We’re excited to launch our new series: Couples of Asheville! In this series, we’ll feature real couples who call Asheville their home. From local business owners to artists to working parents and everything in between. They’ll share their favorite food spots, what they like to do, how they get into adventure, and what they haven’t tried yet. We hope to inspire new ways for couples to connect and highlight some unique spots in Asheville.
Our first couple is Erin McGrady and Caroline Whatley of Authentic Asheville. Caroline, a founder of Hole Doughnuts in West Asheville, is a writer, photographer and brand developer that has won the attention of Bon Appetit, National Geographic, People Magazine and Zagat. Erin is a photographer and web designer whose work has been featured on Squarespace. You know, no big deal.
Erin and Caroline are adventure seekers that have a passion for creativity and influence. They recently finished a tiny house project, the black house behind Hole Doughnuts together and are about to embark on assignment for the blog dapperQ with a road trip to the south. Their mission? To find more safe spaces and places for the LGBTQ community. You can read about their travels and how they manage their relationship while traveling in their converted van here.
We caught up with this creative power couple to see what keeps them going and how they share their life together in Asheville.
How did you meet?
E: Haha this is a fun story to tell. Both of us were adventuring. I was on winter break (I used to teach middle school) and went to Raleigh to hang out with an old friend from college. On a whim I headed to Asheville. I went for a hike, grabbed a burger and a beer at Jack of the Wood and was flipping through Tinder when I saw her!
C: I was in the backseat of my parents car coming back from Chattanooga, when I saw she swiped right on Tinder. I immediately experienced an unreasonable amount of joy that she said ‘yes’!
E: We started messaging and then moved on to really long love letters that we would write back and forth. It was a bit of an old-fashioned way to get to know one another. We didn’t actually meet until we had been talking for about 2 months. And then the rest is history.
C: I eventually convinced her that we should talk on the phone…the first time I answered the phone, all I heard was her laughing. Good sign.
How long have you been together?
E: February 10 is our one year wedding anniversary! We’ve been together a little more than two years.
What first attracted you to your partner?
E: She said she was into truth-telling, vulnerability and side splitting laughter. I thought, yes, me too. It didn’t hurt that my heart also leapt at the sight of her.
C: Her sense of humor came through in her travel photographs. (Think oversized glasses, motorcycle helmets, mismatched socks.) Plus, she’s beautiful.
What did you do on your first date?
C: Our first time meeting in person was Valentine’s weekend. I went up to Frederick, Maryland to spend time with her. We did a lot of walking around town and mostly a lot of staring at each other. I also remember a lot of laughing.
E: She says for the first hour in the car on the way back from the airport I basically said nothing and didn’t even look at her which is true but also really funny when I look back on it now. I was nervous, okay?!
C: It’s true! It was 18 degrees outside, but she didn’t even turn the heat on in the car cause she was ‘nervous’ hot. Really cute when I look back on it.
E: Oh my god this is embarrassing haha.
How do you maintain your adventurous spirit?
C: Trying things that scare us to death and take us to new places, new cities, new fields in the middle of nowhere.
E: Challenging ourselves to find new experiences and remaining curious about what we find. Also trying not to get jaded or cynical but looking for the silver lining on everything like breakdowns and wrong turns.
What is something you do as a couple that you know you’re doing right?
C: We always make up. Being married has a whole new meaning of commitment to me. I feel it’s roots like I have never felt before and I’m very thankful for the container of safety it gives to us.
E: Oh I love your answer, darlin’! That’s a good one. Continuing to learn about ourselves as individuals and as a couple. We each have a therapist AND one we see together. They’re part of our support network and help us have the best relationship we can possibly have.
What is something you wish you could improve as a couple?
E: Oh geez. I wish we could learn to communicate better. We have very different styles and it sometimes seems like we speak a different language.
C: Wasting less time arguing.
You travel in close quarters, is this hard?
E: It can be. We both have an introverted side but it can be hard to get any time to ourselves. That said, we’ve had some incredibly positive experiences together that I would not trade for anything. I’ve waited my whole life to find my person so I’ll take the lows with the highs.
C: We use the bathroom in front of each other and fart in each others presence, so most things are easy and natural. We have yet to figure out how to spend the appropriate amount of time NOT in each others presence to avoid the eventual blow-outs. We realize this is a wonderful problem to have, though. She is truly the first person I want to do everything with.
What’s your favorite way to show your partner love? How does she show you love?
C: Being able to make her laugh. My favorite way she shows me love is the everyday little things. She holds the door open, she says thank you, she puts water by my side of the bed, etc. It’s her thoughtfulness that makes me feel special everyday.
E: My favorite way to show her love is one I don’t get right a lot of the time and that’s by trying to really listen and understand what she’s saying so that she feels heard. She shows me love in lots of different ways but one that means a lot to me is that she is consistent in her love for me.
How do you make time for yourself, outside of being coupled?
E: Hmm. Running for sure, getting lost in the computer. I used to like to do art projects but I haven’t done many lately. I actually struggle to make time for myself. It’s something I really want to get better at.
C: Running, reading. Getting in the yard and picking up sticks and such. I love to feel my body do one thing, while my mind can wander in a totally different direction.
Did you end up in Asheville together? Or meet after you lived here?
C: I was living in Asheville, Erin in Frederick, Maryland. She moved here after 6 months of dating long distance.
What do you do when you want to go out but you don’t get paid until Friday?
C: I cook dinner, Erin joins me in the kitchen and reads me either something she wrote or something interesting she read in the news that day. Sometimes we have a dance party in the kitchen.
E: We’re pretty good at being creative and making fun without spending money (sunset on the Parkway anyone?) Does a trail run count as a date? What about a beer on the porch and then a bike ride around town count?
What’s your go-to, low key night out in Asheville?
E: Riding our bikes down to the Wedge to get a beer and then eating a burger at Bull and Beggar.
C: I agree with Erin 100 percent!
What is your favorite place to get pizza in Asheville?
E: At our house. Caroline makes the most amazing pizza ever on our grill. Marco’s is really good, too!
What is your favorite dish in Asheville?
C:This is an IMPOSSIBLE question! I crave Gan Shan Station’s black bean chicken the most.
E: The chicken pho at Wild Ginger. Aileen makes world-class pho!
What is your favorite running trail around Asheville?
E: The ones in Bent Creek.
C: I concur with Erin!
Do you play games together? Is there a favorite place in town you like play corn hole, pool, darts, etc?
C: HA! On one of our many breakdowns on the side of the road, we played cards at a picnic table on the side of the road at a rest area. It was a blast, actually. Totally forgot for an hour that we were there cause our car died, again.
Around town, I like watching people play cornhole at the Wedge Brewing Co.
If a friend comes in town for the first time, where do you take them?
E: Hole Doughnuts!