If you haven't heard of Pack Up + Go, I suggest you click that link and book your next adventure. They are a surprise travel agency. You fill out a questionnaire, give them insight on what you like, set a budget, and tell them how you want to travel (plane, road, outdoor/camping, staycation) and then they plan it. It is all a surprise! Don't freak out and worry about how you will know what to pack. They send a forecast the week before and you can always be a baby and peek if you need. Don't be a baby. We have used Pack Up + Go twice, once for a plane trip and once for a road trip. Both experiences were wonderful. This post is about the road trip.
On the day of your scheduled departure, you open the envelope that has been sitting on your counter for about a week just teasing you with unknown adventure. It is like Christmas morning when you finally get to open it up. On our first trip, we waited until we were on the escalator to the terminals in O'Hare. This time we were driving so, full transparency, we opened the envelope the night before to help plan. I am glad we did because they suggested stops along the route, and we wouldn't have had enough time to really enjoy them. Each of us had a guess on where they might send us. After all, it had to be within driving distance of Chicago. Would it be Milwaukee as I predicted or St. Louis as Kerstin theorized. Well, we were both wrong for we were headed to Louisville, Kentucky.
That morning we loaded the car and began the journey. Our first stop was in West Lafayette for breakfast at Fuel. For some reason, I was in the passenger seat for the start of our journey and decided to take the photo above and post it on Facebook. My friends and family started liking the post as many knew about Pack Up + Go from our previous trip. Then random people started liking my post and commenting on it. At first it was exhilarating. Hundreds of likes turned into thousands. My alerts were non stop as the comments reached over 10,000 and the post was shared over 37,000 times. I had never gone viral before and let me tell you, it's disorienting. I began reading the comments. Initially, people simply tagged others and commented, "we should do this" or "I could never, I am a control freak." However the posts started taking a different turn. People noticed that my caption mentioned going to Louisville. The comments started reading like, "don't get killed" and "I would be so mad if I paid for this and they sent me to Louisville." Honestly, many of the comments started to become negative and threatening about how dangerous Louisville was. I am sure their comments were due to our trip being in March 2021 which was the one year anniversary of the death of Breonna Taylor. Louisville had protests the weeks prior to our arrival which was evident by the boarded up windows of businesses upon our arrival.
It took me some time to shake the stress of what Louisville would be like based on the comments. I can honestly say that I had nothing to worry about and should have shut my alerts off a long time ago. I felt just as safe as I do while walking in downtown Chicago. Regardless, the viral nature of the post changed our trip drastically. We already had dinner reservations made for us at Repeal and a gift card pre-purchased in our envelope. I wore my salmon pants and a sport coat and even got cat-called by a male motorist on our walk to the steakhouse. We passed those businesses with boarded up windows and came across a whole lot of moving, weird, and/or amazing art. We had cocktails, steak, and dessert. The Bacon Old Fashioned was amazing and paired well with the Bourbon Bread Pudding. Yes, Bourbon everything, we were in Louisville.
Our first night in the 21C Museum was met with a nice bottle of wine sent to our room from the folks at Pack Up + Go as recognition for the post (We even got a discount code to use on our next adventure). The next couple days we enjoyed the Churchill Downs Tour, walking Bardstown, drinking copious amounts of Bourbon, and even running into a friend from home, shout out to Mindy!
When an event that Pack Up + Go had booked was no longer available, I contacted them and explained the situation. The agent apologized and said she would call me back with adjustments. I assured her I understood it wasn't their fault and she thanked me for being understanding. When she did call back she informed me that she scheduled a tour with Derby City Brew Tours and that we would be doing the 502 Foodie Experience. It wasn't what we had planned but as always I am open to anything. When we met for the tour the guide had mentioned that Pack Up + Go talked about the viral post and he was hoping some of our luck would rub off on the tour as they just started back up due to COVID-19.
He was so polite and the other couple that joined us for the tour was fun too, even though they were older than us by a decade or two (I don't let age difference stop me from having fun and making connections). We visited many restaurants and breweries. Our favorites included Akasha Brewing, Atrium Brewing, and Gravely Brewing. I even got to do a bourbon tasting at Old Forester later that day (aside from the tour).
I know, I know... what does empathy have to do with this travel experience? Firstly, sometimes empathy starts from within. I was letting the viral post and negative comments tarnish my views of a wonderful city rich with history. I let the stress impact my expectations of what was supposed to be a vacation. Had I let those thoughts consume me I would not have found enjoyment in the small things. I would have let the issue with scheduling ruin our trip. We wouldn't have found amazing restaurants like Agave & Rye, Cultured, or La Bodeguita de mima. We would never had amazing drinks, bourbons, and beer at places like bar Vetti, High Horse, or The Craftery. We wouldn't have stumbled into NuLu and found so many cute shops. So stay grounded, positive, and keep an open mind when exploring new places. Even if others try and dampen it. Any travel is good travel and will strengthen your empathy. Enjoy this last photo of Kerstin reminding me to have fun and enjoy the night.
-The Empathetic Traveler-