I think I’m supposed to sit down and hammer out a list of things I want to accomplish during the next 8,765 hours. It’s called New Year’s Resolutions. Sometimes a Bucket List. Either way I find it is usually nothing more than wishful thinking and self-promises that are usually broken by the end of January. So instead of writing a list of resolutions or a travel bucket list instead I’m gonna lay out my plans for the year, what I already know I will be doing, and what I hope to do.
I came to Charleston back in November with this silly idea that I could research, write, and self-publish a book about a self guided walking tour in just a month. Silly rabbit, tricks are for kids. Two months later I’m barely halfway through finishing this 200-page book featuring eight self-guided walking tours throughout the Charleston Historic District. It’s gonna be an epic book with full color photos, maps, and information covering topics like history, architecture, culture, wrought iron gates, history of fire stations, and unsolved murders.
Why should I stop at just one travel book? After finishing the first I will begin work on three additional travel books for the Charleston area. Walking the College of Charleston will be a self-guided walking tour across campus with details on the history of the buildings, notes about architecture, full color photos, and tips for visiting parents and friends. Walking The Citadel will be much the same for The Citadel campus, including information on how the military college first started in Marion Square.
Finally I will write Driving Charleston: 8 Self-Guided Motor Tours Through the Lowcountry. This book will include destinations on the Charleston peninsula that are easier to drive to than walk, driving tours to the Angel Oak Tree and Firefly Distillery, all the plantations in the area including Hampton Plantation State Park, and tours that will take you to beautiful scenic coastal locations.
The biggest travel event in 2017 was my three-month road trip across the Southeastern United States from Charleston to Paducah, Kentucky in the path of the Total Solar Eclipse. I met amazing people, saw beautiful landscapes, explored exciting cities and towns, seriously injured and horribly embarrassed myself, all while sleeping in a camper van I built for myself in Walmart parking lots. I have already started working on the book about my travel adventure and hope to publish it sometime before my Creation Day (also known as a birthday) in August.
People ask me why I’m spending so much time in one place if I am a “travel” writer and photographer. That’s easy to answer: I lost my car keys. So while I’m looking for my keys over the next few months I figured I might as well explore this area I now find myself living in. The Lowcountry includes more than just Charleston, expanding from about Mount Pleasant to Edisto Beach and inland to maybe I-95 and I-26. It’s a big area with so many wonderful destinations like Summerville, North Charleston, Lake Marion, and maybe even as far as Beaufort and the Sea Islands. All is within a two hour drive so I expect many, many day trips over the next few months.
How exactly does getting into shape again affect my travel plans? In every way imaginable. After a serious medical condition I developed at the end of 2015 and beginning of 2016 I started gaining weight. It was uncontrollable at the time. I gained nearly fifty pounds in six months. I was able to start traveling again about mid-2016 but the added weight made it difficult to squat down for photos, hike even moderate trails, and left me exhausted and in pain each and every day. Then I injured my left knee while white water rafting about mid-2017 and once again found myself in a position where I was gaining weight. I added another sixty pounds and that pretty much literally broke my back. I am in the worst shape and most weight of my life, and that changes this year. I need to lose this weight so I can get on an airplane without having to buy a second seat or pay an extra fee (I’ve had to do both), so I can hike long trails again to waterfalls and scenic overlooks, and so I can get better compositions for my photography.
After ten years of travel photography and four years of travel writing I have decided it’s finally time to just admit that I have no real desire to jet set around the world. People ask me all the time where I travel and when I respond, “Mostly the Southeastern US,” I can see the glint in their eyes fade. This one time a lady even patted me on the back and said, “Don’t worry, you’ll be successful one day.” I will admit that traveling to foreign destinations sounds so exciting and probably pays better, but the Southeast has always been my home. I grew up in Southwest Virginia and spent ten years living in coastal North and South Carolina. This is my home, and I am determined to show people things they didn’t know was in their own backyard and highlight all the amazing reasons you need to travel to the Southeast this year.
But just because I want to focus on the Southeast does not mean I’ll never actually leave the Southeast. I will travel, and the Grand Canyon is on my list this year. I may not achieve my dream of taking a three month road trip just to get there and instead drive along the boring and monotonous interstate system to get there, but at least I’ll get there. I hope to spend about three weeks around the Grand Canyon and then spend another week exploring Tucson and Arizona.
The Travel Bloggers Exchange is having their annual meeting in the Finger Lakes of New York this year in September. It’s only a few days but I figured if I was gonna drive to New York I might as well make a destination out of it. I will visit Niagara Falls and Canada for the first time. Drive throughout the Finger Lakes. Return to my second favorite state park in the country at Watkins Glen State Park. Oh and then actually attend TBEX where I’ll finally meet some of these Twitter friends I’ve made and see which ones make the cut.
Each year I try to do three new things I have not done before. I think throughout 2017 I ended up doing thirty-three new things. There’s nothing wrong with exceeding expectations! If I had any expectations. But this year I have a few Three New Things I really want to do, I just have to find the right time and opportunity.
Three New National Parks
I want to visit Everglades National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, and drive the Natchez Trace Parkway. Three new areas for me to explore, all in the Southeast.
Three New Cities
I want to see what Savannah, Atlanta, and Huntsville have to offer me this year. I’ve been bookmarking stories and trip ideas for years now. Time to put those to use.
Three New States
I am in no hurry to travel all fifty states because I want to actually see what these states have to offer instead of whisking through in a hurry. This year I want to visit Alabama, Louisiana, and Florida. Although I’m sure by the end of the year I will have visited many more states.
Three New Projects
I’ve been mulling some new projects for awhile now but haven’t really committed to any of them. That changes this year. I already have plans to write my first book about a travel adventure, but I also want to begin a new photography book and some other new project I haven’t thought out completely yet.
Last year I skipped traveling during the peak of fall colors because I was just too tired from all the other travel throughout the year. This year I want to save just a little bit of oomph for that magical splash of color across the landscapes of the country. I’ve traveled a lot across the Southeast for fall colors, but there is still much I have not done. This year I am thinking of maybe spending a week in Shenandoah National Park, two weeks in the mountains of North Georgia, or maybe finally traveling to New England.
For four years now I have visited a destination in December to write a Christmas story. The first year I spent seven days in Knoxville, Tennessee and wrote about family traditions visiting the city before Christmas. The next year it was about spending Christmas on the Grand Strand of South Carolina. The third year I didn’t do a Christmas story, but this past year I researched stories in Charleston and the North Carolina Crystal Coast.
In 2018 I want to make it five years now that I have traveled to write a story about shopping, spending time with family, and maybe spending the holiday itself in a particular destination. I have no idea where I will go yet. Sometimes I’m invited, other times I just kinda show up. Either way I will find somewhere gorgeous and exciting and spend a week there. It will be the final travel event of the year (and I usually take January off as well).