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Tailgating in Tiger Town

Landon and I are both Clemson University alums, and we were SO excited for the opportunity to head back up to Clemson for Homecoming this weekend. We left right after work so we could have dinner with Landon's parents who live not too far from the Clemson campus. Since we hadn't been up to see his parents in TEN MONTHS (!!), it was nice to be able to spend time with them this weekend, too.

Saturday dawned bright and early...and pretty chilly. I love fall, but the weather around here is so weird in October. What do I wear when it is 49 in the morning, 80 mid-day and 55 after the game? Ugh. I settled on my skinny jeans, a white t-shirt and an orange and white striped 3/4-length shirt.
We had the BEST time at our tailgate--Landon's parents were there, along with several of our friends from undergrad: Tim and Kelly Anne, Tori and Furphy, and Shawn and his girlfriend Whitney. It's so weird to me that we've all been gone from Clemson for three-to-five years!


Sam and Nann are deep in conversation at the tailgate.

Yummy, yummy food

Tim and Kelly Anne celebrating a particularly good throw in Cornhole.

Landon says, "Go Tigers!"

Tori does her best to score!

Aww, how cute! The newlyweds walk to the stadium

The view from our tailgating spot

Just before the start of the game

Half-time show

Clemson won, we ate so much delicious food and we got to see Landon's parents. Definitely a successful weekend!

Kicking off the Holiday Season with College Football + New Shoes

Kicking off the Holiday Season with College Football + New Shoes | CosmosMariners.com

Although I love traveling (which is no big surprise since I run a travel blog), I also adore my home state of South Carolina.

For many others, the holiday season kicks off with Thanksgiving and then leads into Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year's.

As a proud South Carolinian, I know that the holiday season really starts when the weather gets chillier and the words "college football playoffs" are beginning to be bandied about. This past weekend, my husband and I headed back up to our alma mater, Clemson University, to see a football game and get into that holiday mood right before Thanksgiving.

Clemson University Baby

On September 7, 2009, Landon and I got engaged in Clemson University's Carillon Gardens. It's a beautiful spot in the middle of campus, and it was halfway between East campus and West campus. Since we lived on either side of campus while we were dating during our undergrad years, we'd meet in the middle to talk. 

Odds + (Week) Ends: Volume 16 {Hurricane Matthew Edition}

Odds + (Week) Ends: Volume 16 {Hurricane Matthew Edition} | CosmosMariners.com

The end of last week and this past weekend didn't quite turn out as I'd planned. You might have noticed that there was no post last Wednesday or Friday, but I was so busy with packing that I just didn't get around to it.

Having lived in Charleston, South Carolina, for the last three decades, I know there's always the chance that we might have to evacuate during hurricane season. Thankfully, we've only had to evacuate twice since I moved back in 1996: once for Hurricane Floyd, and then this past weekend.

Cool and Cultured: What to Do when You Visit Greenville, South Carolina

Cool and Cultured: What to Do when You Visit Greenville, South Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

Of the cities in South Carolina, Greenville is one of my favorites (second only to Charleston, of course). For a smaller city, it packs in a little bit for everyone: nature trails, museums, great restaurants, and excellent theatre.

Basically, if you haven't been to this corner of Upstate South Carolina, you're missing out. Here are my favorite fun things to do when I visit Greenville, South Carolina.

The Traveler Behind the Blog

I haven't done a good introduction blog in a long while, so today you get to learn all about me. I should not be as excited as I am to talk about myself because I know that's totally self-centered--but we all have to give into our self-centered indulgences every once in a while, right?!

So, hi! I'm Natalie. I'm the captain of this travel blog. And despite what the below picture might tell you, sitting on a sand throne is not nearly as glamorous as it looks. I guess that's a hazard of the job that I'm willing to endure.

Being the supremely weird unique person that I am, I have interviewed myself so that you can get to know me a little better. Let's delve into all things Cosmos Mariners, shall we?

Interviewer Me: Hello, Natalie. I'm so excited about this interview. You're quite wonderful, aren't you?
Answerer Me: Um, yes. Yes, I think I am. 

Interviewer Me: I'm pretty great, too, but I guess that's not the point. Let's talk about your blog.
Answerer Me: I've run Cosmos Mariners: Destination Unknown for about four years now. It started out as a tiny little thing so people could read about the early years of my marriage. I'm pretty sure that my parents and my in-laws were the only people who read it then. 

There's definitely always more room to grow, but I've found an awesome community of bloggers in the years that I've been working on this site. About a year ago, I rebranded to focus more on our travels as well as our adventures here in Charleston--I've loved all of the opportunities and friends that have come out of that change. 

My sister--one of my original readers--and I at Disney World in 2008.
Interviewer Me: Where have you traveled?
Answerer Me: All over the place! I've been on every mile of I-95--it runs all along the eastern seaboard from Florida to Maine. Besides the eastern seaboard states, I've been to Louisiana, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and California. I really want to see more of the U.S.! I've been to Disney World 25 or 30 times (we have a serious addiction); my first trip ever was to Disney when I was 2.

Outside of the U.S., I've been to several of the islands in the Bahamas (Andros, Grand Bahama Island, and New Providence), St. Martin/St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Mexico (the Yucatan Peninsula), Canada (Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island), Wales, England, Scotland, and France. I'm hoping to add Jamaica, Haiti, and a few European countries to that list in 2015!

Interviewer Me: Why are you wearing that intensely orange shirt in that picture if you at the top of the page?
Answerer Me: I've got to represent my alma mater, Clemson University! I graduated from there with a B.A. in Literature. (And then went on to the rival school, USC, for my M.A. in Post-WWII British Gothic Literature--but we don't talk about that.)

We took our love of Clemson all the way to the Trossachs, Scotland!
Interviewer Me: Were you indeed on the Clemson Quidditch team?
Answerer Me: Sadly, no. But I'm still waiting on my acceptance letter to Hogwarts! I'm going to be their first non-traditional (read: old person) student. While I wait for my owl to bring the letter, I've been absorbing as much as I can about the Wizarding World at Universal Studios and the Leavesden studios. 
Diagon Alley, Warner Brothers Studios, London

Zonko's, Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Orlando
Interviewer Me: Where's your favorite place to travel?
Answerer Me: I'm up for anywhere once, but if I had to go one place over and over again, it would be the UK. I've been there four times: once in 2003 with my parents and sister, in 2005 to study abroad, in 2011 with my husband, and in 2012 with a family I tutored. I'm an Anglophile through and through. 

Melrose Abbey, Scotland
Interviewer Me: Why don't you travel all of the time?
Answerer Me: If I could, I would! However, my husband works in a very location-based job (retail banking), so we try to travel as much as we can together when his work schedule suits. I'm not above traveling with my toddler, my parents, or my sister if there's somewhere I just have to go. I could totally be one of those nomadic travelers, but my other half would hate that, so we've found a good travel compromise. 

Indian Shores, Florida
Interviewer Me: What in the world makes you think you're qualified to blog about traveling?
Answerer Me: I love it! I really and truly love going to a new place, meeting new people, and trying new foods. I hope that passion comes across in my blog. Beyond that, I talk A LOT about the literature and history of the places that I visit, and that's where all of that college and grad school work come in handy!

Rodin Museum and Gardens, Paris
Interviewer Me: Where's home?
Answerer Me: Charleston, South Carolina. I tried for a very long time to get away because I wanted to live somewhere else after growing up here. Fate intervened and the only job offer I got was right back here in Charleston. I've been back for about four years, and I'm very excited to raise my daughter here in between our other adventures. 

Tradd Street, Charleston, South Carolina


Hopefully, you know a little bit more about me than you did! Want to know something else? Ask away!

Dear 17-Year-Old Natalie

Part I: the general stuff you need to know right now

Dear 17-year-old self,

Eleventh grade stinks just as much as you think it does. At 17, you feel like an adult (sometimes), but you still have all of the rules and regulations that comes with being a high schooler. Though you feel like the people around you should be with you forever--and the thought of being separated from them feels like torture--you will realize that moving away from those closest to you is an inevitable part of growing up. Don't worry: you will grow apart from your high school friends, but you will always, always keep them in your heart and think of them fondly as you all go to the right colleges for each of you, begin your careers, move far and wide, and start families of your own.

First day of school, 2001. Embrace the uniform!
The gang, 12th grade year. Shannon's 18th birthday. (L to R) Sims, Stephanie, Liz, Shannon, Katrina, Claire, me, Nicole and Anna-Kate
Don't worry so much about finding a boyfriend...and especially don't waste time mooning over those boys who don't pay you an ounce of attention. While I acknowledge that crushing on a boy sometimes has to be done, make sure you remember it's called a crush for a reason--because you'll sometimes feel like your heart is an aluminum can in a trash compactor. And, for heaven's sake, don't tell half the school who  you're crushing on. Trust me on this one; knowledge can only lead to complete and utter embarrassment when you know your crush has no hope of returning your affections. There will be other boys, boys who return your affection, boys who like you for all of those quirky oddities that make you feel like you're completely unlovable right now. They won't care that you're tall and gangly and completely un-athletic, that you'd rather read than play video games, that you're smart and have plans; in fact, these boys (the good ones!) will be proud to be your boyfriend because of these traits. Then one day, in about two years, you'll find that boy, the one that changes everything. And then the two of you will never feel whole without the other from that day on. He's worth the wait.

Landon and Natalie, summer 2004.
Love your parents, even though doing so can feel very, very difficult at times. These are the people who loved you and comforted you through thick and thin, so trust them when they advise you not to get a tattoo before seriously thinking about it. They were right about the six or seven ear piercings you want right now--when you grow up, you'll be glad you only stuck with the two. Your mom and dad are right to watch over who your friends are now. Even though you think that everyone is good and honest like you are, Mama and Daddy know better. Don't get mad when they ask where you're going and who you're going with and what time you'll be back. They want to be safe and healthy so you can go to college, get a job, get married, travel and have kids of your own. Appreciate your little sister: she will grow to be your very best friend if you let her. Even though the two of you fight sometimes now, you will miss her like you didn't think was possible when you go off to college in a year.

Family Christmas card, 2011.
Cling to that wild, adventurous self that you have deep inside. You will have so many opportunities to travel, so never be afraid to go somewhere new or try something difficult. Sometimes all you need is a little bravery. I promise, even if your world seems small right now, you will do so much by the time you're 27: go to England 4 times; study abroad in one of the greatest cities in the world; eat a chocolate croissant in Paris; see a real conch on Andros Island; go ziplining in St. Martin; see where your ancestors are from in Loch Lomond (Scotland); meet Johnny Depp, Brittany Murphy and Elton John; go scuba diving in Key West; commune with William Wordsworth at Tintern Abbey; and visit Lucy Maud Montgomery's house on Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia. Fight for these opportunities, as they will put your entire life into perspective.

San Juan, Puerto Rico. August 2008.
St. Andrews Cathedral, St. Andrews, Scotland. November 2011.
Work hard in school. I know you hear it from Mama and Daddy constantly, but all of that studying will be worth it. You'll be completely prepared for college, and, when you go to Clemson, you rock the socks off your classes! You'll graduate Clemson magna cum laude and with Calhoun honors, and you'll get to wear lots of fun medals and stuff at graduation. If nothing else, work hard for the rock star gear at that ceremony. You'll eventually go to a great graduate program in English Literature, which will, in turn, land you a fantastic job when you're 26. Keep studying!

Clemson Graduation, May 2007.
Know that failure sometimes is an option. Law school--the place you've been working towards since you were twelve--is not actually where you need to be. Knowing when to quit something, whether it be a course of study, a job or a relationship, is more important than just about anything else. It's okay to say "no" sometimes. You'll go through some messy breakups, and you will be called selfish and hurtful and many other things, but realize this is the other person's hurt coming through. Ending a relationship is selfish because you are putting your feelings over that of the other person's, but if the relationship's not working, it's just not working. You will both feel better after the dust settles again...and, in the long run, the break-up will be better for all involved.

And above all, know that life is a journey. Don't rush one part because you're trying to get to another. It's not all wonderful, but it is all a learning experience. People will come and go in your life. You will change your own perspectives on the world. But through it all, love your family and love yourself. You are an amazing person.


The 27-year-old Natalie

(Update 9/15/2012: Linked up with Chatting with the Sky's Dear Teenage Self linky party)

Wnat to see what the almost-30 year old Natalie has to say to 17-year-old Natalie? Read here.

Monthly Blog Goals: January 2017

Monthly Blog Goals: January 2017 | CosmosMariners.com

I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and a fantastic start to 2017. We stuck around Charleston for Christmas, and then went to see my in-laws in the upper part of South Carolina for New Year's Eve. The best part of our NYE celebration was watching the Clemson Tigers solidly beat Ohio State: my favorite football team is now headed to the National Championship for the second year in a row. (Let's hope the Clemson-Alabama matchup ends differently than it did last year!)

From the Mountains to the Sea (and Everything in Between): 2014 in Review

What a year. After the whirlwind that was 2013 (a year that included an awful pregnancy, two hospitalizations, the hellacious birth of my daughter, a rough postpartum experience, a house flood, and the death of my grandfather), I needed 2014.

Thankfully, 2014 was a huge improvement on 2013, and, over the last twelve months, I've had the opportunity to see so many wonderful things. My freelance writing has kept me busy (and in enough money to keep traveling!), and my daughter has blossomed from a barely crawling six-month-old into a running, thriving 19-month-old.

Let's take a look back at the year, shall we?

6 Fun Kids' Activities in Durham, North Carolina

6 Fun Kids' Activities in Durham, North Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

Summer time is the time for family vacations. As soon as the temperatures start to warm up, I get antsy for our next adventure. In between our 1 or 2 big trips each year, we like taking shorter trips within the Southeast: my husband and I are big believers in exploring the beautiful region we call home, so when I had the chance to visit Durham, North Carolina, with my two kids, I loaded up the car and headed up I-95.

Over 2 days, we hopped, ran, ate, and explored our way through as many of the kid-friendly spots in and around Durham that we could squeeze into our packed schedule. Here are our favorite kids' activities in Durham, North Carolina!

5 Things I Wish I'd Known before My London Study Abroad Experience

5 Things I Wish I'd Known before Studying Abroad in London | CosmosMariners.com

After my first trip to London in 2003, all I could think about was how quickly I could return. When I stumbled upon a study abroad fair at my university during my freshman year, I discovered a way to combine my love of school with my love of London and started a long journey towards adding overseas education into my academic resume.

My London study abroad experience made a big impact on me as a college student, and the experience I had in England exceeded every expectation I had going into it. If I could go back in time, here are five things I'd tell myself before I began studying abroad in London.

Traveling while Pregnant: Expectations versus Reality

Traveling while Pregnant: Expectations versus Reality | CosmosMariners.com

While I had this blog when I was pregnant with my daughter three and a half years ago, I wasn't really into the whole blogging thing.

Honestly, I was a bit of a mess blogging-wise: I would forget that I even had a blog for weeks at a time, I actively refused to make a Twitter account, and I had no cohesive theme or focus. If you look back at those posts (while I hang my head in blogger shame at how ramble-y and unreadable they are), you'll see that I sometimes talked about my pregnancy and sometimes I talked about my travels, but never together.

Odds + (Week) Ends: Volume 17 {Big Sister Weekend}

Odds + (Week) Ends: Volume 17 {Big Sister Weekend} | CosmosMariners.com

I'm slowly checking off the things that I need to accomplish before I head to the hospital, which is keeping me from spazzing completely at this point. I have just over 2 weeks at most since I've already been scheduled for a repeat c-section at 39 weeks. (If you're wondering why a repeat c-section, read my daughter's birth story here. We're looking to avoid all of that this go-round!)

One of things on that very long to-do list was to show our 3.5 year old just how much we love her. I know that sounds silly because obviously we love her, but we're about to turn her life upside down.

Smarter, Easier Family Travel: Why You Should Add the gb Pockit Stroller to Your Must-Pack List {A Review}

Smarter, Easier Family Travel: Why You Should Add the gb Pockit Stroller to Your Must-Pack List {A Review} | CosmosMariners.com

This post was sponsored by GBChildUsa as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central. I received the gb Pockit to facilitate my review.

By far, the most difficult part of traveling with a little one is the amount of stuff that we have to pack for her. While we've streamlined the process a bit over the last 2.5 years, I still find myself hauling around her travel cot, her toddler backpack and leash, our bulky stroller, and her beloved Frozen luggage.

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up | Vol. 7

Odds + Week (Ends): A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol. 7 | CosmosMariners.com

Hi, Mariners!

I hope those of you who celebrated Halloween this past weekend has lots of fun. Britton, my two-year-old daughter, got to go trick-or-treating for the first time, and she was a huge fan. We'd been practicing saying "Trick or treat!" all week so she'd be ready for her big debut, and she went out and collected candy like a champ.

Also, Clemson University (my alma mater) won their game this week against NC State, so that made Halloween even sweeter (if you forgive the pun).

Now, on to my favorite fun travel links of this past week!

Odds + Week (Ends): A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol. 7 | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via}
If ever there was a reason to Stockholm, this is it. Known as the world's longest book table, this is what heaven looks like to me. The book tables stretch across 8 blocks (!!!) during the city's Kulturfest, and you could easily leave with an entirely new library of used books. Time to book my ticket for next year.

Odds + Week (Ends): A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol. 7 | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via}
This haunting sculpture is based on an Austrian novel by the same name, Ali and Nino. In the novel, the two lovers are caught up between two sides of a war; when they finally become a couple, Ali is killed, leaving Nino behind to forever mourn him. The two figures in the art piece revolve around one another, until 7 PM each evening, when they slide through one another: it's a missed opportunity every day at the same time.

Odds + Week (Ends): A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol. 7 | CosmosMariners.com
{photo by Richard Silver via CityLab.com}

From London's Parliament building to Easter Island, these world famous landmarks are reinterpreted in awesome time-lapse photos. Photographer Richard Silver takes between 40 and 60 photos of the same object throughout the day. He then splices them together to create these mesmerizing pictures.

Odds + Week (Ends): A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol. 7 | CosmosMariners.com
{photo of Castle Howard via}

Maybe it's because I'm still living in the afterglow of my recent trip to Germany and Luxembourg where we saw so many castles, but I can't resist sharing this great article about 21 awesome castles from around the world. Even if you're not into the whole fairytale thing (and I'm certainly not), castles still win every time in my book because of their charm, architecture and history.

Odds + Week (Ends): A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol. 7 | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via flickr user Chris Ford | creative commons}

Do you want your own island getaway? If you've got some a lot of extra cash burning a hole in your pocket, you can grab one of these 8 private islands for sale. For what these are each going for, I can take a lot of tropical vacations, so I'll hold off of buying one for now.

How was your weekend? If you were in the Halloween spirit (ha!), what did you do?

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Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up | Vol. 5

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol. 5 | CosmosMariners.com

Hey, Mariners! Our weekend was filled with football (Go Clemson!) and packing. Since my husband isn't going to Germany with my parents, my sister, my toddler, and I--that pesky vacation time has run out for him--we're trying to spend as much time with him as possible in the days leading up to our trip to Europe.

What's in this weekend's round-up? SO. MUCH. COOL. STUFF!

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol. 5 | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via}

I have two DSLRs, a Nikon D90 and a Sony A6000, but I often find myself reaching for my iPhone to take pictures while I'm out and about. These iPhone DSLR lenses are awesome and allow you to get so much more out of your phone's photos. The lens kit seems like a great compromise for people who want better photos, but don't want to haul their bigger DSLR cameras around. What do you find yourself reaching for when you take a picture?

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol. 5 | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via}
I'm a huge proponent of staying in locally owned accommodations, and I try to do so whenever possible. They're quirky, charming, and unique, and a great inn or B&B can make your vacation. When I ran across these 11 hotels in former prisons, I was intrigued. You don't normally find yourself wanting to check into prison, but these would be an exception to the rule!

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol. 5 | CosmosMariners.com

London will always, always, always be my favorite city. Add my love of London to my love of anything literary, and it becomes the perfect storm of awesomeness for me. Even though I've been to London many times (including a study abroad stint there in college), I still haven't made it to all of these 6 literary-themed day trips from London. I guess it's time to plan another trip!

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol. 5 | CosmosMariners.com

I'm up for a new adventure when I travel, but these 13 slightly crazy adventures around the globe make me look like a newbie traveler! One guy traveled by tractor (yes, you read that right) from the Netherlands to the South Pole, while another couple biked from Belgium to China (on their honeymoon, no less!).

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol. 5 | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via}

Scotland is a magical place: all of those lochs, castles, and rolling hills. There are some incredible myths and legends hidden in those picturesque hills and valleys, including the tale of the fairy flag of Dunvegan Castle. Located on the Isle of Skye, the castle holds a tattered piece of cloth that supposedly has magical properties.

How was your weekend? Don't forget to keep up with my adventures in Germany on Instagram for the next two weeks!


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