2018 Reader Survey

Happy Friday! We did it; we survived the first week back after the holidays.

One of my biggest goals for 2018 is to continue growing the community around this space. Thus, the time has come for me to conduct my first reader survey! (Eek!) I really want to hear from you so you can continue to enjoy this space as much as I do. Grab your favorite beverage (because it’s Friday!) and pretty please with a cherry on top take this short survey for me!

Thank you in advance!



Anything I left out of the survey that you want to comment on, I want to hear from you?


2017 Year End Review

It was the best of years. It was the worst of years. 2017 was one of the most challenging years of my life. It had moments of joy, but a large number of heartache moments as well. Here are some of my favorite highlights from the year:

The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new. // Socrates

  • My brother got engaged!
  • I bought my first house.
  • Continued to grow this space. (Thanks for your help!)
  • I traveled the most number of miles ever in a single year, approximately 33,000 miles.
  • And I crossed a bunch of items off my bucket list!
  • Countries Visited:
  • New States Visited:
  • Alabama Football Games Attended:
  • Books Read: 37


January kicked-off with Georgia’s first “snow” storm of the year, which ended up being full of ice. I spent the majority of the month working on this little corner of the internet, getting it revamped and set some goals for the year. The Tall Man and I also adventured to The Windy City for a very short trip with his work, and my mom and I headed over to Anniston, Alabama for Southern Exhilaration’s first sponsored post. (If you are ever in the city, be sure to check out Hotel Finial.)

bean there, done that

A photo posted by Caitlin (@soexhilaration) on


February was a pretty chill month. It started off with the Falcons and Patriots playing each other in the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, my team lost and The Tall Man’s won. There were the trips to North Carolina to see my guy, and then some quality time with friends. The short month passed quickly.


In two words, March was an emotional roller-coaster. It started off with a trip to Raleigh, but this time my whole family joined me. Not only was it my dad’s birthday weekend, but it was also one of my brother’s best friend’s wedding. We played in Durham around the wedding schedule. I also celebrated one of my best friend’s bachelorette parties with a food tour around Atlanta. Unfortunately, the end of March brought a lot of unexpected changes and heartbreak.


April and May were not easy months for me. I decided to take a slight hiatus from this space and worked on figuring out the next steps of my life. Despite the heartache and feeling utterly lost, life moved on. In April, I celebrated a friend’s wedding, spent some time with my best friend drinking wine and shopping, traveled to Santa Monica with a work trip, and concluded the month with a trip to Birmingham to see my smarty-pants brother graduate with his masters.

to everything there is a new season | ecclesiastes 3:1

A post shared by Caitlin (@soexhilaration) on


May brought a lot of travel. I started off with a trip to New York for my third National Geographic Photography Workshop. I always love the opportunity to explore new parts of this city. The following weekend, I hit the road to Rochester Hills, Michigan for a quick work-related trip, and then headed to the beach for a week of some serious R&R.

Meet me in New York. 🗽 #NewYorkCity #NGExpeditions 📷: @meghan_leighh

A post shared by Caitlin | Travel Blogger (@soexhilaration) on


June was a busy month of house hunting, job searching and getting my feet back under me. I kicked off June with a trip to Connecticut for work and to visit some family. It was a relaxing time, and it felt good to spend some time with my aunt. For Father’s Day, we surprised my dad with an outing to TopGolf.

Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaleship in the world, can be found at Mystic Seaport.

A post shared by Caitlin (@soexhilaration) on


July was a very low-key month when it came to traveling. I did manage to get in a weekend visit with my best friend and head to Tuscaloosa for an alumni meeting. My family also celebrated my brother’s engagement! 🙂

nubivagant (adj.) // wandering in the clouds; moving through the air.

A post shared by Caitlin (@soexhilaration) on


August was a busy month. The month kicked off with a week-long trip to Buffalo, New York for a client meeting that included a day trip to see Niagara Falls. I also celebrated my 29th birthday with a surprise trip to Denver with my mom and Pack Up + Go. (If you are a planner looking for a little spontaneity, then you need to check out this company.) Then ended the month with a whirlwind trip to northern California for a friend’s wedding and to Chicago for a conference.

birthday (noun): nature’s way of telling us to eat cake. 🎂 #29andfine

A post shared by Caitlin | Travel Blogger (@soexhilaration) on


September equals the start of football season! My brother and I were able to attend the Alabama vs. FSU game at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and then my parents and I headed to Nashville to see Alabama take on Vanderbilt. (Roll Tide!) I was home for basically the whole month, so I put a lot of energy into this space.


The biggest and best of October was purchasing my first home! I made the offer on October 3rd and closed on October 30th, so the whole month revolved around all that goes into becoming a first-time homeowner. I also managed to get in a couple of trips, including a trip out to Texas with my dad for the Alabama vs. Texas A&M game. And thanks to Publix, I was able to up my culinary skills with a six-week class through their Aprons Cooking School.

and so a new adventure begins… ?

A post shared by Caitlin | Travel Blogger (@soexhilaration) on


The theme of my November was boxes. I spent the majority of the month unpacking everything I own and getting settled into my new home. My family had a quiet Thanksgiving at home, which was exactly what I needed after a crazy two months.


December was an exciting month! It kicked off with a trip to Madison, Georgia to do a feature on their “Honeymoon” Mansion. December also brought Atlanta a lovely dusting 10 inches or so of snow. The month concluded with my whole family in town to celebrate the holidays.

all the heart eyes for the architecture in madison, georgia 😍

A post shared by Caitlin | Travel Blogger (@soexhilaration) on

What was your favorite part of 2017?

If you haven’t already, please find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and/or Bloglovin’!

Southern Experiences

A Quintessential Southern Town {Madison, GA}

Located in the historic heartland of Georgia sits the quintessential southern town of Madison. Only an hour from Atlanta and an hour and a half from Augusta, this city has built a name for its self as being one the South’s Best Towns and World’s Most Beautiful Towns. It also boasts one of the largest historic districts in Georgia.

Spared during Sherman’s “March to the Sea,” this southern belle of a city is filled with antebellum charm. The town was established in 1809 and named after the US’s 4th President, James Madison. Madison grew in fame with its reputation as “the most cultured and aristocratic town on the stagecoach route from Charleston to New Orleans,” but got its wealth from the town’s cotton-boom heyday from 1840-60.

Antebellum Beauty

Madison boasts nearly 100 antebellum homes along its tree-lined avenues, many of which are in beautifully restored condition.

Related: The “Honeymoon” Mansion

Heritage Hall, also known as the Jones-Turnell-Manley House, was built in 1811 and served a private residence for 166 years until 1977. It is now maintained by the Morgan County Historical Society and is one the most visited tourist attractions in Madison.

Fun Fact: Look for the window etchings. Daughters and granddaughters of Dr. Elijah Evans Jones used the windows to check the legitimacy of their diamond engagement rings. 

Barrow Academy

Madison has a rich history of education. Barrow Academy is one of only two New Orleans cottage-style houses in the city. The house was constructed in 1840 to be an academy for boys, but when the Civil War broke out, it became a makeshift hospital for all of the injured soldiers that arrived into Madison via train.

Additionally, this property is home to the oldest structure in the town that initially served as a slave house.

Churches of Madison

Religion was a large part of Madison’s establishment. Each domination was provided an acre of land by the by the Inferior Court of Morgan County in 1825, and to this day the original buildings still stand.

Church of the Advent was built in 1844 by the Methodist Church and is currently home to the congregation of the Episcopal faith.

The Madison Baptist Church, organized in 1834, formerly worshiped on the site of Calvary Baptist Church on Academy Street and moved to its current location on Main Street in 1858 after the completion of the building. All the stain glass is original to the building.

Right next door to the Baptist Church is the Madison Presbyterian Church. This building was built in 1842 by skilled architect and mason, Daniel Killian, after the congregation had worshiped in homes and the courthouse for 21 years. Be sure to visit the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center to see the original communion set that was stolen during the Civil War. It is stunning, as are the original stain glass windows.


What is your favorite antebellum city?

Southern Experiences

The “Honeymoon” Mansion

Thank you to Lake Oconee Living for allowing me to feature the “Honeymoon” mansion. 

Four dramatic Doric columns make this grand home on the south end of Madison’s historic district a quintessential example of the Greek Revival style built in 1851. The entire house is 5,000 square feet.

This home, known as the “Honeymoon” mansion, was owned by the Godfrey-Candler-Hunt family. If you know the history of Atlanta, this house was home to Charles Candler the son of the founder of Emory University and the nephew of the man responsible for Coca-Cola’s early growth.

This home has gone through some significant changes and renovations thanks to Jimmy Stanton of Stanton Home Furnishings. Mr. Stanton calls “Honeymoon” his second home, as he splits his time between Atlanta and Madison. He purchased the house three years ago and since then has made this historic home quite the statement piece in Madison.

As you enter the front door, you are welcomed by a two-story entrance foyer that reminded Mr. Stanton of the entrance from Grey Gardens. It was one of the elements that drew him to the home. To the left and right of the entrance foyer are two parlors designed to imitate day and night. The dark parlor is one of Mr. Stanton’s favorite rooms.

As you move towards the back of the house, there is a secondary foyer with a sitting area and dining room. The back of the home has a butler’s pantry and cozy kitchen. Personally, I loved the dining room and all the books in the fireplace.

As you exit out one of the back doors, you move into a beautifully manicured property of five acres. The back of the property includes a pool and pool house, which was originally the garage and potting shed, as well as a firepit and outdoor dining area. The pool house is another favorite room to the owner.

Upstairs boasts four bedrooms, all with a diverse style and stunning views.

The renovations took all of two weeks to complete, including a complete renovation of the kitchen and pool house.

All the floral work in the home was designed by Zeb Grant Design. All of the Christmas floral decorations were sourced from the property and were designed to meld together traditional and modern.


Holiday Gift Guide: 25 Travel Gift Ideas Under $25

There’s a reason $25 is such a popular dollar amount for gift exchanges and gift cards. It’s just the right amount to afford a present that’s worthwhile to the recipient without putting a strain on your wallet.

At this price point, there are some crowd-pleasers you can purchase for a friend or coworker. If you know they are into travel, check out this list of things I love to treat myself to and bring along when I’m on the road.

Related: Holiday Gift Guide: The Best Travel Gifts Under $10

Packing Cube Set

The one thing every traveler desires is more space when they are packing, and that is where packing cubes come in handy. Plus they make packing and unpacking a breeze once your traveler arrives to their destination. This cube set from Amazon is a budget-friendly option.

Dry Bags

Dry Bags come in extremely handy when traveling. I use them a lot like packing cubes, but I also keep one in my backpack at all times in case an unexpected rainstorm comes. I throw my electronics and camera into it to ensure they stay dry.

Face Mask

Traveling takes a toll on your skin when you travel thanks to the change in environment, lack of sleep, and usually dehydration. Treat your traveler with an assortment of face masks. I always take a face mask with me on my trips to help give my face a little TLC.

Kissable Color

In addition to treating your travelers face, also treat their lips. Burt’s Bees lip care is one of my favorites! Plus now that they come in colors, it replaces my lipsticks when I’m doing very compact traveling.

Carry-on Cocktail Kits

These pocket-sized kits are the ultimate treat to toast to the next adventure. This kit includes everything you need to create a Moscow Mule, one of my favorites, mid-flight, but it also comes in Bloody Mary, Gin & Tonic, and Old Fashioned.

Postcards & Calendars

If your traveler is a fan of snail mail during their travels, then these postcards from Anderson Design Group are just the thing they need. I, personally, love the Southern Design kit and the build your own. This city map set from Rifle Paper Co. is another favorite of mine. I also can’t get over the Rifle Paper Co.’s calendars, and I look forward to getting one every year.

On the Go Game Pad

This notebook is full of classic games like hangman and dots and boxes will help pass the time on flights or long road trips (in the passenger’s seat, of course).

Emergency Kit

You never know what the road will bring so having a first aid kit on hand is very helpful. I really like this one because it is a good size and comes pre-stocked with plenty of supplies.Travel Humidifier

Travel Humidifier

Another one of my travel essentials is a travel humidifier. This one converts a water bottle into a humidifier, which is super helpful in the winter months when the air is much dryer.

Tile Mate

Tile Mate is a handy racker if your traveler tends to lose things!

Bottle Cap Tripod

No need to travel a bulky tripod around, when you can add this bottle-top pod to the top of your water bottle.


Another alternative to a bulky tripod is a GorillaPod. I do not travel anywhere without mine, and I absolutely love it!

Solar Charger

Depending on where your traveler is going a solar charger could be the perfect gift! This charger is compact enough to function anywhere you want, and it is suitable for a wide range of occasions like flights, parties, BBQ and other outdoor activities. Plus it comes in multiple colors.

Bluetooth Speaker

One of the best ways to make friends while on the road is music. It’s a language everyone understands. So treat your traveler with a portable Bluetooth speaker that they can take anywhere with them and share their tunes with their new friends.

Travel Adventure Map

This scratch-off map is the perfect way for your traveler to keep track of all their adventures.

Travel Wall Art

Another fun way to document all of your traveler’s destinations is with wall art. I particularly like these luggage tag posters.

Language Guides

Language guides are a handy thing to have for when visiting a new country. I really enjoy the Lonely Planet phrasebooks as they make it easy to use when on the road.

Travel Pillow

Travel pillows are a great companion for those super long flights. There is nothing quite like landing and having a crick in your neck.

Travel Necklace

Anyone who loves to travel has a small obsession with world maps. This world necklace makes for the perfect gift for the traveler who wants to keep the world close by.

Compression Socks

I have found the older I get, the more my feet swell when I travel on long flights. Compression socks have become a life-saver. I love these colorful socks because if you are going to wear them, they might as well be fun!

Travel Steamer

If you have a traveler who hates wrinkles, then you need to treat them to a travel steamer. This one is perfect for compact travel needs and heats up quickly! It’s the perfect companion when you aren’t sure if there will be an iron available.

Travel Hairdryer

Not every destination has a hairdryer, which is a complete shame. I use this one when hotels do not have one available. It’s very compact and includes ceramic technology to fight frizz.


Daypacks come in very handy when touring a new place. This one is super lightweight and has plenty of space for your guidebooks and cameras.

Hydration Pack

Depending on the types of activities your traveler enjoys, a hydration pack is a very useful thing gift. I use mine for day hikes and those very long, hot days. This pack is compact and holds a 2L bottle.

Gift Card

An Amazon gift card or one to their favorite store is always an easy go-to. I love getting gift cards because I can purchase exactly what I want when I need it.


Why Travel Matters

It is no secret that I believe the greatest gift you can give someone is the gift of travel. The act of getting outside your home or local sphere to experience new places, new foods, new people, and even new languages is part of human nature. We were designed to explore.

Related: Travel is My Love Language

The most important reason, to me, of why I travel is the connections we make. Thanks to traveling I have friends in multiple states and countries all across the world. People that I have met either over a pint of beer in a local pub or have spent a week alongside them wandering their country. We have shared our likes and dislikes, the similarities and differences between our homes. And what did a learn over these discussions? We are not all that different after all.

“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, To gain all while you give, To roam the roads of lands remote, To travel is to live.” // Hans Christian Andersen

Traveling also provides a sense of freedom. Travel comes with its time of stress and anxiety, but it also provides the option to unplug and experience leisure time that we normally don’t experience at home. Time on a flight, for me, is when I catch up on my latest novel instead of my emails. Travel provides you the ability to do the things that you want to do, when you want to do them, at your own pace with no pressure from anyone but yourself. How often do we get that option at home?

Related: How to Manage Travel Anxiety

Travel is also an extreme challenge. You are purposefully putting yourself outside your comfort zone. No matter where you go, there will be no sights, smells, and all around assault to the senses. But once you concur your new environment, you will feel a sense of pride like you have never felt before.

Finally, travel teaches us humility. There is nothing like walking into a third-world country and seeing poverty to the magnitude face-to-face. When visiting countries of the second- and third-world, try stepping outside the lush environment of the resort life to experience the authenticity of the country. It’ll help put your problems into perspective, and realize just how thankful you truly are for the opportunity.


Why does travel matter to you?


How to Manage Travel Anxiety

Most people in the world dream of travel, but travel anxiety is also very common. If you suffer from travel anxiety, I have a secret for you…I do too.

There are trips where I’ll be perfectly okay as I prepare and then other trips where I have a full-on panic attack as I pack my bags. However, it is something I acknowledge and work to combat every time I prepare to leave home for an extended period of time.

Since I know I’m not the only one who suffers from anxiety; I want to share some of my tips to help you overcome, so panic attacks and anxiety don’t put a damper on your travel plans.

Dealing with Travel Anxiety before You Leave

Remind Yourself WHY You Want to Travel
Whenever you start to feel the anxiety rise, stop and take a deep breath and picture yourself in your destination. Imagine yourself having the time of your life without any anxiety. Picture yourself dreaming the life you want to live. These positive affirmations will calm you down. Can’t do it yourself? Have a friend or family member talk these positive affirmations over with you.
Meticulously Plan
Anxiety often stems from feeling like you’re not in control, so try to stem it by taking your trip planning to the extreme. Anyone who has ever traveled with me knows I like to have everything planned to the hour. That can cause stress for some people, but for me, the focus provides that sense of control that often doesn’t accompany travel.
Find a Community
You need a support system to help you travel and to help you manage your anxiety. Find a group or two you like and connect well with the other members, and integrate yourself into the groups by lending advice as much as you ask for it. These groups will be there when you need them most.

Dealing with Travel Anxiety on Your Trip

Form a Routine
Travel can be stressful, and it’s often the lack of routine that increases the chance of anxiety. To create the sense of control, form a routine while you are away that is similar to your routine at home. Set your alarm every day or go to the same cafe for breakfast. Small things that you can control will help.
Leave Your Comfort Zone
Repeated exposure to your fears is better than avoidance. Don’t let your fears prevent you from living your life. I get that it’s scary, but once you step outside your comfort zone you’ll be so proud of yourself, and you’ll want to do it again because you know you can. Travel provides an excellent outlet for tackling several fears at once, and when it feels overwhelming just try some calming techniques and try again.
Avoid Your Triggers
We all have triggers that heighten our anxiety. Before you leave, make a list of those things and try to minimize your exposure to these while you are away.
Don't Compare Your Experiences
It’s super easy to get beat down when we look at our friends travel experiences. Social media gives everyone a sense of inadequacy, but don’t let those feelings lead to anxiety. Everyone is putting their best selves out there, including you. And also remember, as much as you desire someone else’s life and adventures, there is someone out there who desires to have your life and your adventures. Because you are awesome!

Related: 31 Incredibly Useful Tips Every Anxious Traveler Needs To Know

To be honest with you, travel has brought me a sense of freedom. Do I still suffer from anxiety? Absolutely. But, I think travel has been the one thing that helped me conquer my fears more than anything else. Travel is terrifying, but it also challenges you out of your comfort zone more than anything else and once outside your comfort zone you realize you can do whatever you want whenever you want.


Happy Travels! What’s something that has helped you manage your travel anxiety?


Saturday Down South: TAMU 2017

Texas A&M is quickly becoming the game I attend almost every year (2014 & 2016), but this year I won the chance to go out to Texas to see Alabama play at Kyle Field. Bucket List Item: ✔️, as Kyle Field marks my 5th SEC stadium.

My Dad and I flew out to Houston to travel with Tide up to College Station. We arrived in Texas on Friday afternoon and attended a party with the local alumni chapter. We had some great BBQ and got the chance to meet some of Alabama’s greats.

Sweater // Cami // Jeans

On Saturday morning, we got up early, loaded the bus and made the hour and half ride up to College Station. I have to say Texas A&M fans are the absolute nicest, and their campus is pretty impressive. We opted to participate in the national alumni tailgate to take advantage of the AC before we headed into the stadium. Our seats were located at the top of the stadium, but it offered a great view of the corps marching through campus.

Alabama Jersey // Jeans // Watch // Boots (similar) // Sunglasses (similar)

The game was a nail-biter, but we brought home the W.


My Everyday Makeup Routine

To be up front, beauty is not something I would consider myself an expert. I can book the cheapest flight with the best and plan a killer trip itinerary, but ask me the difference between a BB Cream and CC Cream or what you use certain brushes for, and I’m going to look at you like a deer in the headlights.

What I have found though, despite not knowing everything, is the products that work for my face and make me feel the prettiest. After all, isn’t that all makeup and beauty products are for? With that said, I would call myself a Neutrogena, Almay, Bare Minerals kind of girl.

Step 1: Face Wash

I shower almost every morning, so when I start my makeup routine, it’s with a clean face. I always wash with plain old Dove soap. I find it is gentlest on my skin. I have used other face washes in the past to help out with my acne, and my favorite was the Neutrogena Deep Clean Cream Cleanser. I also use the Neutrogena Makeup Remover Wipes at night before I go to bed.

Step 2: Moisturize & Prime

After I dry my face, I always apply a moisturizer and an eye cream. I absolutely love the Hydro Boost line from Neutrogena. It hydrates my dry areas but doesn’t make my oily areas too much of a mess. Plus it is lightweight!

After I moisturize I apply my primer. 90% of the time I don’t wear primer as I don’t really see a difference between when I wear it and when I don’t. My go-to primer though is Smashbox Photo Finish Primer. I find that when I do wear it, I look less “shiny” on those hot summer days.

For concealer, thank you dark circles, I use CoverGirl Invisible Concealer.

Step 3: Face

After my primer and moisturizer have dried, I apply my BareMinerals foundation. I love the powder foundation over the liquid, as I find it provides me more coverage, its lighter weight, and my face doesn’t feel oily by the end of the day. After my foundation, I apply BareMinerals bronzer and blush. For my blush, I go back and forth between the colors “Glee” and “Beauty” depending on what I need.

Step 4: Eyes

My eye makeup is my favorite part of the routine and the one I change up the most! My go-to palates for eyes is by Almay. I love how they have palates by eye color and style. I use the Everyday Neutrals the most, but also enjoy the Smoky Eye or Party Bright for nights out. I also use Almay’s eyeliner and mascara. For mascara application, I start with the Mega-Volume Mascara on the top lashes then finish it off with the One Coat Multi-Benefit Mascara. I find this combination provides me with the thickest and longest lashes.

Step 4: Final Touches

After I finish everything, I will run a quick dusting of BareMinerals Mineral Veil to help set everything and then I’m out the door!

Step 5: Lips

Like with eyes, I like to change up my lip color on a regular basis. My favorite brand for lipstick is Revlon, and my go-to is “Mauve It Over” in Matte. It goes with everything, so I never have to worry about clashing.


I use several different brushes throughout my makeup routine. Below are my favorites:


What is your favorite product in your makeup routine?


Saturday Down South: Vanderbilt 2017

Alabama and Vanderbilt have one of the longest histories of playing each other. Only two other old foes have lined up against Alabama football more times, Mississippi State and Tennessee. I was particularly looking forward to this game since these schools don’t play each other every year, and because it would be my 4th SEC stadium. (Bucket List Item: ✔️)

We drove up to Nashville on Friday evening and check into our hotel, which was right across the street from Vanderbilt University. After checking in, we headed out to grab some dinner at a local restaurant. We opted for The Row only a couple of blocks from the hotel. If you are looking for tasty food, a great atmosphere and live music, then you need to check this place out.

On Saturday morning, we all got up and headed to campus. We walked around for a bit before heading to the official Alabama Alumni tailgate. Thank the Lord it was inside with AC because it was HOT! After enjoying some of the other games for the day and some delicious Dreamland BBQ, Dad and I headed into Vanderbilt Stadium.

Dress // Watch

In the week leading up to the game, Vanderbilt declared they REALLY wanted Alabama, and they got Bama. The score ended up being 59-0. It was a great experience to check Vanderbilt Stadium off my list.

Next stadium on my list is Texas A&M.