Don’t Miss Life

I turned 36 on Friday, which really doesn’t mean anything.  But anything but khakis turned 1 on Tuesday, and for that I am very proud and thankful.
So this is the one-year anniversary blog.  You’ve seen everything I’ve done, so I won’t regurgitate.  I want to share with you everything I’ve learned in the past year, so strap in.  By a country mile, the number one thing I learned is this.  Figure out yourself and what really matters to you, and then focus the vast majority of your time and energy there.  Take time for yourself.  What do you like?  What don’t you like?  Do this daily.  Meditate.  Doesn’t have to be cross-legged at 6am.  It can be your style.  What really matters?  Family?  Travel? Learning? Being kind? Being rich?  Having the nicest car? Being a good parent? Wearing cool shoes?  You see where I’m going.  Whatever these important things are to you (no one else), that is your focus.  The rest is noise.  95% of the world right now is noise.  Get it out of your life.  Don’t allow others to monopolize your time and energy.  What energizes you?  How can you make a difference?
I discovered that I love writing.  Originality.  Variety.  Freedom.  Spontaneity.  Weirdness.  I have a tough time with the same ole status quo.  I like dorkiness.  Imagination.  Self awareness.  Imperfection.  Effort.  Individuality.  People who are interesting.  Personal challenges that provide fulfillment.
The second major learning was the importance of keeping an open mind at all times.  People are raised differently.  Think differently.  Behave differently.  Have different life circumstances.  Are often going through something you and I have no frame of reference for.  We are certainly entitled to our opinions, but we weren’t put on this earth to judge.  Take a deep breath next time…massive learning for me personally.
My mate Junior helped coin the line for the blog “Own your life story.”  Own it!  Good, bad, or ugly, it’s yours!  Being human is okay…it’s kind of the definition of who we are.
My favorite podcast of the year helped me decipher 3 categories of life:  plain ole fun, intense personal growth, helping others.  If you are spending a good amount of balanced time on these 3, you should be good.  Spend a little extra time on the last 2.
“Always in style.”  This isn’t a fashion blog anymore, but we here at abk love good, unique, personal style.  Having said that, I gave away or consigned half of my wardrobe this year.  I made friends with and now support local Charlotte stores, which I had never done before.  I got a little more casual.  I learned how to relax.
I came up with my favorite travel quote in the back of an uber in Mexico City.  “Rarely to escape.  Sometimes to recharge.  Always to enrich.”
I collected custom pieces from my travels.  I designed and bought proper hats any chance I got.  I explored the edgy crevices of the world that you will never find on TripAdvisor, but are as real as real can be.  I started becoming a citizen of the world.
C7EA6E2B-260D-45EA-83DC-8EC946ED9D6EI am now a completely different human being.  It took one year.  I’m not nearly done yet, but the foundation took one year.  I was out of my comfort zone every single day.  It looks like I played all year long.  Incorrect.  Not even close.  Immense, in depth work on myself, just in cool locations and in cool clothes.  I haven’t rested all year long (other than my nap in Mexico  lol).  I logged over 35,000 travel miles.  Had to put in the work.  It’s big stuff.  It’s little stuff.  And it all bleeds together.  It’s a new way of living.
I hope you know by now that this is not just words, it is a bona fide call to action.  Year 1 of the blog was about building a foundation.  Family, friends, acquaintances, and a few strangers who hopefully got some value out of the unique written word, pictures, clothes, ideas, or behaviors.  Year 2 is going to be about collaboration.  More trips with people.  Designing custom clothes.  Brainstorming new ideas about life.  I want everyone doing what fulfills them and what they find important, not worrying about stupid stuff.  Myself included.  It’s noise.
I worked daily to try and give you all something of value.  Something to think about.  Something to act upon.  In return, I got so much more.  It’s cliché, but it’s true.  I offered my unique perspectives.  You all offered me some of yours.  Messages and podcasts and articles and videos filled my inbox.  Really, really good stuff.  And I thank you!  Good God, I thank you!
I also want to thank my right hand woman Ros for the title this week.  It has an explanation, but I’m just going to let it sit with you.  You’ll get it.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you all for Year 1.  But that is now in the past, and I need you in the present.  More importantly, you need you in the present, focused on whatever it is that really matters to you.
Have a great week.-Benj

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Three Moms and a Little Baby

Let’s start with the little baby, who is not in our presence today, nor is he a little baby any more.  I know this because a few months ago, he told me he wanted to go to California.  I said, oh yeah, anything else? He said that he would like to go in a helicopter.  Sure, anything else? He was thinking about Texas and Mexico too.  (He must be reading the blog.)  Then two weeks ago, I caught him packing for his grandparents’ farm in Mississippi.  He was ready to vacation.  For three weeks apparently.   And so today on this Mother’s Day, at the ripe old age of 3, he is 625 miles away from his mother.

44CD2EFC-C770-4AF6-9C0F-1AC8A95AB011Next is Mom # 1, the above big guy’s mom and my wife, Christy.  First off, the above idea was hers, and that is ridiculously selfless.

Second off, a quick story.  I got shot this week. Yes, you read that correctly.  Not by a real gun it turns out, but still.  Google the paintball wars going on in the streets of America right now.  Walking home from dinner Wednesday night, a car passed in the other direction and unloaded six or seven times, hitting me twice.  I was stunned and visibly shaken, unsure if I had been shot for real or what was going on.  I DO NOT RECOMMEND THE BEHAVIOR THAT FOLLOWED, but it is the point of the story.  As I stood there, I turned around and saw Christy chasing after these clowns.  I don’t know what she was going to do if she caught them, but those boys better be glad they got away! Passion. Intensity.

Mom #2 is Suz, my little sister.  She understands and tolerates my uniqueness like no other. She is 5 years younger than me, and I have proudly seen her raise her two little girls, for which I have no frame of reference and never will. I cannot personally imagine having two in such a short period of time in my twenties. Respect.

F8FF38E1-EF17-4915-B962-A453BB81FB61Mom # 3 is my mom, who I am so happy to see today. She is both my biggest doubter and biggest supporter, which we laugh about all the time. When I got a dog some 12 years ago, the first thing she said to me was “What do you know about raising a dog?” Turns out, you learn. When I decided to run a marathon last year, the first thing she said to me was “What do you know about running a marathon?” Turns out, you learn. She’s quick to pop that question to me, but even quicker to throw her unwavering support behind any of my unusual activities I have decided to take on. She knows I’ve got this, and if I mess up, I’ll figure it out. What she may not know is that a good portion of the swagger I have comes from her quiet unwavering support. I’ve written this before, but never for Mother’s Day. She is genuinely the nicest person I have ever met, but is secretly super competitive. She is having a 2nd knee replacement surgery this week, and I love her attitude about it. She’s just ready to get on with it. Do what needs to be done. Sort it, so she can get back to living life. I love that attitude because of what it signifies. Sometimes life gets you down. Sometimes you need a new knee. Process it. Focus on it. Sort it out. And get back after it…stronger.

I’ll never have any clue what it is like to be a mom, but from everything I have learned, it must be the hardest yet most rewarding job in the world. Today, I sit with one whose only child is halfway across the country.  One who has got her hands full with two little ones. And one who needs a new knee. And that just perfectly sums up life I think.

Make sure you drop a kind word to your mother today, or for that matter, any mother. Selflessness. Passion. Intensity. Respect. Strength.

Have a great week.-Benj

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An American in Mexico City

5998330A-70BF-4449-B6E8-37CB97C3026EThe first thing I did when I arrived in Mexico City last Friday was accidentally send my uber driver to the zoo instead of the airport. I had a good laugh to myself, but as much as I believe in respecting other peoples’ cultures, I knew I needed to get my act together quickly.

4D17A0A0-46B3-4EBB-A303-AA67EB19A5A0Leading up to the trip last weekend, I felt like people thought I was going to North Korea or something. The amount of pushback was staggering. It was Mexico City, and if you get some insight from people who have actually been there before, you would know it has become quite the cultural destination. A little edgy as is every city, but otherwise, awesome. Sounds like my kind of place.

0B5B8B50-0B8C-41B9-A219-44281667AA3FThe city is gigantic, super smoggy, and at a staggering 7,000+ feet above sea level, the altitude will pop you in the face. So I got to my hotel (Winston Churchill stayed there previously), dropped my bags, and took off on foot immediately, per usual. My first Mexican meal was very ordinary. I then walked a good 5 miles to explore the historic part of the city. I attended Catholic Mass (I’m not Catholic!). I went to the square of the opening scene in James Bond’s Spectre. I bought a new “Zorro” hat from Mexican legends Tardan. And then I met up with my friend Drew and his wife Sarah (who were randomly in Mexico City the same weekend) for a Friday night on the town. We drank local cervezas, 70 year old tequila, and had Cuban cigars. We laughed, and the conversation was super interesting…just 3 Americans enjoying Mexico City from a rooftop bar. We got wind of this excellent hole in the wall taco place some 2 blocks away, and we decided to go. It was roughly 11pm, and it was packed. We squeezed in, ate 12 of the most delicious tacos between the 3 of us, and then said goodnight shortly thereafter. That would be all I would see of them.

53FC43FC-B4A5-49AC-A6C7-83ACBA8502E0Saturday, time to explore some more. I walked the SoHo of Mexico City and the Rodeo Drive. In between, I hit some less glamorous places. Always enjoy that. I did some vintage shopping at this store called Void that is one of the coolest stores I have ever been to. I walked through their Central Park. I got what is sure to be the most unique bathing suit for this summer, and ate vina rosa ice cream that was unreal.

211EFB0C-89CC-4F8E-B2C5-4F0CDDBE3D51If I am honest, I was a little worried about Saturday night. I was headed to the magnificent Estadio Azteca for Club America vs. Santos, where rumor has it sometimes Americans have bottles of urine thrown on them. So I did my best to blend in with the crowd. Keep mouth shut, check. Be aware of surroundings, check. Have 5,000 military police with machine guns around at all times, check. What a cool experience, and what a thrill to successfully navigate the 2 metro rides, the 1 train ride, the acquiring of my ticket, watching the game, and getting back to my hotel safely at midnight. Score! Or better yet, gooooollll!

7524062C-E215-4F08-8D42-A49D4CB601EFI wasn’t worried about game # 2 on Sunday at noon. Broad daylight. I had navigated the first one so easily. Wrong. Here’s the deal. I bought my tickets on the international version of a StubHub type site, but in Mexico you don’t actually take possession of the ticket until 2 hours before game time. You have a meeting place (Starbucks). A name and telephone number (too many digits). Worked perfectly Saturday night at Azteca. Not so much Sunday. My phone apparently doesn’t dial phone numbers with like 600 digits. Good to know. So I had to be flexible about an hour before game time, when it became apparent I wasn’t going to get my ticket. I calmly got another uber, made my way to the stadium, and bought tickets there. No problem. The atmosphere of game 2 (Pumas vs. Queretaro) was much more fun, although I did get beer poured on my head. I then took in the legendary Frida Kahlo museum, Casa Azul, before I was officially whipped. In 48 hours I had walked probably 15 miles in the Mexican heat. Ate. Drank. Shopped. Played. And I was literally done. So I went and took a nap at my hotel. Yes, you heard that correctly. I flew to Mexico City and took a nap. And then I awoke, watched sunset at El Angel, and called it a night.

42E76821-4F43-436C-8038-2B5FB9A58BEDTakeaways? Everything is ridiculously inexpensive. 25 cent tacos and metro rides. $5 ubers anywhere it seemed. $20 handmade silver. Montezuma’s Revenge is real. The city has loads of energy. The people are kind and warm and simply want you to enjoy their city and country. It’s bright and colorful, and the culture is electric. I felt more unsafe at the gas station back in Charlotte Tuesday than I did at any point in Mexico City. You probably want to be a bit of a seasoned traveler and do your due diligence to make this trip, but if you are, it is right at the freaking top of the list.

5DD73AD5-9592-4998-AC7A-2AEA0EB6B3EAOne thing niggled at me the entire trip. Prior to, so many people were telling me everything bad about Mexico City that I assume they had heard on the news or some other BS communication. And I just kept wondering how much life do people miss by listening to all of the noise, all of the time? Because if I had heeded the noise (which wasn’t true at all), I would have missed out on navigating one of the biggest, most culturally fascinating cities in the world. What an absolute thrill!

PS-apologies to the nice young lady at the restaurant who asked for my name for the order, and I gave her my phone number. Oops.

Have a great week.-Benj

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Benj the Builder

I talk a lot about the importance of getting out of your comfort zone. I have a firm belief that by doing so, that is where the real personal growth, enrichment, and satisfaction occurs in life. Personally, I’ve been working on it a ton, but there are still plenty of areas where I can improve. I tackled one this week. Let me tell you about it.

Previously, I have told you about my relationship with manual labor. It doesn’t interest me, I am no good at it, and it makes my body hurt. But from everyone I talk to, it often provides real satisfaction because you are doing something tangible and oftentimes meaningful.

I have a particular pal at work that holds me accountable.  Since I often recommend everyone get out of their comfort zone, he makes sure I do the same. So he challenged me, and I am so glad he did. This week, for the first time ever, I joined my co-workers to work on 2 Habitat for Humanity houses, and I want to tell you about some takeaways.

Leading up to the day, I was getting clowned left, right and center. “Bostic is gonna have to go buy some work clothes.” “I think he may show up in one of those caddie suits they wear at The Masters.” On and on. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I ended up showing up with my patented sweat pants rolled to my knees, which prompted my buddy to ask if I were wearing capris. (Eye roll.) Anyhow, none of that is of any importance to the amount of good work we did as a team that day. We painted the full interiors of 2 houses and fully sided a shed. We met the 2 future homeowners, who were gleaming with excitement and pride, and then we finished the day with a quick brew at a local brewery.

A5479ED4-B28F-4082-BA8C-1F92DAB4A0F2What the hell was I afraid of or nervous about? That I wasn’t a professional painter or sider? In retrospect, I have no idea. I had a fantastic day. Left fully excited for the new homeowners. Fully fulfilled by the work that had been done. And proud as can be of my teammates. I had passed up that opportunity multiple times in the past, and for what? Seriously, I have no idea.

What keeps you from getting out of your comfort zone? What keeps you from experiencing that fulfillment and personal growth that comes with conquering those things you may be afraid of? Listen, I wore double denim with pink Chelsea boots to work last Friday, and I was nervous about painting?That literally makes no sense.

So, baby steps. New foods. New activities. New challenges. New travels. New styles. Our own crazy little brains often talk us out of things for no good reason. I love seeing people grow personally. Me. You. Everyone. I’ll have another more wild and crazy example for you in a week or two. But in the meantime, challenge yourself to get out of that comfort zone, and let me know what’s up!

Have a great week.-Benj

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Same Song, Second Verse

A little bit faster…yes! A little bit faster the second time around. Maybe that’s why I’m doing it again? Maybe not.

85A53699-A5C0-4F5C-A759-43F57E36CF4DSo first off, I am running the NYC Marathon again this year. Round 2. Why? Let’s talk it through together. Let me remind you of my experience last year .  I got no rush when I crossed the finish line in Central Park. Sure, it was cool, but it did not even move my proverbial needle. The real emotion was during the 4 hours and 32 minutes (and 12 seconds) leading up to the finish line, and even more so, the 4-5 months of training and racing leading up to that. I had never personally bought into the whole “the journey is the actual reward” line. Now, I am a firm believer because I have experienced it firsthand. A few years ago, I would have wanted to just flaunt the end result. Now, it truly is all about the hard work behind the scenes, which is an unbelievable metaphor for life and an unbelievable transformation for me!

Let me tell you how I feel right now on April 15, 2018. My right shin still hurts from the race 5 months ago. My right hip and pelvis still hurt from the intense arthritis that I have. So why, when I was invited by The Arthritis Foundation to run again in 2018, would I even consider? I took 3 days to mull it over. I polled some of you all to see if it would set any light bulbs off. Ultimately, it came down to the immense personal satisfaction and fulfillment that came with the journey last year. If I could replicate that again this year and in years to come, man that would be awesome! I want to point out that I didn’t say it was fun. Nor did it make me happy. Satisfied and fulfilled, which I have learned over the past year are so, so much more important to me.

708CEA8D-E6FA-4399-B775-6482786E4A7BWhat if this became my story? Guy who hates running overcomes terrible arthritis pain to run marathons in his favorite city in the world to raise money for the very disease that prevents him from doing certain daily tasks. What if this became my thing? What if starting last year, I run the NYC Marathon every year until the day that I die? Sorry…I am a dreamer. But what if…

What’s your story? What gives you satisfaction and fulfillment? Have you found it yet? Are you putting in the hard work? Are you enjoying the journey? I wasn’t. Let me say that again. I was not. I loved the headlines, not the work. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the headlines, but I have (and continue) to put in the hard, hard work on my self. I love the work now. I love walking down to the track and putting in the grueling work in the sun. I love what it represents. I love how it makes me feel. I love that I sleep so peacefully those nights. And when I am fulfilled, I am much more valuable to this world. So too, I bet, are you.

Last year’s race theme was “It Will Move You”, and boy did it. It also used these words: “ free, vindicate, empower, celebrate, change, reward, stun, impress, hypnotize, welcome, surprise, challenge, break, rally, support, transform, unite, energize, push, humble, dare, lift, excite, intimidate, feed, devour, inspire, connect, overwhelm, and entertain”. Here’s the thing: I personally needed a stern test, and it was.  It made me sick. It made me uncomfortable. It made me hurt. But of all the words I quoted above, I see these most prominently: “transform, energize, humble, and inspire”. At the ripe old age of 35, I am finally starting to figure myself out, and it is so very freeing (to steal the first word from above). And if running the NYC Marathon every year becomes a part of my journey, then you shall know where to find me every first Sunday in November.

IMG_4242Life is so exciting.  What’s your story? Start writing…

Have a great week.-Benj

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Wingate is on the Map

One of the top 5 questions I get these days is where my favorite place is to travel. If you follow along regularly, you know that Salt Lake City is my newest favorite. You also know that my old standby is New York City. I literally cannot get enough. But what I haven’t mentioned is my love for my hometown of Wingate, NC (population not much). It’s where I grew up. It’s where my parents still live. And it will always be home. I spent both days last weekend there for different reasons, and was reminded why it is such a gem. At the beginning of spring and fall, it is absolutely gorgeous. And the people. Oh, the people. Always a smile, a hug, and a hearty handshake.

40FDB1E2-B28B-4377-BB56-9D2E7DA25F95I’ve taken some super-memorable trips in my life, and specifically the past 18 months. But even the best of those don’t compare to my two favorite things about Wingate: playing the piano with my mom at my childhood home (yes, I know I owe you the completion of our duet) or spending a fall night watching Wingate Men’s Soccer (D2 National Champs 2016). You think I am exaggerating? Two years ago, I cut a vacation to NYC short to fly home and watch a Wingate Men’s Soccer playoff game in person. No joke.

DA7D3FA1-E9D8-48D0-B51F-4828C94E3102Wingate is an interesting place. It is about 45 minutes from Charlotte on the way to the beach. My high school won the State Basketball Championship here recently, of which I am very proud. It is very rural, and smells like farming. Its demographics run the gamut, which was crucial in my development as a human being. A nice mix of white, black, and Hispanic, among others. The age of the population leans a little older, but then the university population evens that back out. Oh yeah, did I not mention? The town has a world-class university smack in the middle. I received my MBA and played soccer there. The campus is absolutely beautiful. The athletic program is second to none. Ditto to the pharmacy school and other academic programs. There is a worldwide feel because the university has students from all over the world. I can literally pop in for a day and talk native Wingate-ese, or overhear one of 10 different languages.

054FCCDB-74A1-4D66-BD30-063D9CFFBE9DI know I always talk about the importance of experiencing the world. Broadening your horizons. Being a true citizen of the world, not just your own little community. But life’s a trip, no pun intended, because on the other hand, there are so many “wordly” people out there that would have no idea how to behave in my little ol’ Wingate. I say it all the time to anyone who will listen (my co-workers are tired of it). Growing up in this place was an absolute blessing, and I never want to lose the ability to interact and relate with my hometown or any other small town, regardless of where I live or travel to.

957EAC90-AC0E-4B2C-9FA4-9D9F5820F6ADOne of my primary goals in life right now is to be able to start and carry on a conversation with literally anyone on this planet. So as I continue on my travels of the United States and the world, I get as much satisfaction during the off weekends to hit up places like Wingate. Because as fun as some fancy-ass place in Miami may be, it is necessary, vital even, to understand that the farmer in Wingate is equally as important. So when I say broaden your horizons, yeah, I may be encouraging someone whose world has gotten a little small. But let it be known, I also want everyone to know the importance of places like Wingate. And how it has shaped my view of the world just as much as all of these other places. No better. No worse. Just different. And as I always say, different is good. Different is good.

Have a great week.-Benj

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Family, Friends, Fashion, and Futbol

Who is a friend or family member you haven’t seen in a while that lives somewhere else in the world? Another city? Another state? Maybe another country? Would you like to spend some time with them? Alright, let’s go.

7BF54350-D6AE-49B9-973D-058F3E4FD7E8Last week my family and I journeyed to Florida, but here is how it started. I was simply annoyed at the Charlotte weather. Cold, dreary, really all over the place. So I said, let’s go to Florida. Just a quick getaway to the Orlando area. Nothing wild and crazy. Once it was agreed upon, I texted my college soccer teammate Sergio who lives in the area to see if he and his family wanted to have dinner. Next thing I knew, we were invited to stay at his house for a long weekend.

E4903ABF-C736-4CB1-BB86-D5EE9921153AChristy then decided to text her childhood friend Mikey who is an animal trainer at Sea World to see if he and his family were around. Next thing I knew, we had a full day planned at Sea World with behind the scenes animal “meet and greets” with flamingos, dolphins, sea lions, and otters.

13DF0498-CC32-48E7-BA21-B7958865EF2EIt was Spring Break in Florida last week, and Sergio called me on Thursday while we were driving down to let me know that another family had been staying with them earlier in the week and was going to stay one more night. No problem. One thing: Sergio and his wife Dionne have 4 kids, and his friend has 6. Night 1=11 kids and 6 adults. It was like the Home Alone house.

AF4EA58E-4EE6-4F8A-9DEB-F1D40D944F63On the way down, we stopped at one of our favorite little towns in Florida called Saint Augustine.  Spent a few hours enjoying the town. Just a lovely, chill little place.

4F7252AF-6CD9-48D3-8D31-9F952B41EA52Friday was Sea World. I love animals, so it was very cool. We started the day with 4 adults and 3 kids, and finished with 5 adults and 5 kids as a friend of our friends joined the party. We had a great time, but I can’t even begin to tell you how tired I was after 10 hours of that. It was like running a marathon.

12DF3096-640D-496B-B10D-2774A632C598That night, Sergio and I were sitting on his couch discussing plans for Saturday.  He and I were going to Braves vs Yankees Spring Training, but he found out late that his younger son had a soccer game too. He mentioned his coach’s name, and I stopped him in his tracks. Coach Sephton? Yeah, he was on my Sunday League team here in Charlotte for years before he just moved to Orlando. We would have to stop by and say hello. Sergio and I then proceeded to talk until 3am. I do love a good conversationalist!

D97A7FE6-A45B-48BB-A4E9-0712BCB49D23Saturday was baseball. 80 degrees and sunny at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. I wore ripped jeans, and I currently have a very strange suntan on my legs. This was an event for me. My grandparents lived and died by the Atlanta Braves, and I had been wanting to get down to their Spring Training for a long time. As I sat there, I thought my late grandmother would be well pleased. We then popped over to the soccer game, watched, and said hello to Coach Sephton, who per usual, criticized me for wearing ripped jeans. Dionne ordered pizza on the way home, and Saturday night was going to be just chill.

Wrong! I’m a bit of a smack talker by trade, and I was keen to let the kids know that their dad and I could still beat them in soccer. Challenge accepted. And for the next 3 hours, we all played. And the neighborhood joined. And we played some more. It was really, really genuine happiness.

9E4485BD-2343-4F5A-A8E4-CC07A058F280Sunday we woke up, and I was reminded I am not 20 years old anymore. We said our goodbyes, and moseyed on home with a quick detour to Daytona Speedway for my son (lover of Cars) to see. (Two restaurant recommendations between Charlotte and Orlando: Duke’s BBQ in Walterboro, SC and Maurice’s Piggie Park in West Columbia, SC.)

9097A495-C9FF-4279-A131-C886A89CDA2EWhat’s the point? I felt like I was surrounded by fantastic people at every turn on this trip. It involved family, new friends, old friends, and complete strangers. If you had told me that the weekend would have played out as it did when I first thought about going to Florida, I would have said you were nuts.

So pick a friend or family member that lives out of town. See if they would like to catch up. And then go have a great new adventure and make some great new memories!

Have a great week.-Benj

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