The Intentional Wanderess

Join me as I mindfully explore all things nature – from the mountains to the sea, small towns & big cities, and seek out the movers, makers and dream shakers that call each area home.

As I connect with the spirit of each place I’ll toss up travel tips, beautiful trails to hike, non-profits, makers, history, small businesses, and anything else that I find interesting along the way.

In a world that tells us to choose a niche,

I have chosen the niche of all things life.

I hope you’ll join me on the journey to whatever tomorrow holds…

“Que será, será.”

  • Experience The Great Smoky Mountains

    The Great Smoky Mountains

    Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited National Park in America and welcomes twice as many people as the Grand Canyon, the 2nd most visited.

    Yet the majority of the 12 million travelers that make their way to the park last year, missed out on truly experiencing the Spirit of The Great Smokies…

    What if I told you that by planning a mindful trip to the Smoky Mountains you could not only help to fuel a much needed sustainable tourism movement in the area, but you could also experience some of the most incredible moments of your life – while enjoying the Smokies, giving back, having fun, learning, and connecting with local communities & spirit of the hills.

    Well, you absolutely can and below is a list to get you started along with a few tips on leaving our beautiful Schconage, “Land of Blue Smoke’ better than you found her….

    Experiences That Benefit Both Sides

    The following experiences are not the typical suggestions you will find in travel blogs and articles being shared in the Smokies – but they’re ideas that should be shared.

    And, I can promise you that weaving mindful and sustainable activities into your time in the Smoky Mountains will connect you in a away that you haven’t imagined yet.

    You will leave feeling positive, inspired, & with a full heart knowing that you not only had an unforgettable trip but you gave a little love back to the mountains that you love.

    Trust me! You’ll see!

    Now… Let’s explore only a few of the opportunities that await!

    Beauty, Nourishment, & Healing

    Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage
    Rainbows & Ramps
    GSM Heritage Center

    Family, Fishing & Fun

    Discover Life In The Smokies

    Connect With The Cherokee

    Plan your trip today at

    Spring Cleaning With SOS

    Register Today!

  • Escape The Ordinary: 25 Unique Getaways

    I’ll keep this short and sweet because I’ve packed this one full of some really amazing places to stay. And, yes I did narrow it down. The struggle is legit. So, start exploring!

    1. Ancient Lore Village, Knoxville TN

    Did you know that there’s a magical world tucked away 15 minutes from the heart of downtown Knoxville? Chances are good that you may have heard about Ancient Lore Village at some point. However, if you haven’t experienced this fairytale-like escape then I can promise you that you have no clue as to just how amazing it is, you must see it in person! The staff are fantastic, the design and decor are truly astonishing, the ambiance is unlike anything you’ll find anywhere else in Tennessee, and the spirit of the village takes you to an entirely different world that reignites the imagination that you once had as a child. Spend the night in one of their luxurious hideaways, or attend one of the many opportunities that they offer for day guests; trivia, wine tastings, brunch, holiday celebrations, axe-throwing, live music, and much more!

    • Ancient Lore Village, a unique lodging destination in Knoxville, TN.

    2. Lookout Mountain Retro Pad, Chattanooga TN

    If you know me, you know that I love history and that I have a great appreciate for people that treasure what many would turn their backs on. The insanely stunning view from Lookout Mountain Retro Pad is what first caught my attention. Then, I read the story behind it. The heartwarming story of how the home was designed and built in 1948 by the current owner’s grandparents and that over the past 74 years they’ve managed to keep not only the property in amazing shape but also the original and furniture and fixtures in the home. I recently had the opportunity to stay at the Scenic City treasure and meet with Michelle, the owner. Once again – my first feelings about all of it were right on point and I left with a great amount of love and respect for her and the mid-mod masterpiece created by her family. Located in Lookout Mountain, GA it’s just down the road from Rock City and Ruby Falls. Downtown Chattanooga is just down the hill and Lula Land Trust is a short drive away as well. I’ve said many times that Chattanooga has perfected the art of balancing city life with the great outdoors and when staying at Lookout Mountain Retro Pad – you can take full advantage of all the area has to offer. ( Photo Credit: Lookout Mountain Retro Pad )

    3. Starry Banner, Manteo NC

    The coastal town of Manteo has become my home away from home in the Outer Banks of North Carolina over the past few years. Walking the downtown area is one of my favorite ways to pass the time, especially along the waterfront. I walked by the Starry Banner numerous times and wondered what staying in the custom built vintage Tiffany yacht would be like. In October of 2022 I finally found out – and it was one of the most fun and relaxing places that i’ve stayed. My time there began with the sweetest greeting by The Starry Banner’s owner Katherine and her husband, whom I now consider dear friends. It ended with me being determined to return again and again, so – i’ll be the captain again this fall. Til then, some of you should check it out and let me know how your stay is and what you think of Manteo. Oh, and – please tell me home away from home hello for me, especially Lulu.

    4. Seven Springs Retreats, Maryville TN

    The spirit of the Smokies is alive and well in every corner of Seven Springs Yoga & Holistic Retreats. Owners Jessi and Zach have created a place of purpose, healing, peace, and beauty in the hills of the Great Smoky Mountains. Located on property that has been in Jessi’s family since 1976. Today the land welcomes anyone that is seeking connection with nature, themselves, and even kindred spirits if they choose. Guests can plan a custom retreat, stay in a yurt for a time of relaxation, or participate in numerous group experiences. They also offer a wonderful nature day camp for the little ones, forest therapy certification training, monthly mother’s circle, couples gatherings, a nourish retreat, and are well respected for their yoga training programs. I can promise you from my personal time on the property that you could simply just sit for an hour and leave feeling more alive than when you arrived. Love & light.

    5. The Aerie, New Bern NC

    The Aerie is a bed & breakfast in the heart of New Bern, NC. The historical home is beyond charming and every corner is filled with pieces of history, local art, unique decor, and the spirit of a place that makes you feel like your visiting an old friend. Take a short walk beneath the Spanish moss to the waterfront, take a bike ride around town, read and relax by the fire pit, or go an adventure in Croatan National Forest. As with all of the places that I recommend, the owners of The Aerie were a joy to meet and I look forward to passing through town again this year as I make my way to Ocracoke. If you’re up for a getaway just off the coast, look The Aerie up for a stay!

    6. Blue Ridge View Farm, Morganton NC

    Let’s be honest, we all know that when I booked my stay at Blue Ridge View Farm, it was because it’s a goat farm. I mean, look at them! They’re precious! During my stay I quickly discovered that the owners, Aram & Linda, have an inspiring story and are just a pleasure to speak with. They have invested a great amount of time in the outdoors of western North Carolina and after retiring they made their dream of owning the farm that you see here a reality. They offer two options for lodging on the farm and you can’t go wrong with either spot. Their son’s gorgeous pottery is on display and if you’re going to explore the trails in the area, they have wonderful resources available. The Great Pyrenees pups are guardians of the farm and yes, you will want one before you leave. Go ahead, visit them this year and you’ll be dreaming of your own farm before 2024 rolls in.

    7. Evins Mill, Smithville TN

    Evins Mill. If you’re familiar with my accounts then you’ve read those words plenty of times. Home to Carmac Falls, Evins Mill is a rustic yet luxurious getaway spot with one of the top culinary experiences in Upper Cumberland Tennessee and a property that will immediately make you want to stay longer than you planned. Downtown Smithville is a short drive away and I highly recommend visiting the shops in town. You’ll find that they’re better than many big city shops and are quite the hidden gems of the state. If you’re visiting during the summer, look up the dates for the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree and if you can make it to town at Christmas time for their live Christmas windows, you’ll be in for a real treat! Explore all that Evins Mill has to offer at the link and if you go, send me a picture of Carmac Falls! She is my most favorite waterfall of all!

    8. The Swag, Waynesville NC

    The Swag could easily claim the title of best mountain retreat in Western North Carolina. A hideaway in the hills with epic views, trails that lead to more beauty and a property that bumps up against the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A place for weddings, romantic getaways, countless proposals, escapes with friends, family time, solo self-care days, and connecting with Southern Appalachia. The property is made up of The Swag House, Chestnut Lodge, Cabins, & Suites. You can plan a trip to fit any need for a vacation that you can think of and you’ll be within driving distance of downtown Asheville. A stay The Swag is the right choice for any reason, during any season.

    9. Roanoke Island Inn, Manteo NC

    Located in the heart of downtown Manteo the historical Roanoke Island Inn was built in the 1860’s as a simple island home, but today treats guests to a coastal boutique experience that is filled with the charm of Manteo. It’s a stay that will have your returning time and time again.

    10. Mountain Lodge Gatlinburg

    Mountain Lodge Gatlinburg was originally built as a custom home for it’s owner and so it is filled with beauty and character that you won’t find in many cabins throughout the Smokies. Today the home is a perfect balance between rustic and luxury, along with its 25 private acres with stellar views. The cabin is located within a few minutes from Gatlinburg’s Arts & Crafts Community and is a short drive away from downtown Gatlinburg, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Pigeon Forge, and more. With a 138 reviews, the 5-star home along with Aaron’s incredible hosting lets you know that booking a stay at Mountain Lodge Gatlinburg is a decision that you won’t regret or soon forget. Plus, if I ever win the lottery I plan on buying it and calling it home – so if you’re going to stay, you might want to do so soon!

    11. Nurture Nature Retreat, Franklin NC

    Nurture Nature Retreat is a very special place to me and is owned by my friend Jessica. Her and husband are also founders of Special Liberty Project, a non-profit that works to help Gold Star Families & Healing Veterans by connecting them to the healing that can be found in both nature and a community. I’ll be co-hosting another retreat on the property in July for any ladies that may be interested. Throughout the year there are also opportunities to join other retreats as well as stay on the property for your own relaxing time in nature and among the beauty of the Nantahala National Forest, Western North Carolina mountains, and pleasant town of Franklin.

    12. Saltwood Cottage, Kitty Hawk NC

    In my tucked away dreams, Saltwood Cottage is a picture of one of my dream homes on the coast. I began following the account to watch the progress as the owners pieced it all together. So when a giveaway popped up, I took a chance and for once I finally won. My stay at Saltwood Cottage was wonderful and the tiny beach house will always be one of my first recommendations for The Outer Banks. Stacey, owner and host, is an absolute joy and it was an honor to meet her and her family. They’ve poured countless hours of love and attention into both Saltwood Cottage and the experience of every guest. Couples and solo travelers will find time on her property relaxing and inspiring.

    13. Lakeside Inn at Dale Hollow, Byrdstown TN

    Lakeside Inn at Dale Hollow was one of the places that I had the opportunity to stay at in 2022 while working with Upper Cumberland Tourism. Again, it’s a locally owned lodging destination with a beautiful story – which always steals my heart. Owners Alex & Rachel set out on a grand adventure of purchasing a motel that was sitting empty just up the road from Dale Hollow Lake and though it wasn’t easy, they have created an amazing place for guests from near and far. One look at their Instagram account will give you an idea of the blood, sweat, & tears that they have and will continue to pour into their dream. Was it worth? I’m sure it was and if not, i’m sure it will be once family after family and guest after guest make memories of a lifetime at Lakeside Inn. Stop in and stay for a bit with them this spring and summer, after all – we all need some lazy lake days in our lives, right? ( Photo Credit: Lakeside Inn )

    14. The Haven on The Virginia Creeper, Damascus VA

    If you’re familiar with Grayson Highlands, Damascus, the Appalachian Trail, and/or The Virginia Creeper – then you’re going to want to stay at this perfect Airbnb in Green Cove. When they say “on The Virginia Creeper”, they really mean it. The Haven sits just steps away from the trail and is walking distance from the owners’ brick and mortar outfitters shop, Green Cove Collective. The Little family has created a great experience for guests and they do an overall phenomenal job in their local community, as creatives, as hosts, and as folks living a good and simple life – show them some love!

    15. Brevard Bike House

    Brevard Bike House is just awesome and I don’t even ride mountain bikes. I’ve connected with the owner and he’s a great guy that has put in a crazy amount of work into creating one of the most unique homes you’ll find in Western North Carolina. If you do love mountain biking, check this spot out! There’s even a trail in the back yard. Craziness. Give the photos a peek, then check out the link! ( Photo Credit: Brevard Bike House )

    16. The Pink House by Bees Nees, Virginia Beach

    Bees Nees founder Katie Denton has done a phenomenal job of designing and curating a collection of getaways. I connected with Katie when I stayed at her former Bees Nees property, The Cottage, in The Outer Banks. I immediately fell in love with her story of being inspired by time at grandmother’s home and her dreams of creating a new phase of classic and memorable vacations. I have followed her journey over the past few years and I continue to be mesmerized by her attention to detail and gift for design. If you’re looking for an incredible experience in Virginia Beach, plan a charming stay at The Pink House or connect with Katie’s team to plan an event.

    Photo Credit: Bees Nees

    17. The Groovy Nomad, Trenton GA

    You gotta click the link and check out this place! The rooms are beyond groovy! Similar to Lakeside Inn at Dale Hollow the owners have turned a forgotten motel into one funk and fun place to stay the next time you’re in the Chattanooga and North Georgia area!

    Photo Credit: The Groovy Nomad

    18. Cabins at Sandy Mush Bald, Hot Springs NC

    Mountain lovers and trail junkies, this one is for you and it’s on my 2023 list! A hike in destination with no wifi but plenty of connection and time for reflection. Can we just go now??

    Photo Credit: Cabins at SMB

    19. Hiwassee River Retreat, Calhoun TN

    Looking for the perfect romantic getaway with your sweetheart? You’ll want to check out Hiwassee River Retreat! An adult-only retreat on the river that includes charming luxury cabins, treetop soaking tub, kayaks and paddle boards, fishing rods, and much more. They’re currently adding a small chapel for a micro wedding venue for spring of 2023. It’s a dream come true for the owners of the retreat and they’re ready to share their property with you!

    Photo Credit: Hiwassee River Retreat

    20. Lemon Lane Farm, Grandview TN

    Ready for the simple life with a dash of beauty, charm, and cute animals? Spend some time in a vintage camper, tiny house, or cowgirl cabin on over 100 acres in Grandview, TN. Amy the owner was once a guest herself on the property and fell in love with it during her stay, so when the property went up for sale – she purchased it and has turned it into a dreamy country getaway spot.

    Photo Credit: Lemon Lane Farm

    21. Wild Cabins Unlimited, Boone NC

    I love Wild Cabins Unlimited vibe, design, and of course – Boone. But, it’s the phoenix like story of Wild Juniper & the tenacity of Kate that really snagged my heart and attention. You’ll have to visit the link for the full story – but it’s a good one! Oh, and… They’re pet friendly so pack up your pup!

    22. The Third Eye Lodge, Nashville TN

    I stumbled across this little gem when I was planning my last trip to Nashville. I ended up staying at different location that was fun & funky, but The Third Eye Lodge is still on my mind. The description by Kim, the host, as it being a cozy + healing retreat – as well as peaceful and romantic, looks to be right on point. Mix the fact that it’s just a short drive from downtown Nashville and on the east side of the city, i’d say it’s a bit of a miracle that it even exists. The icing on the cake? You can plan your stay on Kim’s property as a true health and wellness retreat with a long list of holistic health options. If that wasn’t enough, you can also include Sommelier service and tennis lessons. They have it all covered. Want to skip all of the above? No worries, you can just relax and enjoy the property. I certainly plan on checking it off the list in 2023 and i’ll update you with my experience when I do. If you happen to stay, connect with me because i’d love to hear about your experience as well!

    Photo Credit: TEL’s Airbnb

    23. Private Island Getaway in the OBX

    1 week on my own island in The Outer Banks is for sure on my bucket list. I haven’t made it to this little piece of heaven but I have my eye on it for 2023! Go ahead, check it out!

    Photo Credit: Property’s Airbnb

    24. Sweet Abi Mae Houseboat, Knoxville TN

    Lake days are always fun in Tennessee, but what if you could spend your getaway time in and on the water 24/7? Well, good news – you can! Take a peek at Sweet Abi Mae! Isn’t she the cutest? The design is perfect and the location is a summertime dream!

    Photo Credit: Sweet Abi Mae, VRBO

    25. Cliff Dweller, Campton KY

    Some folks save the best for last… But I saved the “Oh, hell no!” for last… Ok, it’s a maybe – after I check off some bucket list spots and don’t care if I die of a heart attack. Ha! Cliff Dweller in Kentucky is one of the most truly unique getaways that I currently have on my radar – and it is stunning! Anyone up for a few nights on cliffline in the Red River Gorge?

    That’s All Folks!

    Til next time… Until then, find a great locally owned spot in an area that you’ve been curious about and connect to the locally community, practice responsible stewardship on their public lands, support their small businesses, and experience the spirit of the area. Cheers to a year of wandering! Connect With Me On Instagram!

Kristi Parsons

Photographer, Writer, Explorer of Nature, Light Chaser, Beauty Seeker, Storyteller, Supporter of Dreamers, Lover of Life, & Wanderess.

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