When Vacation Becomes LIFE: One Woman's Big Move

I met Nikki about three years ago in St. Thomas while I was on a Parlour Magazine Travelfly Solo trip. We met incidentally on an island excursion where we were the only two people of color in attendance (annnnd the only two that couldn't swim, ironically). She was there on vacation and I was also there on vacation (but with the group). 

Over iconic Painkiller cocktails fresh from the isle of Jost Van Dyke, we spoke about our love for traveling and the Caribbean while sitting atop the Bad Kitty speedboat. With the sun baking and browning our bronze bodies we spoke about how we'd love to relocate to where the weather was always warm. 

Today, Nikki has done just that. 


You recently left Chicago for sunny Puerto Rico. What made you choose Puerto Rico as your new place of residence? 

It all started with a promise to myself, that I'd relocate my 20th year anniversary with the company. I consulted with our HR department regarding finance opportunities with the company outside of Chicago. The response was California and Puerto Rico. California just didn't excite me but Puerto Rico did! I started networking with employees in PR, did tons of research and I made my mind up to move to the island.

Hurricane Maria caused a lot of damage and devastation. How has this impacted your move, or has it?

Hurricane Maria did cause a ton of damage and devastation to the island but did not impact my move. I'd say the resiliency of the Puerto Rican people, with recovering, motivated me.

Has moving to the Caribbean always been a dream of yours? How far in advance did you have to plan?

Actually it was always a dream of mine. It became a dream once the idea was presented!!


Besides the obvious - beach, shimmering turquoise waters, and warm weather - What's the best part about living in this tropical location?

Beside all of those wonderful things I feel the best part about living in this tropical location are the beautiful spirits I run into daily. Everyone has been so welcoming and helpful. They remind me life can be tough but it's still meant to be enjoyed, celebrated and shared. 

That is exactly what I appreciate about the Caribbean culture. Last but not least, do you miss being stateside? 

In the two months I've been here, I haven't missed being stateside!


Thank you Nikki for taking the time out to chat with Coconut + Concrete. Whatever your dream may be just know that it IS attainable. You never know where YOU may be in three years. Keep pushing ya'll. 

C+C Accommodations: Alsol Del Mar Resort, Cap Cana, DR

As promised, Coconut + Concrete Accommodations will spotlight some of the most beautiful yet affordable properties throughout the Caribbean. These features are not reviews (unless specified); they are suggested Coconut + Concrete stays. I like to pride myself on the fact that I've yet to meet a hotel or resort who's expectations surprised me. I know what I'm walking into because I do extensive research (not just Trip Advisor!)Just know that if I wouldn't stay there, you won't find it here.

First up: Alsol Del Mar, Cap Cana, Dominican Republic

Sunset in Cap Cana

Sunset in Cap Cana

Where: Cap Cana is an exclusive real estate and tourist destination on the eastern shore of the Dominican Republic. Has been recognized as one of the "best" destinations in the Caribbean. Al Sol Del Mar Resort is beachfront, with all room categories claiming to offer nice views.

Why C+C likes it: It's beachfront (hello!!!), ALL-INCLUSIVE, it's tucked away from the busy-ness that the city of Punta Cana offers, it's close to the airport (about 15 minutes - great for a quick weekend getaway). It is touted as an "ideal choice for an intimate retreat". Alsol Del Mar is a small resort (122 rooms), offers free wifi and the decor is stunning (which is just as important as being on the beach in my opinion). Stay here and enjoy exchange privileges at the two sister properties (Alsol Luxury Village Cap Cana and Alsol Tiara Cap Cana). Prices VERY reasonable too!

The lovely private white sand beach 

The lovely private white sand beach 

Island-hop? YES! Hop a catamaran over to the beautiful Saona Island

*Potential Trip: Flight & Hotel - 6/7 - 6/10/18, JFK - PUJ, Ocean Loft (see below) - Double Occupancy, $827 per person (Interested? Click HERE)

Ocean loft

Ocean loft

A "Carry on Cocktail"? Tell Me More! + Giveaway


Ashley Stevenson is taking the bar to new heights - literally. Her Carry on Cocktail Kits are innovative and have been specially crafted to help you get to your destination in good taste (both literally and figuratively). 

Below she shares with us a few details about herself and her brand, Honey & Soul. Read on!

Thank you so much for taking the time out for Coconut + Concrete! Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I'm originally from Oklahoma and went to college at Southern University in Baton Rouge where I played soccer. That's where I fell in love with food. After almost 10 years there I moved back to Oklahoma. I love food, travel, exploring new cultures and just enjoying life. I own two businesses, work for an awesome airline, and currently reside in Austin, TX.


What gave you the idea for your Carry On Cocktail Kit? I love it!

The kit is actually a collaboration with another company. As I've gotten older, I don't drink to get drunk anymore but more for the appreciation of that particular cocktail. Since I travel a lot and love to start my party early I thought it would be great to have something that's chic and different in terms of how I approach my experience. I believe everything we do should be about the experience and the feeling we get while doing it. The Carry On Cocktail Kit just elevates your experience of travel and drinking.


What is a Foodie Foot Tour? Sounds yummy.

Foodie Foot Tours is actually my first baby. It's a walking food tour I own in Oklahoma City. I started it three years ago and still operate it even though I'm in Austin. Everything is on foot, all the restaurants we visit are locally owned, and we offer history of the areas we tour. When people know the history of a place and connect to it they're more likely to return.

I see a lot of folks becoming vegetarian or vegan these days. As a foodie, is that something you would consider? 

Never! I think anything can be enjoyed in moderation. One of the reasons I started my food tour was because most of the food is locally grown or from a local farm. I try to be cautious of what I eat and where it comes from so being vegan isn't something that is for me. 

I always say, if you love food you should be able to cook it too - Are you a good cook? 

I'd like to think so. My boyfriend might agree as well. I'm definitely not afraid to get in the kitchen and fail until I succeed. I will say that I make a bomb bacon wrapped meatloaf and a killer baked macaroni and cheese.


Well then can I come over for Sunday dinner?! Thanks again to Ashley for taking the time out of her busy schedule to chat with us. You can catch her on Instagram at @6footfoodie, @honeyandsoulco and @foodiefoottours.

Win your very own Carry on Cocktail Kit through our Instagram giveaway! For details and how to enter, check out our Instagram page. 

Trippin' with Shanna Stevenson!

There's something about the kindness of strangers that can be highly motivational. When I decided to get serious about Coconut + Concrete, Shanna Stevenson (@tripwithshan) was one of the first people to interact with me. It is organically inspiring when people who don't know you, have never met you in person can see your vision before you've even put it out there. I use the term "organic" in the social media sense; you know its real. I take those little interactions as a spiritual sign from above to press on; no matter how frightening the thought may be.  

Shan also has an interesting story that I thought might inspire others to just get up, get out and do the damn thing!

Just to clarify, you're from Atlanta right? How did you end up in the Dominican Republic and how long have you been there? 

Actually, I was born in Chicago, but yes, I was raised from the age of 2, in a northern suburb of Atlanta, called Marietta. My DR story starts back in 2014. That's when I took a mother/daughter trip with my mom, Donna. She picked the place after finding a deal online. Honestly, at the time I knew nothing about the DR and never had any interest in it. It's so wild to think about it now. Anyway, after researching the deal my mom had found, I realized I could find a better one, so we cancelled that one and booked the trip I found. Long story short, we had an amazing time, got off the resort, and enjoyed some adventurous excursions, my favorite being the horseback riding. It was on this excursion that I truly fell in love with the country. I had a chance to observe the authenticity of one of the local neighborhoods. The way the people all appeared so content. The way I witnessed the kids enjoying themselves and making the most out of nothing or the simplest of toys. It was astonishing to witness. My heart was forever changed. It was at that moment that I fell in love with this little place and begin thinking this could be the simple life I needed. Exactly one year later to that same week, I had landed in the DR to begin my new adventure there. It's been almost 2 years now and it's been quite the learning curve, but in all seriousness, I grow more in love with the place daily.  

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Do you travel back home often?

I try to get back home about every 3 or 4 months. Although, lately I've been traveling to other places, making the rounds to visit friends and family in other states. Next year, I plan on doing a lot more international travel, so home visits won't be as regular. 

Many may not know but in addition to your trip planning services you also operate an Airbnb! Did you have to purchase property in the DR? If so, what was that process like?

You're right! Airbnb hosting was actually the very beginnings to TRIP WITH SHAN. My guests would constantly want my recommendations and would even request that I accompany them out. Literally through listening to them, my personal tour services (another segment of TRIP WITH SHAN) developed from these interactions and their feedback. And yes, I do maintain some property in the DR. I have been able to leverage some great relationships with some pretty cool people I have met here that trust me to manage their properties. Both the personal tours and the hosting have been great additions to the TRIP WITH SHAN offering.

How long have you been a certified travel professional? How did you get into the business and is this your only profession?

I received my official certification as an international travel agent and began offering my services just over a year ago, but have been trip planning for what seems like, all my life. It's one of my favorite things to do. Thank goodness, because my clients keep me busy! I came across the opportunity when a respected friend talked to me about becoming an agent based on my lifestyle at the time. It was a no-brainer for me and ever since I've been thrilled to be a part of this $8 Trillion dollar travel industry. It's really a fascinating sector. Travel has always been a big part of my life. Being able to introduce others to it, has been the most amazing thing to experience and is what really propels the direction I take TRIP WITH SHAN. Right now, its all about creating authentic experiences where people feel comfortable venturing off their resorts or away from their hotels to really get a better feel for a place. Safety and personal attention are what we offer. That's what people want. 

Favorite vacay spot?

Can I say, my "backyard"? Literally, the beach is 5 minutes from my door! Hahaha, but honestly, any Caribbean locale with amazing food and positive vibes. I love the island life. 

And we can totally agree with that! Many, many thanks to Shan for taking the time out for Coconut + Concrete. If you're looking to experience 3 nights, 2 excursions and 1 amazing time in the Dominican Republic this coming February, click here for more info, Shan's got you covered!

**Sidenote: Shanna isn't exactly fluent in Spanish, she likes to say she's fluent in Spanglish (Spanish + English), most of her clients refer to her as being "bilingual" and she gets a kick out of it every time!


So now what's stopping YOU from reaching your dreams?