Category Archives: Travel

3 Life Lessons Learned From SkyDiving

I’ve always been a risk taker. I decided to attend Howard University without touring the school. I run to the scariest roller coaster when I’m at an amusement park. I don’t hesitate to go zip lining.  But skydiving out of a plane that was 14,000 feet high was the biggest risk I’ll likely ever take.

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Taking a leap of faith. YIKESS!!

Skydiving allowed me to feel every emotion. Initially I decided to take the leap of faith for my 25th birthday – but when my birthday weekend rolled around, it was too windy to jump so I had to reschedule. A month later my initial excitement went away and I felt anxious about skydiving. Whenever I thought about the waiver that I signed stating (in bold and underlined font I might add) that I was putting my life in danger and giving up my family’s legal rights to sue in the event of injury or death, I got nervous and questioned if this was something I should even be doing. But I stuck it out and kept the appointment – bringing my mom to watch for moral support.

When I got to the Skydive Georgia, I saw people landing safely and I became excited again and more confident about jumping. But anxiety crept in while waiting for my turn. When my name was called I hopped up quickly – ready to get the party that I planned months ago started. I listened intensely to the directions and practiced lifting my legs so I had a smooth landing. This was tandem skydiving so I had a professional jump out with me, but I still contemplated on what could go wrong.

On the ride up I shed a tear but quickly wiped it away so the other 15+ people on the small airplane didn’t get concerned. Despite watching us elevate thousands of feet in the sky, I felt a sense of peace. I prayed like crazy up until that point, and on the plane and I knew that I would make it back down in one piece.

When I saw people falling out of the plane, I knew that it was time. I slid out of the helicopter and screamed for God to take the wheel. A paid extra to have a professional skydiving photographer jump out in front of me and capture the experience (and my ugly faces). The fall down was terrifying, but when my tandem instructor pulled the parachute it was the most peaceful experience.

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The emotional rollercoaster that I went through during my skydiving adventure taught me three life lessons that I’ll always carry with me:

  1.   God got you. Being that close to God strengthened my faith. Skydiving was the epitome of putting my life in his hands.
  2.   On the outside of your comfort zone lies the greatest reward. The pruning process isn’t supposed to be comfortable, but it’s crucial to your growth.
  3.   Fear is mental slavery. What do we truly have to fear? There’s a lot of things in life that give me anxiety (like parallel parking and babies that won’t stop crying). But I’ve come to realize that when we know God, we have nothing to fear.

Check out the video below to see my skydiving experience on YouTube!

Is skydiving on your bucket list? Share what is in the comments below!

25 Travel Adventures That’ll Give You Serious Wanderlust

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Once you’ve been bit by the travel bug, there’s no turning back. Traveling shapes and enriches you, allowing you to learn about yourself and the world around you. And while an international excursion is an experience of a lifetime, there’s beauty throughout America waiting to be explored so take advantage!

The following jet setters know firsthand the impact that traveling can have on someone. As the year winds down and you begin to plan 2017, allow their travel adventures to give you serious wanderlust and inspire your next trip. 

Join us on social media and answer: #ITravelBecause … 


1. Nairobi, Kenya

Jasmine Fowlkes Clennon

“This photo was taken at The Giraffe Manor Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya last Thanksgiving morning. This is one of my favorite travel photos because it’s a unique memory that I will never forget. Being that it was very early Thanksgiving morning and the giraffes only come to dine at breakfast, I remember feeling extremely blessed and grateful in this very moment.

#ITravelBecause traveling immerses me in cultures, environments and countries that I am not familiar with, which broadens my horizons to new ways of living. It’s also a humble reminder of how small each of us are in the grand scheme of the world.”

Jasmine Fowlkes Clennon, Ad Innovation Manager | Twitter: @JasmineFelicia IG: @JasmineFelicia


2. Macchu Picchu in Peru

Echo Alpha

Echo Alpha

“Macchu Picchu is the first of the seven world wonders I saw. I learned that my confidence in myself was not misplaced. If you’re interested in traveling here, you don’t have to speak Spanish because I didn’t speak the language…

#ITravelBecause I want to expand my horizons.”

Echo Alpha, Event and Landscape Photographer |  Echo Alpha Media


3. Sedona, Arizona

Saba Tekle

Saba Tekle

“This photo captures both how I felt in that moment and the beauty of Sedona. I learned that I am willing to travel far for peace of mind. I also learned that there are places I have never visited that feel like home once I’ve arrived. When traveling, I suggest you spend the most time meditating, absorbing and reflecting when you arrive and to take a piece of the energy with you when you leave.

#ITravelBecause I want to connect deeper to myself and life. I travel to feel whole and restored. I travel to see and feel beauty.”

Saba Tekle, Publisher and Best Selling Author | SabaTekle.com


4. Dead Sea in Jordan

Georgia Walker

Georgia Walker

“The photo is from my study abroad trip in Jordan, where I floated in the Dead Sea for the first time. It’s one of my favorite travel photos due to the memory it’s tied to. My study abroad classmates felt free for the first time as a group together, splashing around in the water and lathering ourselves in mud. My one piece of advice for someone who wants to travel to Jordan is to not be afraid of meeting strangers and putting themselves out there socially. Jordanians are incredibly friendly and loved having foreigners over for dinner etc.

#ITravelBecause no two places are alike.”

Georgia Walker, Marketing Specialist |Linkedin


5. Dubai Desert Safari 

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Melissa White

“Through traveling I learned how to be in the moment and be mindful.  I was intentional on this vacation to capture moments here and there, but to really focus on the sites, sounds, people and experiences in front of me in that moment.

 When traveling try new food, wear the garmets and learn the customs. This creates a rich experience beyond photos and souvenirs!

#ITravelBecause I love to embrace the culture and experiences.”

Melissa White, Founder of Writing Our Wrongs


6. Guyana, South America

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Michelle MnM Mason

“One of my most memorable trips in 2016 was when I spent three weeks in Guyana with local family members I hadn’t seen in 14 years. This image was taken from a day tour where we travelled one hour by plane and walked about a mile on foot through the Amazon Rainforest to see the Kaieteur Falls; the largest single drop waterfall in the world.

Words simply cannot describe the experience I felt standing there to capture this image. It was breathtakingly amazing to capture the essence of nature in its most pristine and serene element. This is a part of the world where Amerindian natives learn the land for survival and pass the culture through verbal knowledge. As a professional photographer, to be able to document a hidden wonder of the world many have not seen before was invigorating. Even majority of the locals that live in the city haven’t travelled here before, so this image has become a real gem to my collection of travel images.

[Through traveling], I learned the importance of being able to truly disconnect from technology and use all five senses to embrace the environment. From the constant warm tropical breeze, to the various bird calls and plethora of exotic plants just to name a few, not having access to everyday amenities was a very humbling experience and forced me to adapt to my environment. I also learned that despite my love for traveling, I have definitely become spoiled by the American life of wifi, running water, and electricity; things i wouldn’t be able to give up right now at this point in my life for an extended period of time.

If you are visiting, make sure you are well rested, hydrated, and have lots of mosquito repellant. Do not be afraid because it is truly a breathtaking life changing experience worth having.

#ITravelBecause the world is too vast to limit yourself to one place; traveling expands your mind, appreciation for culture and inspires you to share those experiences with your local community.”

Michelle MnM Mason, Photographer and Designer at Mahogany Lenz | MichelleMnM.com


7. Florence and Rome, Italy

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Rachel Solomon

“Indulge in the history and culture of any place you travel abroad to — it’s so important to take advantage of the incredible opportunity you have to educate yourself on a new place and their way of living. Learning to speak Italian, cooking Italian dishes with my host family, and tutoring Italian families really opened my eyes to a new way of life.

While studying abroad in Italy, I took classes on the history of the Rome, photography to learn about the great photographers of Europe, and a class on the European Union to understand the politics and relations within Europe. I felt so blessed going back to the States with so much knowledge and experiences that not many have the chance to get. There’s nothing like that rewarding feeling.

#ITravelBecause of the way it makes me feel – happy, inspired, on-top-of-the-world, and free spirited. I also love to learn new things!”

Rachel Solomon, Brand & Television Account Coordinator | IG: @ciaorachella


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Nakimera Moore

“This photo was taken at the Colosseum during Sunset in Rome, Italy. One of my favourite aspects of traveling is the ability to be up close and personal with history. Reading about history when you’re in school and then seeing it with your own eyes when you’re older, is remarkable.

#ITravelBecause the more you learn the less you know.” 

Nakimera Moore, Entertainment


8. Dominican Republic

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Kaye-lani

“This is one of my favorite travel photos because life is better at the beach — it’s so peaceful there. This picture was taken at the Macao Beach, Dominican Republic after doing a ATV tour. My advice for anyone traveling to the Dominican Republic is do something you normally wouldn’t do —  conquer a fear, be adventurous and don’t mind getting dirty. Through traveling I learned that I have a greater tolerance for things not going as planned.  

#ITravelBecause it releases me out of my normal and comforting surroundings.”

Kaye-lani Blogger at journ3yon.com | IG: @_lanib_


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CaNesha Gordon

“This photo is from the Dominican Republic at the Royalton Resort and it’s one of my favorite photos because the beach and ocean is where I find the most peace. I love laying out and reading a good book. If I could do it everyday I would.

#ITravelBecause I know I wasn’t put here to just work. Traveling allows me to step away for a while and just BE!!”

CaNesha Gordon, Blogger | IAmAlmost40NowWhat


9. Xunantunich Maya Ruin in Belize

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N’Yaisha Aziz

“Climbing to the top of Xunantunich, an ancient Mayan site, was absolutely breathtaking. Not only did it require more steps than I would like to take, but it also had a beautiful view of Belize and its neighboring countries.

What truly makes this my favorite travel moment is knowing my sister was there to capture it. I don’t know of a better travel partner!

#ITravelBecause I live for amazing experiences.”

N’Yaisha Aziz, Social Media Manager at Laundry Service


10. Oaxaca, Mexico

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Darius Thomas

“This is one of my favorite photos because I was able to see one of God’s creations in Oaxaca, Mexico during the summer of 2013. Being around the mountains was a momentous occasion. It allowed me the chance to reflect and think of the unimaginable. The things that I put into my goal list in 2013 have now been accomplished. Going abroad gives you the opportunity to see things that you would have never seen in your country. As American’s we are very privileged. When I venture out into the world, I am able to witness how strong people are and learn new survival tactics.

When you visit the artsy and ancient Oaxaca, Mexico let your hair down and take in the architecture, visit the fantastic museums, pre-Columbian ruins, baroque churches encrusted with gold, and festivals — it’ll definitely be the experience of your life.


#ITravelBecause it makes me appreciate my blessings.”

Darius Thomas, Speech Pathologist | LinkedIn


11. Acropolis Athens, Greece

Danielle Bullock

Danielle Bullock

“[Through traveling] I’ve learned that I’m able to adapt and assimilate in foreign environments. Now that I consider myself an experienced traveler, I don’t give off that ‘tourist’ vibe. It’s truly satisfying to learn that about myself because it relates to life; you’re going to be placed in uncomfortable situations from work to relationships. Overall being placed outside of your comfort zone helps you realize that nothing is permanent and you have the power to take back control in any situation.

If you decide to visit Athens I’ll have to take a note from IHOP’s slogan: Come hungry, leave happy…. [Affordable] Food Heaven for sure. Oh and ancient history is everywhere, so take the time to read the plaques of knowledge throughout the city.

#ITravelBecause once you start it’s hard to stop — there’s never a dull moment.”

Danielle Bullock, Digital Content Specialist / Traveler | IG: @daveranicole


12. Sahara Desert in Egypt

Melissa Martin

Melissa Martin

“This is one of my favorite travel photos because as I stood in the Sahara Desert, paying homage to a symbol that is very significant to me…I was full; spiritually and emotionally.  I had just hiked up to the tomb inside of the Great Pyramid of Giza (largest one to my left) which is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the only one that remains largely intact. It literally feels like a dream that I was in this magnificent place and photos such as this remind me I was truly there.

I truly felt at home in Egypt. The people were excited to see little ‘ol me and would yell out “Welcome Home!” I’m just a girl from Stone Mountain, Georgia but I learned that home may be somewhere you’ve never been before. And you won’t find it unless, you get out there and explore.

Egypt is for traveling, not vacation. It’s a beautiful place and there are options if you seek rest and relaxation however, the history is too rich not to spend the majority of your days exploring. I was there for 10 days, started exploring early in the mornings well into the evenings each day and I still feel like I need to go back and cover more ground.  Dive into the culture, rest on the flight back home. 🙂

#ITravelBecause as a natural wanderer, I’m happiest when I’m traveling whether domestic or abroad.  I’m a lifelong learner and simply curious about what’s it like beyond my own front door.”

Melissa Martin, Blogger and Photographer | IG: melissa_joslyn


13. Bali, Indonesia

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Deandrea Taylor

“This is my favorite travel photo from Bali because it really shows endurance. Before this picture was taken, I fell off of the surfboard thirty trillion times. Although I wanted to just say forget it on multiple occasions, I was determined to get up before I gave up. This was the look on my face when I finally got up on the board and now is my screen saver as a constant reminder that if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

I learned so many lessons in Bali, but if I had to choose the greatest ones it would be the power of forgiveness, gratefulness, and compassion. Being a part of the Balinese culture for more than one week literally made me reevaluate my life. The people in Bali are so welcoming and willing to give you any and everything even if it means it is their last. It was just life changing.

The one piece of advice that I would give a person who wanted to travel to Bali is that if you are in need of healing, pack your bags and go now! You are promised to come back rejuvenated, refreshed and renewed!

#ITravelBecause it has granted me so many opportunities to learn more about myself, different cultures and most of all to just break free out of my normal routine every once in awhile.”

Deandrea Taylor, Nonprofit and Community Outreach | IG: @deandreamarie


14. Uluru, Australia

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Vidiana Cervantes

“Studying and traveling abroad taught me how beautiful it is to explore the world, challenge yourself, make new friends, eat good food, ask questions, get lost, and dream BIG!

#ITravelBecause because it makes me happy!”

Vidiana Cervantes, Public Health


15. Havana, Cuba

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Shaquille Brewster

“This is one of my favorite travel photos because I finally made it to a place I had always wanted to travel, and it exceeded all of my expectations. For decades– and still to this day– the United States has imposed severe restrictions on its citizen’s travels to the island nation. The travel ban, now being slowly chipped away by the Obama administration, was something that always bugged me after meeting travelers from other countries who told me about their freedom to go to Cuba and explore what they described as a beautiful nation. This picture takes me back to the moment when I made a long-time dream happen.

When you travel, you learn a lot about yourself, and one thing that was rediscovered is how much I love to learn about other people. I enjoy learning other cultures, those customs and traditions. I enjoy trying their food and sometimes just people watching to see how similar you are to people whom you’ve never met.

If you are interested in going to Cuba, my one piece of advice is do it as soon as possible. Travel restrictions are being removed and more and more American tourists will travel to the close island nation. I think that will change the country in many ways. Go before that change really takes shape, to see what made Cuba special.

#ITravelBecause I love learning about the world around me.”

Shaquille Brewster, Journalist and Producer | Twitter: @shaqbrewster


16. Hanoi, Vietnam

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Erica Smith

“One of the many things I learned when my husband and I took our recent sabbatical in Southeast Asia is to really let go of “being comfortable” and experience a country’s culture. On this day, we were drinking $0.25 Bia Hoi sitting on stools that literally elevated us 12 inches off the ground (so our knees were in our chest!). Even though we were uncomfortable (and sitting on the street right beside oncoming traffic), we had a blast and it was because we weren’t afraid to immerse ourselves in the Vietnamese culture.

#ITravelBecause the world is bigger than the U.S. And I’m privileged enough as a citizen of the U.S. to explore and experience other countries and cultures that will change my paradigm and worldview. So why not?”

Coredelle and Erica Smith, Bloggers at A Taste of Our City


17. Prague, Czech Republic

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Jerry Bruno

“This is one my favorite photos because of the creative background of the wall. In addition, The Lennon Wall represents not only a memorial to John Lennon and his ideas for peace, but also a monument to free speech and the non-violent rebellion of Czech youth against the regime. It was a small war of Czech people against the communist police who cleaned the wall.

I travel very often and I have learned that my love for humanity grows more and more as I met new people and experience new cultures while traveling. Traveling is so liberating! There is a sense of freedom one can experience when traveling.

#ITravelBecause I have this desire to keep meeting people and learning about their individuality. Traveling keeps me connected to humanity.”

Jerry Bruno, Department of Homeless Services | Twitter: @JerryDBruno


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Audra Mercado

“This is one of my favorite photos because I was traveling alone and Prague was the first leg of my solo trip. I learned to listen to my intuition and never be afraid to share and seek kindness.

One piece of advice for someone traveling to this destination is to bring a camera and perhaps a sketch book because the entire city looks like a fairy tale.

#ITravelBecause there are beautiful places, people and things all around us. I travel because I want to learn, grow and know about other cultures.”

Audra Mercado, Behavior Interventionist | LinkendIn


18. Paris, France

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Roy Broderick, Jr.

“This is my favorite travel photo because every time I look back at it I remember the experience of standing and thanking God for allowing me the opportunity to see Paris. Little did I know one of my classmates snapped a photo.

[Through traveling I learned that] I am horrible at reading maps and still must checking with my parents daily. Way too much is going on in the world to be thousands of miles away and not connected… If you’re traveling to Paris, know that Paris gets pretty cold — this was March and it was freezing….

#ITravelBecause I like seeing the world vs. the continent so that I can truly have a worldwide view of an African American male…”

Roy Broderick, Jr., Marketing professional and CEO of The Intuition Consulting Firm | IntuitionAtl.com


19. Granada, Spain

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Jarrod Jackson

“La Alhambra is one of Spain’s most iconic destinations and attracts more than a million visitors each year.  I had the pleasure of showing my family around Granada when they came to visit me while I was studying abroad. La Alhambra was the first place I took them, and they loved it. The experience was particularly special because my six-year-old sister was able to experience something I’d waited until my 20s to enjoy.

Traveling has helped me build a deep sense of assurance in myself and my ability to navigate unfamiliar places and experiences. Even if I don’t know the native language, or where to go, or what the people are like, I do know how to prepare in advance, create contingency plans, be resourceful and, if all else fails, smile and ask questions!

As someone who’s interested in the stories of people of color wherever I go, I was fascinated to learn the Moors played a significant role in the development and culture of southern Spain, especially Granada. That said, I’d encourage anyone who’s interested in traveling to the city to recognize the influence people of color had in creating such a beautiful city.

#ITravelBecause my mother always told me the world is bigger than where I’m from. And I’m excited to see, taste and feel as much of the world as possible.”

Jarrod Jackson, Audio and Community Relations Specialist | LinkedIn


20. Morocco

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Kiah Clingman

“I had the amazing opportunity to study abroad in London while I was in college at Howard University. While I was abroad I made sure to take advantage of the cities and countries around me. One of my favorite trips was to Morocco, Africa. I literally felt like I was in a whole new world. And you know why? Because I was.

Traveling gives you the opportunity to experience another life other than your own. You appreciate the life you have and those of others so much more. I don’t even mean just internationally, but domestically. There are so many gems in America that we miss out on because we think we have to travel internationally…but some of the greatest moments and experiences are literally right around the corner.

Traveling is about getting out of your comfort zone and eliminating fear. If you want to travel to Morocco, Brazil, Australia, Mexico, Mississippi… just do it!!! Don’t let finances, time, or distance be a factor to hold you back. If you have a goal to travel, then save up, make the time, and don’t let the distance scare you away.

#ITravelBecause I am able to connect my spirit to others around the world.”

Kiah Clingman, Actress | KiahClingman.com 


21. Krasnaya Polyana, (Southern) Russia

Vivian Nweze

Vivian Nweze

“I never dreamed that I would travel to Russia, let alone work at the Winter Olympics. This photo reminds me of the line from Dr. Seuss’ “Oh the places you’ll go.” I had no idea what was in store for me when the opportunity presented itself, but I took a risk, worked extremely hard, and had one of the best international adventures imaginable.

I learned how much I could grow if I let myself be open to basically anything and made an effort to engage with people around me. English is barely spoken in Russia, unless you’re in a major city like Moscow. I quickly learned a lot of Russian and garnered so much more respect from the people around me for clearly trying to understand their culture.

My biggest advice for anyone wanting to visit Russia is to not let the stereotypes about the country scare them away. Southern Russia, like the southern United States, has a friendlier vibe than famous northern cities like Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Not everything you read and see about Russia is true.

#ITravelBecause I want to know more about people of all walks of life and learn more about the world.”

Vivian Nweze, Entertainment Journalist | VivaciouslyVivian.com | PoshPoisePolish.com


22. Cape Town, South Africa

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Jasmine Chapman

#ITravelBecause it broadens my perspective. We get so caught up in our daily rituals and routines that we begin to wrap our thinking around the things only concerning ourselves. We tend to forget that at the end of the day, we’re just one very small piece of a bigger picture.

Traveling is a gateway that provides a glimpse into that bigger picture. By physically removing myself out my usual comfort zone, I’m able to take the time to escape my own sense of “reality” and better appreciate the beauty of new cultures, new places, and new people. It’s humbling, life changing and soul fulfilling all at the same time.

The picture is me on the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. Table Mountain is one of the 7 Wonders of the World.”
Jasmine Chapman, Digital Media Specialist | Twitter: @_theCOACH

23. Los Angeles, California

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Tiffany Malone

“I hiked to the Hollywood sign with my friends/business partners. And just as we climbed this mountain, we are currently helping each other climb our mountain to success together. This picture is a reminder, that we too can reach the top. It’s just around the corner.

I’ve learned that there is so much more I need to discover in the world and within myself. I’m just open to everything God has to show me.

There is so much to do in LA! Stay somewhere that is close to everything. We stayed in West Hollywood — it was walking distance to shops on Melrose and amazing restaurants.

#ITravelBecause there is so much more I need to learn, discover and explore.”

Tiffany Malone, Blogger | InspireFireDaily.com | YouTube: MyChocolateGurl


24. Honolulu, Hawaii

Safia Hurst

Safia Hurst

“Hawaii is so beautiful. I’ve never seen anything like it. This picture reminds me that I want to keep feeling that sense of awe over and over again as I travel to new places around the world.

This picture was taken on a hike through a rainforest. I am normally NOT one to hike at all. I’m far from being an outdoorsy gal but the view at the top of the trail was well worth it. I learned that sometimes the prettiest things can be furthest outside my comfort zone.

If you go to any of the Hawaiian islands remember to experience the culture of the people native to the area. The high-traffic tourist and shopping areas tend to be a representation of traditional western culture, which you can get anywhere on the mainland, so be sure to venture outside of that. Also, bring mosquito repellant if you go on any rainforest hikes!

#ITravelBecause I want to continue to expand my understanding of culture.”
Safia Hurst, Advertising Specialist | LinkedIn  

25. Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Teyonna Lanez

“This photo was taken a few days after my 21st birthday, which I celebrated with my study abroad roommates in our London suite. Amsterdam was the beginning of a month-long travel adventure — where I also visited Morocco and Oxford. Amsterdam was one of the best trips from my time abroad because it was a completely different world. From the coffee shops to the narrow homes to the legal prostitution — it was so different from America and people seemed happier and healthier. During this trip, I also visited the Anne Frank House and saw what the brave young woman experienced during the Holocaust.

If you travel to Amsterdam, head to the “I AMSTERDAM” sign EARLY in the morning to get your photos. Otherwise your pictures will be swarmed with tourists.

#ITravelBecause God created this world for us to explore… I need to see as much of it as possible.”

Teyonna Lanez, Lifestyle Blogger and Public Relations Specialist | TeyonnaRidgeway.com


Thank you jet setters for sharing your travel adventures!

How To Plan The Perfect Staycation

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Exploring a new city abroad or within the country is exciting, but also exhausting – airplane flights, luggage, lodging and currency exchange if you’re overseas. You have to be on your A game when traveling! Vacations are great, but consider a staycation if you need some time to get yourself together and explore the beauty in your own backyard.

A staycation gives you time off to do whatever you want in your city. I recently took a weeklong staycation and it was everythingggg! It was just what I needed to wrap up summer and prepare for the busy fall season. And Atlanta is a beautiful city, and often times us residents don’t fully appreciate where we are.

Just like a vacation, you must have a plan of what you’ll do during your time off. With a staycation you can be more flexible and go with the flow, but you’ll still want to have a few goals to check off. Every city is different, but here are a few things that you can do for a perfect staycation wherever you live.

Be a hometown tourist

Explore the attractions in your city that you may sometimes take for granted because you live there. Even if you’re town isn’t known for something big, look into local shops or restaurants that you haven’t been to before. Take a stroll through the park, go to the farmers market, learn more about your city and get involved in making it better.

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My hometown tourist activities included going to Stone Mountain Park, Midtown and Ponce City Market. While at PCM, I discovered a pop up office called Atlanta City Design that is planning what Atlanta will look like over the next 20+ years. I moved to metro Atlanta 13 years ago, and it’s amazing to see how much the area has grown, but it also worries me that we don’t have space (per the meme below). I love that GA Tech and the local government created a space that residents could be apart of to visualize and design the future Atlanta.

img_4903Enjoy good food

Say goodbye to the frozen meals and bland sandwiches that you usually bring to lunch during a typical workweek! During your staycation, explore new restaurants in your city, or visit your favorites to thrill your taste buds. Ask your friends, family and coworkers what their go-to spots are to discover other restaurants to try. Then set up lunch or breakfast dates throughout the week with people you haven’t caught up with in awhile or new connections. You can also treat yourself to a meal if you want to go solo!

During my staycation, I visited two new restaurants that are now on my go-to list. Ria’s Blue Bird in Atlanta is a quirky, hipster spot that serves breakfast all day. I got a yummy pasta dish for lunch, but I heard their pancakes are drool-worthy.

5 Church in Midtown was another place that I went to for brunch. I loved the vibe and atmosphere. It had a modern style, and the entire text from the book “The Art of War” was written all over the walls with impactful quotes in bigger letters. I ordered a breakfast dish with eggs, sausage, potatoes and collard greens and it was delicious!

My favorite restaurant during my break was Le Petit Marche in Kirkwood. Melissa and I met up before she left for Egypt and we loved this cute little spot! It’s a Black owned business that serves the best breakfast dishes that the South has seen! I ordered eggs with spinach, olives and feta with a side of pita bread and Delia’s chicken sausage. That meal (and seeing my bff) definitely made me a happy camper!

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Get moving!

Whether you struggle making time to workout or it’s apart of your daily routine, a staycation grants you the opportunity to get some physical activity in. Take a new workout class or go for a morning jog everyday. This break is about taking care of yourself, and what better way to do that than to exercise.

The highlight of my staycation was climbing Stone Mountain. As I listened to the inspirational tunes on Chance the Rapper’s mixtape “The Coloring Book,” I was motivated to keep moving up the mountain even when I felt exhausted. It was also a place where I was able to be still and pray.

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I also rented a bike and rode it along the Atlanta Beltline and Piedmont Park. There’s nothing better than feeling the wind whip pass you as you admire the beauty of your city. The Beltline is a MUST if you’re in Atlanta. It is an old railroad track turned walking trail that wraps around the city. There is interesting art along the way and it’s a good way to explore the area on foot or bike.

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Be a lifelong learner

From cooking to sewing to digital marketing – there is always something new to learn. Sometimes we get so bogged down with work and our other day-to-day responsibilities that we don’t feed our brain with new information. Find something that interests you and learn more about it during your staycation. You can go to a museum or exhibit, take a class, or go to “YouTube academy”– it doesn’t matter how you do it, just make sure you learn something new during your time off.

I took a class at General Assembly about advanced social media strategies and it enlightened me on the direct that I’d like to take my career. I also attended an event at GA featuring Atlanta’s shining social media influencers and it was inspiring to hear from people who’ve built their brand online through blogging, Instagram and YouTube. Without this staycation, I wouldn’t have gotten clarity on my next chapter, so I’m thankful that I learned more about something that interested me.

Reconnect and be social

Hang with old and new friends. Meet for coffee, lunch or happy hour. Turn up at a club or bar at least once! Enjoy the people that you’re with and look to expand your circle with more people who will inspire you and help you grow.

Find time to relax, and do what you want to do

Everyday during your time off shouldn’t be jam-packed. The beauty of a staycation is that you’re able to go with the flow and follow your heart to determine what you want to do.

Give yourself an opportunity to do nothing. Take naps, sleep in some days, enjoy a nice bubble bath, binge watch a new show. Each day assess how you’re feeling and what you have the energy to do. If you’d rather relax at home than be a hometown tourist one day, than do just that. It’s YOUR staycation.

Reflect and be still

Often times, we’re busy going through the motions and the hustle and bustle of everyday life. This leaves us with no time to reflect on where we’ve been and where we want to go. Find a moment to be still during your staycation. Pray, journal, meditate and have alone time with God to get clarity and comfort on things that may be troubling you. You can learn a lot when you’re still enough to hear God speak to you.

After my staycation, I went to work feeling like a new woman! I caught up on much needed sleep, received clarity on my calling and built on life-long connections.

Definitely consider taking a staycation this year, or plan one for 2017! It may be just what you need to recharge your brilliance and prepare to slay this season in your life.

Pieces of this blog post was first published on Thought Catalog 

#ExploringEgypt 5 Take-a-ways from my Egyptian Excursion

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“Blessed are the curious, for they shall have adventures.”

A 10-hour flight on August 25th, 2016 led to 10 days of pure excitement…to simply be breathing the air and exploring the rich history, deeply rooted in the northeast African country known to most as Egypt. Prior to traveling, of course my mom and I shared with various family, friends, and associates that we’d be heading to Egypt to celebrate my achievement of being a Masters graduate and my mom’s 59th birthday. While being met with much excitement we were also asked a lot of, “Wow, why Egypt? Isn’t it dangerous there? Aren’t you scared?”

Now, honestly…earlier this year when I expressed wanting to make a trip to Egypt with my mom we were both leery due to a few situations that had taken place in Egypt at the time, which made us question how safe this trip would be. However, after reflecting on how short life can be we decided to stay true to ourselves and travel by faith like everything else we encounter in life. I mean, my mom’s bedroom décor is Egyptian themed and a gold Nefertiti necklace adorns her everyday since before I was born, I’ve never seen her without it on…how could we not make this trip of a lifetime?!

I’m so grateful to have traveled to Egypt, I feel so blessed. I truly wasn’t sure what to expect from this country I admired from afar but I learned and experienced more than I could’ve ever imagined possible (I climbed the inside of the Great Pyramid in Giza, PRICELESS!) So, I feel it’s only right I share some of the things I absorbed, in hopes that it’ll be insightful to those who may be considering a visit to Egypt or are just nosey like me and want to know how things are over there. 🙂

  1. EGYPT is SAFE to visit!

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I HAD to address this first. The company we traveled with paired us with not only the most amazing tour guides in Egypt but we were also given a security escort everyday that we didn’t even know existed for the first few days because they’re strictly a precaution. The Egyptian people or military are not out to hurt tourists but of course like everywhere else, it’s better to be cautious.

Egypt even has a police department dedicated to assisting and protecting tourists, called the Tourists Police. They would escort our coach bus through the unbelievably, crazy driving and traffic (their driving is really the only thing to fear, our tour guide said in Egypt you need 3 things to drive: good tires, good brakes, and good luck! Lol!) But seriously, we never felt unsafe even when we were given the opportunity to explore the cities independently. Don’t let fear inhibit you from wanting to travel to Egypt. Always be aware of your surroundings like you should be anywhere, obey the rules of their society, travel with an awesome company like we did (Friendly Planet), and you’ll be fine!

  1. Any attire you’d normally wear is acceptable; it’s just nice to be mindful of the Muslim dimension of the country. 

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Just a few examples of the outfits I wore while exploring Egypt. 

In the months leading up to my trip, I was reading up on the ideal attire for visiting Egypt and it was overwhelming. Many articles stress the fact that a large population of Egypt is Muslim and that you should be covered nearly head to toe in clothing in an effort not to receive unwanted attention and judgment from locals. Now, we traveled to Egypt as their summer was coming to an end but as expected it was still HOT…it’s not unbearable but it’s a different heat than here in the south so you can imagine my dilemma of wanting to respect the locals by covering up but also wanting to stay cool.

We were informed shortly after arriving that you can indeed dress normally like you would in the summer such as shorts, sundresses, etc. and wouldn’t be treated any certain way. Egyptians value tourism so they don’t expect us to visit and instantly begin living like they do but it was still recommended not to openly display cleavage and other assets in particular settings such as the Citadel in Cairo which is a mosque. I stayed on the safe side and didn’t wear shorts at all, as well as if I was wearing tight bottoms like leggings; most of my shirts covered my womanly assets. But if your visiting a resort or hotel you can be free to dress how you want. The attire is not as strict as I’d envisioned but I still wanted to be respectful.

  1. Fun Fact: Egyptians call Egypt, ‘Misr’. Also, most Egyptians want us to refer to them as Africans and not Arabs.

Egyptians do not use Egypt to refer to their country. If they are speaking to tourist, they will but amongst each other Egypt is Misr (mis-ruh). The name Egypt is to be derived from a figure in Greek mythology named Aegyptus, who was a descendant of a maiden and the river God, Nilus (the Nile River); Aegyptus was one of many kings in Egypt. Greeks had their hands in a lot of Egyptian discoveries but as our guide explained to us, that’s why Egyptians refer to their country as Misr, it’s Arabic so it belongs to them in contrast to their given Greek name. Misr is recognized as an official name by the Egyptian government and surrounding countries.

Furthermore, Egypt links northeast Africa to the Middle East and their official language is Arabic. I’ve never considered Egyptians to be Arab however; I have heard others do so and I could see why there may be some confusion. They feel that those outside of Africa often view them as Arab since they speak Arabic however, most of them don’t accept begin referred to as Arab…they prefer African. Many Egyptians will tell you this. Get it right. 🙂

  1. Egyptians love having tourists!

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A shop owner who truly treated me like family and took a picture with me on his tablet (left); one of the many cute kids who approached me to take a selfie (right)!

The locals whether children or adults stop and wave as you ride on the coach bus through the streets. We visited several historic sites such as the Citadel of Saladin in Cairo and the Great Pyramid in Giza where my tour group was swarmed with children, teenagers, and even some of their parents walking up with selfie sticks asking to take a picture with us on their phones and inquiring if we were American; they were literally ecstatic to meet tourists, it was the sweetest thing. I later asked one of the guides why were they so excited to see us and wanted to take pictures, he explained that most of them weren’t from the city but from more rural areas of Egypt, and when they come on field trips to the city such as Cairo they like to take pictures and go back to their home city to brag about meeting tourists. Adorable.

Also, they’re especially fond of people of color or their “brothers and sisters” as they affectionately referred to us. You’ll hear exclamations of “welcome cousin, my sister, and my Nubian sister, ” as you peruse the streets flooded with vendors who happily let you know “they don’t know what you’re looking for but they have exactly what you need” or that “everything in their store is free for you, my Nubian sister”… I loved their spirits. Egyptians are truly some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

  1. Egypt is to travel, not for vacation.

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“When in Egypt”…we attended a Galabaya party which required us to dress in Egyptian garb.  

Egypt is the home to so many ancient temples, historic infrastructures, and a culture all their own. Although, they also have luxurious resorts and hotels, it’s truly too much to be seen to confine yourself to the activities of a typical relaxing vacay. We were constantly up early every morning, traveling to several historic sites and markets to shop for majority of the day. We barely had a chance to catch our breath but it was worth it because we saw so much that I would’ve hate to have missed by not using my time there wisely. Traveling from Cairo to Luxor, taking a 4-day cruise down the Nile River and docking to visit more rural cities such as Edfu, Ensa, and Aswan located along the Nile, then traveling back to Cairo. I feel like Egypt is a trip for true travel and exploration, be prepared for endless adventure. You can rest when you get home or as one of our travel buddies said “you’ll need a vacation from your vacation!”

Now that I’ve returned home, the fact that I traveled to Egypt is still like a dream to me. What I’ve shared in this post only scratches the surface of my 10-day excursion in the Egyptian culture. But I hope I’ve ignited a desire for you to add Egypt to your bucket list! The Egyptian people are extremely appreciative of those who take their time to come and visit their country. It means a lot to them that we would want to learn more about their culture and since this trip meant a lot to me, I want to inspire you to experience it as well.

 

I’d love to share more about my trip to Egypt! I’ll be sharing more pictures soon. Is there anything specific you want to know about? Let me know in the comments section below.

 

Exploring LA on a Budget

 

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I recently spoke at the 20 Beautiful Women VIP Luncheon and Book Celebration in Los Angeles and fell in love with the city all over again. Melissa and I went to LA a few years ago and had an amazing time, so I knew this trip wouldn’t disappoint.

While I would have loved to fly first class and dine at the best restaurants the city has to offer, my wallet wouldn’t allow me to do so. I traveled to LA on a budget and had a blast. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re an affordable planning a trip to the West Coast:

  1. Have a plan, but be flexible

Despite this being the most unorganized trip I’ve ever gone on, it was one of the best. I went with one of my best friends and we planned what we were going to do literally the night before our flight (which I don’t recommend!). Because we didn’t have a strict schedule of what to do, we went with the flow and considered how we were feeling before making a move.

As fun as it is to travel, it can drain you so don’t try to do too much. Have a list of must do items and then a few others that you’ll get to if there is time. We wanted to hike to the Hollywood sign and see a taping of The Real, but we weren’t able to do it all so that gives us a reason to come back.

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  1. Choose budget airlines

While Delta is a great airline to fly with, it doesn’t always have the most affordable tickets. We bought our tickets at the last minute so flying with Spirit was the most economical choice. It wasn’t a bad trip – despite their reputation. Our flight was delayed getting there and coming home, but I didn’t mind the return flight because it gave us a few extra hours to sleep in.

If you’re just trying to get there and don’t care about the amenities that other airlines offer (like complimentary peanuts, drinks and carry on items), then Spirit is pretty decent. My friend and I beat the carry on and extra luggage fees by packing together and only checking one bag. Melissa and I flew with Southwest when we went, and it’s a better option that’s usually pretty affordable and bags fly free. Whoever you fly with, just be sure to get your tickets early!

  1. Be strategic with location

My primary reason for going to LA was to attend the event, so I stayed at The Westin near LAX where the event was being held. However when Melissa and I went to LA in 2012, we stayed near Universal Studios because we were going to the park and it was convenient to other attractions. Map out what you want to do and then decide on the best location to stay.

  1. Use the transportation method that works for you

Getting around a city as spread out as LA is not cheap! Being strategic with location can cut transportation costs down tremendously and give you options to commute – from a rental car to public transportation to Uber rides.

During my most recent trip to LA, I initially didn’t plan to rent a car but when I realized that we’d be staying in Inglewood (which is about 40 minutes from the city) I knew that was our best bet. We only rented a car for the two days that we explored the city so it was much cheaper than renting it for our four day stay. But when I went to LA the first time, we used public transportation a lot because it was near our hotel.

Do what works best for you, but keep your options open and weigh the pros and cons of every method of transportation before making a decision.

  1. Explore Cali!

Sometimes the best plan is not having a plan at all. During this trip, we drove around a few different parts of California just for the heck of it. We ate breakfast at a cute place called The Nest in Bellwoods, and swung over to Compton which wasn’t far. Of course we embraced being tourists and went to Hollywood to witness the strip that never sleeps. It was Oscars weekend when we went, so we got some dope selfies with the golden statue. It’s cool (and cheap) to just drive around and point out things that you saw in movies.

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  1. Enjoy nature

One of the best things about California is that you can enjoy the beauty of nature at no cost. Whether you want to be in the heart of a popular beach like Venice or Santa Monica, or if you want to have a secluded getaway at El Matador State Beach, there is something for you.

After being a tourist walking the Hollywood Walk of Fame, take a 15 minute walk to Runyon Canyon Park to slow down and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

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  1. Limit night life

Between drinks, cover charges and the Uber ride to and from your hotel, hitting the club scene can get pretty pricey. Designate one or two nights to hit the town, depending on how long you’ll be there. Going out every night is expensive and for me, clubbing gets kind of old after awhile.

When I went to LA this time, I went to the No Name Club – a spot in West Hollywood that’s super exclusive. It’s invitation only and apparently where a lot of celebrities like to hang, although I didn’t spot anyone. My friend who lives in Cali put my name on the list to get in, and it was a bit overrated and overpriced. But it was a cool experience nonetheless and gave me a real reason to tweet my favorite Mean Girls quote #youcantsitwithus.

California really is a magical city. The weather, people and attractions are unmatched so I’d definitely suggest adding it to your bucket list if you’ve never been.

 What would be on your to do list if you were going to Cali for the first time, or planning a return trip? Share in the comments below!

13 Things You Must Do in Atlanta

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People flock to Atlanta for the great weather, rich culture and diverse attractions that the city offers. Whether you’re just visiting or you’re being a hometown tourist, there’s a few things that you should do to experience all that the vibrant city has to offer. Here is a list of 13 things we recommend doing in Atlanta, in no particular order:

  1. Krog Street Tunnel

An Atlanta street artist’s playground and a photographer’s ideal backdrop. Krog Street Tunnel is known throughout Atlanta for its graffiti street art and while walking through you can see artist adding new creations along the walls and internal structures. On any given day Atlanta recording artists can be seen filming visuals for their music here or fashion bloggers using this Atlanta jewel to set the scene for their weekly lookbooks.  This is also the location of our Becoming Brilliance launch photoshoot!

The tunnel is proposed to be apart of the Atlanta Beltline and is very popular amongst cyclists. It is also in close proximity to the beautiful, west coast-style market and restaurants in Krog Street Market.  This development opened in Atlanta summer 2014 to house merchants such as florists and bakeries.  Krog Street Tunnel and its surrounding establishments is a must-see in the Edgewood/Inman Park area of Atlanta.

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  1. Buford Highway

If you’re looking for ethnically diverse restaurants and merchants, Buford Highway is the place to visit. Hands down the most multi-ethnic community in the metro Atlanta area.  The linear community is saturated with neighborhoods and shopping centers filled with establishments most notably owned by Korean, Mexican, Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants. As well as Indian, Bangladeshi, Central American, Somalis and Ethiopian.  If you’re looking to step outside your comfort zone, Buford Highway is worth exploring!  However, beware of the pedestrian heavy traffic on the seven lane highway.  

  1. Edgewood Avenue

Whether you’re looking to get better acquainted with Atlanta nightlife or a place to have Sunday brunch, Edgewood Avenue has something for you. This stretch of Atlanta street is home to some of the city’s most eclectic nightlife.  The most popular choices may include Church, Corner Tavern, Noni’s and Circa.  Corner Tavern is a personal favorite for their delicious brunch in conjunction with their bottomless mimosas on Sundays.  And Circa has an elite vibe with a classy crowd and swanky ambience that can be felt as soon as you walk through the door.

Since late 2014, the Atlanta Streetcar has operated along Edgewood Avenue eastbound that can also connects visitors to Centennial Olympic Park area in Downtown Atlanta to Sweet Auburn as well as to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic site. 

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  1. The Beltline & Ponce City Market

A former railway corridor, The Beltline is now a trail that encircles the City of Atlanta. It’s a great place to run, ride a bike or take a stroll on a beautiful day. You can access the Beltline at Ponce City Market near Midtown. PCM is a vibrant community hub with a unique food hall, various shops, flats and offices. The eight-story building dates back to the late 1800s, and was reinvented in 2010.

If you’re a hometown tourist or in the city for an extended stay, take a class on digital marketing, business, blogging or technology at General Assembly in PCM. It’s a creative space for people from all industries who share a common interest of learning and creating.

  1. Buckhead Bars

If you’re not from the metro Atlanta area, it’s a good chance you think Buckhead is where all the Real Housewives Atlanta just socialize and film.  Granted, Buckhead is definitely one of Atlanta’s most affluent neighborhoods but the turn up gets real at the Buckhead Bars! If you’re a huge sports fan, you may enjoy watching a game or two on the massive patio at the Buckhead Saloon.  Or if you’re looking for a wild night on the town, indulge in fishbowls and shots galore at Hole in the Wall. Hangovers is also a fun choice! One thing about the Buckhead’s bar scene, there is not a shortage of places to explore.

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  1. Skyview Atlanta Ferris Wheel

There are many tourist attractions in downtown Atlanta, but Skyview Atlanta is at the top of our list. The ferris wheel takes you nearly 20 stories into the air to catch a stunning view of the city day or night. The enclosed gondolas can each hold up to six people, so it’s the perfect activity for an outing with the fam or an intimate date night with bae. It cost about $14 per person, which is a little steep for a ride that’s about 6 minutes, but you can probably find a deal on Groupon.

While you’re in the area, take a stroll through Centennial Olympic Park located directly across the street. The park was built to celebrate the 1996 Olympics and has remained a place for family fun and entertainment since then. You can dance in the Fountain of Rings, listen to jazz during Wind Down Wednesday or simply lay out and soak up the Georgia sun.

  1. Sweet Auburn Curb Market

On a Saturday afternoon, Sweet Auburn Curb Market is buzzing with people shopping for fresh produce and meat, and foodies enjoying everything from BBQ to Mexican to Jamaican. The indoor market is located in the Sweet Auburn Historic District, which was a booming African-American community during the Jim Crow era. The market has lots of dine-in tables, so it’s great if you’re going with a group of friends.

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  1.  The Vortex & Little Five Points

Little Five Points is a quirky shopping and dining area in east Atlanta. It’s frequently visited by hipsters and vintage enthusiasts. Tattoo parlors, hookah lounges and thrift stores surround the eclectic community, and you can often find people dancing and playing instruments.

Located in the heart of Little Five Points is The Vortex, which is not your average burger spot. It’s 21+, and once you read their menu you’ll see why. It explicitly helps you choose from the endless burger options with creative names like the Elvis Presley or the Coronary Bypass burger. Be prepared for an alternative style and an open smoking policy when you walk in.

  1. Atlantic Station

Located on the edge of Midtown Atlanta, this neighborhood is a popular destination for shopping and dining. It’s also home to a Regal movie theater that hosts most Atlanta red carpet premieres.  Atlantic Station’s retail district is comprised of many consumer favorites such as American Apparel, Bath & Body Works, Gap, H&M and Victoria’s Secret just to name a few.  And if you’re hungry Yardhouse is an amazing choice.  

Atlantic Station is also home to the lavish TWELVE Hotel. (Fun fact: we stayed here after our senior prom…fancy!)  

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  1. National Center for Civil and Human Rights 

Atlanta has been a champion for the advancement of humanity, with civil rights leaders like Andrew Young, Martin Luther King and Ralph David Abernathy calling this incredible city home. The Center for Civil and Human Rights, located in the heart of Atlanta, celebrates the achievements of both initiatives and honors those who moved the needle closer to making America a fair and just country.

One of our favorite interactive activities was the lunch counter sit-in exhibit, which gave a simulation of the protests during the Civil Rights museum and the reactions from racist oppressors. It was a struggle to listen to taped voices threatening us and to feel the vibrating jolt as if someone kicked the chair. When you visit, see how long you can last at the timed exhibit.

  1. Various Festivals

Between Atlanta’s lovely weather and beautiful parks like Piedmont and Centennial Olympic, the city’s annual festivals are a great way to explore the city with delicious food, great music and tons of vendors.  In April visitors can experience one of the biggest festivals in the southeast, the Atlanta Dogwood Festival for lovers of all things art. The Atlanta Jazz Festival is an ideal destination to kick off your Memorial Day weekend with some of the nation’s most notable artists. Get there early for a good seat! And in July, the Atlanta Street Food Festival is heaven on earth for foodies.  The best opportunity to enjoy cuisine and drinks from some of Atlanta’s best food trucks! If you can visit Atlanta during one of the many festivals, you will not be disappointed.

  1. Piedmont Park

The Atlanta Jazz Festival is one of the many activities held at Piedmont Park throughout the year. Piedmont Park is a great escape from the Atlanta buzz. Bikers, joggers and families often visit the large park, which sprawls across Midtown and is gorgeous all year round. There are lots of activities available along the walking trails, including basketball courts, sand volleyball and softball fields, so there is something for everyone. While you’re in the area, also check out the  beautiful Atlanta Botanical Garden, which sits adjacent to Piedmont Park.

  1. American Deli

While there are tons of 4 and 5 star restaurants that you can dine at in Atlanta, there is nothing like a 10 piece hot wing with lemon pepper sprinkles, fries and a peach drink from American Deli! Similarly to Waffle House, there’s an American Deli on nearly every block so you’ll always have a chance to taste the fried goodness. If wings aren’t your thing, you can also order other American-style dishes like chicken fingers, burgers, salads, fried fish and more. If you’re looking for a cheap meal in Atlanta that’s packed with flavor, be sure to check out American Deli.

Have you been to Atlanta before? What are some of the things you recommend doing while in the A?