new beginnings: great smoky mountains

I spent the first weekend of 2019 in a 3 story, mountainside cabin with 23 strangers. I originally booked the trip in the beginning of December, however, once life took a turn on Christmas Eve, I became anxious about my upcoming travel plans. I already had arrangements made for Tennessee and Atlanta. The thought of being surrounded by people I didn't know during a time of grief made me nervous. My mom encouraged me to take the mental break but I already felt extremely vulnerable. Would I be able to control my emotions? Would I have to explain what I was going through? Did I even have the energy to socialize?

One of my best friends, Shay aka Carmen Sandiego, invited me to Tennessee after we unsuccessfully tried to plan a cabin trip with a small group of friends to bring in the New Year. I always complain to my Capricorn twin about never having done a cabin birthday trip. She's the friend who handles all travel plans - literally sends a link to book your flight and for anything else, the dollar amount you need to CashApp her. Spoiled, I know. Needless to say, I was in. We arrived shortly before midnight on Friday to a warm welcome. Everyone was already enjoying themselves so we found our room and changed into pajamas for what we thought would be bedtime. They weren't having it! We quickly learned it wasn't that kind of party LOL the house was lively and their energy didn't waiver throughout the weekend. I slept maybe a total of 8 hours which I don't regret one bit. We had a morning flight back home on Sunday, so we wanted to make the most of our trip. To top it off, we hadn't seen each other in forever! I unfortunately had to skip her birthday plans due to the recent death in my family.

Shay and I in New Orleans, July 2017

Our first night in the house went until about 4 am. We talked over drinks, some in the kitchen, some in the balcony hot tub. Then somehow ended up having a fish fry with Hawaiian rolls at 2 am. Yummm. I was in heaven. Saturday, Shay and I woke up to a ridiculous sunrise view from our room balcony. At breakfast, we seemed to pick up right where we left off, so I added orange juice to my Hennessy from the prior night for a breakfast cocktail. (You're welcome for the pro-tip!) After enjoying rum-soaked gummies that I prepped the night before, we went go-kart racing which was tons of fun! The sunset that night was jaw-dropping. We returned home to eat, make s'mores, and play strip musical chairs which was beyond hilarious. Don't worry, it didn't get too crazy LOL afterwards, we headed out again for laser tag. After burning more calories in a few hours than I do in an entire year, we went to a moonshine distillery for samples and let me tell you, there was never a dull moment. We went back to the cabin to continue drinking and hanging out. In true Briana fashion, I took a quick nap on the couch, but when I woke up at 4:30 am they were still going strong. The next morning, Shay and I woke up early to enjoy yet another breathtaking sunrise from our room balcony, before joining the group downstairs for our last breakfast. I had just met these people, yet I didn't want to leave. We arrived downstairs to food being made, music blasting, and Kenyan dance moves being taught.

I'm thankful I decided to keep my travel plans. I couldn't have traveled with a better friend; Shay was gentle, patient, and supportive. I was exhausted - physically, emotionally, mentally but the weekend was filled with great company, bomb food, and yummy drinks. Just what I needed before attending home-going services. How ironic that the very thing I feared, not knowing anyone, is the very thing that was a useful distraction. Getting to know everyone took my mind off of things. I met people from all walks of life, in various career fields. I was amazed at how cohesive this group was, yet still inviting of others. My mind was blown to be honest. By the end of the weekend it felt like a giant family reunion. The girls were nice and the guys weren't creeps LOL a rarity these days! I look forward to taking future trips with this awesome group!

Be sure to check out the organizer's travel company/collective The Roaming Republic and subscribe to find out about their official upcoming trips!

"I am my own muse.

I am the subject I know best.

The subject I want to better." 

-Frida Kahlo