TRAVELTEER: Where Travel Meets Volunteering

1 As Travelteer’s week in Nashville comes to an end, I can’t help but feel at home in The Music City. Venturing from local eats, brews, and music spots, Nashville simply feels authentic. It’s a city that continues to move forward while not forgetting about its roots. Visiting Nashville, you can definitely get all you would expect from a city that prides itself on being the capital of country music. Tapping your cowboy boots at the Honky Tonk bar as you hear Wagon Wheel for the umpteenth time may be a blast (and trust me it was!), but it was the unexpected parts of Nashville that shaped my love for the city. Exploring its history while walking through Bicentennial Park, experiencing the hipsterfication of neighborhoods like 12 South and Hillsboro Village, and simply walking through some of its more rural areas and historic plantations; all of these experiences have shaped the Nashville we have grown to love.

2 On Sunday, Travelteer volunteered for a personal cause – helping out our gracious hosts! Utilizing skills we had picked up from the Brooklyn Heights Community Garden, we managed to turn a grassy area into a garden bed in Manda’s backyard. After helping out around the house, we headed to a local event in Centennial Park called The Nash Bash. Arriving, we met up with our temporary roommate, Emily, at the non-profit tent for Strings for Hope , a local organization she works for that employs women in halfway homes to make bracelets out of guitar strings and donates the proceeds to other nonprofits. We learned about their cause and tried on a bracelet (or two) for size. We wandered around the booths of various, nifty, nik-naks and food trucks, all the while being serenaded by local folk music. At the end of the event, we helped pack up Strings for Hope’s tent and headed out on the town to see what adventures await.

3 We arrived at an amazing local spot called Two-Bits, a bar loaded with board games, old and new video games, and stocked with craft beer. Feeling like I was in a grown-up toy store, we first tried a local beer from Yazoo Brewery and headed to play a game of Mario Kart. I picked Yoshi (as always) and proceed to get 1st place after an intense race on Koopa Troopa Beach! Soon after, Jordan and I headed downtown to the “Honky Tonk” area on Broadway Street. Arriving on the strip, we were greeted with neon lights lining the street and drunk Cowboys bar-hopping from one bar to the next. Although, neither of us were into popular country music, we did enjoy the enthusiastic hoedown that ensued!

4 The next day we were very excited to add a new Travelteer to the mix – Maria Brooks! Mrs. Brooks flew from Williamsburg to join us for the final part of our first Travelteer experience and we were excited to have her on board. We decided to spend our day checking out The Country Music Hall of Fame! Even for someone who doesn’t care for country music, there was a ton to appreciate as we walked through exhibits highlighting Producer Sam Phillips and even a whole floor dedicated to Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash. After spending a few hours at the Hall of Fame, we went back to East Nashville for dinner at an amazing restaurant named Lockeland Table! This rustic farm to table dinner spot offered us a variety of flavor explosions from lobster tacos to calamari pizza.

5 The next morning Travelteer woke up ready to volunteer with The Nashville Food Project , a local organization that helps grow self-sustainable resources and provide food to those in need. We drove to their newer kitchen, located in St Luke’s Church, where we were greeted with a smile, an apron, and a mission to make an impact. First, we cut vegetables for the perfect garden salad and then Jordan and I were given the task of filling the food trays for delivery while Mrs. Brooks prepared the fruit salad. Together we packed up over 60 trays of food, with jambalaya, fruit salad, garden salad, and garlic bread, to be delivered to local elderly in need as well as the children and teachers in the school programs.

6 During our time at Nashville Food Project, we got an awesome recommendation to check out the Bicentennial National Park. Having seen the Centennial Park, where the scale Parthenon replica stands, we were eager to see what Nashville had created for its 200-year anniversary. We arrived to a 1,400-foot wall engraved with the story of Tennessee from 10,000 BC to 1996. Following along the very informative walkway, we learned of the states beginning and continued into the civil war era where, unlike the rest of the path, the wall was broken up into fragments (SYMBOLISM!). As you walked and read up on the history you were seeing the plant life change from the various regions of the state, as if walking from East Tennessee to West. We then headed back to East Nashville to try a locally recommended favorite restaurant- Mas Tacos. Always having a line out the door, we were lucky to find a lull in the crowd, so we ran in and order some al pastor and chicken tacos – both were absolutely delicious! Afterward, we went out to explore Five Points, a hipsterfied area of East Nashville with nifty bars and restaurants. We perused the local wine merchant and ended up in a bar watching the local NHL team, the Predators in the Stanley Cup playoffs!

7 On Wednesday, we were psyched to go explore some of the rural areas of Nashville for our last day! We ended up at the Belle Meade Plantation; a part of history that had been around since the mid-1800’s. Before taking a tour, we played a quick game of Bocce Ball and Horseshoes, both of which I learned, I did not have a knack for in the slightest. After taking a tour of the house, learning about the family who had previously owned it and made a name for themselves raising champion horses, we headed for a wine tasting in the winery. Trying to sift the wine like a sophisticated pro, I was greeted with a laugh and almost lost my mouthful of wine in the midst of my pretentious tasting, to which the pourer sarcastically replied, “Very refined, Sir.” Ahh, maybe one day I can actually pull off classy!

8 After exploring the plantation a little more, we headed to downtown Nashville to hear a few singer/songwriters perform at The Listening Room Cafe. Hearing a few gifted talents while enjoying some quality beers and food, was a fantastic experience, and a quintessential one when it comes to truly experiencing The Music City. Afterward, we checked out the Ryman Auditorium, a 124-year-old music venue, that was previously home to the Grand Ole Opry. Finally, ending our night, we went to the premiere of a film at the Nashville Film Festival called Hunt for the Wilderpeople, an awesome film from the director of the New Zealand films What We Do In The Shadows and Boy – both of which I would definitely recommend. After the film let out, we started our drive back to East Nashville and get some rest before our 11-hour drive back home the next day.