30 Before 30: 12 Month Check-In

29 was one of the most challenging years of my life, and it did everything possible to put me through the ringer. I am proud of what I was able to accomplish this year and am totally fine that I didn’t accomplish everything on my “30 Before 30” list. Life is about setting goals, and those items I didn’t complete will just have to remain on my list until I can check them off.

30 Before 30: 12 Month Check In

  1. Take an international trip – IN PROGRESS
    • I have at least one international trips in the works! ūüôā My family and I are traveling to Ireland in September to celebrate all the milestones we have celebrated in 2018.
  2. Visit at least one new state – DONE
    • The weekend after my 29th birthday, my mom and I took a trip to Denver, Colorado.
  3. Read 30 books in a year (Taking recommendations!) – DONE
  4. Try a new sport – IN PROGRESS
    • I decided to take up hiking as my “sport”. I joined a women’s hiking group for the state of Georgia to help get out more. I look forward to continuing this “sport” as my schedule allows in the fall.
  5. Take a girls’ trip – DONE
    • My mom and I took a girls trip to Denver, Colorado and to Rome, Georgia. I also traveled to Chattanooga for my sister-in-law’s bachelorette party.
  6. Move to a new place – DONE
      • I purchased my first home in October 2017.
  7. Change jobs – DONE
    • 29 brought a lot of changes when it came to my career, but I think I have finally found my path. I started a new position in February as a Regional Recruiter for a university in South Carolina. I also have found more time to spend time on Southern Exhilaration, which I’m thrilled about the direction this space is moving.
  8. Grow my blog (Thanks for following along!) – DONE
    • In the past year, my blog has experienced a 23% increase in traffic. I hadn’t really set a specific goal for the year, but I’m happy with this news!
  9. Get to know my family history – DONE
    • Thanks to I have been able to track my father’s family back to my 4th great-grandparents, and my mom’s mother’s side back to my 5th great-grandparents. I have so enjoyed this project, and can’t wait to see what else I discover about my family.
  10. Challenge my culinary skills – DONE
    • I took a six-week cooking class with Publix’s Apron Cooking School.
  11. Do something that scares me – DONE
    • This year has been one of the most challenging years of my life. I experienced a lot of scary big life moments in the course of a couple of months. There were definitely times I wasn’t going to make it, but now standing on the other side I am happy with how things turned out and with how it made me into a stronger person.
  12. Work out more and on a consistent basis – IN PROGRESS
    • I consider this one a failure, because I wasn’t able to follow through on the “consistent basis” part. I have been increasing my exercise thanks to¬†Spotebi. The programs work great for at home and when I’m on the road.
  13. Take a challenging hike – FAIL TO COMPLETE
    • I had every intention of hiking the tallest peak in Tennessee and/or North Carolina. Unfortunately, time got away from me. I’m hoping to accomplish this in the coming year as my schedule allows.
  14. Relearn to play the piano – IN PROGRESS
    • For Christmas, my parents gifted me a new keyboard. I’m teaching myself how to play again. It’s a slow process, and I’m doing it as I have time.
  15. Get back to graduate school size and weight – FAIL TO COMPLETE
    • Due to health issues this year, my weight has been a battle. This is still a goal of mine, and I’m looking forward to accomplishing it.
  16. Learn a new skill – IN PROGRESS
    • I started to learn crochet a couple of years ago, but never really got far with it. I decided to pick it up as a fun activity while I’m unwinding at night and watching TV. I have decided to crochet a blanket, but it is definitely taking me longer to accomplish than originally thought.
  17. Visit a new SEC stadium – DONE
    • I had the opportunity to actually¬†knock out two SEC stadiums (Vanderbilt and Texas A&M) in fall of 2017.
  18. Be more spontaneous – DONE
    • I kicked off Year 29 with spontaneity¬†by traveling with Pack Up + Go to Denver.
    • I also decided my theme for 2018 is to “say yes to adventures” so I’ve got some excitement planned as the warmer months approach.
  19. Climb another state peak – FAIL TO COMPLETE
    • See number 13.
  20. Learn a new language – FAIL TO COMPLETE
    • To be honest, I didn’t put any effort into this goal. Do you have a suggestion on a language I should learn?
  21. Improve my wine knowledge – DONE
    • I drank a lot of wine this year, and definitely expanded my wine palate. I had planned to take a class but financial limitations put a stop to that idea. I’m still hoping for a class in the future.
  22. Get a pet – DONE
    • I have two fish by the names of Marco and Polo.
  23. Participate in a race – FAIL TO COMPLETE
    • Since my health was not at a hundred percent this year, this one was a challenge. Plus, why do all the fun races have to take place when I’m out of town? This is still on my list of things to do.
  24. Attend another short-term mission trip – FAIL TO COMPLETE
    • I very much have a heart for missions, but I could not find a trip that worked with my schedule or budget.
  25. Travel somewhere alone – DONE
    • A three-day weekend in Charleston was just what I needed to reset for the 2018 calendar year.
  26. Put more money away into savings – DONE
    • This year was certainly a yo-yo year with finances, but I was able to accomplish this goal.
  27. Take on a monthly photography challenge – DONE
    • I did not take a structured photography challenge this year, but I ended up reading a lot on technique and going out to practice it. This past week I went back through my images and I’m proud of how I’ve developed as an artist.
  28. Expand my food palate – IN PROGRESS
    • This year, I didn’t say no to as many foods as I normally would in the past. I would still consider myself a picky eater, but I’m ok with that and the new dishes I’ve acquired.
  29. Spend a full day at the spa – DONE
  30. Learn how to show myself grace – IN PROGRESS
    • I’m a work in progress.


I’d say 24 out of 30 is a pretty great accomplishment! ūüôā 30, I’m ready for you!


20 Lessons I learned in My 20s

Thursday, I cross into a new decade as I turn 30 years old. I used to think that by age 30 I would have it all figured out, but I laugh at that thought now. Age is simply a number, and with each number we learn some lessons. So as I kiss my 20s goodbye and welcome my 30s, here are the life lessons I have learned from the past decade.

Twenty Lessons I Learned in My Twenties

1. Happiness First

There is this thought out there that if we are successful then we will be happy. I sincerely believe this is not true. Being happy brings happiness. Don’t wait for success to be happy, because you will spend more time waiting for happiness instead of enjoying life. Soak up the happy moments every day.

2. What matters most now, might not matter later.

I tend to over think things and get stressed out easily. I have learned and am learning to take a step back and breathe. Will this situation really matter in 5 years? 5 months? 5 minutes? If the answer is no, move on.

3. No one is perfect; we’re all works in progress.

We are all guilty of putting the best versions of ourselves out there, so don’t judge people based on their social media accounts or even compare yourself to them. We all have insecurities and problems, and some people are really good at hiding them.

4. Just be kind.

This world is in need of big helping of kindness. Do your part to bring kindness to everyone you encounter. A simple smile to a stranger may make all the difference in their day.

5. Figure out your goals, but know they can change.

Setting goals are important in life to ensure you don’t get stuck. But know that it’s okay to change your goals based on the path life takes you.

6. Travel the world.

Travel opens up your world and mind to new possibilities. Never lose your sense of wonder. Also, it’s ok to see it in small chunks of time. Check out this article if you work full-time.

7. You don’t have to have it all together.

I saw a sign the other day that adulting is like folding a fitted sheet. No one really knows how to do it, and we are just doing the best we can. And you know what? That’s okay.

8. Be weird.

That’s all I’m going to say here.

9. There’s always room to learn.

Never stop learning. In my opinion, it’s essential to be a life-long learner. If you want to know something, take the time to research it, ask questions, and figure things out with trial and error. There is no way to be an expert right away.

10. Let it go.

This is a popular saying in my life lately, and every time I think about it I have to sing the Frozen song. I take things to heart. Learn from the comments and let it roll off your back.

11. It is okay to make mistakes.

There is nothing wrong with making mistakes. As I have said before, no one is perfect. As you long as you learn from your mistakes, you are growing as an individual.

12. Wear the lipstick and be bold.

Some days you just need to put on the bright red lipstick and face the world. Sometimes we are dealt shitty days, but it helps to put on a bold exterior to make it through those days.

13. Start saving money ASAP.

Don’t wait until you are older to put away money. Even if its a few dollars here or a certain percentage of your take-home check, make sure you are investing in your future by putting money away into the savings account.

14. Be alone.

Spend time by yourself, and get to know who you are. What do you really want? What are your hopes and dreams?

15. Invest in yourself.

You are important. Your dreams and goals are important. Take the time to grow your strengths and your passions. If you care about something, make every effort to help your dreams come to fruition.

16. Build healthy habitats.

Your health is incredibly important. The earlier you start managing your health, the sooner you build the foundation for a healthy mind and body. You will thank yourself in your 30s for staying in shape in your 20s.

17. Time is your most precious resource.

Learn to manage your time. We all have the same number of hours in the day. Learn how to prioritize your time so you can get everything done and spend time with people who matter.

18. Be grateful.

Life is messy, and it is easy to get bogged down with the day-to-day. Don’t forget you are lucky and you have much to be grateful. Find at least one thing to be grateful for each day.

19. Apologizing does not make you weak.

It is hard to set your ego aside and apologize. Admit when you are wrong or have made a mistake. People will respect you for it.

20. Things don’t work out for a reason.

Rejection hurts, but it also means that the right opportunity or person is still out there. Someday you will be happy that life worked out the way it did,¬†even if you don’t realize it in the moment.


What are the biggest lessons you learned from your twenties?

Hotel Reviews, Southern Experiences

Checking In: Andrew Pickney Inn

Checking In is a series for reviewing properties, whether it is a hostel, hotel or other forms of accommodation. To suggest a property, please send us an email.

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links that help support Southern Exhilaration. 

Andrew Pickney Inn | Charleston, SC

For a quintessential Southern hospitality experience during your stay in Charleston, look no further than the Andrew Pickney Inn. Not only is the Andrew Pickney Inn is home to 41 rooms and Southern hospitality, but it is also located in the heart of the historic district. If you stay here, you are only steps from King Street shopping, the Charleston City Market, the Charleston Harbor, and countless other Charleston sights.

Andrew Pickney Inn | Charleston, SC

The Andrew Pinckney Inn encompasses two historic buildings that reside at the corner of Church and Pinckney Streets. With a colorful fa√ßade and vibrant window boxes, you cannot miss the two buildings that encompass the Inn. Once inside, you’ll be greeted by a soothing color palette of light blues, sage greens, chocolates and creams that embrace the traditional British West Indies design.

Andrew Pickney Inn | Charleston, SC Andrew Pickney Inn | Charleston, SC

We stayed at the Petite Queen Guestroom. This room is perfect for the light traveler, making it ideal for a weekend getaway. It is an interior room located in the Church Street building and decorated in soothing blues and greens.

Andrew Pickney Inn | Charleston, SC


Southern Experiences

Fort Sumter

One of my favorite places to visit when in Charleston is Fort Sumter. This hallowed ground is where the American Civil War began.

Fort Sumter | Charleston, SC

Construction on Fort Sumpter started in 1829, and it is named after a Revolutionary War hero, General Thomas Sumter. It was built as part of a series of forts in response to the War of 1812 to guard the United States ports in what is classified as Third System. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, the Fort was incomplete by the time the Civil War broke out, and South Carolina seceded from the Union.

Fort Sumter | Charleston, SCFort Sumter | Charleston, SC Fort Sumter | Charleston, SC

Fort Sumter is located on a sandbar at the entrance of Charleston Harbor, a site you cannot miss, and was built in the shape of a pentagon. Built with brick, the structure, at the time it was constructed, had walls five feet thick and standing 50 feet over the low tide mark.

Fort Sumter | Charleston, SC Fort Sumter | Charleston, SC Fort Sumter | Charleston, SC Fort Sumter | Charleston, SC Fort Sumter | Charleston, SC

This Fort has been through the American Civil War and the Spanish-American War. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.

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shirt // shorts // shoes // watch // glasses

Fort Sumter | Charleston, SC

Now, I could get in the details of the battles fought at Fort Sumter, but I don’t want to spoil anything for you. Go – and experience this part of America’s history.


What is your favorite historic landmark?

Southern Experiences

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens

If you are a plants person and love gardens, then¬†Magnolia Plantation & Gardens needs to be on your garden bucket list. Not only is this place¬†America’s last large-scale romantic-style garden but it is also America’s oldest public garden, opening its doors in 1872 to visitors.

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC

Take a stroll with me through these beautiful grounds.

Founded in 1676 by the Drayton family along the Ashley River, this plantation has witnessed America’s history from the beginning. Magnolia Plantation functioned as a working plantation growing rice as its primary cash crop until¬†Reverend John Grimk√© Drayton inherited it in 1836. He turned this working plantation into one of the most beautiful public gardens in America. Designed with Romantic-style in mind, meaning the garden cooperates with nature as opposed to a landscaped garden, as was popular in Europe at the time. Unfortunately, this style garden never really caught on in America, which is another reason this property is so unique.

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SCMagnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC

Related: Middleton Place

Drayton had a vision after seeing the¬†efforts of¬†landscape architects William Kent and Lancelot ‚ÄúCapability‚ÄĚ Brown and started cultivating the gardens in the 1840s. If you travel in the Spring, you will notice the multitude of azaleas on the property and throughout the south. A favorite plant in this region of America was introduced by Drayton when he planted them at Magnolia Plantation. In addition to azaleas, you will find an abundance of camellias.

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC

Since the plantation is located along the Ashley River, a good portion of the property has swamplands and waterways running through it. As you stroll along the winding paths of the gardens, admire the bridges and the different forms of architecture and how they tie in with the garden. The most famous is the White Long Bridge. (You’ll know it when you see it.)

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC

dress // vest (similar) // shoes

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC

Magnolia Plantation boasts not only its famous gardens but also the¬†Audubon Swamp Gardens. Named for¬†John James Audubon, the famed writer and illustrator of¬†Birds of America, and a close family friend to the Drayton family. Audubon’s final two works were painted at Magnolia Plantation. The Swamp Gardens boast egrets, herons, and other waterfowl, as well as a few alligators if you are lucky enough to spot them. This section of the property gives you a taste of what it would have looked like when our forefathers landed in this part of the country.

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC

In addition to the two gardens, the Plantation also offers tours of the House and a Zoo on the property. There is a lot to do here, so be sure to give yourself ample time to see it all.

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC


What is your favorite style of garden?