TRAVELTEER: Where Travel Meets Volunteering

1 With six cities in the books and our last destination ahead, Travelteer is so grateful to have been able to experience the amazing array of culture and communities throughout the Southeast and work with the wonderful organizations that impact them. Driving back in time once again, we crossed into Tennessee for our last stop on our Southeast itinerary, The Music City itself – Nashville. Arriving, we were immediately eager to make an impact and drove straight to a global non-profit, Project CURE , who provide medical supplies to other countries in need. Although we as Travelteers are focusing on local communities in the United States as of now, we hope to eventually make a global impact on the lives of citizens of all nations and show both support and compassion as if they were our own community members and neighbors. We met Lindsey, who amazingly is the only paid employee of the Nashville branch, as Project CURE relies heavily on volunteers year-round. Lindsey informed us that we going to be working on a shipment to Panama, but while waiting on the delivery truck to arrive we were instructed to sort through the good and bad pallets. They trusted me working a pallet jack (Which could have been a mistake), but luckily Jordan and I were able to navigate them down the ramp and dispose of the less than ideal pallets.
Soon the delivery truck arrived and we worked with a fellow volunteer, Alex, to load up 40 hospital beds, 40 mattresses, and a handful of other supplies. Initially, we tried to use a forklift, but when that wasn’t cooperating, so we resorted to our own strength. Alex asked, “Do either of you lift?” An answer I probably didn’t have to give after he saw my attempt at a deadlift with these massive beds. Most of us have only experienced the cozy side of a hospital bed (if you can call it that), so in my defense I should let you know these beds weigh an insane amount! As for the mattress, well I wish I had an excuse for why it was a struggle to carry those. Luckily, working together, we managed to lift and situate each bed and thoroughly pack the mattresses and supplies into a crate…almost too well, as we found out we need to fill the space at the end so nothing would slide around in transport! After finishing up, we got a few recommendations from our friends at Project CURE and headed out to explore Centennial Park!

2 Arriving at Centennial Park, we immediately spotted the Parthenon, a massive reconstruction of the famous landmark from Athens built in 1897 here in Nashville. If you are wondering why they felt that Nashville needed its own copy of the monument, I wish I could tell you, but I can say that it holds the records for world’s largest reconstruction of a landmark. Asking around, we did hear that Nashville is considered the “Athens” of the south so that might be why, but I would argue that Athens, GA is probably a better fit for that title. I guess Travelteer has now crossed off both Nashville and Greece in one visit!

3 Starting to hear our stomachs rumble, we were off in the search of our first foodie experience of Nashville. We got wind of a Nashville staple, Hot Chicken, which is as you may have guessed, chicken that is hot. Such a weird traditional dish, but something that sounded fantastic all the same – we headed out to a local spot, Pepperfire Hot Chicken. Learning the history, we found out it originated from the 1930’s when a local womanizer came home late to his girlfriend and was met with a revenge breakfast plate, booby-trapped with an excess of pepper the next morning. But rather than the intended consequence, he liked it so much he created his own recipe and the rest is history as now there are over 20 hot chicken restaurants around the Nashville area. The chicken was delicious, although I couldn’t be close enough to a water dispenser while enjoying the meal!

4 We settled in at our home away from home in East Nashville, thanks to our new friends -Manda, Emily, and their adorable pups Snoops and Nevon. The next morning we woke up and were excited to get involved with our next volunteer opportunity, The 47th Annual Nashville Film Festival. I am huge fan of film having worked at Blockbuster (#NeverForget) for 3 years and so we were lucky to be in town while this Academy Award approved festival was underway. We landed on the red carpet, where we soon found the volunteering offices to get situated. Handed a shirt and schedule, Jordan was instructed to handle the red carpet entrance, while I was to handle the VIP area. From behind the red rope, I awaited all the famous stars who would be coming my way. I waited and waited, but I guess Mr. DiCaprio and friends were coming for the late night premiere, as the VIP section stayed empty. An hour or so later the VIP section started getting busy with the premier of a country music documentary called, Born In Bristols and stars and photographers alike lined up for the spectacle. We stealthily googled semi-familiar faces we were certain we had seen in something before. After the shift ended we loaded up on free popcorn and fountain drinks from Regal and scored two free tickets each to Hunt for the Wilderpeople, a New Zealand film I was very eager to see from the director of What We Do In The Shadows and Boy. Leaving the red carpet, we headed to a recommended burger joint called Burger Up. Located in the hip 12 South area, we both got the black & bleu burger with the secret, off-menu, sweet potato truffle fries. The burgers were cooked perfectly and the truffle fries were to die for!

5 The next morning we woke up early to get involved with Rebuilding Together Nashville. While volunteering with them in New Orleans, our build Ieader, Ethan, couldn’t speak highly enough about the Nashville branch, so we set out to see what impact we can have through their organization. This was different from the other project’s I had worked on with Rebuilding Together. They had previously helped restore a house for an amazing woman named Mrs. Pearl, following up with her they had found out that she was working to give back to the local neighborhood by setting up the Brooklyn Heights Community Garden across the street and Rebuild Together was eager to lend a helping hand! Arriving we got to meet this passionate humanitarian and all those who were helping to see her dream fully realized! We started with taking apart older wooden beds to make way for new and improved ones. Soon we were filling the beds with fresh soil and turning them with garden hoes so that it was fit for planting. Talking with Mrs. Pearl, we were glad to find that she couldn’t wait for more Travelteers to come to Nashville and help with her community garden, and we can’t wait to see what the garden will look like a few months down the line!

6 This Saturday was also a special occasion as it was RECORD STORE DAY! I have been lucky enough to experience this awesome event, where you show your appreciation for local record stores and all things vinyl. We stopped at the legendary Third Man Records, a grassroots record label started by music legend Jack White. Waiting in the hour and a half line just to enter, we grabbed a local brew from Jackalope Brewing around the corner and were distracted from the adorable “smooch-a-puppy” booth! Soon a punk band named Faux Ferocious started playing on the outdoor stage for the people waiting, which led to Jordan holding my place in line while I joined in on the dance floor and had a minor aneurysm following my head banging. Once we got inside, we were entering the coolest record store imaginable. Having everything from listening booths to art and platinum records all around, Third Man Records had such a compelling atmosphere. While exclusively Third Man Records artists, they offered such limited releases as The White Stripes BBC Peel Session Double LP for its first vinyl release in 15 years, as well as the Jack White with The Muppets – You Are the Sunshine of My Life 7” in “It’s Not Easy Being Green” colored vinyl. With a Travelteer budget, I could only get the 7” but soaking in the atmosphere of Record Store Day at what was essentially a shrine to Jack White was an awesome experience (at least to those who are White fans).

7 We went to eat at a local spot called The Cookery, where we learned all funds go to support the ministries behind the project. The company feeds over 90 homeless individuals a week and strives to teach them culinary arts so they can transition to fill jobs in the food industry. We both had the Australian Meat Pie, which was absolutely delicious and knowing it was going to a good cause made it all the better! Afterward, we explored the Hillsboro Village located by Vanderbilt University. Strolling the hip walkways, we were bummed to find the Belcourt Theatre, a nifty venue with unique viewing experiences for such films as Rocky Horror Picture Show and infamous titles like The Room, was unfortunately closed for renovations. We stopped in a bookstore separated into two parts – Bookman and Bookwoman, although upon entering it seems that they weren’t too strict with their separation rules. Soon we headed to a brewery over in East Nashville called Southern Grist. Ordering a flight on a Tennessee state shaped board, we explored each taste from their Mixed Green IPA to their Chocolate Brown Ale. So far Nashville is shaping up to be an awesome place and I can’t wait to see what that last half of our final week holds.