Quick Trip: A Wicked Good Weekend

Quick Trip: A Wicked Good Weekend | Boston | Taylor K Flynn

Melanie was my “dance friend” in high school. We didn’t go to the same high school, but we spent just as much time together as if we had. The last few years, I’ve been in Ithaca while she was in Buffalo and then Boston. Fitting in a coffee date while we’re both home is always nice, but spending a few hours a year with someone you used to see for four hours a night just isn’t the same.

We’ve been trying to coordinate a weekend in Boston for what seems like forever and it finally worked out this month. I knew it was going to be a good weekend when Miss You Much, the song we danced to our junior year in Disney, was playing on the radio as I pulled into Melanie’s driveway. I’ve never heard that song anywhere but the dance studio. It might sound silly, but that song was our everything for at least seven months.

Most of our weekend was spent just hanging out, catching up on new jobs, new cities, and new and old friends. Saturday we spent in Boston. Melanie was the best tour guide for my first trip to the beautiful city. From Granary Burying Ground to Fenway Park and back to Little Italy, we had the best day wandering through the city.

Quick Trip: A Wicked Good Weekend | Boston | Taylor K Flynn

Quick Trip: A Wicked Good Weekend | Boston | Taylor K Flynn

Quick Trip: A Wicked Good Weekend | Boston | Taylor K Flynn

Quick Trip: A Wicked Good Weekend | Boston | Taylor K Flynn

Quick Trip: A Wicked Good Weekend | Boston | Taylor K Flynn

Melanie, thank you so much for letting me stay with you, watching Netflix instead of going out, showing me the beautiful places you love and reminding me that with some friends, anything is fun.

Quick Trip: Allegany #LeafPeeping

Quick Trip: Allegany Leaf Peeping | Taylor K Flynn

Cody picked out the perfect birthday gift this year, a Nikon D3300. My 23rd year is going to be my most well-documented one yet! If you thought I was obnoxious about stopping to take photos before, you haven’t seen nothin’ yet…

A quick camping trip to Allegany State Park at the peak of fall color was the perfect weekend to play with my new toy. I’ve spent a lot of time at Allegany the last few years, and my most recent trip is also documented on my blog. This weekend was possibly the most beautiful I’ve ever seen the park, with reds and yellows reflecting off perfectly still water on a warm fall day. It was so nice to see the campground at Red House full, with friends and families enjoying the weekend just as we were.

As usual, our quick trip was spent eating almost every meal cooked in pie irons, climbing Thunder Rocks and biking around the lake. We met the cutest dogs at Thunder Rocks, including Fen the Aussie, who has more Instagram followers than I ever will and Pumpkin, who, according to his owner, loves fall as much as his name implies.

Quick Trip: Allegany State Park

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Cody loves Allegany State Park and I have been tagging along on his camping trips there the last few years. I love that it’s only two hours from home, but it seems like a world away. There’s no Verizon service at the campsites, and it’s spotty elsewhere, which makes the park a wonderful place to unplug. We’ve spent weekends with friends, his family and just the two of us. No matter who you’re with, there are a few requirements for the perfect quick trip:

#1. Hobo Pies: My favorite pie iron creations are pizza pockets and Cody’s family’s “Circle Sandwiches,” which are chocolate, peanut butter and a marshmallow melted over the fire between two pieces of white bread.

#2. Biking around the Lake: The three mile trail around Red House Lake has a picturesque view no matter where you are. There are plenty of off-shoots for more adventure, but passing the Ad Building, the beach, an old ski jump and a boat launch is enough on it’s own.

Allegany State Park, Castle Bridge

Allegany State Park, Red House Lake#3. Kayaking: This is definitely a summer-only Allegany activity, but it’s so much fun to be out on the lake, surrounded by the hills you just biked over.

#4. Deer Crusing: Watching wildlife just after dusk is a cool experience. On our last trip, we saw more than 25 deer, a raccoon, an opossum and a stunning red fox.

#5. Thunder Rocks: There is only one big rock I can climb, but watching both people and dogs scramble over these massive boulders deposited here by an ancient sea is tons of fun!

Allegany State Park, Thunder Rocks

Quick Trip: The Finger Lakes

 

Watkins Glen State Park; The Finger Lakes

When I left Ithaca after graduation, I moved almost nothing home. I had until July to clear my apartment, and moving out was a great excuse to spend a weekend in Central New York. My roommate gave us tickets to see Kenny Chesney and Old Dominion at CMAC for Christmas, so we spent a beautiful Friday in June night singing along to their radio hits. I’ve been to a few Kenny Chesney concerts, and it’s like listening to a greatest hits album, but better, because there are new additions every summer.

Kenny Chesney/Old Dominion at CMAC; The Finger Lakes

On Saturday, we stopped at Watkins Glen State Park on our way to Ithaca for a nice hike. The gorge was busy, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the scenery.

Watkins Glen State Park; The Finger Lakes

We spent the afternoon packing and cleaning before heading to Ithaca Beer Co. for dinner. I love the breweries in Buffalo revitalizing downtown, but there is something special about waiting for your table in an Adirondack chair, surrounded by chickens, fields, gardens and a fire pit. Our drinks and wood fired pizzas were delicious, as always. I tried and loved Java Power, a variation on the brewery’s Flower Power, brewed with local roaster Gimme! Coffee‘s beans.

Ithaca Beer Co; The Finger Lakes

Sunday morning meant packing up the car and heading home, but we made sure to stop for ice cream on our way. I have been dying to try Cayuga Lake Creamery‘s ice cream for the last four years, but it’s pretty far from Ithaca just for ice cream. It is on the way back to Buffalo, but I’m not usually driving by at an ideal ice cream-eating time. Now that I’ve had the peanut butter ice cream, I believe the hype!

Cayuga Lake Creamery; The Finger Lakes

The trip may have been short, but we packed in tons of adventures. I’m already itching to go back to the Finger Lakes.

Ireland – October 2015

My roommate, Miriam, spent the fall semester abroad studying in Carlow, Ireland and I have always wanted to visit the country that most of my ancestors came from. Over my fall break, I took the opportunity to visit this beautiful country without having to pay for a hotel and eat every meal at a restaurant. I am so thankful to have spent a large part of my time in this small town, instead of making a large city my home base. Carlow embodied all of the things I was looking forward to in Ireland: castle ruins, churches, a river park, coffee shops and pubs on the narrow main street. I didn’t add an international phone plan so I relied on bus and restaurant wi-fi to keep my friends and family updated on my travels. This really helped me appreciate what was around me without being tied to my phone, which can happen to me, despite my best intentions. The weather during my trip was amazing; while it snowed at home, Ireland experienced a week of sunny, mild fall days.

I arrived in Ireland on Thursday morning after an overnight flight from New York. While waiting for my bus from Dublin to Ireland, not one, but two, bus drivers asked if I was okay. This became a theme throughout the trip; everyone is so kind, even after they discover you’re an American tourist, which happens as soon as you open your mouth. The drive to Carlow was stunning. The sun was shining as we drove through Dublin and into the green, green countryside.

Miriam met me at the bus stop between her classes and we headed back to her apartment for a shower. I was really fighting the jet lag that comes with losing 5 hours so I headed to Carlow Coffee Co. for the first of many lattes  in Ireland. There is surprisingly good coffee in Ireland, and not just Irish coffee. After my dose of caffeine, I wandered around the charming streets of Carlow and visited the County Carlow Museum and visitor center, which was incredibly helpful in planning the rest of my trip. In my wanderings I saw the ruins of a castle poking up over the rows of houses, and you cannot not walk towards a castle when you see it. When Miriam finished classes for the day we make a quick trip to Aldi, made dinner and caught up. Then we laid out the map of Dublin and circled each place we wanted to visit the next day. Student discounts are great in Ireland, especially the bus fares, which really helped us get to everywhere we wanted to go. We went to bed very early to be ready for the next day.

We caught the bus from Carlow to Dublin without a hitch, but didn’t get off at the right stop, so we ended up at the airport. The bus driver pointed us in the right direction to take the city bus back into Dublin. We started our day in the Temple Bar neighborhood at the farmers’ market. We bought farm-fresh quiches to eat later in the day and wandered to the artisan market. I fell in love with the leather bracelets at ThunderSolas and decided that everyone I know needed them for Christmas. We wandered towards Trinity College, where we had lunch on the square among both students and tourists, passing by the Dublin Castle and Christ Church Cathedral on our way. After getting a little lost on Grafton Street, we crossed the river to get to the Jameson Old Distillery. The building is so cool, and our tour guide was hysterical.

After a whiskey taste test between Jameson, Johnny Walker and Jack Daniels, which confirmed my dislike for whiskey, we headed to the Guinness Storehouse. I am proud to say that, after attending The Guinness Academy, I can now pour a beautiful pint. The Gravity Bar’s view of the city and surrounding mountains was the best part of the tour. We had lamb stew at The Porterhouse for dinner and slowly made our way back to the bus station through Temple Bar. The street musicians all day, and especially that night outside the pubs, were so talented and I loved every single one.

On Sunday, we went back to Dublin and caught a city bus out to Howth, about a 45 minute ride. This little fishing village was my favorite part of my trip. We walked the east pier, marveling at the colorful boats and cliffs. The Grind provided our caffeine fix for the day, and the friendly staff pointed us towards The Abbey Tavern, where we had the most delicious lunch of our trip. I had a beef and Guinness pie, and Miriam had a huge piece of salmon that even I thought was delicious. Ireland was playing in the Rugby World Cup on every TV in the pub.

After visiting the little food and craft market in town, we walked down the west pier, which is where I found the West Pier Art Studio and met Alan McLeod. I am blown away by the way Alan captures the village he lives and works in, as well as how kind he is. We got to know each other while he tried to get enough of a wi-fi signal through the foot-thick stone walls of his ancient building to process my credit card information. And when I left the print I bought from Alan for my dad’s Christmas present on a Dublin city bus that night, he was kind enough to replace not only that print, but also the smaller version he had already given me for free for myself. This experience cemented my love for the beautiful country and people of Ireland.

Miriam and I walked around the peninsula of Howth and encountered some of the most stunning landscapes I have ever seen. Horses grazing next to the path only added to how much I enjoyed the view; from above, we watched cliff jumpers in wet suits flip into the water. We left Howth in the late afternoon to get back to Carlow with enough time to visit Miriam’s favorite pub, Tully’s. We drank Kopparberg Cider and listened to some lovely live music.

On Monday I was on my own, so I headed to Killkenny on the bus. It amazed me how safe I felt traveling alone here; everyone was willing to help me find my way and point out the best places to visit. During my short trip to this small city I walked the Medieval Mile, stopping at St. Canice’s Cathedral, Black Abbey and The Butterslip. I toured the Kilkenny Castle, which is an amazing combination of medieval and romantic. It practically screams history at you. The butler garden was beautiful and I loved that the outbuildings have been re-purposed into artists’ studios. After heading back to Carlow, I walked towards the river. Here, there was a man walking his raccoon, Sampson, which was definitely the strangest thing I saw during my trip. I had dinner with Miriam and then we had the amazing dessert that is soft serve over a chocolate muffin from Supermac’s.

My last day I spent in Carlow. I went for a foggy morning run along the River Barrow and met Miriam for lunch at Dinn Ri, which was delicious. After lunch, Miriam showed me the IT Carlow campus and I caught up on homework and emails during her afternoon classes. We had a low-key night, because I had to be up at 2 am to catch my bus back to the airport.

Although short, my trip to Ireland was truly an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I am so thankful for Miriam for hosting me and pointing me in the right direction, even when she wasn’t able to join me. I am already dreaming of going back to the beautiful country that surpassed every expectation I had for it.

AWNY ACC 2015

I had the pleasure of attending AWNY ACC in New York City last month with a group of AAF members from Ithaca College. The trip began with a visit to Geometry Global headquarters with presentations by IC alum Courtney Cox, Allyson Hotchkin and Seth Greenberg. Courtney and Allyson work at Geometry on the Liberty Mutual account, while Seth works at OgilvyOne.

After a networking event back at the conference hotel, our group ventured out into Times Square for some delicious sushi followed by giant cookies and the richest, chocolateiest hot chocolate I have ever had at Schmackary’s.

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Good morning, New York. #awny #awnyacc #awnyacc15

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The next morning the conference really kicked off, beginning with Kelly Wenzel‘s keynote address. I really enjoyed what Kelly had to say about being both a powerful marketer and a loving, present mom. Here are the six points she shared with us:

  1. Having empathy, being able to tell as story that customers want to hear and will appreciate, and treasuring relationships will almost always get you further than skill alone.
  2. Be curious, because curiosity will help you keep up in the ever-changing advertising industry. Investing your time is different than merely spending your time.
  3. “Be a go-giver.” Do not ask what you can get, but instead what you can give, and end interviews by asking, “How can I give?”
  4. The good work you contribute is more important that your title. Making your boss’ job easier gets you noticed.
  5. Dress for tomorrow, because there is so much you can’t control, but how you show up and present yourself you can control.
  6. Feedback is a gift, use it to fuel curiosity.

Video Production: Making Ideas Come to Life

This workshop wasn’t even on my radar, but after a poorly timed bathroom break, it was my only option. I am so glad I ended up here, despite the fact that I have no interest in video production. The theme of this panel’s discussion was “If content is king, distribution is queen.” Although the panelists, as creators, always want people to watch an entire video, goals are determined by what media is used to distribute the content and  the environment it’s viewed in. Metrics gathered with test audiences, platforms and content fuel future content and optimize distribution.

The panelists discussed justifying feel-good content over videos that scream “buy me.” This feel-good content creates awareness with storytelling; for Millennials, this type of story makes can make them want to buy and use a product. Branded content is preferred over ads; people love brands, but not ads. This content then creates a following that doesn’t mind seeing an ad every once in a while. While content creators like the panelists know this, it can be difficult to prove it due to brands’ use of traditional advertising concurrently.

For this method of communication to work, people have to watch the videos. One way to gain audiences are to find where they already are; this field relies heavily on influencers and brand ambassadors. Influencers are their own brands, so in some ways this is just an update of a cross promotion. Bloggers generally have a list of their favorite bloggers. It is important to remember not every video goes viral, and while going viral does generally mean success, so do other metrics.

Digital Content Development / Social Community Building

The next workshop I attended was hosted by a panel filled with clients, agencies and publishers, which created a great dynamic. Personalization to viewers, whether by where they are, who they are or what they like, is one strength of digital media. Then, these viewers must be turned into advocates for the brand. This can be done with “friends” of the brands using, for example, Instagram takeovers. Inspiring, educational content gets shares and tags. Lifestyle content blends in with users’ feeds and seems familiar, although a product focus is acceptable depending on the context. Engagement is created when brands keep cool, evolve, are self-aware and can also make fun of themselves. While all of this is part of a strategy, it takes talent to execute these strategies in authentic ways. Each media platform receives a unique personality and voice, but it is important to have consistent storytelling.

Influencers were also discussed in this workshop. Influencers can act in two ways: as an amplifier, where a brand uses the influencer’s following, or as a co-creater, where a brand uses the influencer’s voice. It is often difficult for brands to allow control of voice to be handed over to another creater, but viewers know when a brand is forcing its voice on an influencer. You don’t want an audience to wonder how much an influencer was paid. Both small influencers specific to each channel and one star across all media are tactics used by brands. Often, brands will opt for smaller influencers because they are more authentic and less cluttered.

Experiential Marketing

The last workshop I attended was hosted by marketers who create experiential marketing events to connect brands with target audience members in an incredibly hands-on way. Owned and earned media is always better than paid, and these events create a story that invites consumers in and gives them a chance to participate in a shared interest, such as educating teen drivers on the dangers of distracted driving, as Toyota did. This two-way communication between brand and user reaches above and beyond a “logo slap.” Instead of talking at consumers, these tactics enhance the consumer experience with messages that are meaningful and relatable.

It is important to meet people where they already are and decrease barriers for entry into new platforms. This removes excuses such as “I don’t care,” or “I don’t have time.” Campaigns with a shareable element create further reach for brands with no additional investment. It is important to remember that the experiential content must be of high quality to generate users and additional buzz.