I am so excited to introduce you to our newest Smarty team member, Tonya Miller. Tonya and I met at a writing class over at the amazing Charlotte Lit, and when she reached out to me about covering travel for CSP, it was a big YES from all of us in Smartyland.
Tonya’s got a lot of stamps on her passport, and she will be around to give us the lowdown on travel near and far with families. We can’t wait to hear more from her and start packing our own suitcases!
Smarties, meet Tonya!
Smarty Mom: Tonya Miller
Smarty Mom Stats:
Married to: Evan Miller
Mom of: Audrey Miller, 5 years
Years in Charlotte: 17 years for me, 22 years for my husband. We met here in Charlotte. On the rooftop above Tony’s Oyster Bar, now called Vapiano.
Hometown: Guam & Chico, CA – Born in Guam, Father is Native. Lived there until I was 13. Moved to Chico, CA when I was 13 to attend high school and college.
Area of Charlotte you call home: Myers Park, now. Lived in Dilworth & Uptown since 2001.
Alma Mater: California State University, Chico (Original Home of Sierra Nevada Beer)
Occupation: Aspiring Freelance Travel Writer and Part-time Landsport Guide USNWC Corporate Team Development
Tell us a little bit about your background and what brought you to Charlotte.
What brought me to Charlotte? A Boeing 747 Ha! It’s usually my way of deterring the fact that I moved to Charlotte for a guy in my early 20s and it wasn’t the guy I married.
You LOVE travel and adventure. Where are some of the coolest places you’ve been?
I’m glad you didn’t ask me to pick one. There have been so many and yet each new place and experience only creates a longing for others. Okinawa was the beginning of it all. I ran an outdoor adventure teen camp on a military base one summer in college. I also got scuba certified there. That single stamp in my newly minted passport begged for more. Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Borneo soon followed. Then it was Costa Rica and Ecuador and most of the Caribbean. These experiences stand out because I was young and untethered and every experienced left me filled with possibility.
Aruba is where my husband proposed. We married in Bora Bora, French Polynesia and traveled Rangiroa and Moorea over 2 weeks. We went to Maui for our babymoon and the adventures continue. Last summer it was Venice, Croatia, Santorini and Mykonos.
How are you passing along your love of travel to your daughter?
It’s just what we do and she’s kind of stuck with us. We like adventures and gorgeous landscapes and far off places. She got her first passport when she was 4 months old and was just issued her second passport. She has Global Entry, TSA Pre-check and Multiple Airline Miles accounts.
We’re super lucky in that she has a really adventurous spirit. She’s quick to learn things like swimming, riding a bike and learning to ski and now snorkeling. Last year, shortly after she turned 4, we took her sea kayaking in Dubrovnik. We packed her puddle jumper, gave her a ring pop and sat her in the middle of our kayak. We weren’t sure how’d she handle 4 hours out on choppy water, but she loved it. Especially the part where mommy and daddy did all the paddling. She’s an only child and is happiest when we’re all together having an adventure.
What are you top three Smarty tips for travel with young kids?
I’m super reluctant to give general advice on traveling with kids. Every kid is different and there’s nothing I can tell a parent about traveling with their kid that they don’t already know.
I carry A LOT of fruit snacks. Audrey is like our golden retriever, she’ll do anything for a treat. Last summer in Venice, she walked 2 miles to the Disney store and the 2 miles back. That was the deal I made with her. If she wanted to go to the Disney store in Venice and pick out a toy, then she had to walk the entire way there and the entire way back. It’s amazing what they’re capable of when they want something.
What’s next on the horizon for you for travel?
Our next big trip will be to Ireland and Iceland in August. Look for some exciting recaps of this epic road trip abroad.
You’ll be covering a lot of Smarty travel for us (we are so excited!!). Tell us what we can expect to learn from your posts.
Adventuring with your family is much like rock climbing was in the mid-90s. It felt largely inaccessible for the average person or something that extreme adventurers did. My hope is to make adventuring with your family more accessible and open you up to some fun experiences in and around our area. I also like things to be “relatively easy.” Adventures don’t have to be complicated, I like a sort of quick and dirty approach. We’ll be hiking waterfalls and camping in the mountains this summer, finding little adventures at the beach, getting out on a boat on Lake Norman and hitting up Family Camp at Camp Thunderbird.
You’ve got a rising kindergartener! What are you most looking forward to in this next chapter for your family?
This week is her last week of preschool. I’m already an emotional mess. The exciting part for me is I’ll be going back to work part-time at the USNWC, as a facilitator for Team Development. Basically, I work with corporate groups facilitating team building initiatives and high ropes course activities. I’m also an aspiring travel writer. It’s taken me over 20 years to get up the nerve to write for publications. It was easier to jump out of an airplane or bungee jump off of a railroad suspension bridge illegally at night than it was to pursue the thing that tugged at me all these years. Getting the nerve to pursue writing as a career is by far my most daring adventure. The Charlotte Smarty Pants family, publishers and readers have been incredible supportive. Thank you for reading!
Smarty lightening round…
Favorite date night spot?
Del Frisco’s. I love a Pineapple Martini and Medium Rare Steak. In that order.
Favorite place to shop for yourself?
Favorite place to shop for your daughter?
Shower me with Love. Huge fan of Tea Collection, but if it were up to Audrey, it would be the Disney store. She lives in princess dresses.
Favorite spot to meet a friend for lunch?
Favorite phone app?
Best place for a family vacation?
Anywhere new and exciting and preferably out of the country
Last book read?
Best part of raising a family in the QC?
Charlotte is my favorite place to call home. It’s truly an accessible city. We live 20 minutes from the airport, that is a total luxury in and of itself. We’re close to the mountains, close to the beach. There isn’t an artist/performer or performance I haven’t been able to see here. We have an NFL and NBA team, great restaurants and nightlife. But the best part of raising a family here are the friends who’ve become our family. Some friends we’ve known nearly 20 years and others less so, but the quality of these relationships grow sweeter as the years progress. Parenting is hard, whether you have an easy child or 4 difficult ones. I’m incredibly humbled by our tribe of friends who show up for each other through life’s difficult moments, the benign irritations and the celebrations. Home is where the heart is. My husband and I may be transplants, but our hearts are firmly planted here.
Top three items on your summer bucket list?
1. NC Waterfalls. This is the year. In search of great waterfall hikes this summer.
2. Camp Thunderbird’s Family Camp. #lifegoals inspire a LOVE of residential summer camp for Audrey.
3. Greenville SC. I’m sad to admit I have not been and I’ve been told it’s a great place to explore.