– By Whitney –
Sorry for the delay in posts on our Travel PT adventures — we’ve been busy! 😉 Planning on getting caught up to the present over the next few weeks.
Timeline: June 2015-March 2016
I’ve written a lot so far about the process of finding jobs & our experience at each job – but nothing yet about what else we’ve done over the last year outside of working. For our first 9 months as Travel PT’s, we worked in a few different areas in Southwest Virginia, the region where we are from originally but a couple hours from home. During this time, our main objective was to save money in order to buy a camper & truck to be able to move around the country easily while working as travelers. We also wanted to get a little experience not too far from home to make sure it was what we really wanted to do and be nearby for a little while to go to weddings that were coming up. Even though we were just an hour or two from home, we took the opportunity to do and see a lot of things that we hadn’t before right in our “backyard.” As many of you may know when visitors come to your hometown, they tend to do and see things that have you find yourself saying “I haven’t even done that, and I’ve lived here all my life!” We really took advantage of our weekends and were able to do a lot. Here’s an overview of what we did outside of work during our first 9 months of Travel PT.
One contributing factor as to why we didn’t set sail across the country right away was that my sister was getting married in September 2015. We had an offer to take 2 jobs that were “New Grad friendly” in Alaska right out of school, but it was going to be a 6 month contract that would’ve had us far, far away from June-December. We decided to pass on these jobs, so as the Maid of Honor I was able to be around to help with planning the wedding and of course attending the big day! Jared also had a commitment as a groomsman for his friend’s wedding in October, so we were able to be close-by for that as well. Besides these exciting events, there was also a tragedy that hit my family during this time. In June when I was just beginning work in Blacksburg, I received a terrible phone call from my mom one day while I was at work. My sweet, loving grandma, “Nana”, had been found unconscious at home and had had a stroke. I was in shock, and fortunately because I was less than an hour from home, I immediately told my boss I had to leave, got in my car, and got to the hospital. Because I was so close to home, I was able to be with my Nana and my family during these last few days and moments of her life as we said goodbye to her in the hospital later that weekend. This was a very difficult time for me and my family, but I am thankful that I was so close to home for this. I can remember talking to my Nana the week or two before as I was starting my new job and making a 45 minute commute from Roanoke to Blacksburg before we moved to Dublin. Nana told me I could call her during my drive because she woke up early, and she encouraged me and wished me luck at my new job. I wish she was still here now to hear about all of our new adventures that have happened since then, and everything that our future holds ahead. She will be forever missed. In addition to being close to home for my Nana’s passing, we were also able to take several other weekend trips home to see family & friends for happier things like birthdays, baby showers, births of new babies, and holidays. There are certainly perks to being close to home, and this is something we will miss out on during our years ahead traveling to different parts of the country.
Exploring the Outdoors
Something that we have recently gotten into over the past couple years is hiking. Hiking is a great way to see nature and views you would not otherwise see unless you get there on foot! Living right in the Blue Ridge Mountains, there are plenty of hikes and outdoorsy things to do in Southwest VA. We got to enjoy a few places where we had never been before, including:
- Hungry Mother State Park, Marion, VA: Lots of beautiful hiking trails (also lakes & other activities- but we were there in winter and didn’t do those)
- Mt. Rogers, Grayson/Smyth Counties, VA: Highest peak in Virginia & sight of many wild ponies
- New River Trail, Grayson/Wythe/Pulaski Counties, VA: A long trail spanning several counties, more of a walk/stroll than a hike, but we did several different stretches of the trail throughout our time in the Dublin area (also would be great for biking- if I was any good at riding a bike! – something I definitely need to work on, ha)
We enjoyed getting immersed in the local activities near where we were living, which was a mostly rural area. Some of the more simple things like finding new farmer’s markets/farm stands, grocery stores, restaurants, country stores, gyms, and wineries were fun for us living in a new area. We also found a nice pool with a water slide/park for the summer months in Dublin. It was at a place called Randolph Park which was a great outdoor venue with many recreational activities for kids & adults (basketball courts, soccer fields, hiking trails, picnic areas, etc.). We were really impressed by this b/c we don’t even have ones that nice in Roanoke. We also enjoyed going to the local minor league baseball games at the Pulaski Yankees stadium. We had some outings with our co-workers including a couple cookouts at a coworkers’ lake house at Claytor Lake, going out downtown in Jared’s old stomping grounds in Radford, and my first Paint Nite with my work ladies! We went to some local festivals including the Blacksburg Steppin’ Out festival with live music, vendors & food, and a pumpkin festival in Pulaski with food, pumpkin picking, pumpkin launching & a giant apple sling shot.
Out of Town Weekend
Aside from weekend trips home & day trips for hiking adventures, we decided to take a longer weekend trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. This is only 4 hours from home (and 3hrs from where we were living at the time) but we had never been there. Many of my co-workers in Chilhowie said that Gatlinburg & nearby Pigeon Forge are where many locals go on vacation. They described it like Myrtle Beach in terms of the attractions — except in the mountains & without the beach! There were definitely a lot of touristy things like you would see in Myrtle such as restaurants, mini-golf, cheesy gift shops, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and an aquarium. We decided to stay at an AirBNB in a cabin in the woods during our visit, a little ways away from the touristy area. While we did do some of the touristy things, we were mostly excited about visiting the nearby Great Smokey Mountain National Forest where we went on some beautiful hiking trails and scenic drives.
Overall we had a great experience exploring new parts of beautiful Southwest Virginia and nearby Tennessee. But after 9 months, we were ready to start our real traveling careers and head out of the state. The adventures have only gotten better since then! 🙂