Usually I write to share the knowledge we’ve acquired that will allow people to learn from our mistakes and to create better habits that allow an abundant life. Well, not today.
Today you’re about to see what some of that abundant life looks like. Jessie and I have been side hustling our asses off to break free of debt (accomplished this past year), and ultimately to financial independence. We know life is short, so we’re finding ways to live now AND plan for the future.
We finally took our first trip alone that was fully funded by the points we’ve acquired using our travel hacking skills.
Jessie and I are die-hard Steelers fans, so we’ve decided to look at the Steelers schedule when it’s released each year, find a city they are playing in that we’ve never been to, and go see them play. This year it was New Orleans and OMG did we hit the jackpot! The trip was by far our best yet for so many reasons!
The Steelers played the Saints on Dec 23rd so we got to be in New Orleans during the Christmas season. When you hear NOLA mentioned, it’s usually associated with Mardi Gras, but WOW is Christmas an underrated time of year to visit. The weather is cool, the city is busy, but not crazy. The lights are gorgeous! Especially at the Roosevelt hotel (a must see). Everyone is in a great mood. And of course, the music is OUTSTANDING!!
Traveling to this city I had zero expectation of the locals. In fact, I never even considered how the locals would impact the trip. Well let me tell you this, they made our trip 10 times better. I mean it. You might not find nicer people anywhere in the world.
Here’s some supporting evidence….
Jessie and I were walking down the street at night in our Steelers gear when a group of men made a comment as we passed. One of them said, “You ain’t no real Steelers fan.” I know he wasn’t expecting what came next because he didn’t look me in the eyes when he said it. He thought we’d keep walking.
Let me tell you this, I’m the worst at biting my tongue AND questioning my loyalty to my hometown to boot?! That crap won’t fly.
I made it 3-5 steps beyond the group before I decided it was worth the risk of defending my honor. It was cold out for a Florida guy, but it didn’t stop me from stripping off my layers of shirts on a busy street. As I walked back to confront the men, in a friendly manner, they started to see my Pittsburgh tattoos come into focus. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I was pleasantly surprised to see that these guys were so pumped to see the tattoo!! They all broke out cameras to take pictures while more people gathered around to look.
We all stood and chatted for a moment and wished each others’ teams luck as we moved on with our night. What a refreshing feeling to have differing opinions and it be ok.
Everyone in NOLA was this same way. They all wanted to talk and wish us the best. The locals made me fall in love with the city.
I could write a whole post on this alone. I love to eat good food almost as much as I love watching Pittsburgh sports, so you can see how this trip would be a no brainer as we looked at the Steelers schedule. We set aside money every month for traveling so that when we go to new places we can eat out without having to worry about the cost. We always pay attention to cost, but it’s nice to have money set aside for this purpose.
All of the places we went to eat were amazing!! You can walk down any street and pass 10 different Cajun joints. We chose places by walking around and stopping at places that looked great. Most restaurants post their menu outside, so that makes it easy to window shop. We were able to see the cost and selection before even stepping in.
Long story short, gumbo for breakfast from Daisy Dukes, grits for dinner from Mulates with amazing live music, or beignets for a midnight snack from Cafe Beignet, you can’t go wrong!! I will tell you this travel hack though, bring some heartburn meds. My stomach isn’t as iron cast as it was in my 20s.
Where to start here? I love free entertainment, but this is a whole new level!! It was 10am and we walked down Bourbon Street, only to stumble across an amazing band sitting in the middle of the street playing some incredible music for tips only. We stood and watched them for quite some time as they were just mesmerizing.
At night, just about every bar and restaurant does a great job of incorporating music into the ambiance of the place. Even after walking 25,000 steps each day (the city is very walkable), I found it hard to stop dancing anywhere we went. It’s hard to be in a bad mood here.
We did have a few things that made our list of things that were an unpleasant surprise. I won’t focus too much on these because they didn’t detract from our trip too much. Plus, I try not to focus on negatives much.
First, we stayed at the Hyatt Place on Convention Center Drive. I won’t pour out details, but this place was definitely below standard. The cleaning was sub-par and the staff was uninterested in everything, especially making sure customer needs were met. Find another place to stay; trust my recommendation here.
This last thing isn’t a small issue. In fact, it’s a huge issue. As we walked around, we noticed a huge inequity in economic status. This was really hard for Jessie and I to watch. It actually sparked an incredible conversation on one of our long walks. We realized that there obviously isn’t an easy solution to solve this, but it also doesn’t make it easier to watch. So if you do go, and have a heart, be prepared to have it broken a time or two on your walks through the city.
Our trip to New Orleans was one of the best trips I’ve taken in a while. It gave us the time to celebrate, be alone together, plan, reflect, grow, rest, unwind and let loose. We got to do all of this because this is the delayed gratification coming back around after we put it off for 3 years to become debt free.
So plan and take time to celebrate you and recharge. These will become a regular thing for us, so you all will be reading about those trips. I hope it motivates you to do something worth celebrating!!