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Why Beijing Poses More Questions Than Answers

By Jane & Nigel of The Time of Our Lives

Ever been to a new place, desperate to learn about a fascinating culture, a unique cuisine or an unfamiliar way of life? I guess that’s why most of us travel. If we only wanted to experience a similar vibe to home but with a nice beach and better weather, we’d be holiday-makers. Nothing wrong with that, but in our minds, travel is something different.

In September 2016, we embarked on the biggest travel adventure of our lives … a 57-day, self-planned whizz around the world. Nine countries, packed full of bucket-list experiences, and over 35,000 miles of air, train and ship travel. And one of those countries was China.

As you can imagine, 57 days to do nine countries is nowhere near enough time. But it’s all we had and one of the tips that our flight booking agency gave us was that China waives its rather expensive visa fee if you spend fewer than 72 hours there and you are in transit. So we decided to shoe-horn in a 66-hour visit to Beijing, in between Japan and Vietnam. And we were really excited to see what the capital of the world’s most populous country and one of oldest surviving cultures had in store for us.

First Impressions of China

Beijing Scooter

Our first experience of China was immigration. Despite having special lanes for the 72-hour visa waiver, it appears that Beijing’s border team doesn’t see applicants very often. There were certainly no others in the immigration hall that evening and our case was escalated up to managerial level pretty promptly. Whilst not being rude, the questioning was not exactly what you might describe as welcoming. Ultimately, with all of our fellow passengers long gone, as well as all of the immigration officers except ours, we obtained a couple of passport stamps once we’d conclusively proved that we were planning to leave in 3 days’ time.

After a good night’s sleep in the luxurious, but not overly expensive Prime Hotel Beijing Wangfujing, we were up bright and early to take a look around – with the Forbidden City (a UNESCO world heritage site) being top of the list.

By this stage, we had already noticed that we couldn’t access our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts and that Google search results seemed drastically reduced. We all know that China is an authoritarian communist regime, but also that capitalism and entrepreneurship is a mainstay of the country’s huge growth. We were fascinated to see how these two apparent opposites sit alongside each other. And it wasn’t long, walking down Wangfujing Street that we further grappled with this conundrum. Having walked past what can only be described as a shanty town, built out of scrap corrugated iron and cardboard, we came to a major crossroads, where the world’s most premium designer brands – Rolex, Tiffany, Gucci – vied for the newly rich’s attention … and cash.

We walked on a little further, trying to get our heads around this place. And then a young man, spotting Nigel taking candid photos with a long lens, struck up a conversation with him about photography. We were slightly wary by this point and Nigel’s answers were uncharacteristically guarded. After a few minutes, the young man explained that this was where the famous Wangfujing night market had been until June that year. He showed us photos on his phone of the market’s last night. The government had apparently given the shopkeepers 2 months’ notice to vacate the place as it was designated for redevelopment. He said it was a sad day for the area.

Feeling slightly guilty for mistrusting the young man, we parted with hearty handshakes and mutual wishes of ‘all the best’.

Exploring the Major Sights in Beijing

Summer Palace Lake Beijing, CHina

The Forbidden City, built in the 15th century, is a remarkable sight, as much as anything for its vast scale. Our audio guides helped us make sense of it all and distinguish our Mings from our Tangs. It was crowded even in the chilly mid-October drizzle. One of the interesting visitor demographics was smart middle-aged professionals showing their elderly parents, presumably from a rural region, around the place. This juxtaposition, perhaps more than anything, showed the two sides of China … impatient, well-heeled ‘cut-and-thrusters’ and swarthy Maoists, slack-jawed at the majesty of their surroundings.

On a gloomy second day, we explored the Summer Palace, a taxi-ride away to the north-west of the Forbidden City. We ended up doing a boat ride to the palace with a raucous party of Chinese tourists. We appeared to be slightly more fascinating to this group than the gorgeous royal surroundings, which made us slightly self-conscious and bemused. On disembarking, Jane, in particular, was grabbed by the arm to be included in photos. The smiles were warm and friendly, but, once again, we were puzzled by the experience. If anything, we preferred the Summer Palace to the Forbidden City. We took a long walk along the lake in the mist and the palace itself is more self-contained and less crowded.

On our departure day, we had planned in a trip to the Great Wall. Having negotiated with a taxi driver to take us there and then onto the airport afterwards, we set off early. Communicating in China for us non-Mandarin speakers, is generally conducted via a translation app. This ended up in a few hilarious exchanges, but ultimately, we got by.

We went to the length of the Great Wall at Mutianyu. This is not the closest stretch to the centre of Beijing, but, maybe for that reason, it’s known for being less crowded, especially if you get there nice and early (say 8.30am). More by luck than judgement, we took the gondola (not the chair lift) to the top of the wall and got a toboggan back down. Having seen all of the options whilst we were there, we would definitely recommend that combination, unless you are determined to walk. That left us with a 1.5 mile walk along the top which was just about perfect. It’s really something else to say you’ve been there.

So What Did We Make Of Beijing?

Time Of Our Lives Great Wall of China

Well, maybe it was because we had just come from uber-courteous Japan, but we found most of the Chinese people we encountered loud and brash. But then we came across the young man in Wangfujing and the Summer Palace day-trippers – who were warm and full of smiles. Puzzle number one.

Puzzle number two was the capitalist/communist thing. We definitely noticed the touch of an authoritarian hand. And then we saw motorways fully loaded with BMWs, Audis and Mercedes. How these worlds are coexisting happily is not at all obvious.

And puzzle number three is the culture. We tasted food with flavours that were so unfamiliar as to be otherworldly. The folk religion, involving ancestor worship, is as old as civilisation itself. Customs, traditions, language … it’s all so alien to westerners, that it would truly take a lifetime to comprehend.

So we spent 66 hours trying to understand a little bit of this world. But we left with more questions than answers. Which, in a way, is the best excuse for a return trip for the curious traveller.


Time of Our Lives Profile PicJane and Nigel are a travel-blogging couple from the UK, both with two daughters and a passion for people and places. Former BBC journalist, Jane is always looking for a great story and is never happier than when she has a notebook and a travel ticket. Since he was a teenager, Nigel’s ambition has been to travel to 50 countries by the time he was 50. And he’s recently achieved that goal. Follow them at www.thetimeofourlives.net, on Twitter, on Facebook and on Instragram.


 

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5 Perfect Weekend Destinations in The USA

One of the toughest things about being an adult is living by a work schedule. But just because you have limited vacation days doesn’t mean you can’t use the occasional weekend to get out of town, unwind, have a great time and come back to your work life refreshed.

To get you inspired for your next weekend trip, here are five cities across the United States that you might visit, along with activities you could do to get the most out of your two-day adventure.

Enjoy Short Weekend Travels at These 5 Locations

You probably won’t be able to do everything listed for each city over the course of two days, but the ideas provided should help you get started on planning a kickass weekend trip.

San Francisco

san francisco

San Francisco isn’t a small town. Whether you’re drawn to historical sites, beautiful natural scenery or just some really good wine, this is the place to spend your weekend trip. Here are a few ideas to get you started on the planning:

  • Set up a picnic by San Francisco Bay — and enjoy a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Tour Alcatraz Island
  • Explore Muir Woods and marvel at the breathtaking giant redwoods
  • Go wine tasting — California is home to a lot of amazing wineries
  • See giant sequoias, the Yosemite Falls and other natural wonders at Yosemite National Park
  • Watch the amazing street performers of the city

Since San Francisco is such a large city, you’ll want to plan your vacation geographically. That is, if you’re interested in activities that take place on either side of the Golden Gate Bridge, you don’t want to keep driving back and forth across it. Not only is the bridge about 1.7 miles long, but it also has a toll that you won’t want to pay repeatedly if possible.

St. Louis

St. Louis is a large but modest, hard-working city. Manufacturing is vital to the city’s economy, and so it offers a lot of unique sites — and some really good beer. Here’s how to take advantage of your weekend trip:

  • See the St. Louis Arch — inside and out
  • Enjoy a tour of St. Louis’s fine breweries — the Anheuser-Busch Brewery being the most well-known
  • Watch a Cardinals baseball game or a Blues hockey match
  • Spend a long afternoon touring the St. Louis Zoo
  • Explore the city’s unique structures, like the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, the City Museum or the Missouri Botanical Garden

If a sports event is on your bucket list in St. Louis, make sure to plan ahead. Pick a weekend with a home game you’d like to see, then structure the rest of your trip around the scheduled event.

Panama City

panama city florida

To many, Panama City isn’t as glamorous as some of the other locations on this list. But it has a quaint, small city charm to it. Not to mention the greatest attraction of all — the beach!

On that front, here are a few ways you can get the most out of a sunny two-day trip to Panama City:

  • Take a boat trip out to Shell Island
  • Play sand volleyball, beach soccer or simply beach bumming
  • Go snorkeling or, if you’re certified, SCUBA diving
  • Try every water sport the calm water has to offer — paddle boarding, windsurfing, parasailing, water skiing and/or whatever else appeals to your adventurous side

Of course, even Panama City has its rainy days, and if your trip happens to fall on a less-than-ideal weekend weather-wise, you can still have a great time exploring the city’s other attractions. For instance, you can:

  • Visit the Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum
  • Walk around the Pier Park shopping district
  • Assert your wit at a local escape room
  • Sit in at a dueling piano bar

No matter what time of year you visit, Panama City always has fun activities to offer. But to really get the most out of your trip, try to pick a nice, warm, sunny weekend!

Washington, D.C.

As the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. is of course going to have its own unique set of attractions. If you’re a history buff, this is definitely a worthwhile weekend destination. Here are a few things you could do there:

  • Visit the most iconic U.S. government buildings — the Capitol, the White House, the Supreme Court and the Lincoln Memorial
  • See a performance at the Kennedy Center
  • Tour amazing museums, like the Air and Space Museum and the Museum of Natural History
  • Explore the Smithsonian Institute Building
  • Walk through D.C.’s areas of interest, like the Tidal Basin, the National Mall and Georgetown

Since D.C. is so large, and since it’s rated as the U.S.’s number one most stressful city to drive in, the best way to get the most out of your trip is to put aside the anxiety of fighting the traffic and let a bus tour guide handle the details for you.

After all, the local professionals know their history, which sites to visit and how best to get around the city. All you have to do is sit back and enjoy the incredible sites the capital has to offer.

Yellowstone National Park

yellowstone national park

Most of Yellowstone National Park is located in northwestern Wyoming, but it does bleed into Montana and Idaho as well. That gives you a lot of site-seeing options to choose from. At the park itself, you can do this and much more:

  • Watch Old Faithful and other park geysers erupt
  • Look in awe at colorful hot springs and Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon
  • Wander through the park’s versatile landscape of mountain, forest and lakes to witness wildlife activity
  • Camp on park grounds overnight

Outside the park — depending on which states’ attractions appeal to you most — you can:

If you’re an avid outdoors-person, you could easily spend the whole weekend at Yellowstone National Park. If, on the other hand, you want to see more of the surrounding area as well, it may be wise to spend one day at the park and another day exploring elsewhere.

Make Your Weekends Count

Adulting has its stresses, but it’s important not to take life too seriously. Your work and your responsibilities are important, but they shouldn’t consume your entire life.

So take a breather. Plan the occasional weekend out of town, and leave your adult life behind when you go.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kacey is a lifestyle blogger for The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture & the world around us. Kacey graduated with a degree in Communications while working for a lifestyle magazine. She has been able to fully embrace herself with the knowledge of nature, the power of exploring other locations & cultures, all while portraying her love for the world around her through her visually pleasing, culturally embracing & inspiring posts. Follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.


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Best Honeymoon Destinations for Surfers in Australia

By Marie Nieves

Planning a honeymoon can be stressful as it is, let alone when you’re looking for a place that’ll satisfy your thirst for adventure. So, what actually happens when two surf-lovers fall in love and get married? Well, they start planning a perfect honeymoon getaway in a place that might help them consolidate both their romantic and adventurous desires. Look no further from Australia, as this is the place where all your dreams come true. Being renowned as the destination with the most amazing natural splendour, romantic waterfront resorts and the best surf beaches in the world, Australia is the number one holiday retreat for anyone looking for an active honeymoon.

Where To Go For A Surf-Lover’s Honeymoon in Australia

So, without further ado, here are some of the best honeymoon destinations for surfers in Australia.

Alley to Noosa Main Beach AustraliaPhoto via Flickr by yarra64 

Sunshine Coast, Queensland

Home to magnificent beach resorts and some of the best surf spots in Queensland, the Sunshine Coast makes for the perfect surfer’s getaway. One of the most common surfing locations is the Noosa Main Beach, where the annual Noosa Festival of Surfing is held. Other popular surfing locations include Mooloolaba, Dicky Beach and the Buddina Beach. The Sunshine Coast also has more national parks than any other region in Queensland, making it a true nature-infused vacation for anybody up for the task.

Byron Bay, New South Wales

The beachside town of Byron Bay is a popular tourist destination mostly because of its amazing scenery, impeccable wildlife and beautiful beaches. Tallow Beach is one of the most favourable surfing spots, while you surely won’t make a mistake by visiting Suffolk Park or Clarkes Beach. The ocean way leading to the Byron Bay lighthouse is a great setting for a midnight walk, but the Cape Byron Marine Park is the best way to experience the open ocean and the tidal waters of the Brunswick River and its tributaries.

Whitehaven Beach AustraliaImage via Flickr by Chilli Mimi

Whitsunday, North Queensland

A collection of continental islands off the central coast of Queensland is an appealing location to many couples looking to indulge in the breathtaking sights of the Great Barrier Reef, enjoy seaway and short walks on the Ngaro Sea Trail or simply lay back and relax on the white sands of the Whitehaven Beach. Airlie Beach is the best option not only for beach surfing, but for windsurfing, kiteboarding and sailing.

Margaret River, Western Australia

Margaret River is the name of a small town south of Perth, mostly known for its craft breweries, wineries and several hundred caves. The humid Mediterranean climate and a charming rural appeal, it makes for a popular couple’s destination. What’s interesting is that the west coast of this alluring little town is a renowned surfing location and has acquired worldwide fame for its surf breaks.

Granite Island AustraliaImage via Flickr by Jocey K

Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia

Located south of Adelaide, Fleurieu Peninsula has some amazing surfing spots, some of the most prominent ones being Waitpinga and Middleton. The peninsula is also known for its Fleurieu wine zone with beautiful vineyards, which is a great way to add a touch of Tuscany to your Australian honeymoon. There’s a variety of charming beachside cottages, secluded beaches and captivating restaurants that’ll definitely make your honeymoon something to remember.

Sydney, New South Wales

When talking about the best surfing destinations, local cuisine, mesmerizing beaches, romantic waterfront spa resorts and beautiful scenery, we shouldn’t fail to mention Sydney. One of the largest and definitely one of the most famous cities in Australia offers a wide array of activities, suitable for anyone’s taste, which is why this is one of the best places for planning an active honeymoon. Sydney is very well known for its rich cultural content, as well as entertainment with the Sydney Opera House, The Museum of Contemporary Art, the Sydney Conservatorium of Music as well as the Royal Botanical Garden being located here.

The North Shore and northern beaches of Sydney are especially appealing, but nothing more than the eastern suburbs where some of the most affluent resorts are found. Manly Beach is one of the most popular holiday destinations, but if you want something more secluded the Maroubra Beach in Randwick is the best pick for you. This suburb has an enchanting aesthetic appeal known for its rich history and fine, heritage buildings. Booking a Randwick boutique hotel is a great choice, as its charismatic surroundings makes a perfect setting for an active honeymoon, with a variety of surf beaches in close proximity.

 

Australia is, without a doubt, an undisputed champion when it comes to romantic holidays, permeated with lots of action and adventure. If you’re feeling adventurous and are looking for a heavenly destination that’ll satisfy all your needs, then you can rest assured, knowing that they’re all listed right here.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mmary nieves profile picarie Nieves is a lifestyle blogger who loves unusual trips, gadgets and creative ideas. On her travels she likes to read poetry and prose and to surf the Internet. Her favourite writer is Tracy Chevalier and she always carries one of her books in her bag. She is an avid lover of photography who loves to talk about her experiences. You can find Marie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter and Pinterest or HighStyLife where she is a regular author.


 

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Wellness & Renewal Vacation Ideas For Nature Lovers

When you hear the words “wellness” and “renewal,” you might think of relaxing activities like hot tubbing and meditating, you might picture getting away from your usual environment or you might even imagine sweating out your stresses with extreme sports like mountain biking — it all depends on what’s missing from your regular routine.

As you’re planning your next getaway, don’t settle for the closest or the most convenient place to stay. Really consider what you need to do to refresh and rejuvenate.

If, upon reflection, you decide you’re the kind of person who wants beautiful scenery, fresh air, healthy activities, wildlife sightings or even just a little adventure in your vacation, this list is for you.

Ideas For A Wellness Vacation To Get Close To Nature

Relaxation Trips

Mandala Spa And Resort Villas, Boracay Philippines

Relaxing trip ideas are never a bad place to start. But don’t just think of where you could sit on your butt for a few days — you don’t have to travel to do that.

Instead, consider activities that actively encourage relaxation, internal healing, a Zen state of mind and a stronger connection with nature. For instance, resorts like the Tenaya Lodge in Yosemite, California offer a wide range of pro-renewal activities:

  • Spa treatments
  • Yoga classes
  • Nature hikes
  • Wine tasting
  • Beautiful natural scenery

Or, if you want to feed your creative side, you could always seek out a more artistic type of resort, such as the Miraval Arizona Resort and Spa, which not only allows you to paint, draw and photograph, but also encourages a strong connection with your natural surroundings.

Sweat-Inducing Trips

If your office job has you going stir-crazy, maybe your ideal vacation involves getting your heart rate up a little bit. Fortunately, you’ve got plenty of options.

Whether you choose to plan out your own activities or go through a fully accommodating resort, the U.S. has plenty of natural attractions for you to use as your playground. The Red Mountain Resort in St. George, Utah, for instance, will jumpstart your active lifestyle with all kinds of options:

  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Rock climbing
  • Horseback riding
  • Golf

Or heck, if you truly want to go all-out on this next getaway, maybe it’s time to try something a little less mainstream. For instance, you could go on a local or international dance retreat — learn new steps, work up a sweat and have a lot of fun along the way.

Family-Friendly Trips

macrae hiking jiufen taiwanIf you want an activity level somewhere between yoga and mountain biking, maybe you and your loved ones should try a family-friendly retreat.

For instance, it may be worth your while to explore active, outdoor locations and stay at a resort with log cabins you can sleep in like the Hickory Hills Family Camping Resort. This resort, located in Bath, New York, offers activities that are both lively and fun for vacationers of all ages:

  • Laser tag and other sports
  • Playgrounds
  • Heated pools and ponds
  • Paths and hiking trails
  • A park for the dogs

As an added bonus at places like Hickory Hills, the adults can often sneak off and have their own romantic outing while the kids play at the dog park or sports center.

Wildlife Tours

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, you may occasionally lose sight of your connection with nature. Visiting the zoo with your niece is one thing, but maybe this next getaway is the perfect time to really reconnect with your world and revel in nature’s beauty.

Depending on how far you’re willing to travel, you could see

  • Redwoods in California
  • Dolphins in Australia
  • Orangutans in Borneo
  • The Ngorogoro Crater in Tanzania

And of course you could see so much more. The world has a lot to offer, whether you’re more interested in plants, natural phenomena like the Northern Lights or international wildlife. So, take the time to plan for whatever it is you want to experience most.

Water-Themed Trips

butterfly fish koh tao scuba diving

One of the great things about water activities is that they can be as soothing or as extreme as you want. If you just want to lounge by the beach or pool, have at it. It is a vacation after all. If you want to challenge your body and try out a new sport, why not sign up for something like windsurfing lessons or a paddleboard outing?

If you start Googling water-themed resorts, you’ll find a vast array of options. Here are just a few common treats offered at such locations:

  • Snorkeling and/or SCUBA diving
  • Swimming with aquatic wildlife
  • Kayaking and canoeing
  • Beach volleyball

Of course, there are many more activities offered at watery destinations, like surfing lessons at the SwellWomen Surf and Yoga Retreat in Hawaii and paddleboard yoga at the Hilton Head Health Retreat in South Carolina.

Whatever you do on your sunny trip, don’t forget to hydrate! Nothing complements that post-workout margarita better than a big old gallon of water.

Make Your Vacation Count

Taking a few days off of work is, in itself, a much-needed treat now and then. But don’t stop there. Take some time to decide what you really want to get out of your next vacation. You deserve more than a little break — you deserve to feel healthy, rejuvenated and connected with the natural world.

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kacey is a lifestyle blogger for The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture & the world around us. Kacey graduated with a degree in Communications while working for a lifestyle magazine. She has been able to fully embrace herself with the knowledge of nature, the power of exploring other locations & cultures, all while portraying her love for the world around her through her visually pleasing, culturally embracing & inspiring posts. Follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.


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How To Eat Your Way Through The South

By Taylor Schear of  SOFLOFOODFINDS

If you’re anything like me, then you revolve your trips around food! With so little time and so many great choices, there is so much pressure to choose the absolute best restaurant. Well, I have got you covered.

Best Restaurants In The South

Below you will find a list of the top restaurants throughout America’s southern states.

Miami, FloridaThe Salty Donut Miami FloridaThe Salty Donut

The Salty Donut is in the Wynwood area of Miami. Wynwood is known not only for the famous street art, but also the food. Salty Donut opened their permanent storefront this past month. Before this, they were primarily doing pop up locations on the weekend. But after great success the demand became so heavy that they established regular hours Tuesday-Sunday. This is for good reason; the donuts are fantastic. They carry the “usual suspects” along with some interesting combinations. My personal favorite is their apple cider bourbon spiked donut hole. What is even better, is the cold brew cider that pairs perfectly with the donuts!

Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink miami floridaMichael’s Genuine Food & Drink

Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink is one of the most buzz-worthy restaurants in Miami right now! It is centrally located in the Design District. The restaurants popularity is due to the amazing menu developed by head chef and owner, Michael Schwartz. The food is all based on seasonal fresh ingredients. Pictured above is the figs with burrata. It is very simple, but I think that is what makes it great. Every single ingredient is the star of the show without overpowering one another. Make sure to save room for dessert. All the pastries, ice cream, and chocolates are made fresh from scratch, in house every day.

Athens, GeorgiaLast Resort Grill Athens GeorgiaLast Resort Grill

Last Resort Grill serves contemporary Southwestern style food in a very modern environment. The restaurant started as a music club in the 60’s, but now serves as a great gathering to eat with the community. The restaurant believes in supporting local farmers and companies by primarily using ingredients sourced in Athens. The dish above is the Pilancillo & Black Pepper Crusted Hanger. It is a tender local sourced hanger steak served with salsa verde, chili parmesan dusted corn, and charred tomato butter potatoes.

Big City Bread

If you are looking for a more traditional southern meal, then Big City Bread is the place for you. All the food (including the breads and pastries) are made fresh every day. It is the perfect place to grab a scone and coffee during the morning rush or sit down and enjoy some grits on a Sunday morning. The chef and owner is a graduate of the prestigious Johnson & Wales and has worked at restaurants all through the South.

Nashville, TennesseeEdleys BBQ Nashville TennesseeEdley’s BBQ

Edley’s BBQ must be one of my top three favorite restaurants of all time. It is a very casual vibe; everyone orders at the counter and sits down at one of the wooden tables to wait for their food. Don’t let the adequate furnishings fool you! The food is so flavorful and packed with smokiness. Make sure to come hungry, the portions are huge. There are multiple locations throughout Nashville, so you are never too far from an Edley’s!

Biscuit Love

Biscuit Love has my love! Again, this is the type of restaurant where you walk up to order your food and then go sit down. They do this to prevent the wait for food from getting too long since it can get quite packed on the weekends! You can probably tell from the name that they are famous for their biscuits. The restaurant is new (opened in 2015), but originally started as a food truck. The owners are graduates from Johnson & Wales, but have always had a love for brunch. You can immediately tell this when you walk in the restaurant.

Sprinkles Cupcakes Nashville TennesseeSprinkles Cupcakes

So as many of you know, Sprinkles Cupcakes is a national chain. However, it was my first time trying it when I visited Nashville. The coolest part is that they have a cupcake ATM. Yes, you heard me right… A CUPCAKE ATM. In goes your money, out comes any cupcake your heart may desire. The cupcakes are delicious, but so are their cookies. My favorite was the traditional chocolate chip. It was soft with just the right amount of chocolate folded throughout.

 


Taylor Shear ProfileABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hey guys… it’s Taylor Schear! Thanks for reading! I always love being able to share my passion for food and adventure with others! If you have enjoyed joining me on my food quest throughout the South, then make sure to continue to follow me! I am @soflofoodfinds on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. For more food travel guides then check out soflofoodfinds.com!


 

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8 Clever Ways to Make Travel Memories Last Forever

By Kacey Mya of The Drifter Collective

Many souvenirs start off as good ideas and end up collecting dust or being given away to someone who may appreciate them more. The point of a keepsake is for it to trigger wonderful memories of your travel adventures for years to come, and perhaps become something to pass down.

Unique Souvenir Ideas For Travel Memories

Make your travel memories last forever with these clever ways of collecting:

1 Collect Found Objects

unique souvenir ideas

Fill a time capsule, antique travel trunk or scrapbook with found objects you collect from every place you visit. The object doesn’t have to be a souvenir in the traditional sense or cost money. The most treasured objects have a mystery surrounding them and several stories to tell. The found objects could be small and random or have something in common, even though they originate from different places:

  • Pick up a stone from the ground from wherever you visit.
  • Collect a leaf or flower from an interesting plant that catches your eye.
  • Save bottle caps from local breweries in different cities, states and countries.
  • Bring home napkins with logos or copies of menus (with permission) from restaurants.
  • Collect quotes in a journal from random people you meet on the street.

When picking up found objects from nature, collect these in a sustainable way. Do not pick up feathers from birds of prey, which are also protected and an illegal action in many places. Don’t overharvest plants. Leave nature intact as you collect your memories.

2 Collect Stamps

Stamp collecting isn’t only a hobby to share with a grandparent, it also makes a wonderful international map and memento record of your wayfaring. Find interesting stamps in museums, philatelic libraries, and in regular postal offices and small shops that sell stamps. Imagine having a story to tell about purchasing the stamp for your collection and then artfully placing it in a keepsake notebook to pass down for generations!

Once retrieved, collectors would glue a stamp into an album, but now archival methods and tools have turned philately pursuits into an artform. Many beginning collectors focus on topicals (topics, such as horses or flowers) or forming a collection of stamps from the lands of their ancestors:

“A lot of travelers, especially stamp collectors, enhance their travel experience and travel memories by creating philatelic passports of their travels,” says John Apfelbaum, President & CEO of Apfelbaum, Inc.

“Using a small notebook, they purchase stamps at foreign post offices where they travel and ask the post office workers to cancel the stamps affixed in their little notebook. That way when they come home they have a memory of their trip along with an interesting local stamp and cancellation.”

3 Keep a Travel Journal

keeping a travel journal

There’s no way you could forget your latest trip, right? The mind works in amazing ways and memories have a way of blending together over the years. You will remember beautiful and strange details, while others will be foggy but still touching. Record those details now in a travel journal:

  • Write down the best moments.
  • Record snippets of overheard conversations.
  • Inscribe those found quotes from strangers.
  • Sketch those details.
  • Make a collage in the pages.

Your travel journal will need to be portable and doesn’t have to necessarily be in physical form. A journal you’re able to hold has a special quality that a digital one won’t, yet a travel blog is easy to take with you wherever you go as it doesn’t need to be packed and transported.

4 Make a Global Spice Rack

While on the road, collect the flavors of the world. What spice or spice mix is an area famous for? While in New Orleans, track down the best southeastern Creole flavor combination, for example.

Add each selection to your spice rack at home, or build a test tube spice rack that makes you feel like you’re cooking in a laboratory. Every time you make a dish, you’ll taste a travel memory.

5 Make Magnets from Travel Photos

SNS Instax SHARE SP-2

There are many ways to make travel photo magnets. You could use a service to produce them, such as Social Print Studio (uses your Instagram photos) or Fox Print. You can also instantly print out your photos with Fuji Instax SP-2 Printer and all you need to do is attach them to a magnet strip with a sticky surface. Turn any magnetic surface into a display board for your travel memorabilia magnets.

6 Build a Library of Area Authors

Build a global library of living authors from around the world. Attend book signings in the area you’re visiting, if any, and obtain a signed copy from the author. Peruse book shops and ask about local authors. Whether it’s science fiction, romance, poetry or a haunted destinations book, your library will be diverse and extra special when it reflects the places you have visited.

You will be able to say something personal about nearly every author, and if nothing else, talk about that time the bookstore owner of this quaint shop in Croatia pointed you toward the best wine you’ve ever tasted.

7 Make a Video

Think of it as a highlight reel of your favorite travel moments. Take a few minutes of video on your trip, and when you get home, condense your media files into a single video. Continue to add onto this video as you travel.

To ensure that it doesn’t get overwhelming, set a time limit for the footage you take and add on to your single video. You don’t have to download any complicated software to edit the video, if you don’t want, because Google Photos will edit for you.

8 Curate a Collection of Modern Art

The beauty of this idea is to target regional artist works from the area of your visit to collect. Ask a student artist sketching if he or she will make something quick for you for a generous tip or cup of coffee. Visit local galleries and support them by purchasing prints or original works.

Artists will often paint popular tourist spots but also create art around places that are personally special. Make your curated collection of art all the more unique by visiting the destinations that are depicted, whenever possible.

 

Make your memories transcend time with a little creativity. Focusing on collecting particular items or building upon how you display those souvenirs at home will ensure you don’t break your suitcase zipper by overstuffing with random knickknacks. When you collect, gather touchstones of experience, and the travel stories you share will be even more powerful.

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kacey is a lifestyle blogger for The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture & the world around us. Kacey graduated with a degree in Communications while working for a lifestyle magazine. She has been able to fully embrace herself with the knowledge of nature, the power of exploring other locations & cultures, all while portraying her love for the world around her through her visually pleasing, culturally embracing & inspiring posts. Follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.


 

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7 of the Most Beautiful Coastal Towns in Maine

By Kacey Mya of The Drifter Collective
It’s easy to see that Maine has an incredibly beautiful coastline. It’s not as easy to decide which city along that coastline to visit. That’s because there are so many viable options where you’ll find great food, cozy inns and unforgettable scenery. It makes it difficult to choose just one of the beautiful towns in Maine.

Beautiful Towns in Maine To Visit

The following are just seven of the candidates to put on your short list before you decide where to take your next vacation.

Bar Harbor

bar harbor maine

Bar Harbor has more than just a beach. It sits at the base of Acadia National Park, which woos hikers with its granite peaks and bikers who want to ride down the old carriage roads.

The area trails can also take you to coastal overlooks, although you might want to hit up the sandy beaches, too.

Camden

Welcome to your next vacation spot, sailors. Camden, Maine, sits on Penobscot Bay, from which you and your sailing crew can take off and into the picturesque waters. It really is beautiful here: the locals even call it the “Jewel of the Coast.”

Speaking of locals, less than 5,000 people call Camden home. Clearly, that means you can expect a homey, cozy experience on your trip.

Kennebunkport

beautiful coastal towns in maine

Any presidential history buff will know that the Bush family has made Kennebunkport their go-to vacation spot: they have their very own holiday compound, which tourists sometimes go to see on their trips to the area.

Of course, a former President has to have good taste in locations for his vacations — who needs relaxation more than a former commander-in-chief? The slow-paced town will definitely ease you into a similar state of serenity, as will the quirky shops, museums and clams. If you need a bit more excitement, hop onto a lobster-trapping or dolphin-watching tour.

Cutler

Bird watching will get a whole lot cuter if you choose to book your trip to Cutler. That’s because the area is home to an adorable puffin community that takes to the water and perches on the coastline’s grey rocks. All members of your family will be charmed by the little guys, we promise.

Of course, there’s more to a holiday than just a bird-watching expedition. Cutler has its beautiful coastline and quaint lighthouse, of course, but it also comes with a promise of tourist trap-free shopping and dining. Really, there aren’t any souvenir shops in this tiny town.

Portland

portland maine beautiful towns in maine

Most coastal towns appeal to tourists in the summer, but not Portland: most locals will tell you that the best time to visit is fall, when the changing leaves paint the seaside in burnt oranges, fiery reds and golden yellows.

Of course, any season will show you the warm hospitality for which Portland is famous. The locals strive to be as friendly and welcoming to tourists as they are to each other, a vibe you won’t soon forget after you head home from your holiday.

Rockport

Here’s another of Maine’s coastal cities that’s rumored to be the most beautiful — even though it’s clearly impossible to decide. And, like many others on this list, it offers surf and turf, at least as far as activities go.

You can traipse through the Rockport Marine Park — or lie on the sandy beach there, of course. The Beech Hill Reserve offers stunning views, too. And then, there’s the bay, which is ripe for kayaking trips, which local tour companies lead.

Castine 

lighthouse in coastal maine

Castine is so beautiful that it’s been a destination for artists for decades. They come to paint a piece of that classic New England scenery — exactly what you seek on your trip, too. Along with like-a-painting views, you’ll find a bit of history at the Fort George and Fort Madison State Parks.

You can also check out a sandy-hued lighthouse, a local art gallery and, of course, an incredibly quaint Main Street.

 

You won’t find any hustle-and-bustle along the coast of Maine. You won’t find clubs or fancy restaurants or beach cabanas where you’re served fancy cocktails.

What you will find, no matter where you go, is a wealth of natural beauty. The beaches, parks, mountains and wildlife will be just as striking. And, with your loved ones along for the trip, you’ll realize you don’t need more than what’s right in front of you in any one of these seven towns.  


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kacey is a lifestyle blogger for The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture and the world around us. Kacey graduated with a degree in Communications while working for a lifestyle magazine. She has been able to fully embrace herself with the knowledge of nature, the power of exploring other locations and cultures, all while portraying her love for the world around her through her visually pleasing, culturally embracing and inspiring posts. You can follow her on Twitter and Pinterest!


 

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7 Best Places to Visit in the Mediterranean

By Andrew Larson

Turquoise water, so unbelievably blue your friends will think the pictures are Photoshopped. Warm sunny days. Delicious seafood. A nice ocean breeze blowing the dry air across your face. It’s no wonder the Mediterranean has long been a sought-after destination for holidaymakers and sun worshipers. And if beautiful weather and amazing food weren’t enough, the laid-back vibe of these coastal towns just adds to the relaxation you’ll experience on your next European vacation. As you’re researching your upcoming trip, don’t miss out on these seven best places to visit in the Mediterranean.

Top 7 Mediterranean Destinations You Won’t Want To Miss

7. Barcelona, Spain

barcelona spain

Most Mediterranean destinations offer sandy beaches or picturesque islands. Sure, you can spend your days in Barcelona lounging on the beach. But this fantastic city makes up for the elements lacking in many small coastal towns: excellent nightlife, world-class cuisine, and celebrated art and architecture. Home to famed architect Antoni Gaudi, Barcelona is dotted with his interesting works that give this city its unmistakable character. Nothing beats a day visiting the famed Sagrada Familia, an unfinished cathedral in central Barcelona, and then enjoying a glass of Spanish wine and some tapas at a local café.

6. Sardinia, Italy

It might not seem fair to include an entire island as a top destination, but only visiting one part of this massive Italian landmass wouldn’t do it justice. With a rugged interior full of mountains and forests, to beautiful coastlines of white sandy beaches, Sardinia might just be one of the Mediterranean’s least-touched natural escapes. And more than just natural beauty, the island boasts a nice collection of local wines and cheeses. Mountains, beaches, interesting culinary offerings, all in a secluded locale? The list of reasons to visit Sardinia on your next vacation keeps getting longer.

5. Milos, Greece

Milos Greece best places to visit in the mediterranean

With Greece’s abundance of islands, it’s hard to pick just one to visit. But Milos offers the spectacular beaches and delicious food of Greece, at a fraction of the price and without all the pesky tourists of the other islands. Covered in interesting rock formations, a relic of past volcanoes, you’ll leave Milos with more landscape pictures than your Instagram can handle.

4. Formentera, Spain

Located just south of party destination Ibiza, Formentera has gained the reputation as the more laid-back option for Spain vacation-goers. But this unforgotten island has another repute that can’t be ignored: some of the top beaches in the Mediterranean. The crystal blue water and white sandy beaches are unparalleled along Europe’s coastline. But it might take some effort to reach them. The only way to get to Formentera is by boat from Ibiza. But for those willing to make the trek, a nearly desolate island and beach beauty is sure to please.

3. Comino, Malta

Comino Malta Mediterranean

Not as well-known as its Italian neighbor to the north, Malta might be the Mediterranean’s best kept secret. An island located just south of Sicily, Malta’s removed locale makes it a more elusive pick for a Mediterranean vacation. But one look at the stunning Comino Island and you’ll be wondering why you waited so long to visit. A paradise for snorkelers and divers, Malta offers an adventurous seascape fit for exploring. And don’t miss Comino’s Blue Lagoon, a tiny enclave of strikingly blue water, surrounded by rocks and perfect for a relaxing swim.

2. Nice, France

There’s nothing better than spending an afternoon strolling down the sweeping Promenade des Anglais, a magnificent boulevard that follows the pebbly coastline of Nice. If small towns like Cinque Terre are the Mediterranean’s hidden gems, Nice is its brilliant diamond. A luxurious playground for the rich and famous, Nice, France emanates a certain extravagance in which one can’t help but indulge. And there’s no sense restraining yourself; with charming cafes and designer shopping, a trip to Nice is sure to pamper your inner celebrity.

1. Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik Croatia

A list of top Mediterranean destinations wouldn’t be complete without highlighting this Dalmatian jewel. Old Town Dubrovnik sits on the edge of the sea, crammed inside a massive wall and surrounded by turquoise water. Strolling through town, up stairways and down tiny alleys, is like being transported back in time. And if cobblestone street charm isn’t your thing, an abundance of islands lay just off the coast. Kayak tours and boat day-trips offer a variety of options for exploring these beautiful islands.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

This post was written by Andrew Larson, a semi-retired software engineer turned globetrotter and full-time travel enthusiast who now runs Wanderlust 15. Check it out for more great travel tips & destination suggestions!


 

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10 Ways To Style Up Your Travel Outfit

By Dana Hughes

Travelling is always tiring and time consuming. Running through airports or train stations, checking maps and making sure we stop at gas stations for a refill, sucks up almost all our energy.  So we usually like to dress as comfortable as possible in order to reduce stress. But most of the time, comfortable means boring and it really doesn’t have to be like that when it comes to your outfits. Here is a list of 10 amazingly easy ways of jazzing up your travelling clothes.

Tips For Creating A Stylish Travel Wardrobe

1. Jewelry

jewelry for travel

One of the easiest ways to really bring to life a bland travelling outfit is jewelry. This means that you can basically wear whatever you want, even jeans and hoodies as long as you sport the right amount and type of bling. For example: are you wearing jeans, a t-shirt and a cardigan?

Then throw on a multilayered necklace that includes pearls, beads, chains and crosses. Embellish your wrists with heavy bracelets and nobody will even notice you’re wearing jeans. Or, are you wearing a simple cream colored top with pants? No problem. Gold is the answer. A big chain necklace will take you out of the boring zone and into the fun and luxury one.

2. Sunglasses

sunglasses for travel up style travel fashion

If you’re travelling by car, let’s say and you have a long drive ahead of you, you will definitely need sunglasses. But, as a trick of embellishing your outfit for that journey, leave your classic Ray Bans to rest at home this time and go for a big, dazzling pair instead. You cannot go wrong or unobserved with a pair of Lolita sunglasses from LoLoBu. They have a thick white frame which is why, if you pair them off with a red hot lip, the effect is guaranteed.

You can’t go wrong with a pair of round ones, the Harry Potter type, especially if you get them in a crazy neon color from, let’s say, Dior. But 2015’s star were definitely the cat eyes sunglasses. So rock a pair of golden ones, like Quay proudly introduced this year with a completely black outfit and a hat and watch as all eyes turn on you in the crowded airport.

3. High-heels

high heels for travel fashion

I know you’re going to wrinkle your nose at the idea of going on a trip in high heels, but hear me out first. High heeled shoes are empowering, luxurious and make a statement, especially when you’re travelling. They really say: “Wow, this girl is about to go on an eight hour flight to Rome wearing sky high heels. She must really have it together. Why can’t I do that?”

Watch as you become an example and an inspiration to women around you, because, indeed, attempting an eight hour flight in high heels is a feat of strengths and if you can do it, it must really mean you’re a strong, independent woman, who does have it all together.

4. Luggage

stylish luggage for travel

Another obvious point in order to style up your travelling ensemble is the luggage. Instead of carrying your stuff around in a plain, black bag, make sure to buy an interesting, colorful and stylish one. Go romantic, for example and buy a retro one, especially if you’re travelling light, or go diva with… Chanel.

5. Scarves

scarves and travel fashion

The accessory we all love and cherish is, probably, your best friend on a trip. It’s very versatile and can serve for many other purposes, not just to hang around your neck. Therefore, when travelling, don’t think only about the comfort and warmth a scarf comes with, but design and style as well. Therefore, instead of choosing a bland one, try a plaited blanket scarf, for example, a huge shawl-like one or, why not, a head scarf.

6. Maxi Dress

travel style maxi dress

The maxi dress or skirt may seem another odd choice for travelling. That’s because when we think about going on trips, we mainly think of pants, but, actually, maxi skirts and dresses are very comfortable. More comfortable that pants even, in hot weather. So, you can choose a simple, mono chrome maxi skirt, pair it off with a crop top and you have an amazing outfit for the airplane or train, no one else will have.

7. Casual Chic

casual chic travel fashion

Probably the most eye catching and, at the same time, most comfortable style you can adopt while travelling is the boyfriend style. Grab a pair of low-waist, baggy, tattered boyfriend jeans, a white tank top, a hoodie and a baseball cap and you’ve got yourself a head-turner outfit straight out of the hood fashion, as well as one you could probably climb a mountain in.

8. Stylish Boots

travel fashion stylish travel boots

Boots are another great way of combining stylish attires with being nice and comfortable while you travel those long miles. They are clearly the way to go, almost always. We don’t recommend you travel in, let’s say, sandals. Your toes will get dirty and crushed in no time through the airport or train station. However, with boots you run no risk of that and if you can find a dazzling pair, your success is guaranteed.

9. Oversized Sweaters

travel fashion and oversized sweaters

Oversized sweaters can save you a lot of trouble. They will keep you warm and you won’t need a supplementary piece of clothing, like a cardigan or a jacket. Just the sweater will do. The world has fallen back in love with them as they re-entered the trend this year. They are highly fashionable right now and the best part – you cannot go wrong with them, no matter what pattern or color you choose.

10. Hats

stylish hats for travel

And last, but not least, hats. Either you’re travelling during summer to some hot holiday location or in winter time to a snowy one, you will still require a hat. So why not make it a jazzy one and the main attraction of your outfit? If you’re feeling bold enough, you can try a funny one, with cat ears on it, for example, because they have been in trend this year.

 

So take these ten tips and go crazy and creative with them. The purpose here is to make travelling as pleasant as possible for you, and a well put together, sparkling outfit will certainly do that.

 


dana-hughesABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dana K. Hughes is a travel enthusiast and a photography student, who loves to plan unforgettable trips. She is also a dedicated writer, who loves long walks through unknown cities and spying on people’s outfits. Dana is currently doing an internship at http://serbags.com, where she writes original articles that inspire readers to showcase their individuality and bring out their personal style. You can also find her on Twitter.


 

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6 Things to Consider When Planning a Destination Wedding

By Kacey Mya of The Drifter Collective

To all of you “Future Mrs.”, a “Congratulations” is in order. So now that the man has popped his question and the bride-to-be is going forward with planning, there’s so much to do! Time is ticking until the knot is tied. A destination wedding might be something you have always thought of. However, there are a lot of things to be aware of.

Planning Your Destination Wedding

Here are 6 things you should consider to have the destination wedding of your dreams.

1. The Location

destination wedding on the beach

You can’t have a wedding without picking a location! If you’re thinking of having a destination wedding, then “destination” could mean a few things. It could mean you want your wedding to take place five hours away at your favorite beach. It could also mean you want to fly over seas to a nice resort. Either way, the best destinations to have your wedding aren’t right around the corner.

Because your location will be farther away, you need to keep in mind that when you’re planning you’ll be making calls to the venue rather than driving there to see it in person. Give yourself a few options and then narrow it down. Ask yourself questions like “How far do I want my guests to travel?” and “What did I fall in love with about this location?” to help you make the final decision. You can have the sand between your toes on a Hawaiian island or a giant castle in Europe as the “wow” factor for your romantic ceremony. Dream big! It’s all about picking the right location.

2. The Guest List

Think about how many people you want at your wedding. Destination weddings usually have a lower numbered guest list due to the travel. It can also get expensive for guests when they pay for their own travel and accommodations, which is the reason why less people will attend. Most weddings like this have just a small number of family and friends, which keeps it pretty intimate. This can give the wedding a more relaxed feel, meaning less stress for the bride!

3. The Travel Items

wedding on beach bride

You will need to break out your inner minimalist when it comes to what you bring to your wedding. Most destination weddings are celebrated over multiple days, and you know you’ll end up packing a bigger suitcase. It’s a good idea to skip the DIY wedding decorations and leave it up to the wedding venue to give your ceremony some glam. The mother of the bride can travel with the wedding dress to ensure the groom doesn’t sneak a peak. Did you want your dog to be the ring bearer? Then you’ll need to make sure the flight allows pets before your book your plane ticket. The little details will come together at the wedding, but you should definitely leave the big stuff at home.

4. The Budget

What are you expecting to pay for? No, you don’t have to pay for the travel and accommodations for your guests, but if it’s in the budget you can make that offer. Typically the bride and groom pay for venue, the décor, and the food and drinks. If your wedding is at a location your guests can drive to, consider the gas and toll expenses they will have to pay. Don’t let the budget overwhelm you, and stick with what’s important. This will make it easier on the planning side, where the time and money is at the minimum level. You can use budgeting tips to plan your wedding and definitely cut down some of the cost.

5. The Invitations and RSVPs

beach wedding

Inviting guests to a destination wedding is more complicated than sending out invitations to a wedding in your hometown. There’s a lot of invitation etiquette you might not have thought about. You will need to send out the “Save the Dates” early enough to allow your guests to schedule their travel arrangements. They are usually sent 6-8 months before the wedding. Flights typically cost more when they are booked closer to the date. Save your guests money by sending out invitations earlier.

The RSVPs give you confirmation on who will attend your wedding. Give your guests a strict reply date, so you have time to plan accordingly. The more details you announce on your save the dates, invitations, and RSVPs, the better understanding your guests will have. This part of planning a destination wedding is all about the timing.

6. The Weather

Always, always, always have a back up plan! You can plan the perfect wedding, with the perfect location, but if a tropical storm decides to blow through your big day, you’re going to wish you had a back up plan. Beaches aren’t so beautiful in the rain. When you plan your wedding with the venue, make sure you come up with an indoor plan. You can’t control the weather, and that’s okay! You can still have a gorgeous destination wedding, and they say rain on the wedding day means good luck!

Don’t let the stress and expenses of a destination wedding scare you away from having the wedding you’ve always wanted. Keep your plans organized, and keep your guests informed. If you want a wedding on the beach then go for it girl! Say “I Do” at the destination of your dreams.

                                                


 Kacey Mya Profile Picture                                           ABOUT THE AUTHOR                                                                  Kacey is a lifestyle blogger for The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture & the world around us. Kacey graduated with a degree in Communications while working for a lifestyle magazine. She has been able to fully embrace herself with the knowledge of nature, the power of exploring other locations & cultures, all while portraying her love for the world around her through her visually pleasing, culturally embracing & inspiring posts. You can find her on Twitter & Pinterest.


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