TRAVELTEER: Where Travel Meets Volunteering

1 It was extremely hard to leave New Orleans but I was eager to see what Travelteer adventures lay ahead. Next stop – Atlanta, a lively place combining elements of a big city and southern hospitality. The ATL offers many opportunities to make a positive impact in a destination that some call, “The New York of the South” (An accolade that most people associate with Virginia Beach, VA as well). Arriving in Atlanta, I was psyched to be meeting back up with Jordan, my CTO – Chief Travelteer Officer, and we were lucky to have booked a hotel ahead of time for a reasonable rate…or so we thought. Unfortunately, Travelteer’s first day in Atlanta was a bit hectic as we found out that the hotel had overbooked us. After hours of futile attempts to talk with customer service (and utilizing glorious free Wi-Fi at Starbucks), we were finally able to find a place to stay just a few minutes from Downtown Atlanta. Not off to such a great start, we were optimistic that our week would quickly turn around after experiencing the cities culture and its endless volunteer opportunities – thankfully, we were right.

2 The next morning we set off to volunteer at a local charity organization called Open Hand , who delivers 5,000 meals a day to senior citizens in need. Combining two of my favorite things – driving and helping others, Jordan and I set out to deliver along our pre-determined route. Driving around this foreign city, meeting each senior and being greeted with a warm welcome and a smile couldn’t have been a more perfect way to get acquainted with Atlanta. It was such an enriching opportunity to get to know some of those that have been in the Atlanta area almost all their lives and give back to them through Open Hand. After we made all our stops, we returned to home base and we’re excited to be going back to Open Hands on Tuesday to help with the other side of things – meal packaging.

3 After delivering all these meals through Open Hands, we had one thing on our mind – a meal of our own. We found a local spot called Neighborhood Eats. Located in the lobby of a business building, it was a hidden gem and bit of a scavenger hunt to get to, but 100% worth it. The food was absolutely amazing, and the owner was extremely kind and loved the idea of Travelteer. I got a brisket sandwich and Jordan got the breaded chicken sandwich, both under $7 ( a perfect Travelteer budget), and you could tell that time was put into making such a delectable sandwich. Soon we had an itch to go experience some of the “have-to-do’s” of Downtown Atlanta. Although I am more of a Dr. Pepper guy, we couldn’t wait to explore a company that unifies so many people around the world through their brand- Coca-Cola. Entering the World of Coke, we learned that it was not Pablo Escobar who invented Coke, but actually a guy named John Pemberton. Greeted with a fresh 8-oz bottle, the caffeine rush starting taking hold as we watch a glorified trailer of universal, cultural happiness, and then as the screen lifted it felt as though we were entering Willy Wonka’s Factory – except substituting chocolate for a lot of corn syrup and carbonation. We went through the history of advertising, the bottling process, and even entering the vault of the secret Coca-Cola formula (SPOILERS: It’s not in there). We then experienced something 7-year old Ben would go crazy for (and probably drive his parents crazy in the process) – THE TASTING ROOM. Getting to try sodas from all continents, everything from Apple Soda to the long-lost Surge, slowly infiltrating our taste palates and spiking our energy levels.

4 After surviving our caffeine and sugar overdose, we headed to a locally recommended spot- Little Five Points. Arriving, we explored a grunge-soaked area, going through local record stores and eateries, and ultimately ending up at a dive bar called The Vortex. Trying their local amber ale and lager, we learned of their Quadruple Coronary Bypass Burger – which offered the challenge of devouring a burger made up of 8 slices of toast, 32 oz. of ground sirloin, 28 slices of American cheese, 4 fried eggs, 27 strips of bacon, and 12 oz. of mayo; served with 20 oz. of fries and 16 oz. of cheesy-cheese goo (oh and sprinkled with bacon bits) – estimated calories 9,606. Deciding to save our impending heart attack for another day, we settled at Little Points Yacht Club, where we had a burger a little less life-altering, but still delicious.

5 Saturday we started early, volunteering at Meals on Wheels Atlanta , an organization that has a goal of delivering 500,000 meals and smiles to the elderly. Similar in style to Open Hands, Meals on Wheels had us taking another route to deliver meals to those in need. After making all the stops, we headed back and met with the volunteer coordinator to plan another day this week to come back, volunteering to help with senior activities (and finally learning how to play bridge). Warned that some of the residents were pool sharks and their bridge skills were off the charts – I determined to prepare myself for game day! After leaving Meals on Wheels, we stopped at a pizza place that was recommended by another restaurant owner (and rightly so) -Antico Pizza. An authentic Italian style pizzeria (I mean they had the euro prices before US Dollar prices), I found the food to live up to the hype of being “Atlanta Eats” champion, circa 2014. Afterward, we headed to Piedmont Park for the 80th Annual Atlanta Dogwood Festival. While taking in the beauty of the sprawling 189-acre park in the heart of Midtown Atlanta, we explored an array of local art, cultural music, and vendors offering samples (and free Canadian flags). We wandered to a dog talent show, where we saw multiple, adorable competitors show off their best Frisbee catches and tricks (and one human, who was doing all the tricks while his dog just waited for him to throw the f’n Frisbee already). Heading back to escape the wrath of the Parking overlords, we ventured out to explore some more of midtown.

6 Sunday we had the day off and got to feel the amazing feeling of sleeping in (oh how I have longed for you, my sweet friend). We started our day going to explore some cool settings such as the graffiti covered Krog Street Tunnel, in which (although not city-sanctioned), many artists come to leave their unique stamp on the city. We then got a bit hungry and ventured to a super nifty place – Ponce City Market. What was an old abandoned industrial building has been transformed into a hip, vintage, open market – with eats, designer clothing stores, and a rooftop bar (that sadly, was not yet open to the public). Attempting to get to the top of the building led us into a stairway, getting immediately locked out, with both up and down being marked – EMPLOYEES ONLY. Even a Travelteer has to be a badass and break the rules sometimes, crossing the line and luckily finding a door that was unlocked we found ourselves free again. After escaping our near peril, we stumbled upon the Atlanta Beltline, a winding walkway covering all the places to be, in Atlanta. We determined to check it out at a later date as our growling stomachs were determining our current drive. We headed to a town called Decatur, which had a locally recommended downtown area filled with quality eats, unique brews, and most importantly, FREE PARKING ON SUNDAYS!!

7 Arriving at downtown Decatur, we explored the city square and wandered into a restaurant called Brick Store, which surprisingly was not a store specifically for a mason. A Belgium inspired restaurant, we devoured a pork belly sandwich w/ frisee salad, as well as the traditional fish and chips. Now that were no long being driven by our stomachs, we decided to brave The Dekab Farmers Market. When arriving we were surprised to find what looked like a grocery store instead of an open market, which immediately lowered our expectations. What a mistake. Upon entering we immediately were smitten by the most diverse grocery store in existence. Live fish of all species, meats in all forms, and a personal weakness, a never-ending line of cheese sorted by countries of origin. I’d like to think it was the smart idea to fill up before entering, but no amount of food in our bellies could stop us from wine and cheesing it up! After frolicking through aisles of spices, exotic vegetables, and a sauce selection that any hot sauce connoisseur would appreciate – we went home and did the classy, adult thing…ate cheese from foreign countries and watched Anthony Bourdain. As the night wound down and Atlanta starting to fall into place as its everyday appeal continues to grow, I am as excited as ever to see what will come next for Travelteer!