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Talking Travel In Texas And Beyond: Shannah Hayley

Hayley is the director of communications and community outreach for the city of Plano.
Photo: Shannah Hayley

Whether by car or plane, there’s a sense of adventure for what is ahead — from the food we will eat to the places we will see. Traveling is magical. At least, the idea of it.

But the reality? Travel plans always seem to spiral into some sort of stressful situation. Packing, planning, booking and everything else can be overwhelming. We want travel to be fun. So do you. Local Profile reached out to eight people in the Collin County community to get their take and advice on everything travel related. 

Hayley is the director of communications and community outreach for the city of Plano. Her pursuit of living life to the fullest has taken her all over the world with various communications-focused jobs, from teaching in Kenya to consulting in the United Kingdom. After moving to North Texas, she spent nearly 20 years in the professional services marketplace before transitioning to work in local government.  

Where is your favorite road trip destination in Texas?
We love San Antonio. It’s the perfect blend of great food, a relaxed vibe, a wonderful art scene and Texas history.

What do you consider “essential” when packing?
My running shoes! My favorite way to explore a place is on foot. You discover local places and get a real feel for the vibe of a place.

What is your favorite transportation method?
Once I arrive somewhere, I like to be on foot. To get where I’m going if time allows, I love a road trip on the backroads and byways. There’s nothing like feeling the true spirit of a place than being able to stop in smaller towns, see local businesses and stop at every historical marker I can.

How can you save money while traveling?
Eat local! Often it's far cheaper to eat as the locals do. We also prefer renting houses whenever possible, so we can have a simple breakfast on our own before heading out or a small evening supper as we wind down from the day.

What do you look for when booking a vacation?
I am very local-focused. For the most part, we avoid tourist meccas and curated experiences in favor of doing and experiencing things that people who call a place home would do. I spend a lot of time pre-trip researching a place to learn about its history, culture and local favorites. My husband prefers a balance between going and doing vs spontaneity when we travel. I typically give him an overview of what I’ve learned and options of things to see and do. We determine what are “musts” for us on the trip, then let everything else be optional.

What travel hack or tip do you follow?
I’m a fan of capsule wardrobes, so I pack light with the intent to mix and match. I can easily travel for up to two weeks with just a carry-on suitcase and a shoulder carryall. It’s helpful to remember that you can stop and purchase anything you forgot. I have yet to go anywhere in the world where I couldn’t find a pharmacy or a discount retailer.

What is your favorite road trip snack?
Popcorn from Plano’s Crave Popcorn.

What is your most memorable trip in Texas? Outside Texas?
I have loved every minute spent in Jefferson, Texas. At one time it was Texas’ largest river ports and city, before losing its influence and much of its population. It still feels like a town frozen in time, with amazing historic homes, terrific downtown businesses and easy access to Texas’ only natural lake, Caddo.

Outside of Texas, we had a magical time on “The Peaceful side of the Smokies” in Townsend, Tennessee. We stayed in Wears Valley in a little mountain cabin, ate at a small restaurant, hiked, went for runs and sat in our car watching wildlife in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was quiet, restful and soul-restoring.

How do you pass the time on road trips? On the plane?
My husband and I love to use travel time to listen to audiobooks together. If I’m by myself on a plane, I’ll use the downtime to catch a much-needed nap.

Are there any hidden gems you’ve come across on a Texas road trip?

  • I love the BBQ sauce made by and sold at Garner Street Meat Market and Barbecue in Detroit, Texas.
  • The souvenir shop at the Palo Duro Canyon Pioneer Amphitheater sells amazing local artisan jewelry.
  • Make a stop at Hickory Roots BBQ in downtown Terrell, Texas. Eddie Deen owns it – this is a local place, not a tourist hub.
  • The peach hand pies at Cooper Farms Country Store (I-45 near Madisonville) are worth the stop.
  • Spend a day in Farmersville, Texas. Explore the Chaparral Trail, visit historic downtown, take a photo of the Audie Murphy statue and get ice cream at Hibbitts.

How do you decide where to go?
Right now our travels are largely dictated by our goal to run a race (marathon for my husband, half marathon for me) in every state by the time we turn 55. We’re down to the last 12 states! Subtracting those goal-related trips, and family-related trips, finding a new place to explore and the ability to take our dog Glory Be has a lot to do with our trip planning.

Do you have any favorite camping or hiking destinations in Texas?
The Four C National Recreation Trail through the Davy Crockett is an incredible hike.

What time of year do you prefer to go on vacation?
Anytime — I try to avoid busy seasons at work, but I’ve learned that you shouldn’t put off exploring. You never know when you’ll have the opportunity to do or see something again. Some of my biggest regrets are from my college years when I didn’t explore the wonderful area I called home for that season of life. From it, I learned you can fit in mini-travel experiences right where you are at any time of year.

Do you have any upcoming travel plans? 
It’s a busy year of travel for us. Just this spring we have trips booked to Napa, California; Rhode Island, Connecticut, southern Illinois and Laramie, Wyoming. We can’t wait!

To find out more about travel in and out of Texas visit Local Profile’s latest issue.