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. 


Am I Too Old For Magic | Walt Disney World Photography by Rachel Abrahams

I absolutely adore reading. I have always been an avid reader and didn't let the "required reading" of school/college even try to beat that out of me but I also have learned when I get sucked into a book everything else in my world disappears. That can be both a good and a bad thing - I am engrossed in other worlds I could never imagine on my own but that also means my real life can get ignored. This isn't so bad if you can do it in healthy doses but healthy doses of reading is not something I am prone to do (so far this year, I've read 16 books. My goal for 2015 was 30.....).

It does mean I sometimes have to say to myself "you can read for 20 minutes AFTER you take care of X, Y, Z adult/boring life requirement" and the bargaining (typically) works. It's just like what my parents would have to do with me as a kid.  BTW - My mom once learned to be super specific in bargaining with me. She once said "No TV in the morning until you are dressed with your shoes on". The next morning she came out to me watching TV, in my pajamas, with my shoes on, and no socks. But I had my shoes on like she said!

I think it's healthy for adults to keep their childlike wonder and imagination. I absolutely admit I am the first to line up to see the movies with fantasy, superheroes, and magic (yup, I have almost every Disney animated movie, the extended edition Lord of the Rings trilogy, all the Marvel Avengers movies, and all of the Harry Potter movies as well and that's just the tip of the nerd-collection-iceberg).

I also love living near the theme parks and have been an avid lifelong Disney fan with annual passes and also recently added Universal Studios to my favorites list. I run inside just as fast as the kids and giggle and scream like I was 10 years old (to the embarrassment of those with me - I know they love me and tolerate my idiocy with some deep sighs and probably a little side eye too).

Books spark the flame of magic and then movies and theme parks take those amazing worlds even further by actualizing them into what you always imagined. I find it all to be perfectly complimentary, honestly.

As I was home sick for a week with a cold, I needed comfort and I reached out immediately to my favorite books and movies which I realized were all intended for young adults and kids. I wondered - is this lame? Am I seriously in denial of trying to be an adult and instead disappearing into these alternate worlds where I can fly, do magic, and even battle evil with superpower skills I could never have in real life?

My answer - a resounding hell to the yes. Why? Because it's awesome. Do I really need to explain myself? Nope. Am I too old for this magic and wonderment? Some might say yes but those are also people who are lame or unwilling to admit it's UBER FUN to be get sucked into these alternate worlds.

I know I am not alone in this.

Now, if you'll excuse me I am going to get back to my book I promised myself I could keep reading when I finished this post.........

Beautimous Florida Sunset On The Beach |Beach Photography by Rachel Abrahams

I live on the East Coast of Florida which means we have sunRISES over the beach - not sunsets. In other words, to see the beautiful light on the water I need to get up early and, well, that's really hard for me. I always promise myself I will get up really early on the weekend (cough), especially since I am up that early anyways during the week (cough cough), and go down to the beach for some sunrise photos (cough cough cough). I'm sorry - I keep coughing at my own good intentions (that I keep sleeping through). When I was invited to visit the West Coast of Florida, which meant I would finally see the sun set OVER the ocean, I was a happy little camper.

I do admit almost every time I visit the beach and see the sun setting, I think of my friend Justin who visited us "east coasters" when I was in college. We all went to the beach and to maximize our sun bathing time, we turned our towels toward the sun (away from the water) and Justin just laughed at us. He wanted to know why we would waste a perfectly good beach visit by not facing the actual ocean. Then he plopped down his chair into the sand, facing the water, and continued to make fun of and cracked up at us. I had to remind him our sun doesn't set over the ocean. When he pointed out he's from the west coast of Florida and they get the joy every day of seeing the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico, I was quite green with the jelly monster.

Ever since having that conversation, I craved seeing the sun set over the ocean and wasn't going to miss my photographic chance when I finally got to see it.

Getting back to my west coast visit; A storm passed through prior and its remnants hung around during sunset. The colors were intense and began as pastels, deepening into amazing blues, and then ending the light show in purples. Each time I'd think I saw the best the sunset had to offer it would shift into a new color level. I stayed down on the beach for close to an hour - which did result in getting eaten alive by the sand fleas. I didn't care and called the bites my badge of honor.

Looking at these photos, it was definitely worth it.