Before the sun rose over Orlando, Florida on the first day, we packed the car and five of us crammed in between luggage en route to pick up our sixth friend about two hours away.
Being the smallest of the group, I was stuck in the middle seat, shoulders rotated, feet up on who knows what because the floor was valuable storage space, and seat belt buckle digging into my side for two long hours.
Never in my life had I counted down the minutes until I was free from the car. We arrived in Jacksonville, Florida picked up our friend, redistributed the luggage and people between two cars, and I swear I must’ve cried tears of joy. What a relief. We got in the cars and headed off for the remaining 8-9 hours of our drive.
Aside from almost being run off the road by semi-trucks, it was a pretty uneventful drive. We arrived in Sevierville, TN, nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains, and headed to Walmart (where else?) to buy some food for the week to try and save money by primarily eating in.
We were walking around Walmart and reality hit me – I was on a week long vacation with 5 of my greatest friends in a part of the country that makes me the happiest. I was overjoyed.
We had planned to go hiking the next day – one of my favorite activities – but I was so caught up in the moment that I had forgotten all about it. What a blessing this whole trip was!
The next day, the sun rose, and so did we. Since this was January and we were a bunch of Floridians not used to winter weather, we each put on about three layers of clothes to protect from the freezing 20° temperatures (go ahead and judge us).
We headed up to the trails not sure of what to expect as we had done very little research. But I think that’s what makes parts of life so exciting – the unknown is not as scary as people make it out to be. So there we are, wandering the trails, miserably cold but having the time of our lives.
Over the next few days, we hiked some more, shopped around, explored the city and even made our way over to Gatlinburg – a must-see place if you’re ever in the area.
That entire week, I was on an excitement high. Seeing our plans through, spending time in a gorgeous city, deepening the friendships with everyone on the trip; a true trip of a lifetime.
But by far the best part of the trip was the most random, silly and unexpected part.
We were sitting in our hotel room, complaining about the lack of snow, given the temperature outside. Boys being boys they pointed out a steep hill across the street from us and suggested one of the guys roll down it. I can’t remember who the coming moment of brilliance came from, but I am forever thankful to the mastermind of one of the best times of my life: sledding. Without snow.
We hopped in the car and headed back to Walmart to purchase a cheap, plastic sled. Having lived in Florida all of our lives, we were hopeful to experience snowfall on this trip. At most, we saw snow flurries – not quite sledding weather. But we weren’t going to let the lack of snow on the ground stop us from having our fun.
We drove around Sevierville and neighboring cities for what must have been an hour, pulling over and testing every hill we could spot. I think we can all agree that our eyes lit up like kids in a candy shop when we spotted the steepest, tallest hill around. We parked, dragged the sled up to the top and spent the next hour or two flying down that hill. That experience was full of laughter and smiles and to this day, is one of the most memorable moments of my life.
A childhood television-born dream turned reality that week in January 2015. A trip of a lifetime cemented lifelong memories for six students from the University of Central Florida. It’s a trip that I still speak of to this day and will continue to look back on with fondness until the day I die.
For some, a road trip to Sevierville, TN is a nice break from school but for me, it is something that I needed more than I thought I did. It was a trip to fulfill childhood dreams and remind me that in life, moments are more valuable than things. It was my favorite vacation. It was my Prime Adventure.