The road to Portland – First Drive ever

Hey everyone. Hope you all had a good time entering fall season. Probably the best season out of the 4 seasons we have. Let me take you back on memories of my Seattle trip having so much fun and getting to see amazing places even though we were short on the budget (Link for those didn’t get a chance to read – Link). Having a good time in Seattle just didn’t stop me from exploring the nearby places which led to take a courageous decision of me renting a car on my own and driving my friend to Portland.

Well, the fact is I have never ridden in the USA except for getting my driver’s license back in Florida for half a day within a parking lot.  I was scared, to be honest. Woke up really early and got ready. I was boasting about my ability to find one of the cheapest rentals ever. But the happiness didn’t stay too long until we entered the FOX  car rental. I would still not forget the complete scene, we were supposed to get the car rental at 7 Am. Yes, we were there, but unfortunately, I didn’t have a work back then which automatically doesn’t qualify for a credit card in most cases. The price we were supposed to pick up the car was $45 per day. we were totally upset and we were ready to get back home and binge lol. But the store guy himself felt so bad for us, called up a couple of people and tried to arrange a car for an individual with only a debit card.

A few Minutes walk he said and pointed us towards an Enterprise, which is again a car rental company. They are one of the largest chains of car rentals in the US and they do offer cars to debit cardholders with a hold in the account. and the hold gets back as soon as we return the car safe and sound. A ride of $45 cost us $160. But since we planned already, we were not okay to ditch it even though the rental became a high priced commodity.

TIP: If you only have a debit card account, Always see if your friend has a credit card and he can be the primary driver and add your name to it as a secondary driver or find and book an enterprise car even before getting charged $160 a day lol. 

The rental was sorted but who was gonna drive? well certainly not her, as she doesn’t know driving at all. The worst thing about Seattle is that busses, metros, trams, bikes/ cycles and the whole human crowd were in the street which made my heart beat go higher every second I see one more additional person or a vehicle on road. The fascinating fact about the rental is that we rented out in the downtown which has the lesser crowd in the most sarcastic way :P. The moment I brought the car to the basement I was about to hit a stranger and well I didn’t. Swetha was like “Are you okay ?” “Will you drive that far ?”. Even today close to 4 years of driving in the US she still doesn’t let me have my phone in my arms to even have a look at the google maps. So you can imagine my first epic drive.

All that said and done I managed to steer the car to the freeway/ highway.  That’s when I got a little bit of confidence and started to play some songs and watch the amazing view. After which I never had issues till date haha. Isn’t my driving story overtaking my Portland story? what do you guys think? Okay, let’s cut it short and get to the vital part of the story.

It’s just a couple of hours drive to either Mt. Rainer or Portland. If you at Seattle and you gotta a day it’s worth spending on either of these days. The drive during the day, when we were travelling was clear yet a little gloomy setting up perfect weather for driving and hanging out. The complete drive of 2 hours was completely filled with mountains, trees and gorges all over. The effort of driving couldn’t even be felt throughout the trip due to these amazing scenic views.

The first place we visited was Forest park which was in the middle of Portland with a short hike overlooking the Willamette River. Parts were covered partially with snow and made the hike a little bit challenging yet really fun. After hiking a good amount of time and capturing those natural beauties in the middle of the forest. Our body needed a recharge before getting to the next location. All that we had in mind was to go to amazing falls that everyone who had previously visited and suggested as well. It had a good rating on Google as well.

Instead of further wasting time in the restaurant waiting for food, we thought of doing fast food and keep running to the next destination as half the day went figuring out the car rental. The next location was Multnomah Falls. That’s where the most interesting and one of the best rides of my life ever took place. While driving towards this natural beauty, we actually lost the route and within a minutes we started claiming the hills as it started to drizzle, rolling down the window to feel the smell of nature and feeling the fresh air. Further, the altitude increased and we also lost internet connectivity. Now it becomes super fun, we know where we wanna go, but we are in a new state and city, no connectivity and wouldn’t see anyone whom we can go and approach to ask for location. As we’re driving moving higher the altitude it started getting cool and started to drizzle. Further, I started driving within a span of 15 minutes all the trees were completely filled with snow.  And that sight just got my heart. Look at those amazing pics.

 

When I am able to recollect about it after 3 years and still try to express the feeling, you guys have to imagine how special and gorgeous that would have been in reality. Now I even forgot the location we were supposed to go enjoying this white beauty. when I started driving past these snow filled trees, it started to snow. Within 20 minutes of the drive getting to experience gloomy, drizzling, snowflakes over the tree to completely snowing atmosphere was just an incredible experience.

Finally, we were at the peak playing with the snow and finally got to see some people. Fortunately, they were few people not lost like us. They guided us in the right direction of the falls. But its always the road not taken delivers you the most exciting places just like what I explained. Finally, after all the detours we reached our destination Multnomah Falls. It was just a majestic site and the view was pretty lit.

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There are two picture points one just the bottom one where I have taken pictures or you can hike up to the bridge and take pictures over the there. Pretty sure they would be Pretty lit as well. We didn’t have much time to do the hike. I am going back to this city in three weeks if you wanna have a sneak peek just follow my Instagram (Link).

There are more amazing places in Portland that I need to check out this time. Then it was a quiet drive back to Seattle due to tiredness. And one of the exciting trip coming up next post. Stay tuned fam.

Love,

Praveen <3

 

 

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GATLINBURG – LOST SEA ADVENTURE- A DAY OUT- ICE SKATING- TUBING

Still with those beautiful views from smoky mountains last week. Yay welcome back guys. what’s up?

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Heading over to THE LOST SEA ADVENTURE

During my whole week of stay in Smoky mountains, one day was off, so we were kinda let free from the camp. There are so many beautiful destinations across Smokey mountains. One most important and beautiful destination is Gatlinburg. Since we were there during the month of December, it was misty, cold and yet so beautiful.

Before we hit the spot we were planning on going to THE LOST SEA ADVENTURE – yes the name was kinda intriguing for me as well, as you all are thinking right now. It was a privately owned Cavern ( What is it Private? Yes it was fascinating to me too that an Individual can own a cave in the USA ). The entry to the place is $20.95. It is a cave, completely dark and a constant temperature of 65º F ( 18º C). It was one such experience guided by individuals who take us on a tour around explaining its reasons for the erosion and all the minerals present and suddenly we see a pool of water with fishes swimming around. We were also taken a ride around- Such a beautiful start to the day. Then we were heading over to Gatlinburg.

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Gatlinburg is a small town in Tennessee and has the best views, best wine tasting and alcohol(Moonshine) tasting in the country. The thing about that day was everybody was on time so we could leave as early as possible out of the camp and come back late. we did make it as per plan. It was like a couple of hours drive from our place and reached for lunch and to my surprise, everything I did on the day was just my first time ever.

We went to dine in a restaurant, and I could eat something simple like a chicken burger. There was a log of meat got served by the waiter to one my friends and I was like what is this? and he replies “what the heck haven’t you tried ribs?  Don’t you know what ribs are, expect the human rib cage lol ?”. Well, the honest answer is a NO and I did say it. He cuts a part of it and insists me as in I need to complete it. It was so nicely done that I started loving Ribs the very first time I tasted it.

Then we had a plan of events lined up for the entire day starting off with going to an Ice skating arena. And kid you not, the shoes felt weird when I actually saw them as they were a single piece of metal welded to the shoe and again the question arose was “Haven’t you done Ice skating?”. What will I say them, I am from a tropical country where the temperature is around 30 – 35 degrees Celsius approximately literally throughout the year. Being my first time, I fell on my ass every single time I tried to skate. Then everyone came to my rescue and taught me how to do? Held on to my hand and took care of me like a baby bro haha.

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Strictly NO JUDGING on my Ice Skating skills 😛 

The most enjoyable experience was the snow tubing, its fun guys.  If you guys would have done it, you would probably accept the fact. It was open and freezing in spite of my leather jacket. It wasn’t a lot of people which means we get more turns to do it. Let the pictures explain you better.

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Gatlinburg is a small beautiful town famous for its architectural experience, Moonshine, breweries, and their amazing wineries as well as their outlets (More important free tasting – SAY NO TO FREEEEEEE right 😛 ). We went on the Gatlinburg sky lift- like it was one of a kind views from the top of the mountain. The ride was amazing and thrilling as we went higher it was steep and scary. Overall worth the cost.

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Then after a tired day. We went on a walk to purchase some souvenirs, but the walk was so beautiful following us with the creek next to us. the sound of the water over the rocks, lights of the city, and the amazing architecture of the city was all worth the while. When we were on the lookout for restaurants, the wineries didn’t let us pass through. People from the shop were so welcoming and explained us about the complete procedure of preparation of wines. They were really a rare collection compared to the rest of the country and the aroma and taste were on point. Passing by every winery, none left us without tasting, never seen a bunch of people this courteous to serve free alcohol.

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When we were done with the wine section, Moonshine stores didn’t let us pass by without tasting. Moonshine(Link to explore more about Moonshine) is a type of alcohol mostly specific to smoky mountains area. This is a mystery drink as it can generate two flavors, for example, they had a cinnamon apple moonshine which tasted cinnamon while drinking and when you exhale it gives you an apple flavor. The storekeeper made sure, we had a taste of all the flavors. (I still didn’t understand why are people too nice :P)

PS: Drink responsibly, drink only if you are above 21 are moreover drinking can be injurious to health – I see you guys better behave, just kidding keeping in control is always better.

After such an amazing day, we did grab some food from the McD’s if I am not wrong and back to our forest zone at 11.30 pm.

TIPS FOR TRAVELLERS:

  1. Make sure you have a plan based on your interest.
  2. Hotels and resorts are pretty expensive, try to book it beforehand. (Options for cheaper booking: Hot rate hotels @ Hotwire.com)
  3. Keep your activities in the morning, so get ample time to explore the city at night.
  4. If you are a Wine lover, Never forget to taste raspberry and blueberry wines pretty much from all the outlets. Buy a few which suits you- they are amazing for the cost. (Average price $15 – $25 per bottle and cheaper when taken in a case)

THINGS TO DO IN GATLINBURG:

  1. Skiing, Ice tubing or Ice skating – So many options to choose from (We went to Ober)
  2. Creek walks around 7 pm if its winter and 9pm if its summer.
  3. Try out the wines from different local wineries.
  4. Amazing Barbeque places. (Choose based on google ratings – It works)
  5. Go on to the top of the mountain – Use Skylift (Tickets for $7)
  6. Moonshine tasting is a must if you like are a Whiskey Lover.
  7. Climbworks smoky mountains for zip line lovers.
  8. Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster.
  9. Wild Bear Falls Indoor Waterpark. (Pretty amazing place for some family time in the water )
  10. Mountain mall (Both for purchasing souvenirs and spending some time )

Hope you guys had an experience exploring this beautiful city. Let’s explore my first flight journey in the US and check out next week to see where I flew.

Love,

Praveen

TENNESSEE – Alternative Break experience

Hope you guys read about the 16-hour long journey from Miami to Tennessee through the beautiful city of Atlanta. welcome back, readers how is it going?

The whole experience of AB was just impeccable, from being without connection with the world (Just as we say – wander where the WIFI is weak), having a routine, open up and speak to people from a different origin. Getting to understand what and how these America born kids are brought up and how they react to things. Overall it was just mind-blowing. I am so excited to share every bit of it. It was a 7-day experience, I can write every single day as a separate and a unique experience. But, I am crunching in all the information into subcategories. Hope you guys love it and learn a bit about Cherokees (If you wanna know who they read it through 😊 )

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  1. Hosts:

we were with a family who organized everything for us including the food and shelter. They live in line with the nature eating fresh produce, working in the forest, sometimes they even go out for hunting (Scary right 😛 ) and the list goes on and on and on. Even for these American kids, it was new to them, as they were used to city life and they had a whole new experience with the wild and nature.

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The beautiful host – who managed us throughout the week. 

Morning Prayers:

As we were a part of Alternative breaks supporting Nature, I would say we were at the right place with the right companionship. The Old couple was really the right individuals for learning a handful of things within this short span. The First one of which, Singing the morning chores – The song of the  Cherokees ( Cherokee reference ) (They were the tribes who were native to this area). Glad I had a video to share with you guys. (To be honest – I completely forgot the verses.) Do check it out, it might seem funny but this is the way they welcome the Sun (Considered to be sun god – Used to be their daily morning ritual, cool Isn’t?)

Friendship:

We were a batch of Alternative Breaks students from Florida International University, Florida. Similarly, a group of people came from Georgia Southern University, Georgia. It was super fun and guys they were a batch of 7 girls and a guy. If you are a guy woohoo, Right (If at all you smiled you know to yourself you imagined, I see you ha ha…..Just kidding 😛 ). They were all amazing and very courteous. Everyone was friendly and helpful indeed. TIP: If you love traveling, open up and come out of your comfort zone. It fetches you so much of advantage to learn, get you stuff that you need and benefit you in so many ways.

 

Games- Cherokees play:

How do Cherokees get married?

Ans:  Everyone from the Cherokee clan used to assemble and there used to be pole with something tied which can hold a ball and there used to be individual sticks with guys and they need to pick them and hit the ball to the top of the pole and once it hangs on to the post, while a few of them objecting to throw. The guy who hits wins and gets to marry the girl.

Ps: Guys needs to play with their bare body- That’s what the story we were said.

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All that I could see is my eyes lol 😛

And we were told to play this game, it was freezing as low as 100 C. They told us just to take off only our shirts. Thank god none of us were gym freaks by then, hope you guys understand. When we were running out to pick up the ball and throw it into the pole all the girls were asked to obstruct us. Damn it was 4 guys and almost 15 girls. Literally took the energy out of us.

Food:

No complaints but the one day in between we got off. We literally went off to the city and drenched our tummy just with all the food we wanted. Because it was one and the same every single day. For Indians -bread, bagel, and cereals for the breakfast itself are new and on top of that if it wasn’t that great. But when you go for camping you must be ready sacrifice these issues.

Activities:

The main purpose of the trip was to go to such a beautiful national forest and make trails, clean up where we needed to, sawing unwanted trees and transporting those logs. It was all completely new to me and worth the experience. I hope the pictures explain you better.

Stay:

The stay varied depending on the place we went to serve. The actual base was the wooden house where we all stayed and the place we use to bathe was a wooden bath too. A very pretty place <3. But once we went to make trails in the smoky mountains to a different part in North Carolina we stayed in a church a whole night. The experience was amazing, as we were all chit chatting and playing cards. It gave me a nostalgic experience reminding me of my school days and our camping experiences.

Fun with Kids – Childcare:

One day out of these 7 days, our group from FIU was instructed to serve the child care in North Carolina. Oh, my god, these kids are the cutest, loved every moment of that day. My pictures would explain them much better  😊

 

We are into Pick -a- boo game (Don’t disturb us, haha)

So much fun with the kids 🙂

Views: 

Are you a beach person or a mountain person? well, I am a beach person but this trip made me think twice, gave the experience to view such amazing viewpoints and magnitude of beauty is just unimaginable. You guys need to see in person to feel it literally so beautiful. I could give you a glimpse of how amazing the place is.

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Fun with the band:

We had an amazing host who took us, to the band. which was pretty amazing. It was also amazing to see how people of their age perform and it was quite motivating for me.

Pretty much I have covered every aspect of the Alternative break and the different activities we had. Yes, everything is fun but what do you learn from those is the most important.

This experience gave me the opportunity to completely be with a new bunch of people who haven’t done anything like what I have done in term of practices, the way of living and the list goes on.

Don’t try to bring the change, Be the change.

See you next blog with an amazing experience to one of the, To go places of Smoky mountains(Smokies link).

Love,

Praveen

 

 

 

MULTICULTURAL DRIVE – DRIVE FROM MIAMI, FLORIDA TO GATLINBURG,TENNESSEE

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THE ROUTE 

Welcome back my wonderful readers, hope you enjoyed my First trip in the USA. You know what people who follow me regularly on social media might know, I traveled a few weeks back to Boston, it was a crazy ass experience which I will write separately. But for the very first time, I wrote my blog in the flight, the silence, the height, flying in the air, the sound of air passing by and a traveler retrieving his memories- Whaaaaattttttaaaa deadly combination. I just loved it😊 I also had an amazing Chinese friend Jess, who was visiting her boyfriend in Boston and sharing her experience of travel within China and elsewhere. A good Conversation Indeed, I love what I do and I am glad I can share it with you all.

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A Co- passenger cum traveler Ms. Jess from China

To start with the actual trip. This is again a nerve wrecking for a guy just moved to a completely new world, Yet beautiful experience. When you go any US university for education, at least most US universities, they have something called Alternative Breaks (AB), which is basically a group of like-minded people who join supporting a single cause, for example, supporting Homeless, Supporting Environment, Supporting education so on and so forth. I was a part of a group where we supported Environment (Guys we all need to start doing something positive towards the environment, that’s the need of an hour). It was six of us, such amazing souls, all were doing their Undergrad and I was the only one doing masters. But the difference is they were born and brought up here in the USA. But I was the only one immigrated from a completely different Place. I as a person, don’t bother with any such differences, however, insecurities start to kick in such as adapting to the situation and what would they be interested in which you can speak but gracefully adapt to the situation and start learning is what I eventually did.

Believe me or not. It was such a learning experience from the second I gave the interview to be a part of this group to the day we all said bye. Still, we all are connected to social networks despite living in different cities having different walks of life.  One mission was to work for the cause, but another mission was to travel and have fun at the same time. Then comes cost cutting as we are all still students and we planned to drive 13 hours(15 to 16 hours with break) instead of flying which was way cheaper. We even did a fundraising for the cost of the fuel. I wish I had pics to show you guys how I use to fundraise (I just used to have those fundraising chocolates with a hanging flyer which says 1 chocolate FOR $1 just like a street vendor next to Library – But it worked, lol) We made enough money as we planned to make, A little more wouldn’t have hurt but yea, that’s all we could manage.

The day came as semester got over the previous day, I was at a party with the Asian Student Union from the evening (Pic’s below) and we were supposed to leave at 4 in the morning. Finally, I managed to leave the party place at 2 Am somehow, came back Shifted my stuff from University dorms to our very own 508 paradises (That’s the house I use to live in Miami).

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One of the Crazy Parties till date – Asian Student Union

And I got off with all the required stuff and the excitement to the core because I was going to cross Florida state line and enter a new state for the very first time. We were renting a van at the Fort Lauderdale Airport. Carpooled and reached there. Inside I had the thing I am the only Indian, how are we gonna get coped up with them for the next one week. However, I was confident and ready to take it on but at some corner of the heart, I don’t know whether it was an inferiority complex or not having the sense of belonging.

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The huge vehicle we drove for the 15-hour journey 😛

There were 4 drivers including me because the not everyone could drive the crazy ass vehicle, We hit University of Florida, Gainesville as early as to get breakfast after 5 hours of drive. The deal was to have breakfast come out and I’ll drive. Had an amazing breakfast at Cracker Barrel(Cracker barrel link – if you wanna try ).

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   Ain’t the Skillet Yummy 😛 

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I took the vehicle, and it was the first ever time I am driving such a big vehicle ever. I managed to turn, come outside the building and start driving opposite side of the road (Not kidding – I am like so serious ) everyone shouting Praveen and I press the freaking brake so hard and everyone displaces from their seat and everyone was like let others drive. Felt so shameful and I didn’t literally open my mouth until we reached next stop. I was just feeling weird, just the emotion that they thought I didn’t know to drive. Then smoothly I was calming down and all Finally we crossed the Florida border. It was my first ever time that I crossed Florida.

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Florida – Georgia Borderline 

A drive of few hours we reached Atlanta in the evening. It was completely new to me from the atmosphere, the temperature,  and the aura itself. It was pleasant and chilly. Unlike Miami, there wasn’t a lot of commotion, not a lot of noise, even the downtown was pretty and silent. After a short visit to Mc Donalds,  for lunch, we started driving back and we all started binding with each other pretty well. However, they had issues with my accent but pretty much it went well.

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Atlanta Downtown

As we were entering Tennessee, the sun was set and drive got scary as there were just a GPS and no mobile network for any of us. It was quite adventurous, scary and most important it was freezing cold outside. Finally, we managed to find the place through the woods. It was really steep and we were guessing that should be the place. As expected that was it. It was a wooden house with bunk beds surrounded by mountains and trees (Such a wild and serene experience). Everyone was really tired after a 16-hour journey. Same as you are after a thousand word write up, just kidding.

Hear our funny voices discussing how weird and creepy was the town 😛

Glimpses of Atlanta and surrounding 🙂 

I’ll see you in my next blog with all the adventures we did, the new school Alternative break group we met, and all the fun we had.

Have a great weekend people.

Love,

Praveen