#GirlsRock: An Interview with Scenic Suitcase owner and operator Stephanie Miller 🏔️

“Tell everybody I’m on my way. New friends and new places to see. With blue skies ahead, yes I’m on my way.” — Phil Collins

Instagram feeds with global adventures often fuel a dream or two.

We see them, especially during a pandemic, and the wanderlust kicks in. Remember when we could? Thinking about how we would? But, lovely as they are, those are images only.


Today’s guest has a beautiful way of showing and telling about the adventures we miss – or long to experience.


Give a warm welcome to my friend Stephanie Miller, the latest #GirlsRock interview. She’s the mind behind The Scenic Suitcase, a wonderful blog for travel. She delights in teaching readers to travel like an expert and experience the world like a local. Especially on cold, rainy, COVID-19 days like we’re having here today, a getaway is words away.

Eli: When you were little, what did you think you’d grow up to be?

Stephanie: When I was little, my family and I lived in California for a bit and we’d oftentimes head to Monterey for the weekend. I loved learning about sea life at the aquarium and exploring tidepools along the shore! So, it wasn’t a far leap to imagine me as a marine biologist. I dreamt of saving sea turtles, studying whales, and discovering new species in far-off destinations. It wasn’t until I moved back to a land-locked state that I let the dream die and focused my attention on other passions like art, writing, and history.

Eli: Those aren’t bad backup passions to have. What happened with those at that point?

Stephanie: I looked for ways to incorporate them in “the real world” and ended up graduating college with a degree in Advertising & Marketing (allowing me to exercise my creativity) with a minor in Business (because, you know, practicality). Since then, I’ve been able to apply the skills I learned to build my travel brand, The Scenic Suitcase. And, that’s given me the opportunity to do all my favorite things – photography, writing, graphic design, marketing, and traveling the world exploring historical sites and breathtaking wildernesses.  

In 3 short years of running my website, I’ve met inspiring individuals that have become lifelong friends, challenged myself to push my boundaries, and had bucket-list experiences that stayed with me long after my bags were unpacked. It’s been incredibly rewarding, to say the least.

Eli: Can you tell us about one bucket-list experience that stands out?

Stephanie: Absolutely! There have been so many that I’m thankful for – cage diving with great white sharks, visiting all seven continents, climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, taking the polar plunge in Antarctica, etc. But one that really stands out was going on safari in South Africa.  Each game drive was more memorable than the last as we got up close and personal with wildlife in their natural habitat. Giraffes, elephants, zebras, rhinos, and a pride of lions (that, terrifyingly, got a little too close for comfort one evening!) It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience I’ll never forget!

Eli: Any stories you would like to forget?

Stephanie: That’s a tough one. Even when experiences are less than ideal there’s always a bright side or, at the very least, a lesson to be learned. That being said, I could have done without the food poisoning I got in Cuba. There was a chocolate fountain situation happening and I simply couldn’t say no to the temptation of dipping strawberries in it. But, getting up every 10 minutes that night with graphic intestinal fireworks was absolutely miserable and caused me to miss my last tour the next day.

Touring the Bahia Palace in Marrakesh, Morocco

Still, by missing the tour I was able to spend time on the beach (which I would have otherwise missed) and I learned a painful life lesson – in countries where the water isn’t safe to drink, only eat fruit that has a peel.

Eli: Sage advice! Any other quick tips for travelers?

Stephanie: One piece of advice that I swear by is to always carry on your luggage. Not only does it save you money on checked bag fees, but it also saves you the headache of waiting in baggage claim upon arrival (and that’s assuming your belongings haven’t been lost or returned looking like they were dragged down the runway by the landing gear). I know it may seem impossible to fit it all, but by using compression bags you can squeeze a lot in a little amount of space. In fact, using them I was able to travel to Antarctica for two weeks (with lots of sweaters and thermal gear) with nothing more than my 21-inch suitcase. So trust me, it can be done!

Eli: That’s a marvel of geometry! I do like to pack light, but usually, that involves forgetting underwear or deodorant. Have there been things you’ve done in travel that surprised you? Something you might not have believed you could do until you did it?


Checking out the view from the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Stephanie: One thing I would’ve never imagined doing was getting a hammam in Morocco. For anyone who’s not familiar, a hammam is a longstanding Islamic tradition dating back to the Roman empire that involves someone scrubbing you down with rhassoul clay and bathing you in a public bathhouse (while you’re COMPLETELY NAKED). For someone like me who’s extremely bashful, doing something like that was far, far outside my comfort zone. But, I like to immerse myself in the places I visit so my friend and I gave it a whirl. And I will say, after I got over myself enough to be in the moment instead of in my head, it was actually really fantastic (and my skin has never felt softer!)

Eli: Awesome! Have you encountered something like that in your travels that you made part of your everyday life, at least temporarily?

Stephanie: Something I tend to bring home with me that I enjoy incorporating into my everyday life is new food obsessions. I’ve discovered all kinds of delectable cuisine during my travels that I love to eat when I return. Tajine dishes after a weekend in Marrakesh. Caprese after touring the Italian coast (how had I never eaten that before?!) Macaroons after a few days in Paris. Stroopwafels after visiting Amsterdam. Dragon fruit after many breakfasts in Bali. King crab legs after cruising through Alaska (another thing I’m shocked I’d never tried!)  

My dad and I on the shore of Antarctica. It was really special seeing my seventh continent with him because he’s the one who inspired my love for adventure.

Each reminds me of past adventures and has the added bonus of being absolutely delicious!

Eli: I could eat my way around the world, Stephanie! How has the pandemic changed travel, at least in the short term?

Stephanie: You and me both! The pandemic has certainly changed the face of travel. And I imagine, much like after 9/11, travel will never be the same again. In the short term, it means empty security lines, vacant center seats, lots of hand sanitizer, and mandatory face masks.  Not the worst thing in the world since no one appreciates the person coughing behind them and fearing they’ll end up with a cold by the time they reach their destination (something that happened to me in Prague and it was miserable!) Cruise ships are anchored with no idea when they’ll sail again. And for international travel, it means closed borders, quarantines, and certain destinations requiring mandatory testing.

In the long term, I imagine countries may begin requiring health passports or proof visitors aren’t sick when they arrive. Face masks may become commonplace rather than an exception to the rule. And, airlines’ cleaning standards may be forever heightened in order to make travelers feel more comfortable. But, that also comes at a price. So, I think we’ll see airlines cutting staff, aircraft, and routes which will mean tickets will become more expensive. And, cruise lines that weather the COVID storm will institute their own safety standards to avoid outbreaks in the future (meaning we can kiss the days of self-serve buffet lines goodbye).

Cage diving with great white sharks in South Africa.

But, although far-off destinations may become more cumbersome to visit, those closer to home will become more desirable. We’re already seeing an increase in RV travel and people hitting the road for domestic adventures. National Parks will become even more popular, and scenic byways will begin to see more traffic. So, those who need to scratch their wanderlust itch still have options amidst the COVID crisis.

Eli: I like the sound of that! I could take off in an RV. So what’s next for you Stephanie?

Stephanie: Next is a fluid situation at the moment. I had a lot of travel plans for the upcoming year (Croatia, Greece, Palau, Portugal, Egypt, etc) but obviously, COVID has put a halt to international travel. So instead, like many others, I’m now looking to some domestic destinations that I haven’t checked off my list. Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Maine, driving the northern California coastline, and renting a houseboat on Lake Powell now seem to be on the shortlist. 

And, of course, continuing to work on my brand by attending conferences, seminars, and retreats where I get to work alongside like-minded creatives who inspire and motivate me. Because continuing to help people check destinations off their own bucket list is still at the center of everything I do.

Monument Valley where the iconic scene in Forest Gump was shot where he ended his cross country run.

Eli: I love that plan, Stephanie. What advice would you give women about traveling and adventures overall?

Stephanie: My advice to women dreaming of travel is not to let fear or apprehension stand in their way. Experiencing new places and cultures helps you grow in ways that change you to your very core. It opens your mind to new perspectives, teaches you how to handle adversity, and leaves you with an indelible love for adventure. Whether you travel solo, on a tour, with a significant other, or alongside friends and family, seeing more of the world around you is a decision you won’t regret.

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9 things grateful: Why not just write the damn blog post? #GratitudeAndShit 🔑

I says to myself tonight, I says … why don’t you write on your blog anymore?

You know, it’s the same thing … no time, I’m just so busy. Hell, I used to stay up until 3 a.m. to stay on a blog schedule. I once spent a morning in a donut shop near Fort Bragg with internet as strong as the coffee (not very) just to stay on a gosh-danged blogging schedule.

And now? If this blog was a goldfish bowl, it’d … well, all the goldfish would be dead.

So I’m grateful for the self-help kick in my own damned ass today to get going on a gratitude blog post. Just like that, it seems, you can go from ingrate to not-ingrate just by writing a damned blog post. Who knew? Not me, apparently.

Continue reading “9 things grateful: Why not just write the damn blog post? #GratitudeAndShit 🔑”

#GirlsRock: An interview with editor, coach, and women’s advocate Beth Crosby ☕

It’s cool when someone’s triumph over a formidable foe – or two – gets, to an extent, overshadowed by what they accomplished after that win.

That’s exactly where you’ll find today’s #GirlsRock guest: Beth Crosby. I’ve known Beth for years. She’s invited me to her writing group for ages, and me, in my laziness, just recently found my way there. Finally.

Writing, as I remember, helped Beth power through some of the biggest challenges a person can face.

I’m proud to share her story. Please give Beth a warm CD welcome, and be sure to check out her links and resources. Don’t wait so long as I did. For writers, advocates, or simply people who want to put their passion to work for themselves – today’s post is for you.

Continue reading “#GirlsRock: An interview with editor, coach, and women’s advocate Beth Crosby ☕”

👨‍🍳 Cooking has the same ingredients as therapy

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I eat healthy stuff too.

Anyone who’s been here a while knows what a foodie I am.

And not just the noshing part. I especially love the cooking part. I recently bought a FIREDISC cooker, and my life changed forever. I can make virtually anything in this bad boy. And it makes me look like a gourmet.

I have a guest post and infographic I think you’re going to love, especially if you share my affinity with the language of food. Have you cooked more during the pandemic? Well, then you’ll get this post. I take comfort in cooking when I’m at home so much.

Continue reading “👨‍🍳 Cooking has the same ingredients as therapy”

👨‍🍼 Sometimes, a dad has to find his in between

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Am I doing this right?

I really don’t know. What’s a dad supposed to do when he raises his girls to be strong, independent, decisive yet kind, compassionate, but at the same time calm-natured, and courageous enough to actually spread her wings and fly?

And then she does fly.

Or, she will. All the way to California. A 40-hour car ride you’ll take with her, your oldest girl, the first you fathered and coached. The girl you helped find that college home she wanted – just a place in the mountains where I can play soccer, she said.

Continue reading “👨‍🍼 Sometimes, a dad has to find his in between”

🌲 #GirlsRock: An interview with educator/organizer/naturalist/graduate degree candidate Chelsea Sloggy

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Photo by Hayden Pacheco

I met Chelsea Sloggy in a coffee shop.

That might sound odd to those who know me and my Coke Zero ways, but I’ve been in a lot of coffee shops in the past year or so. That’s where realtors like to meet, and I meet realtors to write freelance stories for a local magazine.

I’d just wrapped up an interview and stopped to sugar up my cup – and 30 minutes later, I had a new friend after an intriguing conversation.

Chelsea is an enthusiastic environmental educator, community organizer, and naturalist. I stole that from her LinkedIn profile because I struggled to categorize her with any semblance of brevity. She cares a lot, she does a lot, and she teaches.

Continue reading “🌲 #GirlsRock: An interview with educator/organizer/naturalist/graduate degree candidate Chelsea Sloggy”

😬 10 things grateful: Tranquility, good friends, and the moment the pieces fit #GratitudeAndShit

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Madison took this stormtrooper photo the same day at Kings Mountain as Hayden did. Very similar pictures! I’ll use one Camdyn took next time.

I’m usually better at this.

You know. Staying in the present. It’s how I’ve managed to keep the train on the tracks when all else fails. I remind friends of this when they cling to the past or fret about the future. Frame where you are now, and be fully in it.

If one of those friends said that to me now, back, I’d see how impossible it feels.

Madison is moving to California next month. I’ll take a 40-hour road trip with my oldest and her cat, Munch. I wake up at 4 a.m. every day worried about it. But I’m getting better. She’s excited. I’m excited for her, and I’ll work extra hard to buy plane tickets to visit her early and often.

Continue reading “😬 10 things grateful: Tranquility, good friends, and the moment the pieces fit #GratitudeAndShit”

👩‍🏫 #GirlsRock: An interview with publisher Elizabeth Denham

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How many ideas – GREAT ideas – are milling around in your head?

I’ll wait … okay, so it’s not important to count them. But, why are they still ideas? I’m not passing judgment. I’ve got many crammed in my cranium too (and some aren’t so great.) When you can put an idea into motion, though …

That’s exactly what today’s guest on #GirlsRock did.

Meet Elizabeth Denham. Life has taken her on quite a ride, from the classroom and a first marriage to rediscovery, a second marriage and a new career. but it’s all led to her role as publisher of Franchise Woman magazine. Please give her a warm CD welcome.

Continue reading “👩‍🏫 #GirlsRock: An interview with publisher Elizabeth Denham”

🍊 Go ask daddy about citrus, illegal substances (again) and a rare crowning moment in my sporting life

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Hayden took this during our day at King’s Mountain.

Remember Jurassic Park?

Not the first one. One of the last ones. Maybe the last one. There was this epic battle between the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex (sorry, my generation gave the big guy his due – no T-Rex) battled a mega super ultra mean swole somethingasaurus.

I kept thinking, what could they possibly do to top that?

And then this sea monster pops up and eats that bastard like he’s a potsticker. That’s kind of how 2020 is feeling right about now. You think you’ve wrapped your mind around your circumstance, and then … well, sea monsters.

Continue reading “🍊 Go ask daddy about citrus, illegal substances (again) and a rare crowning moment in my sporting life”

🍹 Go Ask Daddy about sweet cocktails, sabbath debates, and being okey-doke with word choices

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Stormtroopers, mermaids, and easy answers for Go Ask Daddy. All mythical creatures?

Sometimes, interesting parallels emerge in Go Ask Daddy questions.

They’re chosen at random. From a list of about 200. When the first two contained the words “alcoholic drink” and “crack cocaine,” I began to question the universe. Namely, what is intends for me. Then, more pressing … did my girls ask these questions, really?

They did!

Every week, I try to pick out five questions the girls asked (over years and years) to answer in this space right here. To continue the controversy, the Dallas Cowboys appeared on this list, too. And a doozy of a fifth question. Check it out.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

1. What’s the alcoholic drink with the cherry?

I’m hoping we’re talking about the Shirley Temple here.

But let’s be honest: The pandemic has me spending a tad more impossible income on spirits. I was disappointed the ABC store sold me a bottle of rum and tequila but didn’t serve them to me in paper sacks.

The Cherry Bomb looks yummy and counts as a fruit or vegetable serving.

But it has cachaça, which isn’t on my Walmart pickup list. The Cherry Bourbon Smash sounds like it should have a holiday named after it. I learned a lot reading about this Easy Cherry Lemonade – and it just made me thirsty.

Just found out there’s also something known as a Dirty Shirley.

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Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on Pexels.com

2. Is crack and crack cocaine the same?

Hayden has extensive knowledge of drugs, thanks to a high school course. She rattles off facts about cannabis, ecstasy, and hallucinogens the way I did about Ankylosaurus, Stegosaurus, Triceratops back in the day.

Cocaine comes in both powder and rock, kind of like there’s a Triceratops and a Zuniceratops which look similar.

They call it cocaine or coke when it’s a powder, and crack or crack cocaine as the rock. I looked up how it’s made, and I won’t go into it in detail, but it sounds a little like how you make rock candy. Which is kinda messed up.

They call it crack because it crackles when it’s cooked.

It’s pretty highly concentrated, so it’s possible to get addicted with just one dose. If you or someone you know might have questions about addiction, they can call the American Addiction Centers at 888-969-0144.

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Photo by Alexander Mils on Pexels.com

3. Why are they in church on Saturday?

Maybe they lost track of what day it is like I have.

More likely, they’re Seventh Day Adventists. They consider Saturday the sabbath, not Sunday. While some Christians go to church on Sunday, others consider it a true day of rest – like, you can even sleep in on Sunday mornings. I like that.

It’s like those calendars that sometimes start on Sunday, sometimes start on Monday.

Some Jewish folks have services on Saturday, too. Some Christians say they should church on Sunday because that’s the day of the week of Jesus’ resurrection. I was just a boy then, so I’m not positive.

In 321, Roman Emperor Constantine said everyone should rest on Sunday, which is why that’s the one day of the week I won’t clock in for anyone.

4. Who was the guy who jumped into the Salvation Army bucket?

It wasn’t Constantine (because it was on a Sunday.)

That distinction goes to Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. He hopped into an oversized Salvation Army kettle at AT&T Stadium after a rushing touchdown against Tampa Bay. What a donation

I’ve written negatively about Elliott on this very blog, but I also don’t believe in condemning anyone for life because of something they did or allegedly did.

Elliott has a childlike view of the game that I totally appreciate. He leaped into the kettle and it gave the Salvation Army a good bit of playtime. He wasn’t fined for this, and I agree with that. Donations spiked after his leap, and Zeke made a donation of his own.

The Salvation Army said it got $850,000 in online donations after that – which would buy 91,000 meals for those in need. 

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Photo by Anastasiya Gepp on Pexels.com

5. Why does ‘fine’ sometimes mean something great, like fine dining, and sometimes just so-so-, like, ‘you did fine’?

One thing I’ve learned as a man is that ‘fine’ has a ton of meanings and connotations. You mentioned fine dining – that’s elegant. Think white tablecloths and prices in tiny print on a menu. ‘You did fine’ is the other end of the spectrum – like, meh. 

If you say “that girl’s fiiiine,” it means something – and when you do it in front of your significant other, and aren’t talking about her, you might be told that everything is ‘fine.’

I’d rather just PAY a fine for my mistake. It’s a fine line between just appreciating the human form in the form of your friendly neighborhood restaurant server, and committing a major infraction of … appreciating the wrong human form.

And that’s fine with me. 

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