In 2009, after a few years of college and traveling, I was settling into adulthood back in my hometown of New Iberia, LA. I found myself falling back into the mindset that there was simply "nothing to do around here." Something had to change. Seeking adventure and a life that was more than just an 8-5 job and new found responsibilities, I set out to prove that South is everything I craved: a soul-stirring mecca of culture, decadence, passion and the unknown.
Thus Dixie Lust was born - a place on the web to chronicle my love affair with home... a reawakened enthrallment with the simpler things. From 2009 - 2011, Dixie Lust made its home on a tiny Blogger site. Eventually, my priorities shifted and I stopped blogging. Dixie Lust and it's purpose was never far from my mind or my heart. I felt a constant calling to continue the adventure - I just didn't know how to incorporate it into my day to day.
I'm here to say that I've finally figured it out. Dixie Lust is resurrected. It's a part of who I am now - a passion that can't be quieted or pushed aside. I still don't claim to be an expert on Southern living. Hell… a lot of this? I’m experiencing for the first time. But I do invite you to come along for the ride.
If you haven’t been to Saigon Noodles yet, you’re really missing out. You think you’ve had Asian noodles. You THINK. You haven’t until you’ve been to Saigon Noodles. Every single thing there is delicious. Just make sure you get a bowl of noodles. And listen. They give you a plate of awesomely aromatic and delicious goodies to go with your noodles. Add some of that in! Trust me. Even if you’re usually a picky eater, just go for it and show your adventurous side. People all over the world eat this. It’s DELICIOUS. Flirtatiously slurp your pho (I suggest this but I haven’t figured it out myself, yet, so good luck!) and laugh at each other when you get a little messy. Fill up your tanks and get ready to move on from your tabletop bowl…
Next, go bowling at Acadiana Lanes! You’ll get to see a whole new side of the person and relax. Get a couple of beers and get a little competitive. Talk and show off your bowling moves. And listen, it’s better to use the bumpers than have a ton of gutter balls. At least you’ll have a chance to get some points on the board!
This is a pretty laid back date, so wear jeans and shoes you can easily take off for the bowling part. Take someone you know you’ll have fun with on this date. Even if it’s just a friend, this is more of a hangout than anything else, with plenty of opportunities for getting close and flirting.
#Dating Protip: Flip flops are for the beach or a festival or other equivalent outdoors activity. Not for dates. A lot of people are weird about feet, so keep ‘em covered until you can get a pedicure or you know they don’t smell. Nothing puts off someone like nasty feet smell. Ick!
The main thing: Make sure you’re comfortable and can enjoy yourself. This is going to be a really fun night as long as you’re not self-conscious the whole time!
Ask your date out at least by the Tuesday before the date. (Respect their time!) The best thing you can do for your date is to tell them generally what clothes to wear. For this, its acceptable to tell them they can wear jeans – it’ll set the hangout-status of the date.
Plan to go to dinner around 6 or 7pm. You may have to wait for a table, so keep a level head and enjoy your extra time together!
Head over to the bowling alley, which is less than a mile away.
At a local Indian Associations Holi Festival. I may never get to go to India, but I did get to experience Holi – a tradition that’s mesmerized me for years.
A fellow blogger on my “panel” suggested this place, Tacky Jacks, while I was in Orange Beach. I would have never tried it if she hadn’t recommended it.
Build Your Advice Panel via Social Media
We all want it. The perfect hotel. The perfect pulled pork sandwich. The sunset that puts all other sunsets to absolute shame. Long gone are the days of relying on travel agents and well-traveled friends for travel suggestions. We crave the “insider” experiences, the hidden gems, the locals-only knowledge.
About a month or so before your trip, build your advice panel on social media outlets like Twitter, Instagram, and Foursquare. Use a mix of restaurant, brand, blogger, foodie, and event accounts. Find out what everyone’s talking about. Hot new restaurant that everyone’s raving about? Make your reservations now. Great band playing when you’re in town? Buy your tickets.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek out recommendations. Use their knowledge to your advantage. My biggest advice is to know how to ask for what you want. Are you into dive bars and hole in the wall restaurants? Don’t ask for “the best restaurants in town” or “a bbq place.” Be specific with terms like “off the beaten path” or “often overlooked.”
As an added bonus, building a relationship with these accounts may come in handy if you need last minute help or suggestions while you’re actually visiting.
This is my daddy, Papa Bruce, in action – chitchatting with the boat captain the entire time.
Be a Chatty Cathy.
My family loves to tell a story about my dad on a skiing trip in Winter Park, Colorado. Our first day on the slopes, we turned around to realize Papa Bruce was missing. After a few minutes of scanning the crowds, we saw him standing over in the distance with another man, laughing and moving his hands wildly as he pointed to the lodge. We couldn’t believe it. How on earth did my southern Louisiana daddy bump into someone he knew all the way up in Colorado? On the first day? When he finally (and I do mean finally…) made his way back over, we bombarded him with questions. Who was that? How do you know him? Do we know him? Papa Bruce just laughed as he responded “Oh… I don’t know. I was just asking him where he got his beer from.”
My father has taught me a lot about travel, but the biggest lesson has been in how to connect with people. The second we step aboard the charter boat he’s asking about the motor, the gas mileage, and how long the captain’s been doing what he does. He asks field guides where they’re from and how they got into the business. He asks the local hibachi chef how long his training took and what his favorite “trick” is. It’s never in a badgering way. It’s simply curiosity and the desire to connect. He never talks “at” or “to” people. He always makes a genuine effort to talk with them, showing them interest and respect.
Travel isn’t just about seeing monuments and physically being in a location. It’s about cultures, ways of life.. people sharing themselves. Getting to know the people that cross your path as you explore adds a complex layer of richness and intimacy to each adventure. Not all your conversation starters or questions will be home runs, but it’s your effort that gets the connection rolling. Sometimes I’m absolutely terrible at small talk and even plain ole’ awkward in new environments, but I’ve never had someone turn down the chance to talk about themselves, their city, their job or their passions. So ask the waitress how her day is, tell the shopkeeper the pottery is the most stunning you’ve ever seen, ask the shuttle driver about the “busy season”, or even ask the other travelers where they got their beer. The conversation will work itself out. You’ll learn and experience a lot more than if you leave it solely up to maps and guidebooks.
Just a sampling of some “touristy” things that I absolutely loved.
Tourism is NOT a Dirty Word
In not only traveling quite a bit but in researching it for my blog, I’ve noticed a trend among travel writers and enthusiasts where being a tourist is touted as gauche and trite. You’re given tips to blend in and act like a local. You’re told not to be so “American” when traveling overseas. And quite honestly I don’t get it.
Should you avoid being rude? Yep. Should you respect cultures that are different than your own? Of Course. But in no way do I believe that being a tourist should be a “travel sin.” When you travel you are a representative of where you come from. Travel is about making connections and leaving a bit of yourself behind as you take your new experiences with you.
I love living in an area with so many visitors. When I get to hear about their experiences and how different their home is from my beloved city, I see it as a mini travel experience. Without setting foot outside my home, I get to learn about other places – places I may not ever get to visit.
Tourism is such a huge aspect of our economies today. In Louisiana alone, tourism generates $850 million in tax revenues. Without the attractions, hotels, restaurants, and construction, each household would have to pay an additional $550 in state taxes. One in twelve workers here works in a tourism related job. What’s the point of all these fancy statistics? The city you choose to visit probably depends heavily on tourism. As a response, they’re prepped, primed, and ready to make your visit a fantastic one. Visit the visitor centers, take the guided tours, seek out the special attractions. They’re all there for YOU.
I understand you want to experience some aspects just like the locals. There’s no shame in that. But don’t avoid something solely because it’s for “tourists.”
Just a sampling of foods from local festivals – all this in ONE place!
Getting the most Culture Bang for Your Buck (and Time)
Do some research on the city you’re interested in visiting and find out if it’s home to any events or festivals. Food & Wine Events, Heritage Festivals, and even something as small as an art fair often gather up the best of the best and put it in one easy to navigate place.
In my home state of Louisiana, we love to celebrate just about everything. Cotton, shrimp, hot sauce, gumbo, petroleum, sugar cane, the French language, jazz music, … we celebrate it all. How do we celebrate it? With annual festivals! These festivals are jam packed with food booths from local restaurants, live bands and performances, local artists and craftsman, and lots and lots of fun.
Louisiana, while I may be partial to it, isn’t the only place that holds great events like this. If you’re looking to visit a city and see it’s people, music, food, and culture in action without racing back and forth across the city… see the city’s event calendar. You save a ton of time, money, and energy and get to experience so many aspects
Relaxation! I made time for peaceful relaxation time at sunrise on a recent trip.
What’s Your Motivation?
Often times when you’re exploring nearby cities or on a budget, your trip is relatively short. Whether it’s a day trip or a weeklong one, it’s common to feel like you need to “do it all.” Cue the instant anxiety and stress that comes along with trying to cram every. single. thing. on to the schedule. You wind up getting exhausted, you get snappy with your travel mates, and you lose focus on what you came to explore.
When planning your trip, ask yourself why you’re taking the trip in the first place. Are you going to relax? Hear certain bands? Visit a museum or monument? Find your motivation for taking the trip and let that be your guide in planning. If your main desire is to see an exhibit at a museum, decide on the date and times that you’ll do so. Communicate your plans to any travel mates you may have to avoid any last minute drama or confusion. It also gives you a clear picture of what time you have left open.
On a recent trip to Orange Beach, AL with my family, I decided my two main focuses were spending time with my family and relaxing after a busy first half of the year. Knowing my focus helped me to eliminate a few things that were on my list of suggested places and even a few of my tried-and-true favorites. With the focus being on family and getting my zen back, I packed in more family dinners and solo beach time and passed on Hangout Fest and some legendary local bars.