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?

Top 5 Lessons I Learned in Cuba

Not as bad as it looks - Pipe was being laid down in the street

Not as bad as it looks - Pipe was being laid down in the street

I was slightly unprepared for Cuba. I mean, I wasn't entirely caught off guard by some of the inconveniences but I could've been better prepared. Let's face it though: There are MANY guides, articles, and webinars about Cuba out there right now. In typical ME fashion, I didn't do too much research before I left. It is too easy to become inundated with information overload (not to mention conflicting information as well!). I took the little bit I already knew and learned along the way. 

I chose to learn by experience. 

Lesson #1: Patience. I worry a lot. It's part of my genetic makeup. I can't help it most of the time. I was worried about exchanging my money once I got to Cuba. Was there going to be a line at the airport? If I can't do it at the airport where will I go? What if my taxi won't accept my American dollars? I realized I didn't have to exchange my money at the airport (or even ALL of it, for that matter). 

Cuba is so laid back that you can ask your taxi driver to stop at "el banco" (the bank) or a hotel to exchange your change. Don't convert all of your money at one time, do it in increments. If the bank is closed you can always hit up a hotel. If you're in Havana, Habana Libre is a good one to go to. 

Lesson #2: Expect the Unexpected. After picking up our bus tickets to Varadero, I had asked about the Malecon (a seawall along the exterior of Havana). Our Airbnb hostess, Marta, immediately gave us change to board an arriving city bus. My friend and I hopped on not knowing where the hell we were going! On the ride downtown, I saw a lady holding a rabbit, a very young girl holding hands with a much older grown man and people of all colors, shapes and sizes. Through the little bit of Spanish that I knew, my friend and I were able to patch words together and communicate with a woman who had got on with her 3 little boys. She told us the best place to get off in Centro Habana. God bless her heart. 

Lesson #3: Don't let color fool you! It can be slightly overwhelming being in a city where you don't speak the language (thank God for my junior high school and college Spanish classes!). I made the mistake of looking at "color" to gauge who I thought might speak English. In the airport I asked a gentleman (whom I thought was Caucasian) about baggage claim. He didn't speak English. Another time, I thought I had spotted an American black couple. They too, didn't speak English. I really learned to keep my preconceived American-observations to myself and assume that EVERYONE speaks Spanish. I should've done this beforehand but GET THE APP: SpanishDict, this will help immensely. 

Lesson #4: Keep a "Paper Kit". Many of the things we take for granted in the States are hard to come by in Cuba. Paper sources being one of them. Keep a kit filled with tissues, napkins, wipes and toilet paper if possible. Many of the public restrooms do not have toilet paper in the stalls. I almost got caught out there. 

Lesson #5: The internet can wait (but it IS there if you absolutely need it). Most of us are dependent on our phones and social media. I'll admit there were times I wanted to see what was going on with Instagram (Snapchat doesn't work and Facebook rarely worked). I wanted to check-in back home by sending texts to my loved ones too. If you must, you can get a wifi card. Wifi cards will run you anywhere from $1.50 to $5 (CUC) for an hour of data. These cards can be purchased at the airport, tourist shops or hotels (Habana Libre sells them for $5 p/hour, Blau Varadero sold them for $1.50 p/hour). 

I had an amazing time in Cuba and will definitely be returning. I love the culture, the food, the music and the people. My Airbnb hostess and her husband are now considered mi familia en Cuba

Planning a trip can be a lot, especially to Cuba. With the abundance of information on the 'net you might still have specific questions needing answers. C+C is offering readers the chance to have 5 questions about Cuba answered for only $5 (plus a little gift thrown in). Click here to learn more. 

My Journal: Cuba, Planning the Journey

A few weeks ago my jet-setting sistafriend sent an email to our close-knit framily (friends who are considered family) asking if anyone was down to travel with her to Cuba in May. I was immediately all in. I had been interested in visiting Cuba for as long as I could remember. I knew that the embargo had been slightly lifted but I had no idea that I, ME, could just go onto any travel search engine and book my flight. Delta and Jet Blue both have flights leaving from JFK. Delta was slightly cheaper at $288 while Jet Blue was $305. 

I decided to go with Jet Blue. 

Always looking for a steal, I usually opt for the lower price point. However, I chose Jet Blue because this wasn't just any ordinary trip. There are certain requirements for visiting Cuba: a visa, health insurance (Cuba's own) and you must determine your reason for visiting under one of the 12 generalized licenses for categories of travel. 

Jet Blue makes it easy to do this. Included in booking your ticket are the 12 categories; you simply click the box next to the one that best describes your reason for visiting (I selected "Educational/People-to-people exchange", which is what most visitors select). Keep in mind, Americans are not to be visiting Cuba as mere "tourists". 

Jet Blue will also grant you your Cuban visa the day of your departing flight at the gate for $50. Your Cuban health insurance is also included in the price of your flight, so no need to worry there. 

I decided not to go with Delta because the above mentioned requirements for getting to Cuba weren't as clear and seemingly simple. Jet Blue was very direct and precise about how they will help YOU get to Cuba as effortlessly as possible. 

Stay tuned as I keep you posted on the process.