March 17, 2017

Finding Small-Town America - Mount Airy, NC

There's a certain stereotype to small-town America, and it's no coincidence that it looks a lot like Mount Airy, North Carolina. Small shops. Old-timey buildings. Locals greeting each other on the streets. Vintage and knickknack shops sandwiched between local food joints!

Left to right: Barney, Opie (front), Andy, and Aunt Bea
This town in the northwestern part of the state, a stone's throw from the Virginia border, holds the distinction of being the inspiration for the town of Mayberry as featured in the 1960s sitcom, The Andy Griffith Show. Little more than a small dot on the map from a bird's eye view, Mount Airy represents quintessential small town America: slow-paced living high on quality relationships with neighbors and low on the anonymity of big cities. Capitalizing on its connection to Andy Griffith and the show, the town has carefully preserved its main street shops and maintained a few replica buildings as iconic trademarks of the sitcom, such as the courthouse, Floyd's Barber Shop, and Wally's service center.

The Andy Griffith Show followed the life of the widower sheriff, Andy Taylor, who spends more time raising his son Opie and calming his excitable cousin, Deputy Barney Fife, than solving any actual crime, since the biggest commotion in town is usually caused by the local drunk who often breaks into the county jail to pass out after a bender.

Growing up, I absolutely adored the show. Barney Fife and his "one bullet" was by far my favorite, but there was something charming in each character. For my husband's birthday this year, I gifted him a weekend away as a family to a place where family fits right on in and is celebrated.

Whether you're a fan of the show or not, Mount Airy is great for a stopover or detour from the Blue Ridge Parkway or just a quiet weekend away. We found an absolutely adorable 1930s house with three bedrooms on Airbnb just around the corner from Main Street for less than a price of hotel rooms! We spent our Saturday wandering up and down Main Street, snapping photos in front of the various replica buildings and locking my husband up in the jail for "failure to buy his wife chocolates on a regular basis" (preggo lady has needs, y'know!). We also took an excursion out to see the views from Pilot Mountain, a short drive south of Mount Airy. They did not disappoint!

A post shared by Thrifty Gypsy's Travels (@thriftygypsytravels) on
Beyond the town itself, there are a few wineries in the area, and the Blue Ridge Parkway and accompanying Appalachians are within a very short drive. Mount Airy hosts "Mayberry Days" that advertises to be a family-friendly celebration of the town and the show, oftentimes featuring actors from the show itself.

Coming home from a long weekend is always a sad affair for us, but even more so after having slowed our hectic lives to a comfortable amble in a town where the journey isn't necessarily about the destination, but the quality time spent getting there.

Have you been to Mount Airy? What's your favorite small-town America location?

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March 08, 2017

In Search of Pretty Places

Very rarely do I call attention to or endorse other travel bloggers and enthusiasts, but when I do, it's either because I know them personally or have followed them long enough to trust their content and have developed a cyber-relationship with them over a mutual love for all things travel. Emily falls into both categories. I've known her personally for over 16 years, having grown up in the same county, attended the same social settings, and everything else that comes with growing up in a rural small-town. 

Emily currently lives in Colorado Springs, working as an accountant by day and developing her skills as a hiking enthusiast, nature photographer, and insatiable wanderluster at every chance she gets. She recently returned from a trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands and can be found 'gramming and blogging at InSearchOfPrettyPlaces.


🌎 Hi! Tell us a little about yourself.
Pocahontas State Park, Virginia
I'm Emily, a 32 year old accountant with an insatiable love for all things travel! I grew up in a little town outside of Richmond, Virginia, but recently packed up everything and moved 1,700 miles away to Colorado Springs, Colorado. I am married to a wonderful man I met in college, who is in the army now. We have two cats and a very outgoing husky that we like to take hiking with us. We are both very passionate about the outdoors and try to hike something every weekend we are home. I'm an avid postcard collector an a very amateur photographer. But learning to take a good picture and using PhotoShop to enhance my photos has become one of my favorite hobbies!

🌎 What was your first trip in search of a pretty place?
The first trip I remember inspiring my love of travel was beginning our annual pilgrimage to New York City and Boston to visit our extended family. We would all pile into our family minivan and head north. Since I come from a relatively large family of six, my parents tried to keep the spending low by taking us tent-camping instead of staying in hotels. I developed a strong love for camping at an early age and have camped in many of the states on the eastern seaboard. My parents love camping as well and have spent a considerable amount of time hiking and camping in the United States and abroad. I'm so thankful that they shared their love with us from the beginning, and I'm always surprised to meet someone who has never camped before!

🌎 Where was one of your recent "pretty places" trips?
Pacific Northwest
One of my recent trips was driving the Pacific Coast Highway from Los Angeles to Seattle! It has been a goal of mine since I made the drive from San Diego to LA years ago. The entire coast is absolutely stunning, and it’s a trip I think everyone should take. We camped along the way and it truly added to our experience! Plus, I got to add two more states to my list (Oregon and Washington)!

🌎 What is your travel style?
I love luxury, and I love the outdoors. My interest tends to gravitate toward places where I can experience both if possible. But I can stand to “rough it” a little if it means getting to enjoy nature in an intimate way. When we planned our PCH trip we decided to camp for two nights since the scenery is so beautiful. It truly added to our experience, and even though we were in a tent, I was comfortable both nights! Falling asleep to the wind in the trees and the waves on the Oregon coast was so peaceful!

🌎 What is the hardest part about traveling?
Traveling is hard for everyone at times. Missed flights, lost reservations, not speaking the language, etc. Of course those things are difficult, but for me the hardest part about traveling is my health. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease when I was in college, and it requires some vigilance. Fortunately, I have been in remission for the better part of a decade and usually feel okay if I’m doing all the right things. When I travel, inevitably, I will face some stress which makes me sick. Each trip I take I’m learning more and getting better at knowing how to handle it. I make sure I give myself enough downtime, have a comfortable place to stay (luxury!), keep my medicine handy, and eat foods that I know are safe. I try to keep in mind that it will pass and that I have never regretted take a trip yet!

Glacier National Park
🌎 Where to next?
We would like to visit Japan! I have read so many excellent reviews and heard so many people speak highly of the culture that I can’t wait to get there! Because we are military, we are going to try staying on the base there since it is cheaper but still nice accommodations. I am reading everything I can get my hands on about Japan and starting to plan our trip.

We’re also planning to take a few day trips nearby. There is so much of Colorado I have yet to explore! Places on our list include hiking Pike’s Peak, visiting Breckenridge and Estes Park, and spending a long weekend in Crested Butte!

You can follow Emily on Instagram and her blog for more pretty places!

Drake's Seat, St. Thomas Virgin Islands. 

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All photos in this post are the property of In Search Of Pretty Places and are used with permission. Unauthorized use of the photos is strictly prohibited.

Linking up with: Lauren of Lauren on Location, Van of Snow in Tromso, Isabel of The Sunny Side of This and Marcella of What a Wonderful World.

March 06, 2017

How Having a Baby Improved My Travel Experience

Did you do a double-take when you read the title of this post?

Most people would assume that having children would diminish the travel experience, and if you read some of my tongue-in-cheek posts about flying with babies and how we survived a total of 19 hours on a plane with an 8 month old, you would think I'd be among that crowd.

I didn't say traveling with a baby is easier. But I do think it's better.

🌎 Little Eyes, Big World
Seeing the world through the eyes of a little one is amazing. My daughter can't contain her excitement over something as simple as a fallen leaf, let alone the wonder of a medieval stone wall! I have not traveled enough to feel inured or unmoved by man-made or natural wonders yet, but if I were to ever reach that point, taking a trip with a child could fix that problem in short order. I see the world anew when my daughter enjoys a new experience, and it's made my own travel experience richer.

🌎 Stop & Smell the Roses 
True story: kids will slow you down. Their little legs can't keep up; nap times are a necessity; attention and interest will wane when you're in the middle of enjoying a culture's finest attractions; and chicken nuggets will be demanded over the niceties of foie gras. You can bemoan that fact, or you can embrace it. Traveling with kids is a much slower affair than traveling as a couple (or solo), and some choose to forego traveling because of it, taking an all or nothing approach. However, I would much rather experience something than nothing! And a slower pace to accommodate the little ones simply means that I have more time to smell the roses along the way, savoring the culture and experience rather than rushing through it.

🌎 Crossing Language Barriers
Smiling is a universal language, and there is perhaps nothing more engaging or endearing than a little kid smiling at you! When Danny and I traveled as a couple, we didn't seek to overly engage ourselves with any residents of our destinations. We preferred to primarily observe and interact only with servers, hotel workers, or those employed at cultural attractions on an as-needed basis. We have probably missed out on a deeper understanding of these cultures and other travelers because of it, but with a kid, we have no choice. Our daughter loves to smile at everyone. And everyone loves to smile at her! While carrying her around the Regensburg Cathedral, I was mobbed by a group of Japanese ladies who began cooing and smiling and talking excitedly to us in Japanese with a few interspersed "cute baby!" phrases thrown in the mix. It was a small interaction, but so heart-warming to me. Traveling with a child, especially a baby, makes you very approachable and can open up a lot of doors to interacting with a culture in a way you wouldn't expect. Rather than walking by a playground, you may end up spending time there, experiencing in a small way what it would be like to actually live there and perhaps making friends with a local mom and kids that are probably more like you than not.

As with anything in life, traveling with kids is what you make of it. You can choose to focus on the downside, or you can choose to dwell on the enriching part. Broaden their world, enrich their minds, and choose to have fun in doing so!

Traveling with kids: would you do it? 

Other #TravelWithKids posts:

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