Budget-Friendly Travel: The Great Smoky Mountains

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Cade’s Cove

Budget-Friendly Travel: The Great Smoky Mountains

Witness and I recently traveled to the Great Smoky Mountains with our two friends M+S. It was definitely a fun trip, and one that I would be willing to make again, especially since it was a budget-friendly one! For two adults, the trip cost about $475 including the cabin, gas,
food, snacks, and souvenirs for our family back home.

Our Journey to the Great Smoky Mountains
The drive took about 9.5 hours from Chicago, IL. Witness and S took turns driving, and the trip went by pretty quickly with games, snacks, and music. I had packed breakfast and lunch the night before, so we ate as we traveled. We left at 7:30am (about half an hour later than expected), so we arrived at the cabin office at 5:30pm. We didn’t realize there was a time change between the states, so if you’re making the drive from the midwest to the south, make sure you calculate it in.

Travel + Food
There are roughly 589 miles between Chicago and the Smokies. Roundtrip, gas cost us a total of $83.55. Use this site to get calculations on your road trip. We took M+S’s cozy and gas-efficient Hyundai Elantra. We did have a little trouble packing everything into the trunk, but it was enough room for the four of us. If we had decided to bring another person or animal (like Cashew), a rented vehicle would have been the better decision.

We went shopping at Walmart and HMart for our groceries. The total cost for four days of meals and drinks was $216.33. If you want to save money, buying groceries and cooking is the way to go, even though it may be a bit of a hassle. It cost us $13 a day to feed one person on the trip, and we ate like kings!

Cabin: “On Eagle’s Wings”
We decided to book the cabin in Tennessee through Jackson Mountain Homes. Our cabin was called “On Eagle’s Wings” and nestled within the the Smokies in Gatlinburg, TN, the Gateway to the Smokies. The cabin had two decent sized bedrooms, both with king-sized beds. There were three full baths, a hot tub (yes!), an outdoor grill, two patios (with porch swing), an outdoor table set, pool table, kitchen utensils, (free) soap, movie room, fireplace and towels provided. Both couches could also turn into beds, so technically we could’ve had two more couples join us. The grand total for the four nights and three days was $462.85. We got one night free because we were visiting off season. Each couple paid $231.42; not a bad deal for a home away from home!

Ramsey Cascades
After a filling dinner and some star gazing on the deck, we went to bed. The following day, we decided that my first hike ever would be an 4 mile hike up to Ramsey Cascades. According to nps.gov, “Ramsey Cascades is the tallest waterfall in the park and one of the most spectacular. Water drops 100 feet over rock outcroppings and collects in a small pool where numerous well-camouflaged salamanders can be found.”

I wouldn’t suggest young children or people too out of shape (like myself) to take the hike up, especially if it’s your first time. It was quite difficult, challenging, yet rewarding. I would suggest you bring snacks, lots of drinking water, and a nice pair of hiking boots. Every time we climbed a mile or so, we’d meet a few hikers coming down from the cascades. Each one would tell us, “It’s hard… but it’s worth it.” Take a look for yourself!

Ramsey Cascades

We also saw some wildlife on the trails. This deer caught us staring at its cute curiosity.

Cade’s Cove
The following day we were all pretty sore. So, after taking some pain killers and allergy meds, we drove an hour to Cade’s Cove. Instead of walking trails, we decided we’d let the horses do it instead! We visited the Cade’s Cove Riding Stables. It was highly rated and an incredibly informative guided trail. The rate is $30 per person, and tip is appreciated!

After riding, we drove along the Scenic Drive, capturing gorgeous photos of the mountains plastered onto the backdrop of the beautiful blue sky. There was a lot of history regarding cabin life and the settlers who first made Cade’s Cove their home. We were also able to see a herd of grazing deer along the valley. Although we didn’t get to see any black bears, it was a beautiful and relaxing way to end our trip to the Smokies.

We had a great time at the Great Smoky Mountains with M+S. When you’re traveling, make sure you bring a spontaneous spirit, food + water, and great friends to make memories! Have you ever been to the Smokies? What did you do when you visited?




7 Ways to Make Long Distance Relationships Work


7 Ways to Make Long Distance Relationships Work

You met online, and you’re nowhere near each other. Or maybe you just started dating, and suddenly, one of you is moved halfway across the country for a new job. There are also those who have been dating for a while, and one of you needs to go to grad school (or whatever else) in a different state. You can either break up, be “friends,” or you can do things to make it work and stay together.

  1. Focus on a Goal
    • The pain and difficulty would be pointless without one. Build together towards something, whether it’s the promise that you’ll move to the same city, get married, or start a family together soon.
    • Often times, individuals with different goals and agendas will most likely not be able to stand the test of time. Ensure that your relationship lasts, set a goal, and take concrete steps to make it happen.
  2. Text + Call, Communicate!
    • Communication is king in relationships. Tag Facebook memes, write blurbs and cute “thinking of you” messages to your loved one, just in case they forget they’re the center of your universe.
    • Call during lunch breaks or on the way home. Make sure she/he is one of the first things you wake up and fall asleep to.
  3. Skype and FaceTime Daily
    • Fact: Things get lost in text-translation. (Especially if you don’t believe in emoticons). Being in the same room and face to face would be ideal, but the next best thing is ironically, another tech feature, Skype and Facetime! Whether you use the app Tango or stick to a more traditional Google Webchat, do it. Make sure to have conversations where you get to see one another and talk with tone, voice, and facial expression.
  4. Visit Each Other Monthly
    • My boyfriend at the time would visit me every other month. I would also travel back to Chicago on those months where he couldn’t come to Atlanta. It was also nice to have weddings and events to attend together, giving additional reason to travel and party with your significant other.
    • Traveling, flights, and rental cars can definitely get expensive, but it’s almost always necessary for most couples. Put your money where your heart is, literally, and go see your SO!
  5. Ask Good Questions
    • If you talk on the phone everyday, won’t you run out of things to talk about? Yes, if you’re asking the same questions everyday. Make sure you listen to how they’re feeling, what happened during the day, and dig deeper into how it affected them.
    • Active listening means staying engaged in the conversation (and not browsing on the internet), asking good follow up questions, and summarizing and understanding the information. This will allow you go leaps and bounds toward building the “us” mentality, beyond the miles between you.
    • Here’s a list of questions you could ask: Interesting Questions to Ask a Guy
    • Here’s some more: Questions to Ask Your Girlfriend
  6. Send Snail Mail
    • Don’t you wish those credit card companies would send you gifts and encouragements rather than bills, bills, and more bills? For any friendship, college bound student, or relationship, good snail mail is usually a highlight to one’s day.
    • Package baked goods, snacks, photos, or stuffed animals. Anything that allows your bf/gf to remember the good times, and soften your heart before the next time you see one another. Make sure to write a poetic letter too! Those make any girl’s heart melt.
  7. Savor Your Time Together
    • When you do get to see each other that one weekend a month, make it count. Don’t get upset and fight about the fact that one of you is suddenly leaving on the next flight. Make the most of your time, give your undivided attention, and hug his/her tears away! That one moment of love and affection can give you the strength to endure through the next month without each other.

What are some other ways you stay on the same page with your boyfriend/girlfriend? If you’ve been in a long distance relationship, what kept your relationship together?

Our Wedding Day: September 19, 2015


I just wanted to share our wedding video. There are a few things I regret in life (like my not bringing my hair accessory for the wedding, silly girl), but marrying my husband is definitely not one of them! To think that God planned such a person at such a time to carry me, love me, and accept me is an incredible miracle.

We started dating after about three years of friendship. I realized that he was a person that I wanted in my life… basically, forever. I couldn’t imagine going through mundane, difficult, and exciting times in my life without telling him about it, asking for his opinion, and gaining his insight. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, second to following Christ.

After a month of dating in Chicago, I was led to Atlanta, GA, where I would pursue my calling for music. I got a job at a restaurant, trying to live sparingly in my one bedroom apartment and going to nightly performance and artist training camps. I struggled emotionally, mentally, physically, and at times spiritually when I was unable to find a stable community and church. I was especially mortified when giant 2-inch, flying, nasty, cockroaches would infest my apartment, one at a time… waiting until I got back home from a long day to terrorize, taunt, and forever enslave me to the fear of quick, flying organisms.

Three months in, and my mom calls to tell me my father was diagnosed with the fourth stage of prostate cancer. The cancer had spread to his stomach and lungs, and the doctors were giving him about 2 years to live. I was afraid, 750 miles away from home without a real friend, and I didn’t know how to handle it. Witness was there, each day, consoling and comforting me to be strong and press on. Those nine months were such a hectic time, but a time where I was birthed to be a more stable, practical human being.

My wonderful church friends from Immanuel stopped by to help me pack and stuff everything into my Jetta. Witness flew in at 12:00am and drove about 14 hours straight back to Chicago, IL. I was back at home with my family, my dad doing much better. A week into being back from Atlanta, he asked my parents for my hand in marriage. And a few days after that, we were engaged! The man is relentless and thorough, I tell you.

Vendor Information
Ceremony Venue: Blanchard Alliance Church
Reception Venue: Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse
Videography: HWu Studios
Photography: Christina Cee Lee Photography
Floral: Vale of Enna
Photobooth: Simplebooth Co.
Party Bus: M&M Limo
Honeymoon: Hyatt Zilara Cancun

Here are some links on why and how we planned the wedding:
10 Reasons Why You Belong Together
10 Things to Do Before and After Your Wedding (Part 1)
10 Things to Do Before and After Your Wedding (Part 2)