As the world slowly begins to open back up, and as people start to adjust back to more social and lively lives outside of the constraints of lockdown, one question is on everyone's mind: What does a post-pandemic world actually look like?
It's now been over a year since the coronavirus pandemic has upended our lives, and "normal" as we knew it no longer exists. While I can't say for sure what a post-pandemic society looks like, I do know that I have very little desire to rush back to "normal."
One of my favorite quotes is: "The future belongs to those who chose to create it."
I've adapted this mindset to how I decide to travel in the future. Before lockdown, I was excited to start my solo journey across the world. A few trips on my agenda were Curaçao and London. As for most avid travelers, those trip plans came to a quick halt.
Emerging from 2020, I learned that while my heart desires to travel, it also desires more slow, meaningful travel experiences with friends, family, and loved ones.
So for one week, I grabbed my cousin for a tiny house adventure, and we ate, laughed, and hiked, our way through Chattanooga, Tennessee.
One of the locals I met with, Briana Garza, the owner and Co-Founder of Chatt Taste Food Tours, described the city as "hidden in plain sight," and she was right.
A lot of people discover Chattanooga because they are simply passing through.
It is set along the Tennessee River, with a beautiful scenic backdrop of mountaintops and lush gardens. The southeastern Tennessee city is about a two-hour drive from Nashville and Atlanta. I hadn't heard much about Chattanooga before my trip and was a bit shocked to learn it's the 4th largest city in Tennessee.
Deciding where and how to work has been a big question on my mind. Instagram is filled with people working from beaches and trendy rooftops, but my tiny home for the week provided me a unique remote work experience.
The tiny home was quaint, beautiful, and peaceful. It was about a 20-minute drive into the city, which I enjoyed for my morning coffee runs and afternoon strolls. I’m used to living in big cities, so I enjoyed the slow and steady pace of Chattanooga.
It’s a charming city where I felt like the neighbors knew each other. Even though it’s a relatively small city, it’s packed with things to do. Chattanooga lends itself best to families, with no shortage of activities from Ruby Falls, the aquarium, and plenty of museums, to an Incline Railway, which takes you to the top of Lookout Mountain.
Being a short drive from downtown allowed me the best of the outdoors that Chattanooga has to offer while still having fun nights out.
Downtown Chattanooga seemed very up-and-coming with new trendy hotels and restaurants popping up. One evening, I visited Unknown, a speakeasy-style cocktail bar.
The walls were covered in vibrant art featuring iconic figures from Barack Obama to Rosa Parks. We ordered a wine and cheese board and had a fun night as 90s R&B music played over the speakers.
My night there reminded me about what I miss most about pre-pandemic life, which is meeting and connecting with new people. The love that Chattanooga locals have for their city showed in every conversation and encounter.
"Chattanooga is a city large enough to have plenty of options for fun and excitement, though small enough to still feel a sense of community," one of the locals and manager of Unknown, Alex Wolfgang Schmitz, told me.
As someone who has worked remotely for most of my career, I can easily get stuck in the habit of working from my bed.
The tiny home provided a cozy space that helped me focus more on the work at hand. The peaceful environment also helped boost my productivity. Working remotely from the tiny house eliminated many distractions that I usually find at home while also giving me a breathtaking backdrop of mountains and wide-open space.
Don't be afraid to go tiny. The home I stayed in was equipped with everything I need and none of the clutter that I don't.
Instead of a traditional stove, we had a cooktop that fit perfectly on the counter. It also had a living room area with a TV and a king-size bed. My tiny home had WiFi, and according to a 2018 tech.co report, Chattanooga has the fastest internet in the United States. So that's a plus!
Working from a tiny home allowed me not to be chained to my computer 24/7, which is a trap I have easily fallen into during quarantine life. My rental was nestled on top of spacious land and had a fire pit, which I took full advantage of to build bonfires with my cousin most nights.
I loved being surrounded by nature. Amazing hikes were easy to get to. I would suggest the Cravens House to Point Park loop for an Instagram-worthy view of the horseshoe bend in the Tennessee River and the skyline of downtown Chattanooga.
The balance of being in nature and working full time was something I hadn't experienced before. I've learned that after lockdown, I'm drawn to the underrated places within America because even though most borders are still closed, it's still a big world with so much to explore.
Another aspect of picking the best remote work destination is the food. If you're a foodie like me, then this is high on your list of "must-haves." I'm passionate about living in a city with tons of Black-owned businesses to support, and Chattanooga did not disappoint.
As we know, the food industry had to do a significant pivot due to the pandemic. Still, I was able to taste and experience Black-owned restaurants through Chatt Taste Food Tours, which arranged a private food tasting for us; it was truly the highlight of my stay.
"The legacy and tenacity of Black excellence in this city permeates through every morsel of fried fish, in the smell of BBQ ribs smoking on MLK Boulevard, and very recently with a resurgence of classically-trained Black chefs. Supporting Black-owned restaurants in Chattanooga allows you to learn, better understand, and appreciate the artistry that's run generations deep," Garza said.
Stop one on our food tour was Uncle Larry's, a restaurant which evokes a sense of community, seeing as some locals actually refer to the owner as uncle. I'm not much of a fish eater, but I quickly changed my mind after trying his Whiting and “smack ya mama” sauce. Being in the South, we then devoured ribs from Chatt's Smokehouse.
I also met with Chef Kenyatta Ashford, owner of Neutral Ground. Ashford's dishes were some that I never had before—such as Calas, which is a New Orleans-inspired dish. I also had his West African Red Red, consisting of Ghana Naina stewed black-eyed peas, sweet plantains, avocado, and coconut. Even though I was in Chattanooga, at that moment as I savored every last bite, my taste buds felt like they had been transported straight to the motherland.
I wrapped up my trip reflecting on all the aspects that make a place ideal to work remotely from—such as people, culture, food, and scenery. Even though I personally prefer travelling to big metropolitan cites, Chattanooga offers a unique experience for those unafraid to try something new and unconventional.
If you have the freedom to choose where you can work, don't overlook this small quaint town. The next time you're in Chattanooga, don't simply pass through. Park your car and stay awhile.