Surviving a Small-Town Summer by Marshall Pickard

Today, Marshall steps in to share secrets to not only survive, but enjoy a summer spent in your small hometown. Check out his tips!


As someone who earnestly believes that vacationing is the secret to a successful life, it’s no surprise my family almost always spends some of our summer lounging on a beach.

However, after an incredible semester in England, Florida just wasn’t in the budget this year, so I’ve spent much of summer working in my small college town.

At first, the Instagram pictures of my friends at the ocean or the Eifel Tower or the mountains bothered me.  But then I decided to have an amazing summer right where I was, even if it was a little lonely and stripped of an ocean breeze.

So in case you as well are too busy working or studying to vacay this year (and don’t exactly live in Metropolis), here’s what I learned about staying planted for a small-town summer:

Enjoy local treats.  Especially if the community you’re occupying for the summer is your hometown, this tip might seem useless.  However, no matter how familiar you are with a place, there are always local treasures to seek out and discover.  Celebrate what makes your little town unique!  I’ve personally enjoyed rediscovering my city’s Greenway, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and hometown froyo shop.

Invest time in yourself.  There’s no time like the summertime to get some good moments alone.  When your friends are off traveling the world, you can really enjoy some restorative introverted moments (even if you aren’t an introvert).  Take yourself on a date or spend quality time developing yourself by reading or exercising—both of which I’ve gotten to treasure this summer.

Pursue your passion.  In the quietness of this summer, I’ve found so many more opportunities to go after my favorite thing to do—writing.  Whether you love art or music or sports, there’s nothing like actually carving out the time to do things you really enjoy.  Hey, you might even need to declare a staycation one weekend to catch up on your favorite pastime.

Take day trips to the city.  One of the best things about living in a small town is that you don’t have to deal with the busyness of big tourist attractions.  But every once in a while, you need some fast-paced adventure, and more than likely, there’s at least one city remotely near you (hopefully).   By avoiding cost of a hotel room, day-tripping is a decently inexpensive way to see a city.  In the nearest city, you can catch a concert, stroll through the hipster art district, eat at a nice restaurant, or see your favorite regional sports team play ball—and still get to sleep in your own bed that evening.

Enjoy nature.  Just because you can’t go to beach (unless of course, you live near a beach), doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the great outdoors.  If you live in a small town, there’s bound to be a river, a lake, or a forest nearby for you to take some chill time exploring.  Shoot, the least you can do is take your lunch break in a nearby park.  However nature speaks to you, don’t forget to spend peaceful (and probably cheap) time outdoors.

Practice gratitude.  Humans have this tendency to always be thinking about the “next thing,” so it’s no surprise you’re going to be tempted to ditch the job/schoolwork and hop on a plane to do something more exciting.  But as long as you allow yourself to think this way, you’ll never be content.  What will make you enjoy the rest of your summer is focusing on the good things you have in your life right now.  There are probably a lot more than you realize.

As the summer begins to fade, don’t waste any time daydreaming about distant adventures.  I hate to break it to you, but even travel doesn’t bring complete satisfaction.  You have to find that right where you are.

So dig into your small town, live like a local, and appreciate all the blessings you have to be thankful for right here and right now.


Local Adventures: A Night at the Drive-In

drive inNestled between Georgia mountains and resting under the big starry sky is a beautiful place: The Wilderness Outdoor Movie Theater.

Marshall and I went there at the beginning of this summer, and it was perfect. For $7 a piece we could park under the stars and cozy in for two feature films still in theaters.

Not only was it romantic, but talk about a cheap date! We left after the first film (The Amazing Spider Man 2) because of the long drive back to Tennessee, but we both felt like we got more than our money’s worth.

Whether or not you’re with a significant other, going to a drive-in movie is an awesome experience. There’s nothing like laying in a truck bed or on the hood of your car, being surrounded by beautiful scenery and feeling like you’ve stepped back into the 1950s. It’s perfect for summer.


Wherever you are, I highly recommend that you find the closest drive-in theater and make the trip.

Outdoor theater’s are typically only open during warmer months, so grab some friends and take advantage of thisf local adventure this summer! I promise it’ll be an evening for the photo albums.

Have you ever been to a drive-in? Tell me about it in the comments!
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Local Adventures: When Judah and the Lion Plays a Concert Next Door, You Need to Go

Last week I experienced the actual definition of a local adventure when Nashville folksy-Christian band Judah and the Lion played a house show right next door.

Literally…it was about six steps from my front door.

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The band tweeted about being in the area and wanting to play a spontaneous house show, and my neighbors responded! Social media can be a beautiful thing.

I knew it’d be a great experience, but I was in the middle of studying for my hardest final exam, so I wasn’t sure if going was the smartest idea.

But hey, how often does this kind of thing happen? So I threw caution to the wind and my books out the window (almost) and went to the concert.

And I’m so glad I did.

The show was short lived, thanks to a few irritated neighbors, but it was still such a cool experience. The band was down-to-earth, fun and talented – they played a mix of their own songs and a few surprising covers, like Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”

I love big stadium shows, but there’s something so unique about hearing a band play to a crowd of 30 from a small, quaintly lit front porch. The intimacy allowed them to interact with us in a personal way that bigger shows don’t.

Unlike rehearsed stadium concerts, that show will never be played again, and that experience will never be repeated. How cool is that?

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Haylee, me, Caroline and a lion

This local adventure isn’t as universal as ones I usually try to write about – chances are Judah and the Lion didn’t randomly play a show six steps from your front door (unless my roommate/most faithful follower Haylee is reading this right now – your chances are pretty good).

But there’s still a valuable lesson from this experience.

Some adventures have to be discovered, sought after and pursued. But some just happen. Some simply present themselves like an opportunity knocking at your {neighbors} door, and when they do, you should always take them. Who knows when that opportunity will come again?

And hey, I still did well on my exam! Maybe a jam sesh with Judah and the Lion was just the study break I needed.

What adventurous opportunities have come knocking on your door? Tell me about them! 
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Local Adventures: Explore your downtown

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I recently wrapped up a semester long internship at a magazine in downtown Chattanooga. The experience was fun, beneficial and definitely made me ready to get out into the real world. But it also gave me something else: a desire to explore every nook, cranny and unique boutique in downtown Chattanooga.

You see, most of my internship was spent sitting at a desk, but all around me I heard, read and even got to write about some great things going on in Chattanooga, and I’ve been dying to check them out for myself. I’ve lived 30 miles from the city for three years now, and even though I have spent tons of time down there, my internship opened my eyes to new things to do in Chattanooga that I had never ventured before. So this past weekend, my roommates and I traded our books for boutiques and went exploring through the beautiful Scenic City!
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We Started at Tupelo Honey in Warehouse Row for lunch. I’d heard TONS of amazing things about this place, and I was definitely not let down. I ordered my first sweet tea there since I finished the Whole30, and it was absolute heaven. The fried okra and grilled cheese sandwich was incredible too, and the sweet southern but modern style of the restaurant, topped off with a supremely hospitable staff, made the experience perfect. I already can’t wait to go back!

Next we spent some time exploring Warehouse Row, which is seriously a hidden treasure trove. The boutiques, spas and even office spaces were all beautiful, and walking through the romantically lit shopping center had us all dreaming of a metropolitan life in the city.

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Warehouse Row

Nphoto 5ext we headed across the Tennessee River to the North Shore, which is one of my favorite places in the city. Every time I’ve been before had been in the evening, however, so this time I wanted to spend the day exploring the artsy, locally owned boutiques that thrive in this area. We wandered through Luxe Boutique, Go Fish, River City Apparel and Blue Skies. Each new place had a personality of its own, and even though I wasn’t planning on actually buying anything, the merchandise was too gorgeous to resist. So…I walked away with a new pair of pants, a top, earrings and sunglass. Whoops!

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Sweet boutique finds {I didn’t end up getting that dress from Luxe, but I did find a new pair of sunglasses from there that I’m in love with}

Our next stop was Milk & Honey, a North Shore gelato and coffee shop. Again, absolute heaven {although this trip was definitely NOT Whole30/paleo approved}. If you’ve never tried avocado gelato, I now HIGHLY recommend it. Who would’ve thought? We took our gelato (and latte, in Haylee’s case) and headed back across the river for a little rooftop photo shoot. Haylee’s aunt has a great apartment looking over the river, and she let us use the roof for the day! Connections are the best. Here are a few (okay, a lot) of my favorite shots {get ready for a some adorable roommate love…and a little bit of crazy}.

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Not a bad view!

We took a little stroll on the Walnut Street Bridge {A.K.A. the walking bridge} before heading home. It definitely wasn’t out first time on the bridge, but when it’s so beautiful, how can you resist? We also couldn’t resist taking a few more shots….

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Have you had enough pictures yet? I just couldn’t help but show off what an incredible day we had in our small city. The lesson from today’s post is this: wherever you are, there is something to explore, and fun downtowns have so much to offer. Even if you have to drive 30 miles to get to the closest city, do it! Visit new places, eat new foods and if you can, frolic around on a rooftop. I promise that it will be a beautiful day.

What cities do you love exploring? I’d love to hear your stories!

PS – my lovely roommates are also bloggers! Check them out at Hashtag Haylee (who took most of the pictures) and Caroline’s Cup (yes, we have the same name!)

Local Adventures: Why Trampoline Parks are for EVERYONE (I’m not kidding)

This past Saturday night I had more fun than I’ve had in weeks. Why? Because I went to a trampoline park AND IT WAS THE BEST THING EVER.

Seriously, it was so great. Wall to wall trampolines, foam pits, rope swings, “interpretive jumping.” It was perfect. After my experience I’m convinced that going to a trampoline park is the absolute best thing you can do to let go of any stress and just feel like a free-spirited child. And it’s a killer workout.

Sorry for the bad iPhone quality, but even that can't take away from how awesome this place looks.

Sorry for the bad iPhone quality, but even that can’t take away from how awesome this place looks.

Jump parks are kind of a new trend (on my radar anyway), but they are starting to pop up everywhere, so I’m willing to bet there’s one near you. I went to the Chattanooga Jump Park, where you can jump for $12/hr.

I’m now convinced that trampoline parks are great for any age. When I left the park I knew that I had to share my experience with fellow college students, but I also realized that anyone, whether you’re five or 50, could love a trampoline park.

Here’s why your age group should make a trip to your nearest trampoline park:

Kids: This one is a no brainer: you are five. For you, trampoline parks are as natural as sugar highs and playdates. Go crazy, munchkins. (Sidebar: I know there aren’t any five year olds actually reading this, but I didn’t want to exclude the little tikes. Trampoline parks really are made for them.)

Teens: Look, I know you’re really cool and have an iPhone and like 5,000 followers on Instagram, but it’s time to let loose and stop caring what people think about you all the time. One thing I can guarantee you: you will not look cool at a trampoline park. You will look stupid. But who cares? In the wise words of Natasha Bedingfield, “release your inhibitions,” and go jump your heart out on the dang trampolines. I promise you’ll love it.

College students/young adults: In the midst of finding independence, living on our own and preparing for adulthood, most of us could desperately use an evening of feeling like a child again. You can try yoga or getting eight hours of sleep, but I’m willing to bet that nothing will melt away stress quicker that flipping from a trampoline into a foam pit.

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Jump park 101: take your friends. I was lucky enough to spend the evening with three of the most fun people I know.

Young parents: Are you looking for ways to expend some of your toddler’s bursting energy? The trampoline park is your answer. Taking your kids to the trampoline park gives you two options: the first is to let your child jump while you get work done and watch them from the next room (most parks have a watching area with tables), or the second is to forget about your work and jump with them. Either way, your child will leave happy and exhausted.

Fitness lovers of any age: I wasn’t kidding before when I said that jumping on trampolines is an absolutely killer workout. My abs were burning with fifteen minutes, but it was so much fun that I kept going for the full hour until I was drenched in sweat and unable to breathe. Afterwards I thought about the fun I had and how good the workout felt. It was the ultimate gift to myself.

Adults/soccer moms/career men and women/everyone else: I don’t have much to say here except that trampoline parks are a blast, and with your busy life, I’m guessing you could use some fun. Just take an hour and unleash the free spirit inside of you. One of my favorite groups to watch before my jump hour started was the adults jumping and laughing like children, probably at the last place they expected to be on a Saturday night, but they were loving it. It may feel ridiculous, but you deserve this, so go!

If you’ve made it this far then you have no excuse to not find the closest trampoline park and plan your trip. I promise you will have the time of your life. Happy jumping!


Local adventures: take a sunrise hike

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Up before the sun on Chilhowee Mountain; photo taken by my lovely roommate Haylee Robinson.

Welcome to the first post of my new series: local adventures! The goal of this blog is to help college students (and any others) find adventure in both exciting and mundane times, so local adventures will be a way to feature things you can do when you’re stuck at school without any exotic travels in the near future.

But who says that has to be boring? There is adventure all around us, we just have to get out and explore!

My roommate and I have been looking for new adventures lately, as we are tired of wasting away our Saturdays in bed with Netflix. So this weekend we decided to do the exact opposite and wake up before the sun to go on a hike. I am still so proud of us for even waking up and getting out of the house that early.


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We ended up hiking for six hours. What even. It was beautiful and so tiring. We saw the sunrise over the mountains, heard the sound of babbling brooks through the forests, jumped through creeks, across rocks and over fallen trees, got lost a few times and got the best leg workout of our lives all before most college students were awake. 

We came home exhausted and aching all over, but it was well worth it. Besides seeing new sights and enlivening our sense of adventure, we felt so accomplished just for getting out of our beds and doing something active.

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It’s so fun being adventurous with this girl!

Hiking is a great local adventure that can be done almost anywhere, even if you don’t live near mountains. So get out of bed and take a hike!

Do you like to go hiking? Where are the best places to hike in your area? Do you have any other ideas for local adventures? I would love to hear about them!

**All photos taken by my lovely roommate Haylee Robinson