Why I Love My Tiny Little Beach Town by Rachel Abrahams

Satellite Beach, Florida

Satellite Beach, Florida

“Oh man, I had to play dodge the surfer this morning.” Yes, this was an actual statement I made recently. I was chatting with my boss about my drive into work that morning and there was a hurricane off the coast which was causing predicted “epic waves” for a record number of days. As a result, the surfers (and those who hadn't broken out their boards in years), were flocking to the beach in my town in droves. It was considered so normal when a converted school bus full of surfers parked in the grocery store parking lot for the weekend and was a campsite for the big group of surfing out of towners, no one blinked an eye.

It's moments like these where I realize exactly how unique where I live really is. There is an entire culture built around the ocean and the rivers surrounding our barrier island and it permeates everything from the clothes, the restaurants, the language, and what's considered normal (like watching surfers run barefoot across the road with their boards in hand every day). It really gets into your soul. You can't help it when your drive to work every day is parallel to the ocean on one side and a river on the other, driving up a tiny strip of land where sometimes I can see both the ocean and the river at the same time.

I don't say these things to brag. I honestly tell you this is my normal and I know that the day I forget to appreciate it is the day I need to get a solid slap upside the head (with ensuing stars circling around my face like a cartoon).

Satellite Beach, Florida

Satellite Beach, Florida

I moved here when I was 10 years old and it was a very interesting transition for me (I had lived most of my childhood in the Middle East and missed the 80’s in the U.S.). When I arrived, everyone was rocking their corduroy Billabong jackets, Reef flip flops, looooong beach hair (both girls and guys), bathing suits underneath their school clothes, and saying things like “dude”, “awesome”, and “totally”. Now, I am an auburn haired, see through pale, freckled, not a size 0 in shorts (so I couldn't shop at the surf stores), allergic to pretty much all seafood, and generally not a fan of the sun kind of gal so I naturally spent the next 8 years of my life trying to be a beach bunny like my friends. All I achieved was a healthy fear of sun burns, an inability to retain a tan, and I surfed once (on a longboard the size of a Cadillac) where I did successfully stand up but it didn't convince me to try again (did you know the best surfing is super obnoxiously early in the morning? Uh, no thanks).

Needless to say, when I left my tiny beachside town for college I was off and running to a place that actually had seasons. I came home sparingly for the next 6 years until circumstances outside of my control forced me to move back here. 

Satellite Beach, Florida

Satellite Beach, Florida

At first when I moved back, all I did was plan on when I was leaving again. It felt like too small of a town and my reasons I felt like an outsider in high school were still there. Then I realized the problem wasn't the beachside town – it was me. Every time I went on a trip elsewhere, I realized how much I missed home. I missed the water everywhere, surfer influenced restaurants, the ocean noise in the late evenings, people deciding if it’s worth it to go somewhere if it means going over the causeway to “the mainland”, random surfer magazines at the entrances of local establishments, the laid back attitudes, and even the tourists (a little bit). When I came back into town and got to drive on the causeway connecting the mainland to my barrier island that crossed over the rivers while facing the ocean, I'd realize I was taking a deep meditative breath and relaxing knowing I had arrived……home.

I've embraced the community now and enjoy it on my own terms because when I looked around I realized that was exactly what everyone else was doing. Despite stereotypes, you don't have to be a beach bunny or surfer boy to enjoy living here. It just took me entering my 30s to finally realize the obvious. I typically go to the beach at sunrise or sunset (avoiding the sunburn times of the day), tried kayaking for the first time recently on a nighttime bioluminescent tour (it was fantastic and magical and I had the most amazingly patient friend who taught me how to paddle), enjoy watching the surfers, and accepted that my Flintstone feet are not going to fit into the dainty thin strapped Reef flip flops and instead rock the wide straps (they aren’t flattering but have lasted me 10 years and are SO comfortable).

Satellite Beach, Florida

Satellite Beach, Florida

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are negatives. It’s hot. Like really hot. There are mosquitoes everywhere, a tendency for alligators wherever there is deep enough standing water, no seasons (we Floridians celebrate when it gets below 80 and some even break out their winter coats from the 80s when it gets below 75), and sometimes I do wish I wasn’t in a small town where it’s almost guaranteed you will see someone you know from high school right after leaving the gym with no makeup, disgusting hair, and an insanely unflattering gym kit on.

Those negatives are minimal compared to the positives. I see dolphins and manatees multiple times a week on my drive to work. I can see the ocean now from the back deck of my house. If I want to visit the beach, it’s not a huge production and all I have to do is walk across a 4 lane road and stop by for a few. My friends from New England pointed out how lucky we are to have so many public beach accesses and I realized how right they were. I am finally embracing everything this tiny beach town has to offer because I was too narrow minded focusing on what I wasn’t when I was younger to see it for everything it has to offer.

Honestly, it’s pretty magical here. It only took me until I was 34 years old to get my act together and figure it all out. Better late than never, right?

P.S. If you like the beach, I share my walks and other beachside adventures on snapchat. My username is rach.abrahams

Enjoying Your Own Company | Beach Photography by Rachel Abrahams

Raise your hand if the idea of going to a restaurant or movie alone sounds like your personal nightmare. 

Until recently, I had no idea just how many people felt this way and won't do things alone and it truly surprised me. Is this because they worry if they were at a restaurant alone, others would look at them and judge?

I call this mentality the "High School Cafeteria" thinking. Remember in high school how you were so convinced, while walking into the cafeteria, all eyes were on you? I know, in the movies that's exactly what happens but in reality, everyone is so busy worrying about themselves, they really don't notice you. Ok, that sounds harsh but it's not meant to be. People generally are not paying attention because they are also worried about everyone's eyes being on them and trying to act like they don't care. See the irony? 

Maybe it's because I am an only child but I have absolutely no issues going to the movies alone, eating by myself in a restaurant, or even going shopping. I tell people this and I usually get a very surprised look and they say "You went alone? Why?" Well, why not? I wanted to see a certain movie or eat at a certain place and just because I couldn't find a partner in crime, I was not going to let that stop me from enjoying myself.

Honestly, sometimes I really have a lot of fun just doing things alone. I highly recommend more people try it. 

Now, I know some people reading this are still thinking "No way, that sounds really lonely" and my response to that is - are you not good company? If you think spending an hour, by yourself, with your own thoughts is lonely it's time to reshape your thinking. Let me list some of the benefits of doing things on your own.

1. It strengthens your independence. When you remove the need to always have someone by your side, you grow in your confidence and independence. You learn to trust your decisions because you stop relying on others' opinions and just do it. Whatever you want - you just go with it. No more looking around to confirm your decision based on others' opinions. It's just you, so trust your gut.

2. You find out how awesome you are. Maybe it's just me, but I have this crazy need to make everyone like me. It took a long time for me to realize I judged myself based on how I felt others saw me. Once I decided to hang out with myself - with no one to try to please or make my friend - I stopped behaving like the dancing monkey and really thought about what made ME happy. It was an incredibly eye opening experience that made me a better person. 

3. How do you like your eggs? Remember that scene in Runaway Bride where he points out all of her favorite ways to eat eggs were always a mirrored reflection of how her fiance's liked their eggs? When you try new things on your own, you learn very quickly (without the influence of people around you) what you truly enjoy and what you'd prefer to avoid when you are spending your precious minutes alone. For example, when my husband is out of town I love to eat at my favorite, mainly vegetarian, restaurant. I love the food and I know he would not enjoy it so I go on my own. It's my favorite retreat.

4. Silence becomes truly golden. How often do you find difficulty falling asleep at night because the thoughts buzzing around your brain are distracting you, the silence is deafening, and it's all keeping you awake? That's probably because this is the first time all day (week? month?) you've been alone with your thoughts and now the tidal wave is hitting you in the silence. The more time you spend letting your brain process your thoughts, to do's, and dreams without a million distractions, the more likely at the end of the day your brain will stop trying to make you pay attention to it and actually let you recover. Why? Because you already took the time earlier in the day to listen to yourself.

5. Did you know you are important? Many of us put ourselves last (color me guilty). When you make the conscious decision to spend time alone and enjoy your own company you are also deciding to put yourself first.......and there is nothing wrong with that. I once heard the phrase "whenever you say yes to something, you are also saying no to something else". When you always say yes to others, you are always saying no to yourself. There has to be a compromise because you are also important. 

I don't say this so everyone will go rushing out to be alone and never invite a friend along again - that's not a good idea either. It's just nice spending time doing what you want, without having to answer to others, and being your own LIFE BOSS. Appoint yourself CEO of your time. If you don't, you will get lost in the wants and desires of everyone else without getting to figure out how much you adore bad-ass action flicks, spicy tuna rolls with extra wasabi, and long walks on the beach (for real, not in irony to be made fun of on a dating site).

And that would just be such a shame. 


Some People Call Me Foreign Kid | Getting To Know Me Series by Rachel Abrahams

I am a big believer that our life's stories shape how we view the world and especially how we create art. I realize although many of you appreciate my photography and enjoy reading my stories, you may not really know all that much about me. Today is my first post in a series I’ll be doing in the hopes of giving you a chance to “see behind the curtain”. Along with these fun facts, I have decided to share some of my favorite photos I have taken so far in this photography adventure.

I spent the majority of my childhood until I was 9 years old living in the Middle East. We lived in Turkey and then Saudi Arabia and by being there I missed the 80’s (as I jokingly say). When I came to the United States, New Kids on the Block and L.A. Gear were all the rage, I had only seen a Nintendo once before, and I had no idea what MTV was (let alone a Bon Jovi or Def Leppard). Immediately upon my arrival in my class the girl I sat next to grabbed me, shoved a Teen Bop magazine photo of New Kids On The Block at me, and pointed at Danny telling me “we all picked our boyfriends and he can be yours”. I just wanted to fit in, despite my weird clothes and moving from a country none of the kids in my class had heard of, so I just nodded my head and said “Uh, sure, ok” and let them sweep me up into their play world of dating boy band celebrities I had never heard of (by the way – I figured out quickly the girls had given me the leftover member of the band, the one they didn’t think was cute. So generous). It helped to have this group of "friends" during this transition where kids would say "You lived in Turkey? Like INSIDE a Turkey? I bet that smelled AWFUL (yuck yuck yuck)". Smart kids, I tell ya. 

I pretty much spent the next 15 years of my life having people reference phrases, movies, and pop culture I had never heard of and then getting the wide eyed look when they would incredulously say “You’ve never seen THE BREAKFAST CLUB?!?!?!?” in a tone only dogs could hear and then they would take me by the hand to educate me on whatever essential U.S. pop culture I had missed out on.

Living overseas for my childhood is something I cherish every single day. I wear it like a badge of honor and embrace how it altered my perception of the world around me. I saw a mixture of cultures so very different than what I now knew as home (Florida) and, as a result, it made me constantly question the WHY of doing things. I push hard at the answer of “we’ve always done it this way” because I have personally experienced how others do things and know there can always be a better system to get stuff accomplished.

It also put me slightly on the fringe of my peers which, instead of hiding it away and trying to make myself blend as much as possible (like most teens), I embraced it fully and actually made it part of the package deal of my friendship. Oh, you want to be friends with me? Be forewarned I can sometimes be a bit of a foreign kid, local news doesn’t interest me but international news does, sometimes I have no idea what movie/phrase/pop culture you are joking about, and I will tell stories of things I experienced as a kid which you will think is SO WEIRD (Oh, it’s NOT normal to see camels riding in the beds of trucks down the street? You don’t sit around a platter using pieces of bread as silverware? There’s more than 2 TV channels here and they are ALL in English???? My mind = blown). You’re good with that? Cool – let’s do this.

I credit this altered perception of the world for influencing my photography as well. I feel like experiencing something so distinctive automatically gave me permission to just push my boundaries and not fear the possible negative feedback saying it’s too much or too different. I’ve SEEN different. I’ve lived in a world completely unlike where I am today – and I loved it. I know I am incredibly lucky. I realize not everyone has this freedom automatically ingrained in them and I wish they did. I feel like it’s for the better when we push back. Push the envelope, live on the fringe, think differently – because absolutely beautiful things come from behaving differently and embracing being the weirdo.

I like to think I am a good example of that.

P.S. It is definitely a small world. In high school I figured out the girl in my math class also went to the same school as I did in Saudi Arabia, at the same time, and I found her in my yearbook. Also, I am currently friends with someone who lives near me here in Florida that ALSO went to the same school in Saudi Arabia, although we were several years apart. In this tiny Florida town, twice I have found people who had similar adventures to mine. 

Standing On The Edge Of The World | San Diego, California by Rachel Abrahams

I have been incredibly lucky to live near the ocean for most of my life. My entire world has been shaped by the ocean lifestyle of seeing people run across A1A with their surfboards in hand, skipping school to hang at the beach (which was half a mile from my high school), and everyone having their favorite beach to surf/swim/sunbathe at (because depending on what you were doing there was a beach that was better for it).

I recently moved to where I can actually see the ocean from our 2nd floor deck. I can hear the waves at night and smell the salt air when the wind is moving in the right direction. It is home and I am reminded on a daily basis how amazing it is to be here, especially after living many other places throughout my life. This is where I want to be.

Growing up, whenever I visited the beach I would stand at the water's edge with Florida behind me, the Atlantic Ocean ahead of me with Africa in the far far distance, and just stare out thinking about how I was on the edge of the continent and straight across from where I was standing was the other side of the world. It has always fascinated me.

When we visited California, I was super stoked to now be on the other side of the United States and get my toes into the sands connected to the Pacific Ocean. The beach was similar to Florida and yet so different. The preferences of different beaches was the talk of the locals (just like at home). It amazed me how far it was from the sandy beach to the ocean (Florida's is so small). Now here I was standing at the edge of the continent but I was staring at the other side of the world from a completely new direction. It was now California behind me with Asia in the far far distance. 

That may be my favorite thing about the beach. It reminds me I am a small part of this amazing world and yet with my toes touching the water I am physically connected to so much more than the tiny spot I am standing on. It has always fascinated me and I assure you it will never ever get old.