5 Reasons You Need Solo Travel In Your Life #thesolotravelmovement

“The solo travel movement.”

This is a movement that has been increasing in popularity over the last few years and has started to garner press coverage within that time frame as well.  Reputable companies are now dedicating sections of their websites or full articles to the topic of solo travel (including companies such as Travel + LeisureNational GeographicForbes, and more!), which is only bringing more information right to our fingertips and thus encouraging this trend to continue in a positive direction.

But what exactly is solo travel? Well, it’s as simple as it sounds. Solo travel is the act traveling and having experiences on your own! Whether you’re traveling internationally or just exploring your hometown, solo travel, and solo experiences in general, can have an incredible impact on your psyche and be great opportunities for self-discovery and self-development.

Now as a precursor to the rest of this article, I have not had the opportunity to travel abroad in any capacity yet (one day!), but I am not unfamiliar with solo experiences!  What prompted this article was my most recent trip to New York City.  In September 2018, I attended a work marketing event in the daytime in Union Square which ended at 3:00 PM.  Instead of traveling home on the train as soon as the work day was over, I decided to explore the city and check out some iconic and unique places I had yet to visit- on my own.  I finally explored the Empire State Building, walked through Strand Bookstore and other small shops in Union Square, and even saw a Broadway musical completely alone! (P.S. I saw Waitress and I HIGHLY recommend the show. It has an incredibly funny book by Jessie Nelson and beautiful and catchy music by Sara Bareilles & The Waitress Band.)

 

 

The following days, as I recounted my mini-trip to coworkers, family, and friends, and many were surprised to hear I had traveled alone. To me, there was nothing strange about that. I’ve gone to dinner and the movies alone before. I’ve flown in a plane and rode trains and taken Greyhound alone before.  I’ve spent time and had experiences prior to this alone before. To me, there was nothing weird about this experience, but to others, it was something strange and completely out-of-the-ordinary; something they had never experienced.

So today, I’m here to tell you to find the courage, take the leap, and spend some quality time with yourself.  There are innumerable benefits to solo travel and solo experiences and I do not want you to go through life without being privy to these beautiful self-discovery, and ultimately fun, opportunities.

So here are some of my favorite benefits/things you learn from solo travel and solo experiences:

  1. As I somewhat eluded to above, solo travel helps you find comfort in your own company. Some people are truly uncomfortable and anxious when it comes to solo situations.  I cannot deny the validity of how someone else feels, but pushing yourself to have solo experiences, large or small, will slowly start to help you prove to yourself that maybe these situations aren’t as scary as you initially thought.
  2. Traveling solo will also help you hone your decision-making skills. I can firmly say that I am that person that says “I don’t know” when you ask me what I want for dinner. However, when I’m walking around the city alone or deciding to go see a movie or a play, I am forced to ask myself what do I want right now?  And the only person who can answer that question in that moment is me! Even when it comes to simple questions such as do I want to stop for a smoothie or for coffee, I know that I am the one who needs to make the decision for something to happen next.
  3. What is also great about solo travel is that it gives you the time to clearly pick out what you want to do- no compromise needed! Your opinion, when on your own, remains uninfluenced by other companion travelers, so you are able to clearly see what you want and then follow through. Compromise is important in so many aspects of our lives, our work life, home life, and within our network of friendships, that sometimes we have a hard time tapping into ourselves and figuring out what we need and what we want. Solo travel is all about listening to that inner voice, getting to know yourself a little better.
  4. When traveling in a group, you have the option of being the leader or a following group member.  Group travel doesn’t necessarily work well if you have multiple people directing the group in differing directions- simultaneously.  What typically happens is that certain people will opt to take a back seat and follow the emerging leader.  When this happens, for many, your level of awareness of direction and your surrounds may drop a little.  However, when traveling on your own, you are the leader and so that level of awareness will need to be heighten.  For people that are not used to leading the pack, a great way to develop these skills is solo travel because it forces you to become the person you usually rely.  Solo travel puts you in the place where you need to be in charge of understanding the layout of your environment, you need to consider safety, you need have street skills ready and on your sleeve.  Solo travel is a great way to hone that sense of awareness that you may not otherwise tap into on a regular basis.
  5. This would not be a complete article about solo travel if I did not mention confidence! Confidence is definitely one of the top skills you gain from solo experiences and travel.  When you are on your own, you need to rely on your own ability to make sure you get what you need when you need it and say what you need to say when it needs to be said. You are your own representative when traveling alone, so this forces many outside of their comfort zone and to be more vocal and communicative in the situations they find themselves in.

I wish you all the best and hope you have some amazing and eye-opening solo travel experiences.  Whether you’re just exploring your own town or you’re traveling internationally, the solo trip is always an adventure.  Let me know in the comments section what your favorite solo trip is!  What places should I travel to?

All my best,

AlexandraMottershead.com

#IslandVibes Part 3: My Southern Summertime Adventures | #storytime

This is the final installment of my mini-series, #IslandVibes.  For those just tuning in, this is the third blog post in a series that talks about my experience moving to Hilton Head Island for a internship with Marriott Vacations Worldwide (MVW) in the summer of 2016.  In this post I’m going to tell some stories that are outside the realm of the internship and have a more social focus.  In the first post I talked about Hilton Head Island specifically and then talked about, in the second post, MVW/getting the internship/my position in the second post.  Make sure to go back and check them out if you haven’t yet!

But without further ado, here a few tidbits and stories from my time on the Island and other intern excursions!

Whether The Weather

One of the things I haven’t talked about yet is the weather.  First, you’re down South, so humidity is a real thing.  Second, expect a small rain shower daily.  And third, the weather while I was in Hilton Head was all over the place- storms were here and there.  The craziest thing I got to experience was seeing my first waterspout!  I had never even heard of one before this experience, but as reference, a waterspout is a rotating column of water that occurs over a large body of water.  It essentially looks like a tornado over the ocean.  When we got the call that it was happening, our manager said we should all come down to the pool/beach so we could see it for ourselves.  Needless to say, it was a pretty cool site.

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Island Ambassador Training

MWV, in conjunction with the Center for Event Management and Hospitality Training at the University of South Carolina, every so often hosts a full-day training session on Hilton Head Island.  We were lucky enough to be employed when one of these sessions were hosted.  Essentially, we came in one day, clocked in, and then went into one of the conference spaces where we would spend most of the work day.  The information that was presented was divided into three areas: (1) island knowledge, (2) culture, and (3) ecology.  To be perfectly honest, it was an extremely long day, but I think it’s really important for visitor facing employees, across the island, to know about the island as a whole.  During this training we learned some of the history of the island, heard a lot of stats, learned about the Gullah culture (which I talked about in my last blog!), and even walked the beach to see what type of plant and wildlife were native to our own resort.  It was definitely a neat experience and helped me to better understand Hilton Head overall.

Island Hot Spots

What kind of #IslandVibes mini-series would this be if I didn’t talk about some of the things I did and places I went on HHI!?

SEA PINES PLANTATION:  You definitely want to visit Harbour Town in Sea Pines, which is the toe of the island.  (Don’t know what I’m talking about?  Wondering why I’m referring to a person’s foot?  Check out the first post in this series!) You do have to pay for a pass into Sea Pines, but it is definitely worth the few bucks.  You can then take a trolley to Harbour Town- which I definitely recommend.  We saw at least one alligator on our ride!  Once in town, you won’t want to miss the 360-degree view from the top of the Harbour Town Lighthouse!  The is a great spot to take in the sites of the Lowcountry and check out what the Sea Pines Plantation has to offer.  Also make sure to check out the adorable gift shop while you’re there.  While you’re in town, stop in Cups & Cones for some ice cream to keep you cool while shopping around.  If you’re more of the outdoorsy person, then definitely check out the Sea Pines Forest Preserve.  We went for a picnic lunch and hike one day and the walk was beautiful.

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HILTON HEAD CENTER:  Before I talk about a major area in Hilton Head Center, my favorite ice cream spot on the island is Hilton Head Ice Cream!  I’m not a huge cookies ‘n cream fan so I never ordered it, but a fan favorite is their deep blue, Cookie Monster flavor.  However, I definitely recommend their mint chocolate chip and or cappuccino ice cream if they’re available when you go!  If you get there at the right time, you may even get a seat at one of their outdoor tables.  When my one of my Disney College Program roommates was down from Ohio, we had to go get ice cream when we were together!

Another area to check out is Coligny Plaza & Beach, which is at the bottom of Hilton Head Center.  There are a variety of shops to check out in this area of the island.  But the place I wanted to highlight was Tiki Hut.  This is a beach-front bar that features live music and is a great place to go and hang out.  If you’re looking for an array of frozen drink options, then Frosty Frog is another place to check out.  They have a frozen daiquiri bar where you can even order drinks to-go by the gallon!  The place we went at night, most weeks, was to Casey’s Sports Bar & Grille, for karaoke night.  This is your typical sports bar, but it definitely became something a large percentage of the interns would go out and do.  My one issue is their love of the Steelers…I’m from the Philadelphia area so you can do the math, aha!

Right outside of Coligny Plaza is Rockfish Seafood & Steaks @ Bomboras, which is where we went for one of our girls’ nights out!  Since I am from the Northeast, I had never had hush puppies before moving down to South Carolina.  My first time trying them was at this restaurant and I wish there were places up North that made them just like those.  Just thinking about them now is making my mouth water!

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HHI’S HEEL: In the heel of Hilton Head there are a couple places I’d like to mention: Okko, a hibachi spot we visited for multiple intern birthday celebrations and also Shelter Cove.  Shelter Cove Towne Center was a few minutes from our condo complex, so it was easy to spend a lot of time there.  I stopped in a lot of the quick service places, such as Wayback Burger, where I saw one of my coworkers perform, and Orange Leaf for some cold frozen yogurt.  We were also in Hilton Head during college basketball season, so we went out several times as a group to watch games (not that I know anything about basketball…).  We went to Hickory Tavern as well as watched the Warriors win in the Finals at World of Beer.  If you go to the latter, I highly recommend mixing chocolate and raspberry beers- this was a suggestion by our server- for a unique liquid dessert!  There’s also some unique shopping locations in Shelter Cove, as well as a Pure Barre location.  I took my first Barre class there, and let me tell you, it is a killer workout!  Shelter Cove also hosts an array of events as well including fireworks and movie nights so be sure to check those out as well.  They do get busy, so carpooling is always a great idea.

This is also where I did all my grocery shopping, at my one true love, Kroger!  I don’t have a love for Giant and ACME, which are the grocery stores near where I live in PA, so Kroger quickly stole my heart.  I actually miss the place now that I’m not down South!  …so shout out to Kroger!

Oh The Places You Can Go

Aside from exploring the island, we also traveled off island and checked-out some nearby destinations as well.  The first of the two places I traveled was Savannah, GA.  Savannah is about 45 minutes from HHI, so it is a really easy day trip- so we went more than once!.  This was the first time I’d been to Georgia, so I loved that I was able to experience more than one destination while in South Carolina.  We spent some time of River Street, which is a cobblestone street along the water, visited Forsyth Park, had martinis at Jen & Friends, ate at the District Cafe & Eatery and Savannah Taphouse, and met some really interesting people! (Check out Visit Savannah for more tourism and travel tips and information!)

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Another destination that’s pretty close to HHI is Charleston, SC!  Charleston is about 2-hours away, so it’s a bit longer of a trip, but definitely worth the drive.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have great weather that day, so we spent a bit of time weaving in and out of shops to stay dry.  However, as someone with a hospitality degree, I highly recommend stopping by the iconic pineapple fountain.  From there, you can hang out at the Charleston Waterfront park.  We ate at Eli’s Table, which I encourage you to check out, but one of my roommates, who had been to Charleston countless time, loves The Rooftop Bar at The Vendue– so you can check that place out as well!  Lastly, we got to checkout an outdoor set for Z: The Beginning of Everything, a biographic series based on the life of Zelda Fitzgerald.  The set pieces and the costumes were so elegant and it definitely peaked my interest.  (Check out Charleston CVB for more tourism and travel tips and information!

Living on the Island

Living on Hilton Head was an extremely unique experience, which has left me with mixed feelings.  My intern group had an exceptional amount of issues with the complex MWV was leasing from, so I’ve heard that the company did not bring interns back to the same housing location the following summer.  However, despite all the issues, in retrospect, I would choose to live their again over having to commute from off-island.  Another reason I would choose to live their again was because we could walk to the beach.  The location we were staying at had 4 buildings.  We just had to walk thorough the buildings to get to a private boardwalk down to the beach, which is something I miss a lot!  I loved getting home from work and going to the beach and reading or taking walks under the stars at night.  That was definitely a pro when it came to living on the island.  Another pro in retrospect was how my rooming situation worked out (this is kind of a pro actually).  We were randomly matched up with other interns as roommates for housing.  I was the last to arrive on island, of my roommates, so I got the bed that was left.  Somehow, I got extremely lucky and my actual roommate, Corinne, became my best friend in Hilton Head and is someone I still keep in touch with today (I’m actually texting her as I write this!).  The con to the living situation is that Corinne and I essentially were sleeping in the same bed.  The complex has put a queen and a twin bed in our extremely small room.  So in order for us to get to the bathroom, we had to literally connect our beds.  It was a strange situation to say the least, but we made the most of it!

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And thus we have come to the end of the #IslandVibes mini-series!  I hope you enjoyed hearing about my adventures on Hilton Head Island and as a loss prevention intern with Marriott Vacations Worldwide.  For more information on their internship program, check on this site!  They also have a management development program as well- but I cannot speak to that experience.  Let me know if you have any favorite island spots that I didn’t talk about in the comments below!

All my best,

AlexandraMottershead.com

Credits:

#IslandVibes Part 2: My Marriott Vacation Club Internship| #storytime

As a continuation of last week’s blog, this post is part of a mini series titled #IslandVibes! As I mentioned in Pt. 1 All About Hilton Head Island, I interned for Marriott Vacations Worldwide during the summer of 2016 in Hilton Head Island, SC.  The first post in this series talks about the island itself, but this post is going to talk more about Marriott Vacations Worldwide and my internship as a loss prevention officer!

Marriott Vacations Worldwide (MWV)

MVW is a public timeshare company that focuses primarily on vacation ownership.  The company started in the mid-1980s and opened it’s first property on Hilton Head Island. Originally, MWV was a division of Marriott International, but separated and became it’s only publicly traded company in 2011.  MWV has several brands that include, Marriott Vacation Club Pulse, Grand Residences by Marriott, The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club, and Marriott Vacation Club, which is the brand I worked for.  More specifically, I worked at Barony Beach Club, which is one of the eight properties on the island.

Finding the Internship & The Offer

As I mentioned in my first blog post, Meet Alex!, I am a graduate of the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management at Temple University.  One of the benefits of being in a tourism and hospitality-specific program is that the school brings in various companies to talk about their companies, their experiences, as well as internships.  I attended an information session for their internship program and was able to sign-up for an on-campus internship appointment later that week with HR rep, Emily Emery.  I can’t speak to everyone else’s experience, since there were several Temple students that accepted MVW internships in various cities, but I was made an offer in my interview.  I was offered the option of taking a food and beverage (F&B) or loss prevention (LP) position at one of a few resorts in HHI.  I specifically chose Hilton Head, not only because I was excited to live by the beach, but because that is the location where you could sublease housing through the company.  Since it was such a short time period in a different state, not having to find a sublease on my own sold me on the location.

After my interview I had sometime to do research on the locations and decide which operations area I wanted to focus on.  At that point in my life, my experience was primarily F&B so I ultimately decided to go with loss prevention to try something new- even though I wasn’t 100% sure of what I was signing up for…  And as I mentioned above, I chose Barony Beach Club.  I don’t really remember my thought-process behind choosing Barony, so I can’t speak to that now.  I do remember looking at the commute time between where I was going to live and work and trying to find a short one so my internship wasn’t consumed by driving, but I don’t remember what the deciding factors were to be perfectly honest.

The 2016 Interns

Since I decided on Hilton Head, MVW’s headquarters, the largest pool of interns was also located there. In total, there were about 30 interns during the summer session. Everyone that traveled to the area for the internship was housed in the same complex and we were all in the same intern orientation class. The group of us were split among the properties on the island so I did not work with everyone that was interning during the summer. However, since there were so many of us, HR put together several intern outings for us, so it was more of an intern program as opposed to just a job. (The pictures below are of a lot of the interns at dinner together on one of first days on the island (L) and then me and Nikola, who was a co-op from Montenegro (L).  P.S. Nikola was not part of the internship program- this was just the only picture I had of the uniform!)

#IslandVibes Pt. 2 My Marriott Vacation Club Internship - The Interns/Co-Ops

The Ins & Outs of Resort Loss Prevention

As I said, I had little to no idea what loss prevention actually was when I accepted the internship.  I knew it had to do with safety, and I knew it would probably not be my calling in life, but I decided to try it out anyway.  When people ask me now what loss prevention is, I say you are focused on the areas of safety, security, and emergencies.  As a loss prevention officer (LPO), your ultimate job is to safeguard the company, stakeholders, guests, and assets against current and future threats. I realize that this is a very vague definition, but so much of the duties of an LPO require you to be on top of your game because emergency situations and safety or security breaches can’t be 100% predicted.  Sure, you can have standard operating procedures for to cover generics, but you can never plan fully for anything that happens while on the job.

As an LPO at Barony some of my duties were as follows: guarding the property and ensuring only verified Owners and Guests entered, patrolling the building and property and performing property checkpoint walks, operating the resort shuttle (my LEAST favorite job), assisting Owners and Guests who have locked themselves out of their condos and/or need new room keys, responding to all emergency situations and communicating with local law enforcement and EMS at those times, and completing and submitting any accompanying incident reports.  Though it seems like a lot when you group it all together, everyday was a little different because some days everything was calm. Then there were other days that everything happened all at once; the perfect storm.

Another thing to know about loss prevention is that it isn’t a glamorous job and a lot of places are desperately looking for more people for these departments; and Barony was no exception. We were pretty short-staffed throughout my time in Hilton Head, so I was very much thrown into the mix as soon as I started.  There was one day when the manager was out during the day because he had to work the overnight shift (because we were short-staffed) so I was the most seasoned LPO that day… Of course, that was the day we got an alert about an elevator and I had to close it down by myself.  Yes, I had previously been trained on the procedure, but it’s not something that sticks with you until you’ve completed the task by yourself once. To this day, I am really proud of myself for being able to handle that situation!

Another specific situation that sticks with me is the day that the fire alarm went off in one of the buildings. We all hopped on the golf cart and drove to the relative area of the building and then got off and ran (P.S. I am NOT a runner by any means…). The first rule of fire drills is that you must use the stairs. So me and one of the other LPOs split the building and I ran up to the fifth floor while he started on the other end so we could meet at the bottom, in the middle. Let me tell you, it was the oddest sensation running into a building that everyone else was running out of- but that is the job of an LPO. In this particular situation, it was our job to open every door on every floor of the building and shout into any remaining guests to get out of the building. This is especially important to do if you have patrons that land on the spectrum of disability. Luckily, there wasn’t a fire and something maintenance was working on had triggered the alarm. After everything was clear, my manager told me that I had a great response and disposition during this event. This was a moment that I proved to myself that I can be the calm and steadfast person that is needed for stressful moments. It was a great moment of self-realization for me.

The Moral of the LP Story

I went into the job thinking it wouldn’t be for me and I was 100% right, however, there a few pieces that I take with me into my career, especially in regards to events. I am now able to pull out my “safety and security” lens from my toolkit and analyze situations in regard to those areas. Now, when I’m setting up for events I am more cautious of not blocking entrances and exits and when creating aisles. I am more aware of situations that could be unsafe. I ask questions about incident reports and the associated paperwork regarding accidents at events. I consider whether or not a venue is ADA accessible and whether or not the set-up will prevent certain people from participating. Without going through this internship experience, I would have never been put in a place where those areas were something I focused on every day at work. Especially with everything going on in today’s society, safety and security are moving to the forefront of event professional discussions, and I now am more aware and considerate of these topics after working as an LPO, which I am very grateful for.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog post (the last in this mini series!), which will focus more on other aspects of island life and have more of my social stories! But until then…

All my best,

AlexandraMottershead.com

 

#IslandVibes Part 1: All About Hilton Head Island | #storytime

This is the first post in a mini-series entitled #IslandVibes, which is about my adventures on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina (HHI).  (Click here to check out the second blog!)  In the summer of 2016, I packed up my car and moved down to HHI for a two months to intern with Marriott Vacations Worldwide. I honestly started writing this piece as one blog, but it was getting pretty long and I was still in the middle of talking about the island itself, not even the company or the internship, so I’ve decided to break it up a little more.  So without further ado, may I present All About HHI!

Beach. Food. Golf. Repeat.

I have a love-hate relationship with HHI.  First, I was able to walk to the beach from the complex I was living in, which was the most amazing feeling.  It was about a 10-minute walk through the complex building and down the private walkway to the beach.  Also, the island is beautiful and there are some great places to eat.  However, on the other hand, there isn’t much more to do other than go to the beach, eat and drink, and golf (which is not my shtick). After all, HHI is an actual island, so there is only so much you can fit on the approximately 12 by 5 mile space. On top of that, a majority of the island is consumed by plantations and timeshares since HHI is considered a “resort island.”  Because it is a “resort island,” everything is also decently expensive (of course this is all in comparison to where you traveled from).  So despite living by the beach in a tropical climate, you have to consider the time it take you to get on and off island if you need to go other places or have more things to do and retail options.

#IslandVibes Experience Photos

Traveling Around The Island

Another unique feature about the island is that is completely accessibly by bikes.  However, that does mean that all the street signage is lowered, which takes some adjusting to.  The island also looks very green and tropical, which is aesthetically pleasing, but not great for people that are directionally-challenged like me, or first-time visitors, which I was…  Sometimes it’s hard to navigate because the signage can be slightly hidden by the foliage. Speaking of getting around, there’s one main road that goes through the entire island with many, many traffic circles that are scattered across the island. So if you travel from a place where roundabouts are nonexistent, like me, be prepared to potentially get stuck in one and have to go around more than once to actually get off at the right place!

Turtle Talk

One of the lesser known facts about HHI is that it is a destination for loggerhead sea turtles.  Because of this, the island has a curfew of 10 PM along the coast from May to November, their nesting and hatching season. This is to ensure that the hatching sea turtles go toward the moonlight and the ocean and not toward lit houses and companies instead.  To read more about the turtles and this unique island rule, check out this article by the Town of Hilton Head, SC. I should also note that turtles aren’t the only wildlife you’ll encounter. While the island is populated by many different species, I specifically wanted to mentioned that seeing alligators is very common.  In fact, there was a small pond/lagoon on the complex property where I stayed, which was home to an alligator!  You had to walk past him to get to the beach! As long as you leave them alone and just stay aware of their presence, they won’t affect your time in HHI at all.

ExploreHiltonHead.com

Hilton Head Map by Explore Hilton Head

For more information on the island, I recommend checking out ExploreHiltonHead.com, which is where this great graphic of the island came from! Another fun fact about the island is that it is shaped like a shoe. Since the shape it pretty distinct, people commonly refer to their location in shoe-terms, ie: the heel, toe, or ankle.  For instance, I worked in Port Royal, in the heel.

The Gullah Culture

The Gullah culture is an integral and traditional part of Hilton Head Island as well as several other southern states. Gullah is a culture as well as a language that was brought to America by enslaved African Americans in xxx that highlights specific components of West African culture. Seen most prominently are their artistic expressions, such as basketry, quilting, and storytelling.  To read more about their traditions and culture, check out this section of HiltonHeadIsland.org.

The Ohio Strategy

The running joke is that HHI is essentially an extension of Ohio because there are SO MANY Ohioans that stay on the Island. I can truly vouch for that sentiment now because there were countless cars with Ohio license plates that were parked all over the island while I was there. Well, why is that you may ask? What I’ve heard and what I’ve learned from the internet is that HHI previously ran a targeted marketing campaign in the 1950s to engage people from Ohio, and surrounding areas, to travel to Hilton Head.  From Cleveland to HHI, it’s about a 12-hour drive straight down I-77, making it an extremely easy trip. So between geo-targeting and and specific demographic targeting based on the data of who was already visiting paired with the travel route, the Ohio Strategy essentially was the “perfect day trip” campaign since travelers could make it to the Island in one day.  So don’t be confused when you see a ton of Ohio State paraphernalia scattered around the Island. [Read more about the Ohio Strategy here!]

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to explaining Hilton head Island. Of course, I only spent a couple months on the Island so there are so many aspects I didn’t have time to experience. Let me know if you have any other great travel and tourism tips for HHI and whether or not you’ve ever been before!

All my best,

AlexandraMottershead.com

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