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Reunited by Travel

Atlanta - otherwise known as “Hotlanta”, is home to the Falcons and the backdrop to AMC’s “The Walking Dead”. Since this was our first time visiting Atlanta, you’re probably thinking that we were there to experience some of Atlanta’s famous landmarks but it was quite the contrary. For those of you who don’t know I, James, am adopted. Now allow me to preface why we traveled to Atlanta this year. 

Growing up, being adopted was something I always knew and loved sharing with people; I thought it was information that made me unique from others as it wasn’t really common in my community. As you can imagine, knowing this throughout my childhood brought upon a lot questions, many of which my parents didn’t have answers too. Thankfully in 2015, at the age of 25, a simple AncestryDNA test was able to shed light on some of those questions. Fast forward to earlier this year, 2017. As I was lounging around on my day off with my best friend Kathleen, we decided to become more familiar with the AncestryDNA website and all of it’s features. One of which happens to be a list of other individuals who have taken the test that match your DNA; categorizing them as first cousin, second cousin, third cousin so on and so forth. While playing around with this feature, I had come across a biological match of someone who had taken the test; it labeled this user as my grandfather. The question was, is this my biological mom or father’s side? After some investigating and process of elimination from his family tree, I was able to match his youngest daughter’s age to the year I was born in 1989. One thing led to another where I was able to find her information on the internet and before I knew it, my curiosity got the best of me and I sent her an e-mail; only to hear back from her within 48-hours. I was in shock as a number of emotions and nerves succumbed me. After years of wondering, could this really be her? Her mutual curiosity and excitement led her to purchase an AncestryDNA test for us to discover if this was indeed a match. After talking for six weeks via-email and text, she finally received her results. The day her results came happened to be the day after my 28th birthday. This beautiful woman, by the name of Darlene, had sent me a selfie of herself holding the results that said “birth mom”. The story I shared above, barely skims the surface of the numerous emotions that have gone into the development of this over the past year. There aren’t enough words to explain what this has been like for not only me, but my entire family. It’s been a beautiful and surreal experience that eventually opened an opportunity for us to reunite through travel.

For those of you who know The Backpacking Boyfriends, we are probably Southwest Airlines biggest fans. They are the only airline we travel as we have their rapid rewards credit cards and companion passes. Earlier this year they launched a campaign called #175Stories, with the tagline “Behind every seat, there’s a story”. With how much we travel, their campaign hit home as it forced us to wonder about the stories of the passengers we sit by while traveling on a Southwest flight. After retweeting a lot of their promotional material on Twitter, it sparked up a conversation with one of their associates which eventually opened the door for me to share my story about reconnecting with my birth mom, Darlene. They were impacted in such a way that they wanted to share my story as part of their campaign; which meant reuniting with Darlene and capturing it on camera. After weeks of collaboration and planning, the day had finally arrived: Thursday, November 16th; a day Darlene, her wife JJ, Will and I will never forget. The entire Southwest team made the overall experience unforgettable! The best part? Our reunion happened during the weekend of National Adoption Day which falls on November 18th.

During our visit we had the pleasure of staying at Hotel Indigo Vinings-Atlanta. The staff knew about the special occasion for the weekend and were nothing but hospitable making our stay comfortable. They upgraded our room to a spacious suite which felt like our home away from home. Their lobby bar was the perfect setting to kick off the weekend with Darlene and JJ. We were able to break the ice over a glass of wine and light conversation, before heading to dinner at Oriental Express (which we highly recommend)! We thoroughly enjoyed their breakfast which you can included in your hotel package for an additional cost. If you’re ever in the Vinings-Atlanta area, we hope you’ll considered booking a room at Hotel Indigo!

The weekend could not have been more perfect. We ate amazing food, participated in escape rooms, visited landmarks from AMC’s The Walking Dead, experienced the SkyView Ferris Wheel, played board games and celebrated in fashion with glasses of wine and champagne. It’ll definitely be a weekend to remember and we can’t thank Southwest Airlines or Hotel Indigo Vinings-Atlanta enough for making the reunion special for everyone involved. We’re counting down the days till we are once again, reunited by travel, with Darlene and JJ. We love you guys!

Recommendations for the Vinings-Altanta area:

  • Orient Express: Bringing you the most innovating trends in international cuisine, our fusion entrees combine the exciting flavors of East and West.  

  • Zama Mexican Cuisine: Zama Mexican Cuisine & Margarita Bar offering the perfect mix of flavor, entertainment, and culture. 

  • SkyView Atlanta: Towering nearly 20 stories above Centennial Park, the SkyView Ferris wheel features 42 climate-controlled gondolas providing guests with breathtaking panoramic views of downtown Atlanta and the surrounding metropolitan area. 

  • Joe's on Juniper: Where can you find the Atlanta’s best patio, most attractive waitstaff and best bar food all in one place? Joe’s on Juniper, of course! Established before the millennium, Joe’s welcomes guests from all over Atlanta to join us for cocktails and to enjoy a type of casual atmosphere found exclusively at Joe’s. 

  • Ultimate Escape Game - Atlanta: Just minutes outside downtown Atlanta, join their flagship location for the premier Atlanta escape game experience!

  • Hotel Indigo Atlanta - Vinings: Escape to their unique, boutique-style hotel with unexpected touches that reflect the distinct charm and character of the historic Vinings neighborhood.


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