Cities to Visit in the American South

Or, how I learned to fall in love with a completely different part of my own country.

I’m a California girl, through and through. A Northern California girl, to be specific (after ten years in Southern California, the distinction is necessary.) The more I see of the world, the more sure of that I am.

When someone asks me where I’m from whenever I’m abroad, I reply without thinking: “California.” I realize, of course, that they’re looking to hear my country, not my state.

Most expect me to reply with “the United States.” And while I’m a proud American (well, most of the time,) I really identify so much more strongly with being a Californian and San Franciscan…and I’ve never been clearer on that than now.

I’ve also never been more aware that California is a bit of a bubble. So when I had the opportunity to road trip from Alabama to San Francisco (coincidentally, not long before the election last year) I pondered where outside my home state I wanted to visit. It was time (again) for me to see more of my own country.

 

Why was I so keen on pushing past my comfort zone in other countries and on different continents, yet unwilling to explore the expanse of land just to the right of me?

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Where to Eat in Indianapolis.

(Because the way to the heart is the stomach, clearly.)

What it’s like to return to a place you once disdained, and discover that you quite like it after all.

Or, How I Finally Fell in Love with Indianapolis (and where to eat there so you will too.)

 

Two years ago, heck, even two months ago…if you had told me I’d be landing on the tarmac for a work trip to Indianapolis, I’d have laughed in your face and told you you were insane.

It’s nothing against Indiana. Some of the loveliest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting have their roots in the Midwestern state. It’s just that the job I used to have, the one before all this blogging business, took me there on a semi-regular basis. And when I left said corporate career, just over four years ago, I had zero desire to ever return to the place I most associated with that part of my life. Just like so much of turning away from that path, I was certain I was leaving it in the past.

So as I stared down at the plane ticket bound for IND, I could hardly believe life had taken me back there. Travel writing might just be the most opposite pursuit from pharmaceutical sales. How did pursuing a completely different career take me to the same exact place?


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Ever just feel drawn to a place?

I’ve been wanting to see Charleston for what feels like ages now. With many trips to the South in the past few years, I became more curious about the tree-lined paths and the warm, seaside air of South Carolina. Both sides of my family lived there at one point, and I was beginning to understand just how different parts of the United States can be away from my comfortable bubble in Northern California.

One of my best girlfriends here in San Francisco grew up spending summers on Myrtle Beach. I’d heard stories from my dad about his childhood summers there. And while I’m no Southerner, I’m certainly a beach girl.

Charleston pink buildings


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Years ago (two, in fact) I wrote to you about a little thing called Bloghouse. Still some of you think it’s like a reality TV show for bloggers — which, while not entirely untrue, is not its purpose.

What is Bloghouse then? It’s an offline gathering of bloggers new and old that somehow transforms a group of strangers into blogging gurus and new best friends. (Not exaggerating.)

I had no idea what I was getting into when I applied (let alone showed up) for the workshop in Chicago. But since then I’ve often looked back fondly on those four days, and I’ve been able to see all the little ways it changed my life personally and professionally.

So when the opportunity arose to go back to Bloghouse, I didn’t hesitate. Sure, from the outside things were a bit different this time around: it was to be held in Philadelphia (not Chicago,) in a hotel (not a house,) and I was to return not as a student…but as a teacher.


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In a world of Instagram, traveling, and travel blogging, it seems we’re taking more pictures than ever before.

Yet I chuckle when someone sees me shooting while traveling or finds me online and asks me, “Are you a professional photographer?”

Some days I want to stretch the truth and say yes, because I have made money from my photos before. Does that a professional make? Not in my eyes.

So I spill: “Actually, most of the time I shoot in auto.” I then get one of two looks: the “wow-that’s-amazing, your photos still look good” or the “silly little travel blogger, you’re not doing it right.”

The truth is, most of my photos do turn out decently well in auto mode. For me the tradeoff has always been time, since I’m not yet comfortable shooting in manual on the fly. When I’m traveling (or just living,) I try to balance the time I’m behind a lens with the time I’m enjoying the moment with my own two eyes. Taking the time to adjust otherwise seemed like an awful lot of effort with minimal payoff, seeing as I’m already decently happy with my photos.

Enter Patrick Kelley.


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