Updated: Feb 10
*sigh* You know I have to take a deep breath before talking about 2020 and the novelty known as "Covid 19" a.k.a. Coronavirus *said in my Cardi B voice* It's been one crazy year and I think we can all agree that once it's finally over, it surely won't be missed. Full of ups, downs, quarantines, lock downs, layoffs, intense elections, illnesses and most tragically- deaths. 2020 has been the year that many of us will definitely remember for the rest of our lives. There are so many things that Covid 19 came in and robbed us of, that it's simply too depressing to write about.
However- the one thing that Covid can never take from us is our spirit. Our tenaciousness and ability to rise above and overcome what was meant to destroy us is only proof that we cannot be destroyed. We survived it y'all!! If you're reading this blog right now, YOU survived it! We may be beaten, battered and bruised but we are NOT broken! Congrats to you. Even the smallest victories deserve celebration and recognition. We might be going through tough times, but tough times build enduring character and everlasting strength. We must never lose sight of hope!
But enough about that- let's talk about traveling (I mean... that's what we're here for, right?)
(Atlanta Evergreen Marriott Courtyard in GA.)
So I haven't been able to travel this year due to mandated travel bans and world wide lock downs. In the beginning of the year, I had 7 trips planned and paid for that included seeing 5 new countries. Annnnd of course they were all canceled! *rolls eyes & cries a little on the inside* But there's always next year, right? I hope.....*fingers crossed* One thing I did do this year despite all the negative energy around the world was move to a different state. I left my beautiful home state of California and moved to the peach tree state of the south, Georgia- for a job promotion. It was hard leaving home, but I've been enjoying living in Atlanta for about 3.5 months now. I think I'm settling in just fine and the country lifestyle is really starting to grow on me.
Since moving and familiarizing myself with my new surroundings, I recently stumbled upon a hidden gem nestled just below Stone Mountain in Dekalb County, GA. Situated about 30 minutes from downtown Atlanta and surrounded by 3,200 acres, Stone Mountain Park is one of GA's most popular tourist attractions (so you know I had to check it out!) The mountain itself features a controversial carving of Confederate Leaders Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis. They're etched right onto the side of the world's largest piece of exposed granite. Kinda like Mt. Rushmore... Although there's been much talk of removing confederate statues from around the world, seeing such a work of art carved into a mountain was truly a sight to see.
(To see this memorial, you can take a sky ride up the mountain for about $16 - or you can simply drive past to catch a quick glimpse- I highly recommend the sky ride for unobstructed views)
Additionally, Stone Mountain Park features an on-site campground where you can reserve Safari Tents, RV's, Yurts or stay comfortably at either the Evergreen Marriott Resort or the Historic Stone Mountain Inn. There's also a golf club with 2 luscious green courses located right on the lakes edge. And if that's not enough to make you pack your bags, the park also has numerous hiking trails, fishing, restaurants and family friendly waterfront activities. Rent a canoe or bring your own boat and enjoy the scenery as you drift across 323 acres of calm, soothing waters on the illustrious Stone Mountain Lake. Take a drive up the winding roads through the beautiful Oak Pine Hickory Forest. See white-tailed deer roaming through the woods and dizzy squirrels playfully bouncing across the pathways while you take in all the fresh air nature has to provide. The drive alone is a breath taking experience.
(Partial view of Stone Mountain Lake from the balcony of Evergreen Marriott Resort)
This past week I stayed at the ultra luxurious Atlanta Evergreen Marriott Conference Resort. It was my first mini vacation this year and it was much needed! I had a lake view room that offered maximum privacy and seclusion away from the busy world around me. I was able to relax, rejuvenate and refresh myself with a few nights rest among nature and its illusive occupants. The morning views of the sun mirroring over the lake while peeking out my balcony's window was priceless. The intriguing sounds of birds chirping and fallen leaves blowing across the forest floor were more than enough reasons to stay in bed and daydream about life all day.
(images at the resort, on a hiking trail and atop Stone Mountain)
Although tempted, I couldn't resist going outdoors and submerging myself within the environment. The trees, the air, the ducks quacking, the light humming of engines on nearby boats and the sound of wind whistling past my ears made me appreciate being able to get out and enjoy the little things. I went hiking, ate lots of great food and enjoyed some quality spa time in both the indoor and outdoor saunas at the resort. But the best part of all, is because we're still in the midst of a pandemic, there weren't many guests at the hotel. It was like having a resort all to myself. The Marriott took extreme caution by making sure everything was freshly cleaned and sanitized. Certain amenities were off limits due to maintaining proper and safe social distancing requirements. None of that took away from my main goal of relaxing and enjoying some "me" time.
(On the balcony of my room enjoying the view with some wine)
The need for isolation and self quarantine made my "staycation" during Covid a pleasant one. As I mentioned before, the resort didn't have very many guests which left many of the amenities that were available, AVAILABLE. The pools and saunas were empty most of the times I went. The gym was empty and the lobby was never crowded. Anytime I had a need or request, the housekeeping and front desk staff accommodated me within minutes. There were no kids running up and down the hallways, no big families with all their luggage in the elevators and no big groups of tourists wandering through the public areas. While that may seem like a boring vacation to some, it was paradise for me. I was able to shoot video and take pictures for my blog without other people being in the shots. I also captured some great footage with my drone and camera equipment with minimal distractions. It worked out perfectly.
Check out this footage I captured with my DJI Mavic Drone and GroPro camera:
I recommend this resort for anyone considering a visit to Georgia. It's tucked away nicely from the hustle and bustle of the busy city. No traffic, airplanes, sirens or any of the noise associated with our everyday lives. If you're looking for a quiet, peaceful getaway or if you just want to spend some quality, intimate time in nature- Stone Mountain Park is calling your name! Whether you drive in for a day or fly in for a week, they have all your accommodations waiting for you. With so much to see and do, it's definitely a worthwhile vacation the entire family can enjoy.
(picture of my b/vlogging essentials)
As always, thanks for reading, thanks for stopping by and thanks for inspiring me! If you guys enjoyed reading this blog, feel free to share it on your social media pages. Stay strong, stay smart, stay safe!
Xoxo- Ashawna Lane, the solo traveler...
Bloopers from learning how to control my drone... I've only used it a handful of times, so learning it's features have been quite the task (I actually broke the arm on one side of my drone, but managed to fix it with some gorilla glue and duct tape - nearby Walmart to the rescue!) Also, my drone came with bumpers (which I didn't have on at the time of the crash) and extra propellers, so I can replace the scratched up, damaged ones.
Flying my drone into the ceiling of my hotel ^^
My drone going wacky after crashing ^^
Damaged propellers from crashing ^^
Broken arm from crashing ^^
Broken arm and scraped up propellers ^^
P.S. - A huge shout out goes to DJI for building such a durable little drone. After gluing it back together, it worked just fine. The camera, nor the gimble calibration were ruined. It flew properly and maintained its stability throughout flight. SCORE! Would highly recommend for those interested in a starter drone!