The “Jolene” singer is an honoree for National Geographic’s 2024 Travelers of the Year
The “Jolene” singer, who’s an honoree for National Geographic’s 2024 Travelers of the Year, spoke about what makes Dollywood theme park so special. In quotes from National Geographic shared exclusively with PEOPLE, Parton shared her love of the theme park's landscape.
“Well, we’re lucky to be in the part of the world that I believe is just absolutely the most perfect place that God has created, so we just look outside the window and those big, beautiful Smoky Mountains provide all the inspiration we could ever dream of finding,” says Parton in an exclusive quote.
Along with the surroundings, Parton says the people are at the forefront of Dollywood’s charm.
“The Smokies—and the wonderful people who work here—are what make Dollywood so different than many of the other theme parks around the world,” she adds. “We’re right on the front porch of the most-visited national park in the country, so we take what God gave us and use it to dream up the big dreams we want our guests to experience while they are here riding rides and making memories.”
She also gives a nod to her new resort, HeartSong Lodge & Resort, which she says “is designed so our guests can be close to nature; it almost feels like the Smokies have found a way to come right on inside.”
When it comes to her own personal travel philosophy, the legendary singer says she’s guided by the Golden rule.
“Treat others the way you want to be treated. Whether you’re hosting someone in your home—we call our Dollywood employees hosts because they are hosting our guests every single day in our ‘home’—or you’re a guest in their home, you should always treat them with love and compassion whether you’ve known them for 50 years or 5 minutes,” she says. “I also think everyone should enjoy the journey. That’s where some of your best memories are created and you usually find the inspiration for your next big dream!”
As life has gotten busier, Parton says she doesn't travel for pleasure as much as she used to in the past.
“Carl and I used to take our RV all around the country when I had more free time, but I stay so busy these days with my movies, my new Broadway play about my life and all of my music opportunities, that we just don’t have the chance to do that as often,” she says.
In the special instance that she does get time to chase her personal wanderlust dreams, the “9 to 5” singer says she prefers the road over any other mode of travel.
“I love traveling on the road because you’re able to see and experience places you might not be able to see when you’re flying over it all,” she says. “Flying, of course, gives us an opportunity to visit so many different places that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise, but for me, just taking a good old-fashioned road trip really just gets my mind flowing.”
And it’s while on road trips that she’s written some of her most iconic pieces of work.
“I can’t tell you how many hundreds of songs I’ve written on the road, but it’s pretty safe to say that if you’ve sung it, I probably wrote it on the road!” she reveals.
Naturally, two of her retired tour buses now reside at Dollywood “for guests to enjoy.”
“One of them is in the theme park so everyone can tour it, and the other one is at our DreamMore Resort and Spa so guests can stay on it and see what it’s like living like me on the road!” she says. “I wrote dozens of songs on that bus, so maybe it will inspire someone else now.”
Read more about Nat Geo's Travelers of the Year honorees at NatGeo.com/Travelers.
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