NOT our 2015 destination.

MTM and I devoured the news. Brussels, Belgium was on travel lockdown. The US Embassy warned Americans to stay indoors, to avoid crowds. US military travel was frozen. Troops with submachine guns roamed cobbled streets already spit-shined for the holiday.

We had two airline tickets for Brussels. Leaving the day before Thanksgiving. After twenty-four hours of deliberation and debate, we called our airline. No, not to cancel our trip. We wanted to review our options for both near-Brussels and alternative travel.

It’s easy to find the nearest bunker in this terrorist age. Parisian-style attacks can (and probably will) happen anywhere, anytime. MTM and I decided to pursue our annual “No Family Holidays With Family” Thanksgiving trip as normal, because if we didn’t, the terrorists win. We came up with five reasons to keep traveling. We hope our list will help you see the world while staying smart and safe.

  1. Book your tickets, and don’t worry about what *might* happen. Statistics still show you’re more likely to be injured or die within a few miles of home, right? So why miss experiences because of fear?
  2. If you’re patient, airlines can be very accommodating. Even though the US State Department still had not issued a Brussels travel alert, Delta vetted options and rebooked our flights without the usual change fees. The customer service representative even went to bat for us with her supervisors and won us a drastically reduced fare.
  3. Travel builds understanding. We’ve been in touch with both strangers and friends in Europe throughout this crisis. The Belgians are unflappable, resolute, and warm. We will definitely visit Belgium soon to help shop owners, restauranteurs, and hoteliers recover.
  4. Travel encourages flexibility. We’ve been planning our trip to Brussels since summer. Imagine what it’s like to hold a ticket to a different city, a place about which I know virtually NOTHING. And we still depart on Wednesday. With no time to research or plan, we’ll wing everything. Am I stressed? Nah. This trip will be a true adventure. How often does adventure come our way?
  5. We can be smart in the face of terror. For the first time in several years, readers won’t find me online during my trip. I’m not broadcasting our new destination on social media (and if you know it, please don’t mention it.) I won’t post photos, geolocate anything, or chronicle our whereabouts while we’re away. Terrorists can easily track those markers, and they’ve used them to target Americans overseas. We’re taking a genuine, unplugged vacation.

I. Can’t. Wait!

What are you doing for Thanksgiving? Please share your VERY GENERAL plans in a comment. I’d love to be able to imagine your festivities on Thanksgiving Day, because if you’re here, you’re a diehard. I’m thankful you YOU.

Have you ever gotten busy in a jacuzzi? Scored in a burbling whirlpool tub?

dupree house brenda and charles dixon

I may not have gotten lucky at Mamie’s Cottage, but I encountered Brenda and Charles Dixon’s jacuzzi tub at my 444-mile walk’s critical juncture. Seventy-five miles meat-grindered my feet. A couple of my toes were purple-verging-on-black. Joints screeched. Tendons wailed.

My body almost convinced
my mind it couldn’t go on.

Charles gave us a tour of Mamie’s Cottage, but I never left the bathroom. Once he showed me the jacuzzi tub, I let Dad and Alice learn about the rest of the place. Gas logs in the fireplace. A fridge stocked with provisions. Furniture that supported Dad’s weight. And of course, the inner workings of the television.

dupree house brenda and charles dixon

As soon as the door clicked shut, I opened the floodgates and plopped my abused limbs into hot water. I’m surprised I didn’t burn up the motor, alternating sore feet, cramped knees, stiff ankles and creaky hips in front of the jets.

Given the volume of
my moans and sighs,
Alice probably wondered
who was in there with me.

brenda and charles dixon

I’m glad I dragged myself to the Dupree House for breakfast, though. Brenda makes slurp-worthy fare, and Charles gives an entertaining tour of their plantation home just steps from the Natchez Trace. It’s fitting that Mamie’s Cottage sits alongside it.

It wasn’t always so.

Doctor Dupree, the original owner of Dupree House, decided to adopt a child and share his wealth with someone in need. His four children welcomed a sister, a girl named Mamie. When her adopted father died, she and her mother moved to a tiny cottage in town. Miss Mamie lived there until she died at age 90.

Her cottage was threatened with demolition in the 1990s, but Charles and Brenda rescued it. They paid to have it dismantled piece-by-piece and moved to the grounds of the Dupree House, uniting a daughter’s home with her father’s once again.

Sometimes, we make memories
by forging connections with the past.

Mamie’s Cottage is five miles from Raymond, Mississippi and twenty miles from Jackson. If you’re cycling, a short path leads from the Natchez Trace to the main gate. To take advantage of Brenda and Charles’s hospitality (and jacuzzi), click HERE to reserve through Natchez Trace Travel.

Have you ever found
the right place
at the right time?

h on the blog for website 2

The Huffington Post calls it “one literary ride you don’t want to miss!” What are you waiting for? Read Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace. Be inspired to Make a Memory of your very own.

Click to read a sample of Not Without My Father

Buy now at these outlets:

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People might be surprised to learn America’s richest city in 1800 wasn’t New York, Boston or even Philadelphia. My own Charleston couldn’t claim the crown, either.

Natchez, Mississippi beat
everyone to the money.

Situated on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, Natchez is chock-full of mansions.

dunleith natchez trace


Some pristine. Some not. Its culture blends Cajun with Old South, uptown with frontier. On its restored riverfront, visitors can time travel while they nosh of fried pickles. They can gamble and imagine the boatmen, just over there. Dismantling their wooden barges. Stuffing their pockets with cash. Walking past ostentation with HOME on their brains.

Mansions couldn’t hold them.
Society failed to entice.

They craved open spaces, beyond porches and piazzas. At the rim of plantation lines. In swamps and forests, dirt and sky.

longwood natchez trace


The boatmen looked at the riches of Natchez, and they embraced the American Dream. They didn’t know what to call it. Yet. But they knew if they worked harder, walked further, made it home…… would one day be within their grasp.


There’s no better time to visit Natchez than during Pilgrimage. Spring and Fall. Mark your calendars. If you’re the spontaneous sort, Spring Pilgrimage runs from 7 March to 7 April 2015. Fall 2015 Pilgrimage dates have yet to be announced, but it usually runs from late September to early October. Click HERE to learn more about Pilgrimage.

No Make a Memory visit to the Trace
is complete without my books!

Not Without My Father: One Woman's 444-Mile Walk of the NatchezTo Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether LewisGet your copies of To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis and Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace by heading to my