Let's Go To Cuba With Small Footprint Travels!


Good News Cuba Aficionados!

Speaking of Travel is collaborating with Small Footprint Travels on a new eastern Cuba trip scheduled for February, 2020.


Discovering this special and unique part of Cuba will be a rewarding and memorable experience for you so make your plans now to come along. This will be a fun adventure! 

In this beautiful part of Cuba, time stands still. The people are friendly and the landscape is breathtaking. Cuba is a bucket-list destination and there may not be many chances in the future to travel there easily. With Small Footprint Travels, you can just show up and join us! You’re sure to have a fun time and learn so much about this incredible country.

There are many reasons to travel to eastern Cuba with Small Footprint Travels and Speaking of Travel and here are just a few:


• If you have already visited Havana, you have only seen one-half of Cuba. Santiago and the eastern side of the island is very different. It is the home of Revolutions, Rum and Santeria.

• This may be our last chance to legally visit Cuba before there are more restricted rules for visiting Cuba.

  • The population in eastern Cuba reflects more of an African heritage than in Havana. All of the revolutions in Cuba’s history happened first in the eastern part of the island. Rum was first made in Santiago and it’s the best!

  • All transportation and lodging for this trip is arranged. A private air-conditioned bus will be your mode of transport along with our own driver and English speaking guide.

  • Dancing is on tap with Salsa dance classes!

  • This part of Cuba has far fewer tourists visiting than in Havana. We will be in small towns as well to experience authentic eastern Cuban culture.

  • Small Footprint Travels is very experienced in leading small groups to Cuba. Their trips are fun and fascinating—they put you with the local people to discover the non-touristy Cuba.

  • Discovering the Cuban culture is what they love to share with you.

  • Again, you just have to show up! This trip has all the details ready for you!

  • Small Footprint Travels creates “un-tours." Even though you travel in a small group (max is 12 people), you have free time to explore on your own.

Ready to join in the fun? Having traveled with Small Footprint Travels to Cuba, I can assure you this is going to be one good time!

For more information and to reserve your spot, email Benjamin Porter at benjamin@smallfootprinttravels.com.

Find out more!

Does Not Planning a Vacation Mean Less Stress?


Nina Zapala is introducing the world to a revolutionary way to travel and it’s all about discovering your INNER TRAVEL GUIDE via travel personality typing.

A recent article in the New York Times, “To Reduce Travel Stress, Plan Less,” offers up some travel tips on how not planning a vacation may mean less stress while on holiday.

Nina’s phone lit up as her “SJ” traveling friends were like, “OH HECK NO!” You see, a person with sensing and judging functions are rooted in the physical and they love to plan and are often practical and realistic.

They’re not likely to plan less; in fact, just the opposite is true.

To see what your travel personality uncovers, visit Nina’s blog!

Find out more!

Leap Frog Tours is a Trusted Name for Great Tours


I’ve lived in Western North Carolina for four decades and am always amazed at how little I know about my own community. So going on tours with Leap Frog Tours is helping me uncover stories and details of places right in my own backyard and making them come alive!

Choosing Leap Frog Tours means I’m directly supporting the local economy and people, helping to preserve the region for future visitors. And I love that about them!


 I had the best time on Asheville’s first Hemp Tour. Leap Frog Tours partnered with Franny’s Farm and we spent time learning about hemp and CBD. Our tour guide, Mark, is an amazing source of information on everything you need to know about the local hemp culture and we had an authentic and rewarding experience learning all about this new, emerging industry.

The tour ended at Bhramari Brewing Company for the launch of Franny’s Farmhouse Ale and the group bonded over a good brew. I would highly recommend taking this awesome tour!


Then I went on their RiverLink Tour to explore what’s going on in the River Arts area these days. I remember when RiverLink was established in 1987. The nonprofit was conceived at the Asheville Chamber of Commerce at a time when the French Broad and downtown Asheville was not an attractive place and the RAD was mostly a junkyard and a dumping area for trash.

 Today, thanks to visionaries like Karen Cragnolin, the innovative and restorative projects on our riverfront are creating a place for recreation and preservation for generations to come. I found out details about the history of the river I never knew, and what RiverLink is doing today and planning for the future.


 Garrett Artz, Executive Director of RiverLink and our tour guide, Mark, are both knowledgeable about the French Broad River and treated us to stories and history that came alive.

This time, the tour concluded at New Belgium Brewery for more fun. Our group hung out and chatted and we all had a wonderful experience!

 Regardless of whether you live in Western North Carolina, have guests in town or if you’re a visitor to this beautiful region of the world, there is a lot to see and do!

And going with Leap Frog Tours is the perfect way to create memories while traveling in their comfortable vans, with expert guides who have a deep knowledge of the history, geography, culture and traditions of the area and share them in an engaging and entertaining way.


Visit Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park This Summer


Experience the best of the North Carolina mountains in one place at Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park, an international outdoor destination in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western NC, attracting visitors from around the world. And it’s only a lovely 25 mile drive from Asheville.


There is so much to see and do! You’ll find beautiful scenery, including 75-mile panoramic views overlooking Lake Lure, fabulous hiking trails, native wildlife and one of North Carolina's highest waterfalls (featured in the movie The Last of the Mohicans).

 And as a Season Passholder, you get 12 months of visits to the Park for only $32! This is less than the cost of two visits!

Plus you’ll get great discounts on programs, workshops and hikes and discounted admission for your friends who come with you, a discount on food, beverages and retail purchases in all Park outlets, and even more discounts at favorite local attractions and shops, including Biltmore, Lake Lure Tours, Mast General Store & others!

Where else can you get such a big return for such a small investment?

 Chimney Rock Management’s dedicated Green Team meets regularly to ensure sustainable practices are implemented properly and review additional opportunities to reduce the Park’s carbon footprint.

 This is a wonderful time to visit the Smokies! And no visit would be complete without a visit to Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park, the best of the mountains in one place!

Listen to the latest on what’s going on at Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park with General Manager Mary Jaeger-Gale. Have fun!


Thoughts From Nearly Two Years Around the World With Megan and Grant From Career Break Adventures


Like anyone acquiring a new a skill, we learned more than a couple travel lessons during our trip around the world. Some came the easy way, several the hard way, a few in English and most in dozens of other languages.

Two years ago we stepped away from desirable careers, ones that we had schooled for and built over more than a decade. Following a calling, we realized there was plenty to experience in life that couldn’t be fit into a short vacation.

We had the money but didn’t have the time to spend. To quote The Avengers: End Game (an ironically long movie), “No amount of money ever bought a second of time.” We grabbed our backpacks, hopped on a plane and started traveling long term.

We lived with foreign cultures, survived an earthquake, saw heartwarming beauty and incredible suffering, trekked the Himalayas, broke through ice in Antarctica, camped on the Serengeti, learned a new language, saw incalculable environmental destruction and infinitely abundant wildlife.

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Now, seven continents later, we can reflect and offer our key takeaways to other inspired explorers and aspiring travelers.

 1) Be a Traveler, Not a Tourist

Being a tourist is easy. Follow the crowds, go to the same places with all the other tourists, get some pictures, buy a mass produced souvenir, and leave with forgettable memories. But a little extra effort can transform the experience.

Do Internet research beforehand, reading articles, blogs and recommendations from other travelers to find less famous spots. Avoid joining tour groups and try to do it yourself. You will hit some roadblocks and stumble along the way, but this method creates some of the most unforgettable journeys.

 2) Pack Light

 Leave the luggage burden behind and pack like a minimalist. Dress in layers, bring clothes that convert, carry items with double purpose and leave the just-in-case stuff behind. Reducing your bag size will save a heap of hassle during your travels. Try to shrink your bag enough to carry onto the plane. This will ensure that you never lose your luggage and can get through the airport without standing in the bag check in line.

The reduced size makes it easier to move from place to place, helps you pack quickly and allows for more walking. This small step will give you less to worry about and more freedom to enjoy your vacation.

 3) Do It the Local Way

Instead of following the other foreigners, do what the locals do. Places geared towards tourists typically have higher prices and lower quality or authenticity. Search out spots frequented by locals to get a true taste of the culture.

Venture away from the tourist streets to find original restaurants and shops. Opt for home stays over hotels and take public transport to immerse yourself and get tips from people who live there. Learn some words in the language (or use Google Translate) and ask local people where they recommend to eat or visit. This will lead to a better adventure and save a lot of money in the process.

 4) Slow Down, Don’t Over Plan

Take a slower approach to travel. It’s about the journey, not the destination. Leave a cushion when planning and allow room for spontaneity and diversions. Jumping around and packing in the highlights leads to stress and damages the experience.

Slow travel lets you soak up your surroundings and have time to follow advice from locals and other travelers. You are less likely to miss connections or have your main event ruined by weather, and the flexibility lets you find cheaper and better options. Overall, your trip will be more enjoyable and less expensive.

 5) Protect Against Avoidable Risks

Overall, the world is a very safe place to visit, but there are some risks which can easily be minimized. Be a prudent traveler and take precautions to keep from being a target for pickpockets, theft or other scams which seek out clueless tourists. Deter theft by wearing clothing with secure pockets and carrying your daypack or bag in the front.

Don’t carelessly hold or stare at your phone on the street, instead make eye contact with the people around you and always be aware of your surroundings. Use an offline GPS map to discretely confirm locations and directions before walking or while in taxis. Be wary of unrequested advice. Listen to your instincts, if something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t.

6) Embrace the Bumps

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Travel is not perfect. Cultures have different customs, countries vary in comfort standards, flights get delayed, things happen. Learn to expect and embrace the unexpected. Many of the most uncomfortable experiences are the most memorable encounters, and make the best stories.

Remember, money can buy experience, but not time. Use both wisely.

 Grant and Megan


Take a Trip to Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park

Experience the best of the North Carolina mountains in one place at Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park, an international outdoor destination in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western NC, attracting visitors from around the world. And it’s only a lovely 25 mile drive from Asheville.

There is so much to see and do! You’ll find beautiful scenery, including 75-mile panoramic views overlooking Lake Lure, fabulous hiking trails, native wildlife and one of North Carolina's highest waterfalls (featured in the movie The Last of the Mohicans). There’s something for everyone.

 And as a Season Passholder, you get 12 months of visits to the Park for only $32! This is less than the cost of two visits!

Plus you’ll get great discounts on programs, workshops and hikes as well as discounted admission for your friends who come with you. You’ll receive a 15% discount on food, beverages and retail purchases in all Park outlets including The Old Rock Café, not to mention even more discounts at favorite local attractions and shops. Where else can you get such a big return for such a small investment?

 This is a wonderful time to visit the mountains! And no visit would be complete without a visit to Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park, the best of the mountains in one place!

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Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín

The signature concert of The Defiant Requiem Foundation, Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín, tells the story of the courageous Jewish prisoners in the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp (Terezín) during World War II who performed Verdi’s Requiem while experiencing the depths of human degradation.

With only a single smuggled score, they performed the celebrated oratorio 16 times, including one performance before senior SS officials from Berlin and an International Red Cross delegation. Conductor Rafael Schächter told the choir, “We will sing to the Nazis what we cannot say to them.”

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Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín is a concert-drama that was conceived and created by Foundation President, Maestro Murry Sidlin. It combines the magnificent music of Verdi with video testimony from survivors of the original Terezín chorus and footage from the 1944 Nazi propaganda film about Theresienstadt.

The performance also includes actors who speak the words of imprisoned conductor Rafael Schächter and others.


Praised by The New York Times as "Poignant... a monument to the courage of one man to foster hope among prisoners with little other solace," Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín will be performed in Asheville, NC at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium on Saturday, June 1, 2019 at 7:30 pm.

Led by Maestro Murry Sidlin, president of The Defiant Requiem Foundation and creator of this powerful concert/drama, Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín features the Asheville Symphony, Voices of Terezín Remembrance (a chorus comprised of singers from the Asheville Symphony Chorus, Asheville Choral Society, and other community members), and soloists Jennifer Check (soprano), Ann McMahon-Quintero (mezzo-soprano), Bruce Sledge (tenor), and Jongmin Park (bass).

Special thanks to Gail Wein, a New York-based music journalist who has written for The Washington PostPlaybill and Symphony Magazine, and was producer of National Public Radio’s Performance Today.

Elkin Creek Vineyard

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The site of a historic grist mill built in 1896, and gracing a special spot where two creeks join together to become one, Elkin Creek Vineyard is a one-of-a-kind destination.

Located one hour north of Charlotte, NC and only twenty minutes from the Virginia border, it is a hidden gem in the heart of the Yadkin Valley.

Guests can experience wine tastings in a warm and inviting tasting room, enjoy wine selections as they stroll by a gentle waterfall, or sit in a creek-side swing by the fire pit.

Lite fare is available such as an antipasta plate, homemade artisian bread, or our special Sunday treat of hand-made-to-order pizzas baked in an authentic wood-fire brick oven.

Winemaker Louis Jeroslow

Winemaker Louis Jeroslow

The property includes four private cabins with luxury amenities. Elkin Creek Vineyard is also available to host your wedding or special event.

Since 2011, Elkin Creek Vineyard has been under the care of the White and the Jeroslow families.  Nick and Jennifer White and Louis and Carrie Jeroslow found each other through their experience working for the theatrical sensation Blue Man Group. The Whites discovered Elkin Creek Vineyard when they married there in 2008.

After the wedding, and while living in Las Vegas, both couples had countless sushi meals where future dreams were discussed. 

As they did, a similar vision emerged - to create a place where people can come to celebrate life's great moments as well as a place to find quiet sanctuary; a life that involved people gathering around great wine, delicious food and beautiful surroundings.

It was quite a surprise when previous owner, Mark Greene approached them when he was ready to move on to his next adventure.

Mark Greene and his wife established Elkin Creek Vineyard in 2001 after purchasing the century-old mill. The Whites and the Jeroslows are deeply honored to have been chosen by Mr. Greene and it is a dream come true to care for and nurture this magical place.


North Carolina’s Yadkin Valley Wine Country

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The Yadkin Valley Wine Region is nestled in the foothills of the famous Blue Ridge Mountains along the meandering Yadkin River. An easy-to-follow trail allows you to navigate your way through the heart of North Carolina’s Yadkin Valley wine country.

The Surry County Wine Trail is showcased in a full-color map brochure highlighting 16 wineries in and around Surry County, along with five breweries and distilleries. The map simplifies the experience of spending a day or two tasting wines and touring vineyards.

“It is great for people utilizing GPS in their cars or on their mobile devices to have a guide with addresses, phone numbers and websites for all the wineries,” says Jessica Roberts, executive director of the Tourism Partnership of Surry County. “That was the main reason the trail was created – as a navigational tool.”

The map gives a good geographical overview of all 14 wineries in Surry County, as well as two wineries just outside the county that work closely with their Surry counterparts. It has addresses for use in GPS devices, as well as phone numbers and websites for all stops on the trail.

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The trail brochure details the varieties of grapes grown in the Yadkin Valley, along with information about lodging in wine country and a listing of annual events.

Photo of tim wahl by Bill Russ

Photo of tim wahl by Bill Russ

“Our tourism partners, including wineries, breweries, distilleries and lodging partners, like having a brochure to give visitors to help them navigate,” Roberts says.

Surry County wineries have a tradition of sending visitors to neighboring wineries, which is now much easier thanks to the trail map. 

“Maybe people came to see us because of a recommendation from one of our neighbors, and then we’ll recommend another neighbor,” says Tim Wahl, winemaker and co-owner of Adagio Vineyards in Elkin.

“That’s something you don’t always get in other states, where there can be an hour between wineries. People really like to visit three or four within a day.”

Wahl likes the fact that visitors receive an up close and personal experience while visiting wineries in Surry County.“The personal stories behind the wineries are interesting,” Wahl says.

“We try to be there in person to give them a tour of the production facility and go through, step by step, how we make the wines and let them know why our wineries are unique.”

The Yadkin Valley became North Carolina’s first federally designated American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 2003 thanks to the efforts of owners Charlie and Ed Shelton of Shelton Vineyards in Surry County.

“We are proud to be the birthplace of the Yadkin Valley AVA, and this is an exciting time for visitor growth in our wine industry,” Roberts says.

To request a free map by mail, or to download a copy, visit www.YadkinValleyNC.com.

Impact Travel Alliance Celebrates International Women's Day

Photo courtesy of Lokal Travel

Photo courtesy of Lokal Travel

On March 8, International Women’s Day, Impact Travel Alliance celebrated the female traveler and the travel businesses that support women around the world with four global events.

Planned by four Impact Travel Chapters to bring together the women and men who are passionate about travel and lifting women up, the events focused on helping women to unleash their inner explorer.

Several extraordinary women-led travel businesses and operators with programs that empower women were highlighted at events in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Hong Kong; and Kathmandu, Nepal.

Photo courtesy of Community Homestay.

Photo courtesy of Community Homestay.

“Thankfully it’s possible to find companies like the women’s global travel operator Purposeful Nomad or Ock Pop Tok Living Crafts Centre in Laos that allow us as travelers to support female-run businesses that are also doing their best to support women globally. It’s important to take this day to shine a light on their work,” said Kelley Louise, Impact Travel Alliance founder and executive director.

“We also wanted to celebrate female travelers. Our community is full of intrepid women dedicated to exploring and doing good as they travel. It’s not always easy to travel as a woman, but we persist.”

Several organizations in the ITA community focus on empowering women through travel:

• Community Homestay in Nepal collaborates with an NGO to provide local women the opportunity to become entrepreneurs and ready their homes to house guests.

• Fernweh Fair Travel is a women-led NGO working to empower women, mostly young widows, and bring sustainable development to communities in India through responsible tourism.

• Purposeful Nomad runs female, small-group adventures around the world designed to empower women through responsible community engagement.

• The female-owned Andeana Hats operates sustainable tours for travelers to support the Quechua weaving community in rural Peru.

• The community tourism platform and travel operator Lokal Travel features a range of women-owned lodges, female-guided tours and more, like Ock Pop Tok Living Crafts Centre, that highlight women and support their work around the world.

• Many of Urban Adventures’ day tours are hosted by local women and support area organizations. “The Olive Tree of Istanbul” tour visits a community center that offers education and support to Syrian refugees, including a women’s social enterprise program.

International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. For more information, visit www.internationalwomensday.com

Photo courtesy of Laura Grier

Photo courtesy of Laura Grier

Impact Travel Alliance is the world's largest community for impact-focused travelers and travel professionals. Through education and advocacy around sustainable tourism, the organization aims to transform the travel industry into a force for good, and to help improve the world through business and leisure travel.

Impact Travel Alliance is an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit with a highly engaged and active global community with 30 local chapters in cities around the world. For more information, visit impacttravelalliance.org.

Visit Beautiful, Untouched Bolivia

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I admit to having a bucket list for so many reasons. For one thing, it gives you something to dream about and is really all about creating memories. Life is short so it's important to make the most of it. Remember, Don’t Postpone Joy. One place on my bucket list that I dream of going is beautiful, untouched Bolivia, a country off the radar of mainline tourism, but offering unique and authentic experiences to intrepid travelers.

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If Bolivia is on your bucket list, or if traveling to remote, untouched destinations is your thing, check out this fabulous small group tour with Small Footprint Travels (limited to 12 people) and explore this lovely land located in the heart of South America.

Bolivia is home to both the Aymara and Quechua Indians and is the most widely populated indigenous country in Latin America.

Colorful village markets offer extensive shopping opportunities and many photogenic people. You’ll learn to cook traditional Bolivian dishes at cooking class in La Paz. Bolivians are warm and friendly and will make you feel welcome in their country.

Bolivia is home to some of the worlds’ highest vineyards and recently recognized award-winning wines. You’ll visit wineries in the southern part of the country and travel to UNESCO World Heritage cities.

They also travel to the world’s largest salt flat, the Salar de Uyuni, which covers more than 4,000 square miles. Traversing this immense white dessert in our private 4x4 vehicles is like stepping onto another planet. You get to spend two nights there in a hotel built entirely of salt!


La Paz is a rich city steeped in history and is now linked with a network of modern cable cars. We will enjoy a cooking class to learn classic Bolivian dishes. Did you know that Bolivia is home to more than 4,000 varieties of potato?

Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake is a short drive from La Paz. You’ll spend a night at a comfortable eco lodge on the Island of the Sun, situated in the middle of the Lake. It is there on that island the Incas believed the world was created.

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As an optional add-on trip, you can continue traveling with Small Footprint Travels from La Paz and fly to Cusco, Peru, to experience Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. These destinations are unlike any you will experience in the rest of the world and Machu Picchu is a must-visit when you are in South America. Bucket list!

Traveling with Small Footprint Travels is the best of all travel worlds because details of foreign travel are arranged for you and you’re accompanied by Spanish-speaking American tour leader and local Bolivian guides.

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As for the ease of process, they guide people through everything they need for this trip, from what to bring, shots to get, where to get the visa, and recommended flights to Bolivia.

Nearly everything is covered in the cost of the tour. Many, but not all, meals are included. One thing to note… this is a journey for people in good health because you’ll be walking every day—though it’s not a trek by any means. You’ll stay in comfortable 3 & 4 star lodging and have your own private transportation and professional driver throughout.

I traveled to Cuba with Small Footprint Travels and loved every minute of it! So sign up today!

The tour dates for Bolivia are September 11- 25, 2019 with an add-on trip to Cusco and Machu Picchu (September 25 - 29).

For more information, email:


Or call 1.828.281.1825

All photos courtesy of Benjamin Porter

Prestige Subaru Gives Back

Over the years Prestige Subaru has played an active role in the Asheville community, giving back to the organizations that make Asheville the wonderful place that it is.

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Prestige is a family-owned and operated dealership in Asheville since 1967, and they ould not imagine a better place to do business and ultimately call home.

Tucked into a bed of picturesque views in a stunning natural landscape, Asheville is a destination location for individuals from all walks of life, from all around the country.

The natural beauty and the climate here in the mountains are second to few, providing residents and tourists alike with a healthy environment for all types of activity. But it isn’t simply the climate and impressive environment Asheville finds itself in that places it in high esteem, but rather the people and organizations working within it that truly make it such an incredible place to live. Asheville boasts a compassionate community network aimed at achieving the best for its residents and even their pets.

Groups such as the Asheville Humane Society, ASPCA, Homeward Bound WNC, Riverlink, Meals on Wheels, the Eblen Foundation, WNC AIDS Project, Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society are just a few of the conscientious organizations at work in Western North Carolina that Prestige Subaru is proud to support in making Asheville one of the most pleasant places to live in the country.

Prestige Subaru has consistently ranked as the #1 Subaru dealer in the Southeast for over 10 years and continues to strive for success, committed to raising the bar each year. Not only is this success attributed to the hard work put in everyday by Prestige employees, who make life at the dealership enjoyable through the highs and the lows, but also to the customers who choose Prestige to serve their each and every need. Whether it is buying a new or used car, or a simple routine service check, Prestige is dedicated to treating each and every customer like family and ensuring satisfaction throughout the many years your Subaru is on the road.

Everyone at Prestige Subaru would like to thank their loyal customers for each experience shared with them and making their job at Prestige a pleasant one. They are proud to give back to their customers and the community as a whole, and look forward to playing their part in helping make 2019 a fantastic and productive year for the entire Asheville community.

 Thank you Anthony Pelle and your entire Prestige team!

Click here to watch My Subaru Story with Jeff Bennington from Lake Junaluska, NC

Speaking of Flying Continues


Speaking of Flying – a Speaking of Travel airport interview series highlighting passengers and their unique adventures through the Asheville Regional Airport – continues! Folks are taking some really cool trips and share some valuable travel tips! After listening to these fun tales from the terminal you'll want to book your next flight! Seriously!

Speaking of Flying + Making Memories


The Keaton family is making their first-ever trip to Rome, Italy. With the holidays on the horizon, the Keatons are eager to celebrate in a different way and make memories together over the holidays. When it comes to traveling as a family, Michael understand the importance of patience and flexibility.

“It can try the patience a little bit,” he said. “Kids want to do their thing, and parents have ideas of what the kids should be doing. We give them enough freedom, and it all works out.”

Michael loves starting his adventures at AVL. “It is very convenient,” he said. “The parking is close to the terminal. It is very affordable. It is much faster than taking a long two-and-a-half-hour drive… and it is great that at the end of your trip you do not have a two-and-a-half-hour drive awaiting you when you are all exhausted and just want to go home.”

Listen Here!

Speaking of Flying + Across the Pond


The Warner family will be spending their holiday season across the pond in London, England. Commuting to visit relatives in Somerset is an especially interesting experience for the Warners. “We will drive down,” Doug said. “What is interesting about the drive is that you go… within 50 yards of Stonehenge.”

As a family who frequently travels together, the Warners know what it takes to get the job done. “Get here early,” Doug said. “Do whatever you have to do to get out of the house quickly and relax at the airport.”

The Warner family loves the convenience of AVL. “We live one exit away,” Doug said. “It is literally a five-minute drive.”

Listen Here!

Speaking of Flying + Flying South


Grace is heading south for winter. She will spend the season with family in Arizona. Her dog is also joining in on the fun, awaiting boarding in her carrier.

“You have to pack a lot of stuff.” Grace said. “That is why we… carry her the way we do. We have so much to handle, to check in and out.”

Grace likes how easy it is to navigate her way around AVL. “It is friendly and small,” Grace said. “It is just easy to get around. I enjoy it here.”

Listen here!


Speaking of Flying + Furry Friends

Steven is off to New Orleans to spend the holidays with family, but he is not going alone. He is bringing along his favorite four-legged travel companion, Levi. As someone who frequently travels with a pet, Steven knows a thing or two about bringing furry friends on board.

“He is fun to travel with,” Steven said. “He has traveled everywhere with me. A lot of people like him and try to pet him.”

Steven likes the ease of traveling in out of the AVL. “It is an easy airport to travel out of,” Steven said. “It is not like a big airport where you have so many planes coming in.”

Listen  here!



Speaking of Flying + Home for the Holidays

Robert is Memphis-bound for the holidays to be with family. The Tennessee native was only in town briefly, picking up his son who attends college in the area. With such a quick turnaround, he came prepared to navigate the airport with efficiency.

“I always anticipate the TSA stop. Wear stuff that is easy to get off and put back on. Have a backpack to keep it all so you do not misplace it. It will fit in the overhead bin – no matter how small the plane is.”

Robert likes the convenience and speed of traveling through AVL. “I picked Asheville for our… flight because it is easy to check in and check out,” Robert said. “If you rented a car, you can drop it off.”

Listen here!



Blue Ridge Honor Flight

Douglas MacArthur once said, “The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.”


Giving Back
Giving back to veterans who gave so much is the goal of Blue Ridge Honor flight, and since 2006, Jeff Miller and his Blue Ridge Honor Flight team have taken our WWII,  Korean War, and Vietnam War veterans to Washington, D.C, to visit those memorials dedicated to their service
and sacrifice.

HonorAir and the National Honor Flight programs are responsible for flying over 200,000 WWII, Korean and Vietnam veterans to our nation's capitol to experience their memorials. 

The veterans who had patriotically lifted their hands to their hearts many times in the 61 years since the war ended had never seen anything like the hero's reception they received in Washington.


"CBS Sunday Morning" aired a moving feature about the HonorAir effort in September 2006. Click here to view this lovely tribute.

On May 4, 2019, they will fly again. Learn more about this great mission, how you can get involved or send a deserving veteran to DC for a day of honor.


Navarre Beach, Florida: Four Reasons to Visit in 2019

Many make the trip to Navarre Beach for breathtaking views from the Navarre Beach Pier or they arrive anticipating moments of simple family fun, fishing the day away while others travel to the area for long days spent at the beach hunting for seashells and delighting in solitude that is becoming a rare find amongst Florida beaches. Below are four more reasons why a beach vacation to Navarre Beach, Florida, should be on your vacation planner for 2019.

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Embracing A Tiny Town
The area has been given the title of “One of the Best Tiny Towns,” by Southern Living Magazine, draws families from the region and beyond. Families are attracted to the area like magnets on a refrigerator, as 12 miles of uncrowded beaches give way to waterplay — kite boarding, surfing, and snorkeling are all part of the day’s journey. Children can run like the wind without bumping into a beach chair, car, or another human, oh so refreshing. What’s even more fun is watching Moms and Dads trying to capture these moments on video. It’s tough as these undisturbed beaches bring a freedom vibe that kids tap into, slowing them down for a video is rarely an option! Add in the silky-smooth white sandy beaches perfect for tiny feet and crystal clear turquoise waters and you have an ideal family beach. Open spaces also encourage building large sand castles, walks on the beach, and beach sittin’ time with your favorite book.

  1. Gone Fishing
    Remember the thrill of catching your first fish? Families will find fishing experiences to be plentiful in and around the area. One of the best places to start is on the Gulf Coast’s longest pier, the 1,545-foot Navarre Beach Fishing Pier. The views from the Pier are outer- worldly and make the perfect backdrop for Instagram-worthy photos. Plus, the ease of finding a space to set-up and cast away makes the pier uber family-friendly. Another interesting aspect of the pier is the copious number of instructional signage, which appear as you wonder the quarter-mile structure.  The dedication to educating visitors on safe fishing practices is impressive. Signs issue instructions to protect endangered sea turtles, birds and dolphins, and in case of an emergency, aka a hook gets entangled, phone numbers are posted to rectify the situation immediately. This is a wonderful teaching moment for parents to explain the relationships between man and the environment.

    For fishing enthusiasts who seek a more active experience, there are opportunities to enjoy Florida’s back county by kayak fishing along the inshore mangroves, grass flats, and rivers. Pro Tip: Seashells are numerous under the pier.

 2. Into the Wild
A fun and nostalgic outing for families is a day at the park, but not just any old park. Why not visit one of only ten National Seashore parks in the United States, Gulf Islands National Seashore, and discover why the Gulf of Mexico is so alluring? The attraction starts with eight miles of pristine Gulf-front beaches to the west of Navarre Beach. A top stop is a visit to Fort Pickens, known by many as the “Guardian of the Gulf Coast.”

Fort Pickens is riddled with history and a structured tour of the area provides an excellent opportunity to get in a quick history lesson. A museum is also located on site offering a variety of hands-on exhibits and videos showcasing the natural and cultural wonders of the area. After an enriching tour, families can spend time unpacking a delicious beachside picnic, hike or bike, and birdwatch ‘til the sun goes down. Pro Tip: Say goodbye to Siri for an hour or two and head on over to The Eastern National Bookstore, just inside the entrance to Fort Pickens. Park rangers and volunteers (yep, real people), are on hand to provide tips and suggestions to make the trip a memorable one. 

Looking for an entirely different kind of park adventure? Check out the Navarre Marine Park, which is free and open to the public, offering visitors a marine sanctuary and an artificial reef.  The park is south of Sea Oat Pavilion (just ask a local). Once there, follow the kayak/scuba boardwalk leading directly to the beach. The reef is located 100 yards offshore near lifeguard station number one and is open when water conditions are safe. Beyond snorkeling and diving, one of the most popular activities is the clear bottom kayak reef tour. This is an exciting way to discover what lies beneath the waves, without flippers, masks, tanks and snorkel gear. Kids will want to be on the lookout for endangered turtles, reef fish, and enjoy the swaying and swinging of the sea grasses.

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 Go into the wild at Blackwater State Park in Milton, Florida, an extraordinary park in so many ways. The park was certified in 1980 as a Registered State Nature Feature as an example of Florida’s natural history. It is also known as having one of the oldest and largest collections of Atlantic white cedar stands lining the river, and in 1982 it was recognized as a Florida Champion Tree. Today visitors will encounter more than 600 acres of virgin wilderness, complete with a 65-mile kayak trail. Blackwater River is also one of the purest sand-bottom rivers in the United States, making it ideal for swimming. Grab a paddle, a fishing pole, an inner tube, or catch some air ziplining through the trees. Forgot your kayak or canoe? No worries as rentals are available from local outfitters.  Bagdad Park is all the rage with families as the area is equipped with benches and picnic tables. Blackwater State Park is famous for its diverse hiking trails, so if you want to spot a white tail deer, hit the trails in the early morning. It’s also prime time to observe wading birds like Herons and Egrets fishing for their breakfast. The Park is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, so keep your binoculars handy as you may be lucky enough to spot the Federally Endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Shaded campsites are a big draw and a favorite option for families

3. Local Eats
You may find yourself longing to bump into some other vacationers, so head on over to Navarre Beach Boulevard and stop in at Sailors Grill, which sits right on the beach and often with volleyball tournaments in full swing. The food is American fare and the atmosphere is great for kids. Don’t miss the sunsets! One not-to-miss is Windjammer’s on the Navarre Fishing Pier, where succulent seafood is the catch of the day. The spiny lobster melts in your mouth while the Mahi-Mahi tacos are equally tasty. Of course, visitors will find standard fare for kid’s burgers and grilled cheese. Looking for an upmarket dining experience? Try East Bay Crab House, which offers an array of seafood dishes from stuffed founder to grilled cobia and New Orleans-inspired dishes like Tuna Orleans and Grouper Etouffee, to name a few. The restaurant easily accommodates large families, and TripAdvisor gives it a 4-star rating. Pro Tip: IC Station, Navarre’s newest ice cream shops brings a slice of New York to its shores. Manager, Steven Zheng trained in the art of stir fry ice cream in New York, yet the art of stir fry ice cream began in Thailand. Strawberry and brownie is a top pick!

4.  Stay in a Treehouse?
Remember the days when treehouses were a summer escape, a place to get away from it all even though it was in your own backyard?  Feel like a kid again, with your kids and plan to overnight in a luxury tree house nestled amongst a dense magnolia canopy with two queen beds, kitchen and bath at Coldwater Gardens. The Gardens is an intimate retreat and a quick 18-mile drive from Blackwater State Park offering posh cottages and luxe camping outposts. Guests will be transformed as lush foliage gives way to hands-on activities — feed the animals, arts and crafts, kids’ tours and more create a wonderful back-to-nature stay. Additionally, the area offers a plethora of overnight accommodations from the expected chain hotels: Hampton Inn & Suites, Regency Inn & Suites, Spring Hill Suite by Marriott, and others. For those who prefer home-away-from-home stays, condo and home rentals are prevalent.

With so much to do in Navarre Beach you will to come back again and again. Just a few fun facts to leave you with: much of the 1978 film Jaws 2 was filmed at Navarre Beach; historic Milton is the “Canoe Capital of Florida;” and the 50-acre Gulf Breeze Zoo features hundreds of animals from around the world. Learn more visit here: https://www.getrelaxing.com/

The article was written by Nina Zapala, a travel and lifestyle writer, based in the South. The article first appeared in the Naples Daily News, Naples Florida, part of USA Today Network Florida, in August 2018. The article was updated and revised for Speaking of Travel. Find Nina on Instagram, Pinterest or LinkedIn @ninazapala for more travel shenanigans!


Travel Ah-Ha Moments

The truth is, no matter where you go, and no matter how long you’re gone, you always come home with a new outlook on life.

Join my guests on Speaking of Travel as they talk about how travel has taught them not only about the world and other cultures, but also about themselves.

It’s true travel changes people in many different ways, and in each and every travel adventure you’ll discover an ah-ha moment that will change you for the better!

Traveling is not just going someplace. Even if you have no clear purpose, traveling provides you to grow in far more ways than we know.

I think we can all agree traveling is good! So what are you waiting for?

Remember… Don’t Postpone Joy!

Tina & Geoff Kinsey Install A Love Of Travel With Their Sons

Tina and Geoff Kinsey and their four boys love to travel and share their favorite family adventures. Each of the boys are named after special places and feel a connection to these places, even unseen.

Over the years, they have shared their most memorable family adventures when they have pilgrimaged to the name places. Find out what it means to Bryce, Blake, Tim and Lucas to have been named after different locations that are special to their mom and dad and how they have all bonded around their travel experiences.

Listen here!


Melissa and Ryan Reardon Discover Spain On An Epic Adventure

Melissa Reardon, editor-in-chief of WNC Magazine and her husband Ryan Reardon, the director of the Asheville Music School, love to travel.

After serious planning for a trip to Spain, they covered some epic ground, hitting nine cities in 2.5 weeks by doing three in-country flights, two car rentals, one train, and a grand finale at the Las Fallas Festival in Valencia.

Find out how they did it with months of advance planning and an 11-page Google doc! 

Listen  here!



Darren Nicholson of Balsam Range and Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters Talk Travel


Darren Nicholson of Balsam Range and Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters tell us about what life is like as traveling musicians and break down some perceptions of what it is like on the road.

Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters were on a European tour to England, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, and The Netherlands this past summer and both Darren and Amanda talk about travel, food and life as a road warrior! 

Listen here!




Tess Vigeland Returns From Her Soul-Expanding Adventure

In late 2015, Tess Vigeland embarked on a remarkable journey. Home now, she talks about her lessons learned, the logistics of travel, the experience of being an expat and her midlife philosophical journey.

Tess visited 20 countries in two years and eight months, finishing up with her time abroad in Maldives, Australia, Brunei, Singapore, Cambodia, Indonesia and South Korea.

Find out what Tess misses about her life in Bangkok and what she's enjoying now that she's back stateside.

Listen here!




Speaking of Flying


Welcome to the new Speaking of Travel series, Speaking of Flying, a Speaking of Travel airport interview series highlighting passengers and their unique adventures through the Asheville Regional Airport! Interviewing passengers is a blast! Find out where people are heading and also learn some valuable travel tips! After listening to these fun tales from the terminal you'll want to book your next flight! Seriously!

Speaking of Flying - Traveling In Style


Arielle is headed home to New York and she likes to strike the balance of cute and comfortable.

“I like to get travel size makeup,” she said. “Whether it be mascara, my lashes or just some quick lip gloss. You have to look good when you travel. You don’t know who you’re going to see on the plane.”

Arielle likes the customer service she receives at AVL. “It’s very intimate,” she said. “United lets me know when things are delayed or on time. I enjoy it because the customer service is nice here. I know that I can get checked in… and go through the process pretty quickly.”

Listen Here!

Speaking of Flying - Artistic Adventures


Sierra is the Marketing and PR Coordinator at the Asheville Regional Airport. As part of the marketing team, she helps organize AVL’s art and music programs for passengers and airport visitors.

“We invite local artists to come and play for our passengers,” she said. “It sets a nice relaxing tone for everyone.”

Highlighting local talent in the terminal allows passengers to have an immersive Asheville experience before they even leave the airport.

“Our art gallery features a lot of local artists,” Sierra said. “It allows people to get a taste of Asheville and gives them something to do while they are traveling.”

Listen Here!

Off To Switzerland

Madison is headed to Switzerland for an impromptu adventure. With nothing but a rented car, Madison and Steven plan to spontaneously explore Europe for a week. From the Holy Land to Russia, these two young travelers know a thing or two about experiences abroad. 

“Getting to see all these different cultures, you just have a deep respect for other people’s viewpoints and opinions,” Madison said.  “It really broadens your horizons. If you have the opportunity, I would highly recommend everyone to go out and travel.”

Madison loves kicking off his adventures at the Asheville Regional Airport. “I don’t think we’ve ever walked through these doors in the last two years without someone greeting us by name. They make such a personal connection and take such good care of us.”

Listen here!


Traveling With A Baby

April and three-month-old Carter are making the trip back home to Orlando after visiting with family here in Asheville.

Traveling with a baby can be daunting, but April has some great tips for moms on the move. “We usually go to the dollar store and get a bunch of little items – they don’t even have to be toys – maybe calculators or boxes with things in them," April said.

"I find the best way to keep him occupied is to have anything that he hasn’t seen before, lots of snacks, let him engage with other kids on the flight and explore.” For April, flying out AVL makes all the difference. “I love going out of small, nice airports. It makes traveling with kids so much more convenient and less stressful.”

Listen  here!



Biking Around Germany


 Tom is off to Germany for an eight-day bike trip. Touring the country by bike leaves little room for excess when it comes to packing, and Tom understands the key is packing only the necessities. “I packed once and then I cut it in half,” Tom said. “People don’t need all that they pack.”

Tom loves starting his travels at AVL. “Every chance I get I come out of Asheville because it’s small,” Tom said. “These guys actually know me. I travel a good bit, and it’s easy. Lines are almost not existent and I love the friendly mountain people.”

Listen here!




Arizona Bound

Dan and Jen are making their way to Phoenix, Arizona, for a family event. Both Dan and Jen travel for work and they have figured out the secrets to packing like a pro.

“Pack for the security line to get in and out as quickly as you can,” Dan said. “Make sure you have liquids handy at the top of your bag… and reduce the number of electronics that you carry on with you.” 

Listen here!




Arizona Bound


Natalie and her family can’t wait to begin their family vacation! They're flying from the Asheville Regional Airport (AVL) to Tampa to kick off their cruise to Cozumel and the Grand Cayman Islands.

Natalie’s children enjoy the perks of traveling with family. “They love traveling with their cousins,” Natalie said.

AVL helps Natalie start her vacation as quickly as possible. She said, “I love that it is so close to us, and that it has direct flights.” 

Listen here!

Tips For a Family-Friendly Adventure in Chimney Rock

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Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park is home to six hiking trails, an Animal Discovery Den and a variety of unique events that are perfect for people of all ages. If you’re planning your next family trip, here’s a list of things you can enjoy.

Kids and adults can learn about the creatures that call the Park home at the Animal Discovery Den.

The den houses an albino chipmunk, groundhog, snakes, frogs and many more animals that act as animal ambassadors to the Park. In June, July and August, and on holiday weekends, special Animal Programs are held at 2PM daily.

The Great Woodland Adventure trail, which is part of the Track Trail system, is designed for families with kids of all ages. It features 12 discovery stations along with locally-crafted sculptures of wildlife.

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Hikers young and old can enjoy taking the newly-reopened elevator or the “Ultimate Stairmaster” along the Outcroppings trail to the Chimney. Want to reach new heights in a different way? Book a rock climbing adventure with Fox Mountain Guides

After hiking to the Chimney, there’s no better way for your family to cool off than by visiting the Park’s 404-foot waterfall. The gentle-sloping trail that leads to Hickory Nut Falls is shaded and wide, making it the perfect place for your gang to enjoy.

If you’re concerned that Fido can’t take part in family fun at Chimney Rock, there’s no reason to worry. The Park, other than the elevator and Sky Lounge, is pet friendly. It’s a NC Health Law that animals can’t go where food is sold.

There’s more than one way to enjoy a meal during your next visit to Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park.

The Park’s restaurant, Old Rock Café, can whip up hiker’s lunches for you and your crew. Just call before your visit or stop by. Each Hiker’s Lunch features an artisanal sandwich, chips, a cookie, fruit and a drink.

Grilling and outdoor time go hand-in-hand. There are several charcoal grills that guests are welcome to use. All you have to do is bring your supplies and food to enjoy an all-American picnic.

Enjoy views of the Rocky Broad River while chowing down on locally-sourced cuisine from Old Rock Cafe. Whether you’re in the mood for a salad or juicy sandwich or wrap, there’ something for everyone at the Park’s casual dining restaurant.  It’s open for lunch seven days a week.


Are you planning your next family reunion or car club get-together at the Park?

Don’t worry about preparing a meal. Let Chimney Rock Catering serve your group locally-made main dishes and sides that your guests are sure to enjoy.

Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park’s Annual Pass is just $28 per adult and $12 per youth (ages 5-15) and gives passholders unlimited admission to the Park for an entire year. That means that you can take time exploring all six of the Park’s trails during every season.

Why Cuba? Because It's Truly A Magical Place!


There's just something amazing about Cuba. Imagine sultry and sexy salsa music floating out of the alleyways of Old Havana, brightly covered houses, tobacco fields and tropical beaches. Cuba has something so special going on you can't help but fall in love. You might even call it love at first sight! 

According to the late, great Anthony Bourdain, "Havana's beautiful -- incredibly so. Probably -- no, definitely -- the most gorgeous city I've ever seen anywhere in the Caribbean or Latin America. The people are lovely. The baseball, some of the best and most passionate fans in the world."

Cuba is home to a vibrant and engaging music scene, a world-famous cigar industry, breathtaking scenery and so much more. This country is so vastly diverse and the true essence of the country, with such an intriguing backstory, lies within the gracious and welcoming people who live there and in the rhythm of the music. 

This is truly a place you will fall in love with at first sight. I've been fortunate to visit Cuba, and what I love most is more than the old cars, mojitos and cigars. It's the charm and vigor, nostalgia and color. You feel like time has stopped. This is a place of history, adventure and a rich and natural nature. 

Travelers can still visit Cuba legally and I recommend doing some research to find out all you need to know about travel to and from the island. There are many resources available to guarantee you have a safe and easy trip.

Check out two of my favorite websites for more info on travel to Cuba... smallfootprinttravels.com and jennicacuba.com.

By the way, Cuba has over 200 bays and 250 beaches to explore, making it arguably the best beach destination in the Caribbean!

Let's Grow Hemp!


Industrial hemp is making a comeback as a cash crop. Two players are stepping up their game right here in Western North Carolina. HempX and Franny’s Farm formed a strategic partnership and began with growing two acres of hemp. They are providing new leadership and guidance for potential hemp farmers across the South. 

In June, Franny's Farm, located in the lovely countryside of Leicester, NC, hosted  Hemp Hootenanny, a celebration of a once-illegal crop now allowed under regulated pilot programs. 

Blake Butler, co-founder of Asheville’s hemp movement HempX, helped organize the event held during Hemp History Week. HempX is fast becoming a voice for the hemp growing industry and working with farmers to learn about the hemp landscape.


When you think of all the things you can do with hemp and all the products you can create — from soap to houses and many, many things in between, hemp is helping farmer entrepreneurs all across this region create demand, economic activity and jobs.

Sooner than later, hemp will be huge in the US, and that will have a domino effect all around the world in a lot of ways.

Make your voice heard to support farmers! 

Find out more with my interview with Franny and and Marty Clemons, President of the NC Industrial Hemp Association.

Visit VoteHemp.com/cropreport for more information.