By Paul Morrone, CFP ®, CPA, MSA
While I worked for KPMG, I found myself doing a decent amount of travel. Besides attempting to rack up the most frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points, I realize now how much fun it was to experience different parts of the country that I likely would never have gone to if it wasn't for work. While we hit all the big cities (Chicago, LA, Philadelphia, Boston, etc.) my most memorable trips always seemed to be to a little known part of Tennessee right outside of Knoxville.
Maybe it's the pace of life there, maybe it's the southern hospitality or maybe it's the homemade peanut butter pie at the local restaurant, but for some reason Tennessee has a special place in my heart.
I was fortunate enough to have a great time assigned to that client, which consisted of some of my best friends at the company. We spent about 2 months there a year and got to know the local neighborhoods pretty well. On the weekends we needed a change of pace and often had the opportunity to travel outside of the small town that we were working in. It took a bit of exploring, but I didn't realize how beautiful Tennessee was until we took a trip to Dollywood (Dolly Parton's amusement park) that is nestled at the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. Everything was a deep forest green, and the road seemed to disappear into the thickest forest I've ever seen. It really was breathtaking. Had we been there a couple of weeks later we would have been able to witness the leaves changing for the cooler fall weather. And while I could imagine the colors are not quite as dramatic as we have here in the Northeast, the sheer vastness of the mountain ranged compounded by the dramatic height of the mountains must be a spectacular sight.
Our location in the middle of the state also gave us a chance to make weekend trips to Nashville and Knoxville, both cities I hope to return to one day. And a weekend in Nashville really made me appreciate how good the live music is there. One night we were having a drink at a local bar and the music stopped playing when a boy, no older than 13, walked in with a guitar on his back. The guy next to me said, "Oh man, you're in for a treat. Daniel Donato is going to play for us!" (He's real, check him out on YouTube) Not having any idea who Daniel was, I was naturally a bit confused as he was clearly not old enough to be in bar at this time at night. Without saying much, he took the guitar off his back, jumped on stage, and proceeded to play 5 or 6 songs, including some amazing guitar solos, with the band that had been up there all night. And while I was able to make my way to a Tennessee Titan's game in Nashville, my only regret is not finding the time to make it to a University of Tennessee or Vanderbilt college football game. Oh well, gives me a reason to go back!