Travel In Style: Gulf Shores


My family did our annual Thanksgiving vacation to Gulf Shores, AL. For the past seven years, we’ve joined three other families for a weeklong retreat at a house along the beach: A full week of eating, drinking, laughing, relaxing, and just detaching from our busy day-to-day routines. As we we’d all been looking forward to the trip, this year was a little different for us. My mom’s sister Phyllis passed away October 12; five weeks before Thanksgiving and seven weeks before her 64th birthday.

My aunt was diagnosed with Endometrial Cancer a little over a year ago and unfortunately her journey throughout her treatments was quite painful. As we’re all still processing, there's been a major shift in our family dynamic. Personally, it’s been a challenge for me to truly sit with my emotions about it. She was known for the beautiful smile and sharp sense of humor, her love for pork chops and the Pittsburgh Steelers, her stubborn and rebellious approach on life. She’s been such a prominent member of my family, so not having her around has cast a faint shadow over all of us… so much that we’ve barely spoken about it since. Her presence was missed on our trip this year, but we managed to get through our week as best as we could considering.

Phyllis Anne Phillips, November 1954 - October 2018

Phyllis Anne Phillips, November 1954 - October 2018

I got to spend some quality time with my siblings and niece. We went to the movies [twice], played Super Mario World, and had many candid conversations about life. I got to snuggle with my dad and catch up with my mom, though I could tell that she was working through some of her own emotions about my aunt’s transition. For the most part we all kind of did our own thing, but as a group we did come together for themed dinners, hosted by a different family member every other night: Sunday BBQ Night, Tuesday Fiesta Night, Thursday Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner, and leftovers for the nights in between.  

Whenever I’m experiencing heavy emotions, I naturally isolate and submerge myself in work. Most of my week was spent trying to catch up on rest and shopping for a upcoming photo shoot I had the Sunday after our return. Though it was a challenge for me to fully relax, I was seduced by the serene atmosphere and encouraged to indulge a little. Every morning I sat silently on the porch, sipping hot tea, watching the sun move, and listening to waves crash. I spent only one day on the actual beach, so I took that time to bury my feet in the sand and do a bit of writing...mostly about my family.  

If you know me, you know that my family is my everything. Sometimes the families we are born into aren’t the most compatible with who we come to be as individuals. With my family...we have our different approaches to life and often don’t communicate very well, but our love for each other keeps us solid. With loss, often comes plenty of gain. My aunt’s passing may have been the shift we all needed to strengthen our relationships with each other. T’Phyl brought something special to each of our lives. For me, she was always very supportive of my creative work. She bought me a selfie stick (when it was still a thing) and a iPhone tripod to use for my blogging. I have her to thank for many things, but mostly for showing me how to live for myself. I relate a lot to her; being strong-willed, independent, and so very different from my siblings. As I’ve added another ancestor to my alter, I will continue to spend my life LIVING and honoring her spiritual guidance. This Thanksgiving tradition is one I hope to continue for years to come. It is the one time of the year I get to travel with my entire family and I am honored to be able to have that privilege.  

Scroll down for some highlights from our family trip.        

Travel In Style: New York City

Dress & Shoes: Topshop, Sunglasses: The Sunglass Shop, Necklace: , Bag: Vintage, Photographer: Louisa Wells (The Life Observed) 

"One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years" -Thomas Wolfe

I was 15 years old when I first visited New York City. I went on vacation to Washington D.C. with my parents and they thought it'd be fun to take the train into New York for the day. From the second I stepped foot on those street, it was instant love. Since then, I've visited over 6 times and have even contemplated over the past few years on whether I should relocate. I think it's the fast-paced lifestyle, or the skyscrapers, or the amazing food, or the fact that theres always something to do there. My heart beats strong for this "concrete jungle."

My most recent trip was a Girls Trip (peep my Instagram for a visual recap) with some of my girlfriends from New Orleans. The first night we attended a party hosted by Solange Knowles and her Saint Heron team at the Casablanca Cocktail Lounge in Brooklyn. A good friend of my Dj RQaway was spinning a mix of 90s R&B classics and new school hip-hop.  I saw many of my friends from down south and also some new East Coast faces. It was a quintessential "New Orleans meets New York" kind of vibe. The next morning I woke up early to meet photographer, Louisa Wells (@thelifeobserved) in Midtown Manhattan. We strolled the area in stop-and-click fashion; We walked, we stopped, she clicked, we walked some more. We shared our stories of our love for the city and how it inspires us both creatively. She took me through the blocks of 5th Avenue and geeked out with me over the fact that I was staying in the hotel where Gossip Girl was shot (The New York Palace). It was such a lovely start to my day.

By mid-day, I was led to the streets of Brooklyn. I walked a good bit around Williamsburg through to the Brooklyn Bridge Park. The view literally left me gasping for air. Might I add that it seemed as if the weather cooperated just so that I could enjoy this mini trip without even an idea of dark clouds rolling through. It was damn near perfect! That evening the ladies and I had dinner at Tao Asian fusion restaurant. I had THE BEST experience. The atmosphere was intimate and chic, the decor was awesomely eccentric, the DJ played the best club mixes of the most popular tunes, and the food...was simply divine. I ordered salmon sashimi that was wrapped in crispy fried onions and had a sweet glaze drizzled over. A friend of mine had the best Chilean sea bass that has ever touched my tastebuds. I think it's safe to say that we enjoyed ourselves. We capped the night off dancing away at Red Rooster in the heart of Harlem. Theres something about Harlem that always feels like home...maybe its the warm souls and fun spirits that I come across. 

The next morning I caught an early train back to the Brooklyn Bridge. I took some beautfiful shots of my friend, while taking in yet another amazing view. I'd been to the bridge before, but this time I felt more like a local. [Or maybe it was just my heart begging me to never leave]. By noon, the ladies and I headed to the Meat Packing District and enjoyed a pitcher of mojitos at Le Bain located on the rooftop of the ultra chic and modern-styled Standard Hotel. The ladies and I ate crepes and toasted to happiness while taking in the view of the high line. The Universe was on our side throughout this entire trip. That affirmation was confirmed when on our very last day, we stumbled upon free tickets to the annual AfroPunk Festival at Commodore Barry Park. I can't even begin to fully describe the atmosphere of this event. Everyone was dressed in afrofuturistic avant-garde fashion and the performers were mostly indie/underground rock, hiphop, & house bands. There I was introduced to the soft electric sounds of Sam Dew and became an instant fan. It was such a fulfilling cultural experience.

Every time I visit NYC, I come back overwhelmed with inspiration. Whenever I'm there I feel like I was meant to be there. It feels like MY city. I don't know yet if the Universe will move me there, but there's gotta be a deeper meaning behind this feeling...Maybe New York is my soulmate.