.

Lo and behold, my hostel roommate turns out to be a German girl named Marieke who was also studying abroad at James Cook University just like me. She needed to find a place to live  as well, and so we began our life in Australia by room hunting together. We ended up in a house near campus and from there we traveled a lot around Australia during our school vacations.

I don’t know if it was luck or fate that brought us together but whichever it was, it’s been awesome having a friend who likes to travel as much as I do and who I get along crazy-well with.

 

When Marieke decided that she wanted to come to America for her first time ever and travel, I was totally on board. Marieke started her trip in September in New York City with Sabine, her friend from Germany. From there, they came down to DC and spent some time touring the city with me. After about a week we hit the road heading south and chasing summer.

I have travelled to many amazing places and seen amazing things, but this really the first time I’ve gone on a massive road trip with friends. Over the course of 39 days, Marieke and I travelled to 11 different states and drove over 6,058 miles (9,749 km)!

Sabine was in the USA for exactly a month and together we all travelled for three weeks on the road, hitting up five states. Marieke and I were sad to see her go back to Germany from Miami since she also was an amazing travel buddy! Still, the fact that she was able to get a month off from work was awesome! (Germany: better working conditions that America!).

First time at Ihop for Sabine!

I had never travelled through the South before, so let me tell you, it was an experience. There really are idiotic white people who wear/carry confederate flags… >.<

However, for the most part, we had a great time. Almost everywhere we went we met so many kind and generous people who helped us with our travels. It was great because we also got to meet people with such a wide variety of careers ranging from things like being a dolphin trainer, to an Engineer for the Marines, to a cruise ship bartender, and a writer for Apple, among others.

Besides meeting people, it was fun to explore new cities and try activities I’ve never done before, like Parasailing, along with trying new foods, like Alligator sausage.

Alligator Sausage in Gumbo

That tiny dot... that's Marieke and me 😉

 

It was also interesting hearing Marieke and Sabine talk about the subtle and very distinct differences between the US and Germany. Expect a forthcoming blog post on this!

After all these travels, it was hard to go back home to join real life and fall weather, especially since Marieke flew over to the West Coast to spend a few weeks in California before heading back to Germany. Now I will just have to start planning my next big vacation with Marieke & Sabine! We’re thinking Eastern Europe : )

If you want to see more pictures from our trip check out my flickr

Our #1 roadtrip song

Below I’ve included a list of my favorite/least favorite cities and also must-do activities if you are venturing in the South!

Favorite Cities:

  • South Beach Miami, Florida– Love the vibe and the beach is gorgeous!
  • Austin, Texas — cool college town with lots of things to do in town, and yet driving 20 minutes, you can be outside the city in the wilderness.
  • Hot Springs, Arkansas— surprisingly this little town was pretty epic. They have these really nice thermal baths, and also we managed to be in Hot Springs during a documentary film festival which featured a lot of interesting stories. Also, it’s home to the smallest National Park in America.
  • Las Vegas, Nevada — Marieke and I flew here for a few days after our roadtrip ended. Think of it as an EPIC finish for our trip together. It truly was incredible. There is no city that can beat Vegas for crazy nights out, great shows, and the opportunity to practice your math skills while playing BlackJack. ; )

Sobe

 

Quapaw Baths in Hot Springs

 

 

Least Favorite:

  • Wilmington, North Carolina— Not a lot to see or do here…
  • New Orleans, Lousiana— love the live music and the food is yummy, but downtown NOLA is smelly and dirty. This onetime visit for a few days was perfect for me, but I don’t feel the need to ever go back there.
  • Houston, Texas: a big city that is hard to get around in, not to mention Texas drivers are total jerks!!!!! Plus points for having some interesting art exhibits.
  • Memphis, Tennessee- just another big city and a not-so clean one at that.

 

Must dos for people traveling in the South:

North/South Carolina

  • explore the South of the Border shops, when crossing into South Carolina from North Carolina while on the I-95. This rest stop has really funny souvenirs and also offers a great picture taking opportunities.
  • Stop at the Charleston Tea Plantation, the only tea plantation in America, in Charleston, South Carolina. Sample some of their tea (iced or normal ) and get a free factory tour.

Pedro from South of the Border

Georgia

  • Rent a bike and bike around downtown Savannah. It’s a pretty town and the nightlife is pretty fun, even on a weekday. BUT, DO NOT park at the Visitor center if you aren’t going to be there when it closes. Otherwise, you will get a pricey ticket D:

Savannah

Florida

  • Stay at the Everglades International Hostel while visiting the Everglades. The hostel has great atmosphere, lots of friendly and cool hippies taking care of the place, and is also conveniently located near the park which offers one-of-a-kind sights.
  • Go to Wakulla Springs State Park, outside  of Tallahassee, Florida. This natural spring, one of the largest and deepest in the world, offers opportunities to see manatees up close in the wild, alligators and various other wildlife. You can also go swimming here, although note that the water is chilly even in summer!
  • Soak up the sun on gorgeous Miami’s South Beach. Don’t forget the sunscreen!

at Wakulla State Park

Texas

  • Visit the  Art Car Museum in Houston. It has some interesting things, but not something to go out of your way and see unless you happen to be passing through Houston.
  • Watch a movie at Alamo Drafthouse in Austin. Here you can get full waiter service (food and drinks) all the while watching the newest movies out in theaters! The food is pretty yum and so are the drinks!
  • Hike at Enchanted Rock State Park. There is a small fee per person to enter the park, but it’s a good walk up Enchanted Rock to see a 360 degree view of Texas Hill Country
  • Eat at In-N-Out Burger in Dallas. This was previously a West-Coast-only-wonder and is now slowly migrating out east. Definitely the best fast food burger around!

Me & Marieke at the summit of Enchanted Rock

Arkansas

  • See the Bill Clinton Presidential Library in downtown Little Rock. It has some interesting exhibits and you can see all the cool gifts he was given during his presidency.
  • Explore Little Rock Central High School Visitor Center and learn all about the oppressive white supremacy in the South and about the struggle for Civil Rights.
  • Soak in the Thermal Baths in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Not that expensive and very relaxing.

exhibit @ the Clinton Presidential library

Tennessee:

  • Wander around Frist Museum for Visual Arts in Nashville. When I went in October they had a great ancient Egypt exhibit. Also, the food in their cafeteria is good and inexpensively priced compared to most Museums.
  • Take pictures at Great Smokey Mountain National Park during the fall. Despite all the traffic in the park, it offers totally gorgeous picture taking opportunities.

Great Smokey Mts. National Park in Oct