Happy New Year!! We will begin a series in 2019 of introducing you to people who are novice, occasional, or experienced travelers.
First up is creative Sharn Hopkins. Travel Chops bloggers Rhonda and Sharee first met Sharn as attendees at her plays. They later assisted her as filmmakers on her two short films, A Mother's Plea (2016) and Nightmare (soon to be released). They were glad she was available to answer a few questions about her travel experiences.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Columbia, SC
What is your first experience do you recall of traveling beyond your hometown?
I remember as a teenager going to Tampa, Florida to visit family. The farthest I have ventured during those trips were in Orlando to visit more family members or go to the flea market.
Whom do you know in your family who has a passport?
My immediate family...no one. Extended family like cousins but just only a handful.
What are your top 3 travel destinations domestically and abroad?
My top three was Seattle, Santa Monica, and Miami. All three I traveled when I was working. If I had a top three of where I would like to go...domestically, Las Vegas, Hawaii, and Chicago. Internationally, I would like to go to Canada, Greek Islands or Lake Como in Italy.
Can you tell us about New Life Productions?
New Life Productions is an independent theatre and film company based in Columbia, SC. We believe in the concept of Edu-tainment which is having entertainment (theater or film) with a message that will educate on health and/or social issues. Sometimes, we do produce projects that are pure entertainment and fun. Also, New Life has an arts education foundation called For the Love of the Arts. The foundation focuses on training artists in performances or literary. We have programs and workshops in schools, community, and penal institutions.
Have you been able to travel through your organization? If "Yes", what destinations have your organization taken you to?
We have performed in New York..Brooklyn. Also, I have traveled to Miami, Winston-Salem, NC, and New York City on behalf of my company.
How can readers of the Travel Chops blogsite and the Take A Leap Travel newsletter follow New Life Productions?
They can visit our website at www.newlifeprod.com or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Travel Chops blogsite and Take A Leap Travel newsletter would like to Thank Sharn for taking the time to answer our questions about travel in the creative field.
If you have a traveler you want us to highlight, contact us at email@example.com.
Follow us at IG & FB @takealeaptravel.
We had the opportunity to visit the area's newest hotel in Downtown Columbia on this past Friday evening. Hotel Trundle caters to small businesses, and kept the locals in mind in its craftsmanship. As such, it not only used locals to customize the furniture, but it also uses them in preparation of food and libations. They offer locally crafted beer at check-in, and have locals cater their "Sip and Nibble Reception" in the early evenings with wine selected by local wine experts and light hors d'oeuvres by local restaurants.
We were invited by Consultant/Strategist Tori West of Talent Impact Strategies to her Holiday Social in the hotel lobby, and it was the most divine experience at the hotel dubbed by locals as "the unique boutique". During the reception, it was a family affair, as we were greeted by Tori's mother and aunt, and provided a crafted gift from the hotel upon arrival. The event was catered by Kiki's Chicken & Waffles, and we partook in chips and spinach tip, and chilled shrimp. After a few lively conversations with the guests, we took advantage of the selfie camera to take pictures, and ended the night with a gift of four artisan chocolates by Bruges Chocolaterie.
It's the season for a multitude of Holiday Social invites. We're so glad we came out to this one to support Tori and her business.
Do you plan to attend any Holiday Socials? If so, what unique locations are being used to host the events?
A few weeks ago Rhonda attended the SOCO Coworking Space in Columbia, SC. More recently Rhonda attended the Clutch Cowork 2 day pop-up coworking space for women entrepreneurs, freelancers, & side-hustlers. The minimum cost to attend the two days was worth it as a recent full-time entrepreneur.
Rhonda, pictured right, with Melissa Brown of @lisab_interiors.
LisaB Interior artwork set the atmosphere for Clutch Cowork.
As Rhonda settled in she was greeted with Smiles by the organizers, including the @clutchcowork founders @jessicaeboyd and @anitamgarrett. At 9:00am female entrepreneurs were already on their laptops posting on social media, writing blog posts, editing videos, and/or updating their websites. A break was needed and we all participated in DeskYoga by @rootedinwellbeing. The first few questions she asked as she led us through various deskyoga techniques were "Why are you here?" and "Why did you sign up with Clutch Cowork?" That was Rhonda's thought for the remainder of the day and even now two weeks later, as she left her full-time employment in October 2018 to take a Leap of Faith into full-time entrepreneurship.
After deskyoga, we ate snacks and drunk Gin's Juice, and then it was back to work our individual entrepreneurship effort. A few of the ladies networked. Several meeting their social media or FB friend/follower for the first time in person and talking about their aspirations and struggles as an entrepreneur. Several of the ladies participated in the two hour speed coaching session that included live video strategist Roshanda E. Pratt @therosholive.
Speed Coaching. Every 15 minutes entreprenurs, freelancers, and side-hustlers were able to ask a coach one question. Questions about personal finance, visual branding, business development, public relations, live video strategy, fitness and nutrition, and more.
As the evening approached more attendees came as they arrived mid-day or after their 9 to 5 job to just be in the room. Food was served prior to the three panel discussions. Food included vegan meatballs catered by @peaceofsoulsc. Yum!!
The evening session had 3 separate panels: Business, mini-keynote by WREN Founder Ann Warner, and Lifestyle.
The first panel was business. The panelist included Barbara Rackes, a serial entrepreneur who had 3 technology companies, a retail store, and the first online retail store in the state of SC; Blogger and writer @booksandbighair who worked at HBO; @ashlyev who wrote children books and interviews women on her podcast phenomenalwomenleading; moderator @sully_vann with @news19wltx; Debi Schadel; and Beth Ruffin.
A few insights: You will get alot of "No"s; volunteer at nonprofits; put yourself in the position; always "ask" questions; women need to develop the courage to put their best attribute on the line; create your own opportunities; find out what is missing and fill that need; use your network; help someone else or their business and someone or a business will help you. For non-profits, you should have a variety of people who will hold you accountable and who care about you and your soul.
A mini-keynote was by Ann Warner, WREN Founder. South Carolina is rated 45th out of 50 states for gender equality. Half of the workforce are female and are more educated. Although South Carolina is ranked 4th in the nation for women entrepreneurship, the gender wage gap is large. Entrepreneurship is high in South Carolina because workplaces are not working for women.
The final panel was on Lifestyle. Content creation and telling your story was said by all. Take care of yourself first. Just start, even if it is one day a month to take off from work. Rhonda asked the question of traveling as a lifestyle. Several of the panelists recommend using your vacation time or take time away from your business for a short period of time to go abroad to see how other people live. They are just like you, but may do some things differently.
Other recommendations by the lifestyle panelists were: Do something out of your comfort-zone as shared by a Caucasian panelist who takes Afro-dance classes. If you have multiple jobs, dance it out in your car between jobs. At times as an entrepreneur you have to not walk by Faith, but Faith crawl. No other story is the same. We need to know our worth. Do something - do it and don't wait. Believe in yourself. Don't let anyone deter you. Don't waste time by asking "what can you do tonight". Be around like minded people - your tribe. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
This is Rhonda's second co-working experience. Please feel free to share your experience in the comments section below.
Attendees at SOCO Sessions: Real Stories From Hustlers on the Road
As Rhonda was drinking her merlot wine on a recent Monday while attending a SOCO session on Gervais street, she reflected back to January 2012. She and her sister, Sharee, were in their cousin's Brooklyn, NY apartment interviewing new and upcoming travelpreneurs, Evita Robinson of Nomadness Tribe and Tracy Coleman, Purpose Driven Passports. You can view their interviews here and here, respectively. Rhonda and Sharee were excited and were hooked to the idea of traveling as a lifestyle and not just a vacation.
Fast forward to November 2018, Rhonda, now a full-time entrepreneur, and Sharee, still a full-time employee, are listening to nomad hustlers Candice Han and Susan Shain in a packed SOCO coworking space. Since 2012, the resources for persons to travel and work anywhere in the world have evolved. Candice talked about 2 years ago leaving her life in Los Angeles, CA and practicing her location independent business in New York. After a few months she started visiting other countries, going to a new location every 3 months. Her favorite location was a 400 person village in Costa Rica with a jungle and monkeys outside her door. She loves the freedom to visit new destinations.
A question was asked about sustainability. Susan, as a writer, is 100% referral based and stay in Airbnbs in affordable places. Mexico and Thailand are low cost destinations for which your money will go far. Both Candice and Susan talked about the more you travel, your network will grow, and your business will be sustainable. Candice stated you don't have to pitch new businesses or have meetings in person. You can talk via phone or Skype. Don't be afraid to inform your client that you will never meet me in person. You can make it work.
Another question was asked about leaving family and friends while living abroad. The panelists said you can use facetime, whatsapp(both you and the receiver must download the app), and project fi(free texting & data in 170+ countries at the cost of $35/month). Homeschooling kids was mentioned by both Candice and Susan with resources, such as, World Traveling Family. Rhonda chimed in to those in attendance with kids that they can go to FB and join Wanderist Life FB Community. Wanderist creates amazing experiences for you to live + work + play for one month to one year in an incredible destination. Many who traveled with Wanderist for a year in 2016 brought along their kids.
What is stopping people to choosing the nomad lifestyle? Susan said fear and not knowing people who have done this nomad lifestyle. She continues and said nothing is permanent. Change is good. Candice said what is stopping people is fear of running out of money or sustaining the lifestyle. There are less steps than you think there is and timing.
The final questions were about productivity and wifi. The pomodoro technique was mentioned for productivity. The premise is to work in blocks of time, typically 25 minutes long (called pomodoro sessions), followed by a 5 minute break. You do this throughout your day and you can complete 3-5 goals you set for yourself that day. You must write down your goals of what you want to accomplish each day to be productive. Also for productivity try a traveling mailbox company to scan your mail, deposit your checks, and shred your mail. In regard to wifi, for a list of destinations with quality of wifi go to nomadlist. You can also find coworking spaces either in advanced or when you get to a destination with a quick Google search.
Candice Han said it best, that once you go across that invisible line of entrepreneurship and/or being intentional about traveling, 100% committed... GO, and the provision will come. I summarize it as my title says, "Take A Leap of Faith; Do the Work You Love; & God's Provision".
Do you have the hustle to live the nomadic lifestyle?
Moderator Greg from SOCO Bullstreet, Candice Han, and Susan Shain
Co-working spaces are collaborative work environment of shared space, ideas, knowledge often used by self-employed or independent workers. As a newly full-time entrepreneur, Rhonda had an opportunity to tour Columbia's premiere co-working space, SOCO. There are actually two locations in the area, downtown in the Vista and in the new Bull Street District. Rhonda toured the latter, yet as a SOCO paid member your are able to go to either location. During Rhonda's free day pass visit this past week, she went to both locations, and felt a different vibe at each location. Bull Street had more of a relax vibe, whereas Vista had more of an emerging creative vibe.
As an entrepreneur, it can get lonely and unproductive working at home, and co-working spaces provide the familiarity of an office environment. The connections with the other "co-workers" can be at both the local and global level. There are people that hold membership that live in the community, as well as global visitors who drop in every few weeks at they travel. Everyone is willing to share their expertise, and it was able to easily identify persons who maybe to help in areas of marketing, promotion, and website development, in addition to what Rhonda can offer them.
The culture of co-working spaces have proven to be a growth market that is beyond a phenomenon. They can be found in almost any major US or global city, and travelers find them to be ideal working spaces. A list can be found here. It's also interested to note that successful business such as Uber, Instagram, and Indiegogo started at a co-working space.
Have you been to a co-working space in your community or while traveling?
Rhonda W. & Sharee W.
We decided to take a single overnight stay in Savannah, GA during the Labor Day holiday. It was an impromptu road trip as we neared the end of summer. After checking into our Fairfield Inn & Suites Savannah Midtown(Marriott affiliated) hotel, we ate Mexican food at a nearby shopping center. Later that evening we took an Uber ride to save on parking fare and the highly congested River Street destination.
As we walked along the shops on River Street, the massive view of the Talmadge Memorial Bridge remain in our sight. The sundown moment behind the bridge was captured by many walking along the street taking selfies and being enamored by the view. The food in historic Savannah did not disappoint. The smell of seafood was all was around us and led to River House Seafood. The relaxing atmosphere created great conversation as we ate oysters and veggie platters.
The next day, on our way home , we took a quick jaunt to Tybee Island(less than 20 miles from Savannah). We came this far and mind as well see the beach. After two hours the rain came and it was time to make our way home. We went onto this road trip with no plans and came out fulfilled with lasting memories as the summer ended.
Even though we are full swing in the Fall season, summer memories still linger. What was your final summer trip memory? Any plans for the Fall?
FB Take A Leap Travel Page
FB Take A Leap Travel Group
We are co-authors of a wonderful book called "She's Ready". It's a book full of inspiring travel stories and a wanderlust guide for women travelers. Our chapter, "Take Flight: Jet Setting with a 9-5", will inspire you to get moving and start your own personal journey, even within the confines the 40 hour work week. The book is spearheaded by Rashell Evans, Founder of Statement Junky, a non-profit devoted to providing passports to young girls ages 13-18.
We were blessed to have our travel stories included in the book, and will sell a few dozen copies via our Take A Leap Travel Box website for $20, including shipping. Anyone local to Columbia, SC will have access to it for $15. The book will be available on the website for pre-sale in December with a 15% off discount through December 31, 2018, and will officially be released January 8, 2019. There will be an official book signing in NYC on January 12, 2019, and as soon as we get the details, we'll forward to everyone. God-willing, we'll be there, and excited for all the women involved.
Follow the publisher on IG @StatementJunky
Follow us on IG @takealeaptravel
Follow the hashtag on IG #StatementJunky #ShesReadyBook
Rhonda and Sharee
Can you believe that we haven't posted all Summer? Like not at all. And we did so much traveling and ate so much good food. So the best way to do this is a short recap of our travels and in later posts, we'll go deeper.
Cruise to Mexico- in late June we traveled with family members to celebrate our cousins 40th Birthdays this year. We traveled to both Cozumel and Progreso (Yucatan). The former we made our own adventure by walking around the city and found a secluded part of the beach; the latter, we went on an organized excursion to learn about the Mayan people and viewed one of the ruins.
Movie Premier in NYC- in mid-July we traveled with family members for a movie premier of "Own Your Stupidity", a movie we executive produced with the author. We brought a friend and her daughter who had never traveled by plane or been to New York. Our adventure took us from Downtown Brooklyn to 9/11 Memorial to Uptown Harlem.
Take A Leap Travel/Curlfest- in late July we traveled back to New York as the first trip of our Take A Leap Travel Experiences. We stayed in Brooklyn in the Williamsburg neighborhood in a hotel we booked through booking.com, and frequented to the Clinton Hill neighborhood to eat. We ate at both SOCO (Soul Food/Cajun)and Los Pollitos III (Mexican) on Myrtle Avenue. Excellent food and vibes. We walked quite a bit, even the 2 miles to the Brooklyn Museum and the 3 miles to Prospect Park to attend Curlfest where we came home with a load of natural hair products. Another highlight was meeting a few Clemson Alums in the city and enjoying a night of live R&B music at The Groove.
The Summer has been a mix of work and play. And we're closing our Summer travels to Savannah on Labor Day. We have no plans, and that is exciting to us because we'll basically let the day unfold.
Have you been to Savannah recently? What are some must do's in Savannah?
Rhonda had a work conference in San Diego, California and Sharee decided to tag along. It was Rhonda's second time, and Sharee's third time in the San Diego area. We spent the first day walking by foot to a nearby shopping court, and enjoying the cool breeze weather.
It was on the second day that Sharee wandered off to Old Town to enjoy the sights. Old Town is a neighborhood in San Diego known as the first settlement of Europeans in what is present-day California. Excitement was in the air as the towns people were in the midst of setting up for Cinco de Mayo. With over 30 restaurants, 100 plus speciality shops, and more than a dozen art galleries and historic buildings, it was a great solo experience for Sharee. Later that evening, joined by one of Rhonda's conference attendees, we both spent the evening back at Old Town to enjoy an authentic Spanish meal.
On the last full day Sharee utilized a hop-on-hop off pass and got a chance to see the expansive city of San Diego that she had never experience on her previous travel there. Starting early in the morning, she was able to experience eleven unique stops. The best view was when she went over the Coronado Bridge. After sharing a few pics with her sister, Rhonda also purchased a hop-on-hop off pass to enjoy the sights for the remainder of the day. Their final stop was in the downtown district of Little Italy. An ArtWalk was taking place and they were in the midst of thousands of people as they took in the art and smells of delicious foods. It was there that we tasted our first beignets. Yum!!
It was an excellent trip, and one for the books. Of course we never go anyplace without some sense of adventure, so we took a few hours on our departure day to hang out in Los Angeles with some friends, only to return to the San Diego airport to have our flight cancelled. We didn't get home until the following evening, but we have so much love for California, we didn't mind the extra overnight stay.
Have you visited California? If so, what has been your experience. And if not, where would you like to visit first?
We would like to welcome newbie traveler Recya Robertson to reflect upon her recent 2 day mini-break to Myrtle Beach.
On April 20th I decided to take a mini break from everybody. I went to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I wanted to go to Savannah, but didn’t know the area well enough to go by myself. This was a must need break for me because I’m either always working or sitting at home doing nothing. I made reservation at Days Inn a couple days before I left. When I got there, the hotel wasn’t anything like I expected it to be. I was like "nope"..this is not the area/hotel that I booked a couple days ago. When I went to confront the receptionist about it, she told me that the pictures on the internet were taken years ago. Many of the hotels around here get most of their business by submitting "old pictures. I’m looking at her like "what the world... that’s false advertisement" etc. I wanted to cancel my reservations all together. Then I started thinking if I did, where was the next place I can go or call to stay for the weekend. What I end up doing was staying there because there was nothing I could do about it at that moment.
The good thing about my break was me enjoying the sun, quietness, the birds chirping, beach, and my daughter. The bad thing about this trip was not being able to sleep. Meaning, I got bitten by a couple of times by bed bugs while I was there. I end up throwing all of my clothes and shoes in the trash. I lost my belongings, but gain freedom. I’m now able to do a lot of traveling by myself. I was very afraid to do that before.
The things that I got out of it was take somebody with me the next time I go because being by myself is not always good. The lesson I learned was never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever book a hotel in Myrtle Beach on the south side. Will I ever do it again? The answer will be YES, but on the north side.
Thanks Rhonda Washington for that extra push. You’re a good person inside and out.
We want to thank Recya for sharing her story. It takes courage to travel solo even when you have a family.
Rhonda & Sharee Washington