One of the great benefits of being a freelance writer is having the flexibility to go wherever my mind takes me, both figuratively and, at times, literally. Following this mantra is what recently landed me in Charleston, South Carolina.
With our original weekend plans falling through, my friend and I were left with two options: 1) go home or 2) go somewhere… anywhere. After settling on option 2, but still without a destination, we picked up a rental car and just started driving. But before traveling too far, we stopped to eat breakfast and decide where exactly we were going.
The goal was to stay within 5 hours of Atlanta, so we narrowed our options to Nashville, Charlotte, Hilton Head & Savannah and Charleston. After spending about 20 minutes eating and checking weather, we settled on Charleston and hit the road again.
No plan. Just going.
I highly recommend taking a truly spontaneous road trip. It’s exciting and a lot of fun! However, you may face a few challenges of the non-life threatening, but mildly irritating, variety due to lack of planning. First, the nonexistence of a pre-planned and mutually agreed upon music playlist. Driving without theme music is not my idea of fun, so we had to come up with a solution quickly. Thankfully, the combination of T-Mobile’s unlimited data plan and YouTube allowed us to find a happy musical medium and avoid recreating the funny VW Passat commercial from a few years ago.
Another challenge is trusting your GPS a little too much. In an effort to provide the shortest route to Charleston, my GPS took us off the highway and through some rural parts of South Carolina. Rather than backtracking, we just embraced the adventure and kept going. At one point, came across some cool looking abandoned buildings in a very small town named Wagener (population 809).
Jackson Hole appeared to be a roadside watering hole for the travel-weary and next door was an old 76 fueling station. After snapping a few pictures, we got back on the road and eventually rolled into Charleston.
The words “fancy” and “well-kept” came to mind as I walked along King Street in downtown Charleston. It was as if the city knew it was handsome and carried itself as such. Not pretentious, just confident in its own skin.
The variety of architecture and design was very impressive. Within a short walking distance, I noticed a wide range of design styles and influences, including Ablaq, Art Deco and Federal. And with the absence of towering skyscrapers, each building seemingly had plenty of room to breathe and showcase itself against the light blue sky.
Charleston also cared a lot about the intricate details of its appearance. Everything from retail shop chandeliers to cobblestone alleyways were well placed and gently woven into the natural flow of the city.
As a fan of street art, I got really excited when I came across the two murals pictured below. I immediately recognized the style as being identical to artist Shepard Fairey. After a quick Google search, I learned that Charleston is his hometown, so the reason why the murals look like his work is because they are his work. Very cool. (See, I kinda know what I’m talking about sometimes!)
After long day of driving, walking and discovering, we grabbed drinks and a bite to eat along E. Bay Street, found a reasonably priced hotel using the HotelTonight app and called it a night. If you decide to take a spontaneous road trip, or a trip of any kind, I highly recommend using HotelTonight. And feel free to use my promo code LRANKIN9 for $25 off your booking.
After breakfast the following morning, we happened upon the Charleston Farmers Market in Marion Square. The wafting smells of farm-fresh produce and onsite cooking provided a sweet aroma for the festive event, which included artist and maker showcases, as well as performances by an energetic crew of breakdancers.
Our last stop was Waterfront Park. Adorned with ornate fountains, lush greenspace and bronze plaques highlighting the city’s history, it’s a great location for watching sailboats coast through the harbor, as well as chatting with locals and other tourists, while soaking up some of Charleston’s southern charm.
Until next time, Charleston. Thanks for the hospitality. Peace.