Road trips are nostalgic. They bring me back to a place that’s sunny and carefree, somewhere that feels good and evokes happy memories. A moment in time that’s pleasant and safe, somewhere I actually want to be.  

When I was a kid coming up in Southeast Jamaica, Queens, loading up the car and riding out was how we rolled. My mother, a retired New York City public school principal, raised me and my two siblings solo for most of our youth, so back then, when we traveled as a family of four, it was almost always by car. 

Money was tight, but that didn’t stop us from going, for hours, days, sometimes weeks at a time. Driving was the most cost-effective way for us to escape, so road trips, like serving in the church and excelling academically, were mandatory; as were fried chicken, Luther Vandross and random lectures from mommy on Black History, each time we embarked on a new journey by car.  

In the early 90s, mommy pushed a Cavalier. That vibrant green ‘thang would transport us from our two-family home on 175th street, all up and down the Eastern Seaboard. We’d drive six hours north to Rochester for the Newport Jazz Festival, spend a few days making our way down south to visit family in the Carolinas and Georgia, with layovers in D.C., Petersburg, and Virginia Beach along the way. We’d giggle and belt out Luther lyrics (thankful mommy wasn’t blasting Kenny G) as we turned the handle with the little knob on the end until it wouldn’t turn anymore. The slab of glass eventually disappeared into the door. Then our necks stretched, heads titled, the wind snatched our skin, and in these moments we felt free. 

Back in March, after planning a well-needed quarantine escape to a tiny house in the Catskill mountains, I gave myself permission to relive the joy of my childhood, and set out on a two-week voyage chasing the shores of the Coastal South.

As I cruised down 95 over the course of two weeks (stopped in Folly Beach, Tybee Island and Sea Island) I was reminded that even during a global pandemic, the joy cemented in the memories of childhood road trips are still prevalent today. 

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston had been on my radar since early 2019 when news of Hotel Bennet (the city’s hottest new luxury accommodations) hit my inbox. The property’s swank rooftop pool and bar were enticing, but the space I was most interested in exploring was Camellia’s, a powder pink champagne lounge. I never made it. 

Once I checked into Kokomo, a charming cottage on James Island in Folly Beach, I found exactly what I needed: easy evenings by the fire pit, lounging poolside for hours, decompressing in the outdoor shower, dozing off to a novel then awakening to tropical raindrops, secluded nooks on the beach, Soul Food, Seafood, it was perfect, so I decided to save Camellia’s for another trip. 

Each time I stepped away from Kokomo’s serene grounds and hopped in my ride and rode, it was breathtaking. Tree tunnels dripping with Spanish moss are everywhere, while pockets of saltwater marshes thrive in the distance. Charleston is magical.  

STAY: Kokomo Cottage, James Island 

EAT: Gillie’s Seafood, Chucktown Bar & Grill and Simply Seafood. They’re all Black-owned. 

Savannah, Georgia

The drive from Charleston to Savannah is roughly two hours and incredibly beautiful, so be prepared to pullover and take it all in. Since Folly Beach gave me the island vibe I was after, I opted for luxury accommodations on this next leg and stayed at the Perry Lane Hotel

Located in the city’s historic landmark district, just steps away from the iconic Forsyth Park, the Perry Lane is a deluxe boutique hotel that provides all the key ingredients for a memorable vacay. 

Indulge in fine champagne offered complimentary daily, cozy up in a quiet nook at the Lending Library, dine at one of three on-site restaurants, mingle poolside, or if rest is the ultimate goal, you’re in luck, each guest room is uniquely designed to feel like a true retreat. So just chill, if you want to.

When I was ready to explore, I reserved a cruiser with the hotel and biked around the city, making stops at famed parks, squares, cemeteries, shops and sites along the way. Don’t leave town without venturing to Tybee Island, Georgia’s best-kept secret.

STAY: Perry Lane Hotel

EAT: The Emporium Kitchen, The Grey, The Crab Shack, Cha Bella

Sea Island

South of Savannah, situated on Georgia’s golden coast, are a quartet of low-key islands—Sea Island is where I ended up—The Cloister’s legendary reputation is to thank for that. The expansive luxury resort has been a family favorite since 1928. Maybe its seven pools, nine restaurants and award-winning spa have something to do with that.  

The Salt Marsh Nature Tour is a must when you visit. When I took it back in August with captain Reid, we spotted a pod of dolphins swimming freely through the marsh along with shorebirds and aquatic species native to the region. 

Back in May at the height of the pandemic, I thought long and hard about what my next quarantine escape would look like. I refused to cancel summer. Instead, I wanted to inspire and show others how to travel safely during these very unusual times, while celebrating the beautiful landscapes across the country. 

STAY: The Cloister 

EAT: River Bar & Lounge, Oak Room, Georgian Room