Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When it comes to following your heart, Kial Afton knows firsthand just how important that can be. After studying Communications, Philosophy, and International Studies at Boston College, Kial pursued a role as an NBC page by continually applying for a position and networking with as many people as she could. Her persistence paid off. Kial spent time as a Page and worked her way up the corporate ladder, and she is now the Corporate Events Manager at NBCUniversal.

While in college, Kial spent time studying Greek mythology, archaeology, architecture, and culture at The Athens Centre, in addition to spending a summer studying art, architecture, and philosophy at Venice International University. Though she didn’t know what to study at Boston College, she took advantage of the core curriculum required for freshmen and discovered topics that she loved and would ultimately major in.

We are inspired by Kial’s drive, her positive energy, and the advice she would share with her 20-year-old self: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Turns out that when you follow your heart, great things can happen.

Name: Kial Afton
Education: B.A. in Communications, Philosophy, and International Studies from Boston College

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Kial Afton: Saying yes to every opportunity that presents itself. Stepping out of your comfort zone. Realizing it’s OK to be wrong – so long as you learn something from it.

CJ: You studied Communications, Philosophy, and International Studies at Boston College. How did you decide what to study?

KA: I didn’t. Boston College has a strong liberal arts, core curriculum required for freshmen, and this was extremely valuable to someone like me who wasn’t sure what to study.

Some of my favorite classes in the core curriculum—philosophy of existence, cultural communications, international conflict and cooperation—laid the foundation for what later became my majors. I took more advanced classes offered by my favorite professors in a few different areas, including those abroad.

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CJ: You’ve spent time studying Greek mythology, archaeology, architecture, and culture at The Athens Centre. You also spent a summer studying art, architecture, and philosophy at Venice International University. These experiences sound incredible! What were these experiences like and why did you choose to spend time in Athens and Venice?

KA: I absolutely studied some very interesting topics in Athens and Venice. What I learned the most from these experiences, however, happened outside of the classroom. Studying abroad for me was less about the topic than learning to understand the environment in which you’re living, growing to understand and respect different cultures, and making interpersonal connections with people you would never otherwise have the opportunity — from Alberto who sold me my daily gelato, to Caroline who had a similar major at her university in Munich!

CJ: What did your career path look like when you graduated from college?

KA: I followed my heart, which was the opposite of sensical. I spent senior year applying to NBC’s Page Program, but when I never got called to interview; I did the “responsible” thing and lined up a Boston-based Public Relations position to begin immediately following graduation. I was not excited for it or inspired by it.

When my sister in New York called to tell me her roommate was moving out, I did the least responsible thing I could image and moved to New York without a job—or at least a steady one.

I landed a part-time PR position immediately, but had to supplement my income and fill my free time with any odd job—extra work on 30 Rock and Law and Order, nannying, foot-modeling, and lastly as a “promotional marketer”—a fancy term for “passing out flyers on the street.”

All the while, I continued applying to the Page Program and networking with anyone in NBC who could stand another informational with me. Finally, it paid off.

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CJ: You spent some time as an NBC Page. What does being a Page mean, and what did your duties involve?

KA: If you’ve ever seen 30 Rock, an NBC Page is a real life version of Kenneth. Wearing Brooks Brothers’ uniforms—adorned with a name badge, pocket square and peacock pins—the primary job of a Page is to proudly lead countless studio tours and coordinate audiences for shows such as Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live and The Dr. Oz Show. Pages work six days a week, twelve-plus hours each day and practically sleep at 30 Rock.

So why did I try so hard to become a Page? As Stuart Epstein, NBC’s CFO in 2011, told me on my first day, “The grey suit has the power to open any door.” And he was right. As a Page, you also have the opportunity to apply for 3-6 month assignments. I worked as the TODAY Show Green Room Page, and in marketing for NBC Sports & Olympics.

The Page Program exposes you to an array of opportunities and introduces you to some exceptional and influential people.

CJ: You are now the Corporate Events Manager at NBCUniversal. What does your role entail? What do your daily tasks look like?

KA: Building relationships with marketing, sales and top NBC Executives to gain a working knowledge of their needs and their clients’ needs in order to advance key initiatives. Once the parameters have been set, I’m given the creative freedom to research, develop, manage and execute special events across all NBCUniversal properties on a national and international scale.

CJ: You’ve been involved with events such as the Superbowl and the Olympics. What does the process look like for organizing these big events?

KA: One might think it would take an army to organize a 2,000+ client hospitality program. In actuality, it requires significant lead-time and having complete faith in your team and vendors. And adrenaline!

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CJ: What is the best part about your job? The hardest part?

KA: I work with amazing people. Blaise Cashen leads the Corporate Events Team, and is very selective in the hiring process. The team is therefore lean and mean and comprised of some of the most talented and devoted people I know.

The hard part—the hours! Finding work-life balance is challenging in any demanding company or career.

CJ: How do you stay organized and manage your time?

KA: Lists, lists, and more lists! Shared calendars, outlook reminders, a notebook by the bedside, and more post-its than I’d like to admit keep me organized.

CJ: What are some books, resources, and websites that have influenced you – either personally or professionally (or both)?

KA: I look to sites like Pinterest and BizBash for inspiration. Developing vendor relations and networking with others in the industry, however, provide the building blocks needed to further my career.

CJ: When you are feeling overwhelmed or having a bad day, how do you like to unwind or reset?

KA: My calm is Murphy, my Dad’s rescue dog. Early mornings in Central Park and late evenings at Tomkins Square Dog Park keep me calm and grounded.

CJ: Is there a cause or issue that you care greatly about? If so, why?

KA: I’m a member of Friends of Animal Rescue (to help others like Murphy) the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (to support my sister, Laine) and Planned Parenthood (I strongly support their mission).

CJ: What are you working to improve upon – either personally or professionally – and how are you doing so?

KA: I’m working to build the professional confidence I’m capable of projecting but have a difficult time actually feeling. I’m working to remove the inner monologue, and never apologize for my opinions—I now have the experience to have both earned them, and stand by them!

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

KA: Don’t sweat the small stuff. It always works out and fretting about it only gives you grey hair (seriously).

Kial Afton Qs

Images by Carpe Juvenis

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

When we met Andrew O’Neill at the Congressional Award Gold Ceremony in 2014, we were impressed by what he had accomplished to earn his Gold Medal and were interested in learning more about him. Inspired by combining technology and outdoor leadership, Andrew attended Green Mountain College and majored in Adventure Education and Youth Development and Camp Management.

Andrew has put to good use the skills he’s learned in various endeavors, whether he’s building websites and creating a food program, working as a camp manager, editing videos, or learning a new language. Andrew’s curiosity is limitless, and he explores his interests and follows his heart. Read on to learn more about the different projects Andrew is involved in, his top three tips for learning a new language, and the advice he’d give his younger self.

Name: Andrew O’Neill
Education:
Double Major in Adventure Education and Youth Development and Camp Management (YDCM) at Green Mountain College
Follow:
WebsiteTwitterPinterest

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Andrew O’Neill: Young adults have a tendency to be afraid to dream big. Seizing your youth means taking chances toward your current dreams at any age.

CJ: You double majored in Adventure Education and Youth Development and Camp Management (YDCM) at Green Mountain College. How did you decide what to study?

AO: I took a two week-long canoe trip in the Canadian wilderness, and I thought it would be cool to follow a career path similar to the guides on that trip. At the time, I knew I was highly interested in the realm of technology and computers as a potential career, but I did not like the thought of being stuck inside all the time at a computer. I was inspired by the life that the guides on the canoe trip enjoyed that I looked into schools that specialized in outdoor leadership.

CJ: What cause or issue do you care greatly about and why?

AO: I have strong feelings towards the practice of factory farming. As a lifelong vegetarian, I have continued to learn and become more passionate about the abuse of farm animals at these farms and the negative health and environmental issues that this practice is causing on the planet. The way we are treating the animals that we are eating, which we should not be at all in my opinion, has a direct influence on how we are treating each other as humans. I believe that the brutality of factory farm operations correlates to why there are so many horrible acts of war currently happening in our society. I am extremely passionate about this subject and have created a website, ameatfreemonth.org, which aims to provide anyone with a free healthy 30 day vegan eating program to help steer them away from the addictions of eating animal products.

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CJ: You earned the Congressional Award Gold Medal in 2014. How did you get involved with the Congressional Award and what was your biggest takeaway from the experience?

AO: My mother, who has been a long-time Girl Scout troop leader and an all around incredible person, found out about this program through a student she worked with at Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School. Within less than a year, I had signed up and was already working toward the Bronze Certificate. Earning this medal has made me realize that I will always be interested in learning new skills and to never stop challenging myself. Participating in all four program areas has helped me to become a well-rounded person excited to guide future youth through the program.

CJ: That’s awesome! We completely agree and support the learning of new skills. You have been a camp counselor and camp manager at Hawthorne Valley Farm Camp – what did you learn from those experiences?

AO: As a camp counselor, I learned about the psychological and social challenges that can arise while working with youth. Often, I was around campers all day and even when exhausted, had to be careful with my words and actions so that I could set a good example for the campers to look up to. The following year, as a camp manager, I was pushed into new challenging roles that helped me to understand the different aspects of running a camp. The camp director was new the year I managed, so I was placed in a more challenging role being a support to the director. In this higher role, I wrote and submitted our entire camp safety manual, created a new scheduling system for the camp that I used to create the actual camp schedules each week. Additionally, I started and maintained a camp newsletter, served as a primary contact for parents during camp, and compiled a camp recipe book that has been in high demand for many years. Essentially, I now feel I have gained the skills necessary to open a camp of my own.

CJ: You are passionate about video editing and have produced promotional videos for a 3D printing shop in Vermont. What sparked this passion and how did you learn video editing skills?

AO: My passion for video editing goes back to when I was a kid. It all started when I was able to buy my first video camera and connect it to my father’s laptop. Around my senior year in high school, my parents gave me a Cannon HD camcorder, and my uncle bought me a laptop for college. This enabled me to begin working on small projects that explored new ways to edit videos. Ever since this experience, I have taken on more challenging projects that have pushed me to expand my editing skills. All of my video editing skills have been self-taught and all from the small and large projects I have completed over the years.

CJ: You taught yourself how to speak Spanish. What are your top three tips for learning a new language? Is there another language you plan on learning?

AO:

  1. Immerse yourself in a country where they only speak the language you are trying to learn.
  2. Read news articles or listen to songs of interest in the language.
  3. Most importantly, be consistent!

I do plan on learning Japanese and already have a computer program called Human Japanese that I plan on using.

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CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?

AO: I am working on improving my health by transitioning to a totally raw mostly fruit diet and practicing regular yoga. Additionally, I am reading books about the fruitarian diet, and journaling everyday to help myself reflect on my day-to-day life.

CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?

AO: My trick is simple, I rely heavily on my ability to be optimistic and always be able to find the positive in any situation. Almost always I am able to pause and just do a simple reflection and feel better. Additionally, I will find myself eating something special that I don’t always eat, but that is still in line with my diet.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

AO: There is no time like now to do whatever your heart desires. Answers and opportunities can often be found simply by networking. Every person is a human so don’t be afraid to interact, reach out, and make new connections.

Andrew Oneill Qs

Image: Andrew O’Neill

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Saying that we are fans of Darling Magazine would be a major understatement. We are huge fans – we love how real it is, the topics covered, and the positivity expressed on each and every page. Did you know that Darling Magazine never uses Photoshop to alter women’s faces or bodies. Pretty cool. Not only is the magazine a joy to read, but the Darling website provides a dose of daily happiness and articles that are deeply relatable.

When you’re on the Darling website, Nicole Ziza Bauer is the one curating everything you see, such as writers, articles, ads, and collaborations. So you can thank her when you read an article that makes you reflect on what’s important in everyday life. Though Nicole now spends her time storytelling, her time used to be spent in labs and conducting medical research. Nicole originally pursued a career in the medical field, she stepped back and thought hard about what she wanted to do, not what she should do. This reflection brought her to a new, more creative path.

Nicole is a world traveler, an avid list-maker, and someone who is true to herself, and her journey will inspire you to follow your heart and to not worry if you don’t have everything already figured out (who really does anyway?).

Name: Nicole Ziza Bauer
Education: B.A. in Zoology and Molecular Biology from Miami University
Follow: NicoleZizaBauer.com / Darling Magazine

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Nicole Ziza Bauer: Enjoying it, savoring it, not being in a rush to grow out of it.

CJ: You majored in Zoology and Molecular Biology at Miami University. How did you decide what to study?

NZB: I planned on going to medical school after graduation, so I wanted to major in something that would best prepare me for what lay ahead.

CJ: After college you were a Staff Research Associate at UCLA Medical Center researching how the heart works. What was this experience like working in a lab and conducting research?

NZB: Working in the lab was a great transition from college life to the “real” world, since I was still in an academic environment very similar to where I had spent the last four years. It was challenging but also inspiring; I got to be on the very edge of research that could potentially save lives. Though there was a lot of monotony and repetition in the lab, each day also held the potential of unlocking something that nobody had ever seen or understood before. That was really motivating.

CJ: After preparing for medical school and doing post-grad research, you switched career paths and went into a career of storytelling, writing, and creating. Before Darling Magazine, you were a Purchasing Agent and Event Coordinator. What inspired this change of heart and how did you deal with the stress of making this transition?

NZB: I wish I could say it was one simple thing that sparked the change, but nothing in life is ever that black or white. While I was excited about medical school and worked really hard to get accepted into one, I also kept a strong inner dialogue after college and that prompted me to truly evaluate where I saw my life headed and if there were other things I might want to do instead of becoming a physician.

I had always been a creative child and writing and art brought me a lot of joy. When I stepped back from what I thought I “should” do in order to appear successful in the eyes of others and slowly started asking myself what I wanted to do, the answer came into focus. From there I started looking for opportunities that would better enable me to learn and grow creatively.

Nicole and Horse

CJ: How were you able to block out the external voices and follow your internal compass?

NZB: Trusting that I didn’t have to have it all figured out, or have a clear idea of my career path once I graduated helped to free me from the stress surrounding the decision. I had to (and still do) remind myself that taking things one step at a time is OK. Our character and appreciation of life is built in those tiny steps. Thankfully, I had a few close friends that I could lean on when I was deciding whether or not to go medical school who guided me out of the fog a bit. Having those trusted sources to remind you of your worth, your convictions and your big dreams is so, so important.

CJ: What advice would you give a young adult who might be at a “passion crossroads” in his or her life? 

NZB: I would say: Hi, can I give you a hug? Because you are completely normal!

College is great for so many things, but a lot of times it can also lead us into a false belief that it’s the only time in life to figure things out or decide our future. That’s simply not true. If you are conflicted over what you’re pursuing right now, ask yourself some tough questions: Why did you choose the road you’re on in the first place? Whose applause are you seeking? Do you want out because you’re afraid of hard (sometimes tedious) work? Or are you simply realizing that there might be other avenues out there that you’d enjoy and want to explore?

Our early to mid-20s grant us many opportunities for making decisions and learning how to make independent choices. It’s really important that we look at crossroads or changes of heart not as failures, but as chances to better understand how we’ve been made, who we are, and what our unique role in the world should be.

CJ: You are now the Online Managing Editor at Darling Magazine, a guide to “the art of being a woman.” What does your role as Online Managing Editor entail? What do your daily tasks look like?

NZB: As online editor I’m responsible for all the website, blog, and advertising content that Darling develops. This involves creating and maintaining an editorial calendar (so that our site always has new material), finding and communicating with writers, and generating article ideas, and sometimes even writing myself. My daily tasks include lots of emails, reading and editing articles, chatting with different Darling staffers, and maybe a meeting or a phone call with a brand about potential collaborations.

Nicole ZB

CJ: You curate content, writers, ads, and collaborations on the Darling website. How do you go about narrowing down content so it fits the Darling mission, and how do you establish collaborations?

NZB: Great question! Knowing what you stand for is key to developing a powerful brand. Therefore, with Darling I’m constantly evaluating if something will serve to reinforce our mission statement or if it’ll conflict with it. I try to put myself in the position of a reader and ask: What would they take away from this article? Would they be more inspired to own the things our mission statement says about them, or less? The same goes for working with other writers and brands. We have to be on the same page, working together for that same common goal, rather than just using one another for increased status or popularity.

CJ: We loved your inspiring article ‘The Myths of Wanderlust’ – how has traveling influenced you, and is there a particular trip you have taken that stands out in your mind?

NZB: Thank you! Traveling is definitely something that I choose to prioritize, as it helps to keep my problems small and sense of wonder and world awareness large.

Probably my favorite adventure to date was the month I spent backpacking around Italy with my husband. My grandmother was Sicilian, so I’ve loved everything Italy since childhood. I studied the language a bit in college and then spent a few weeks in Rome after graduating, but getting to go off the grid around the entire country (for a whole month) felt like a dream. It was like coming home.

Darling Mag

CJ: How do you stay organized and manage your time?

NZB: I am an avid list-maker. Every thought, idea, or task that I need to accomplish gets written down, that way I immediately get it out of my head and onto a tangible piece of paper. From there, I look at my week’s agenda and decide when I can schedule time to complete the most pressing tasks. I never go anywhere without my giant, spiral-bound notebook calendar.

CJ: When you are feeling overwhelmed or having a bad day, how do you like to unwind or reset?

NZB: It depends. Sometimes I just need to say a quick prayer, vent to my husband or call my best friend. Other times getting outside and taking my dogs on a walk or going for a hike will help. And when all else fails … I’ll watch old Netflix episodes of Murder, She Wrote. JB Fletcher can solve anything.

CJ: Is there a cause or issue that you care greatly about? If so, why?

NZB: I love animals, so I’m a huge advocate of pet adoption. Not only can we provide an animal with a safe and loving home, but we in turn learn compassion when we care for things smaller and less consequential than us. Darling also has a partnership with IJM, of which I am a huge fan. They have such a comprehensive model for bringing justice and eradicating sex trafficking across the globe. It’s very impressive and inspiring.

CJ: What are you working to improve upon – either personally or professionally – and how are you doing so?

NZB: Lately I’ve been trying to get by with less, get rid of more, and curb the mindless spending that’s all too easy to fall into, especially after trolling blogs or social media. In the last few months I’ve donated about five bags of clothing, which has been really eye-opening to consider, especially when I find myself “needing” something new. Most likely, I don’t.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

NZB: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

NZB: Study abroad. Also, take a deep breath; this is just the beginning.

Nicole ZB Qs

 

Images by Emily Blake and Nicole Ziza Bauer

CultureEducationSkillsTravel

Animal rescue shelters have become an increasingly popular destination for travelers looking to “voluntour”. For students or recent graduates, particularly those who are new to backpacking, animal shelter volunteering can offer a rewarding and structured environment from which to begin exploring the globe. The allure of living in close quarters with exotic animals while simultaneously being helpful is certainly strong. However, shelter work often takes both a physical and an emotional toll — before you buy your tickets, it’s best to consider all the aspects of working with shelters.

It’s Not Cheap

If you’re searching for a way to backpack through South America on two dollars a day, shelter volunteering isn’t necessarily the best way to go. Almost all shelters require a “volunteer fee” to cover accommodation, food, and any other amenities they may offer. It’s a simple supply and demand situation — because the idea of working with animals has such a pull over travelers, the most established shelters can ask for a large payment and still have a glut of volunteers at their disposal at all times. However, as with all voyages, there are certainly methods of making the trip more affordable. In my own experience, I found that it was best to seek out smaller, independent shelters. While the accommodations are often more austere, these shelters cost much less and are in dire need of more help.

It’s Hard Work

While many shelters’ websites will often place an emphasis on the opportunities to, for example, play with puppies or help “socialize” baby ocelots, the reality is that working with animals is, to a very large extent, manual labor. Cleaning cages, hauling sacks of food and buckets of water — shelter work is always exhausting and often doesn’t even directly involve the animals themselves. Shelter work is also very, very dirty. Working in a shelter, you will come in contact with more poop than you could ever have imagined. Combined with muddy trails and cold showers, you may end up feeling like you have a permanent layer of grime coating your skin.

It Can Be Isolating

Particularly in shelters that provide food and housing, it is easy to forget that there is a whole fascinating and unexplored world outside the grounds. It’s very important to consciously make decisions that will place you in contact with the people outside of the shelter, even through simple tasks like daily chores. When I worked at Animal AWARE dog shelter in Sumpango, Guatemala, the rural location made the shelter seem very far removed from the vibrant culture of the country. However, with the help of a couple other volunteers, I had experiences that I never could have had in tourist-friendly Antigua — I saw outdoor laundry-washing basins and underground produce markets, and I had some of the best street food of my life.

It Can Seem Futile

If you make the decision to volunteer at a shelter, you are deciding to place yourself in an environment where you encounter animals who are experiencing the lowest, most tragic point of their lives. When I worked at ARCAS, a shelter in Flores that received monkeys and birds rescued from illegal trade operations, I was exposed to the sheer brutality of the exotic animal market when I saw a parakeet whose beak had been broken off. Animals in shelters frequently die, and this is a difficult thing to see, particularly coming from more affluent countries where more resources can be directed toward animal welfare.

Ultimately, I found that the rewards of working in animal shelters stemmed directly from the difficulties. The expense of certain shelters forced me to be creative with my budget and my destination. The difficult and intensive nature of the work gave me a greater sense of accomplishment. Most importantly for me, I became much more equipped to deal with minor daily tragedies that accompany the work, an acceptance that made our victories that much sweeter.

Image: Unsplash

CultureTravel

Summer isn’t over! Haven’t planned a vacation or gone anywhere yet? That’s good, because I’m going to share with you a place often overlooked for its true wonder: The Great Smoky Mountains of Eastern Tennessee. Leave your beach balls and umbrellas at home, my friends, and come take a gander at authentic Appalachia.

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I recently explored the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, and I can tell you that it’s more than what you expect from a typical weekend in the mountains. I certainly had a bunch of perceptions about the vacation being boring, but I was very wrong. And I’m glad I was wrong. So here I am, describing to you an experience of a lifetime. I’m going to invite you to live vicariously through my experience. Ready?

Where can I even begin?  The scenery is breathtaking and bucolic. We all need a break from reality, especially if we’re city dwellers. That’s why this rugged region, replete with emerald trees and sapphire rivers, is the perfect getaway.  You can rent a cabin from many of the lodging companies here, including Patriot Getaways, and enjoy the cozy apple wood fragrance of the area. I strongly suggest taking a dip in the hot tubs many of the cabins already have on a cool summer’s evening. Cool and summer? How do both of those words even go together? Well, the weather in the mountains is superb. It’s just the right amount of coolness mixed in with occasional warm zephyrs and acts as a therapeutic aid, allowing your mind to be calm and stress-free from the hullabaloo of city life.

After you’re done settling into your cabin, it’s time to explore the area. To really get a good picture of the place, go to Gatlinburg Skylift, Inc. You won’t regret it. Capture an amazing view from hundreds of feet above after you situate yourself comfortably on a lift seat. Enjoy yourself. Take pictures. Most importantly, just breathe!

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You must be tired and hungry from venturing all the way to the top and back to the bottom. How about some fudge as a snack? You can find fast food chains and eat-in restaurants here, but you should try what Gatlinburg is truly famous for: fudge. The Kilwins of Gatlinburg, a confectionary for any sweet tooth or fudge maven (the dark chocolate fudge is the best, I might add).

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After you’ve filled your belly with a few sweets, try some horseback riding through the mountains to burn off those calories. There are various locations that offer equestrian activities, one of them being the small town of Pigeon Forge. Big Rock Stables is an excellent equestrian activity center. Not only do they have horses, but there’s a small petting zoo with exotic birds such as emus and peacocks (you would never expect to see these in Tennessee, may I add) as well as goats and alpacas—a toddler’s dream come true. After you’re done gazing at the beauty of these petting zoo animals, move on to the big challenge: going on a three kilometer ride over a section of the mountains. Maintain your balance and remain focused, the horse will do the rest!

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You’ve gone over the mountains, now it’s time to go under them. Get ready for some unique cave scoping at Forbidden Caverns in Sevierville, which you’ll find after a scenic drive on several twisting roads through the mountain valley. Witness the creations formed by Mother Nature herself over millions of years. The cave is the same temperature year-round, around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, so make sure you bring a light jacket! It is said that Native Americans came here during the winters to stay warm. Be careful not to touch anything in the cave, though. The limestone formations are very fragile and can atrophy just by a simple brush of the arm.

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The Appalachian Mountain region, in general, is overlooked as a vacation destination. Nestled inside the result of old plate collisions are so many gems of nature. Have you ever been somewhere that’s often overlooked? So much wonder lies all around the world, but how much of it do we really know about? There’s a lot to see in this world, and I encourage you travel anywhere you can. Save up as much as you possibly can and travel during your youth. You won’t regret it!