My job is all about traveling. I am out of the office more than 200 days of the year, traveling across the United States and Germany for STIHL Inc. and testing products in the field. When people ask what I do for a living the normal response is, "Wow, that sounds cool!" Doing what I do for STIHL is extremely cool, and having the opportunity to visit places I would never have heard of otherwise is pretty amazing.
There are some down sides. To be efficient, work travel doesn't fulfill the normal wanderlust that comes with my vacations. So, when I was given the opportunity recently to go to our Mid-Atlantic distributor for two weeks, I made sure to take advantage of my free time. My work schedule allowed time every evening for venturing throughout the Hillsborough, Durham and Chapel Hill areas of North Carolina. Before I go any further, I must qualify myself. According to my father I am, "Carolinian by birth and Tar Heel by the grace of God." I grew up playing on the coastal shores of the state's Outer Banks, and my love for it has never ceased.
My first objective is always to find food, and I try my best to find local options. If I'm new to an area, the first resource I try is always Independent We Stand, a nationwide organization where local, indie businesses are listed in a database and on their mobile apps for free.
Sometimes finding locally owned places can be a problem, but not in this part of North Carolina. The area was filled with local, healthy options to try, like the Weaver Street Market, a co-op offering a host of healthy options. I had breakfast here almost every morning and most lunches. The salad bar had everything you'd want.
Another must is coffee and in Hillsborough the only local coffee shop I could find was Cup of Joe on King Street. This is a simple straightforward coffee shop with great black liquids and really nice patrons. Hillsborough is the type of town that everyone speaks to you with a genuine "Good morning" or "How are you doing?" filled with southern hospitality. One of my colleagues had informed me that Hillsborough was the colonial capitol of North Carolina, which explains the distinctive charm. The streets are bordered by old three-story buildings full of character and stories to tell. The atmosphere is lazy and if the weather was warmer I could see how sitting at one of the outdoor cafes and wasting the evening away would be highly productive. Riding to and from work every day, I wished I had brought my bike to ride on these rolling hills lined with Bradford Pear Trees just itching to burst into their bright white, spring attire.
While I was here, I wanted to do some yoga. After years of physically abusing my body through sports, I have recently learned the benefits of this practice. I found a bunch of different studios online, but I ended up at Blue Point Yoga, on the southwest side of Durham near the Duke Medical Center, because the first class is free. Yoga here was awesome, and I decided to buy five classes for my stay. After class, I asked the instructor about food in Durham. Asking a local for their recommendations is another great way to find hidden gems. I settled on a place called NANA Taco, which offers local ingredients in my favorite packaging, a taco. I ordered three tacos and guacamole: carnitas, steak and chorizo. The meats are made in-house and procured from local farms, and the entire meal was under $15. Outstanding!
When it came time to go home I felt like I was already there and didn't want to leave. This area has everything I love except for the ocean -- great people, great food and beautiful scenery. Can't wait to go back!