travel photos

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. 

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.........

Hold Onto Your Shorts, January | Beach Sunset Photography by Rachel Abrahams

Sand Crossover Sea Grass by Aspiring Images by Rachel

My theme for this month of January? Hold onto your shorts.

I thought with the end of the Holidays, the new year would start off allowing me to eeeaaasseee on down the road like The Wiz......apparently not. It has been fast and furious both at work and with life at home. I typically fall into bed like a sack of potatoes and I'm asleep. It's ok though. I am not ashamed in admitting I just put my Christmas tree away. Well, it's now in it's box which has yet to make it to the garage. That's pretty much away, right?

Why so blase about this? Well, I spent most of last year learning how to just chill the eff out about silly things. I worked really hard on letting go of the things that I just have no control over and taking a stand on the things I can. So, the naked Christmas tree standing in my living room staring at me for most of January? I decided it could wait. Instead, I focused on working my new goals this year both personally and professionally. Have I maintained them? No, I already dropped the ball but that's ok. I just try, try again.

I decided to start a daily gratitude journal. Just a little something to remind me when I am feeling all dramatic and nobody loves me (so I'm gonna eat some worms) I can refer to this and enjoy those things that make me feel grateful. I wrote in it for 5 days and then it's sat dormant in my purse the remainder of the month. It's cool. I'll re-start soon. Maybe even tonight? My hope (and I already started it) is to convert it into a smash book. I used to love scrapbooking and this is a way chill version with a lot less rules. Totally more my style.

I also realized the amount of books I read last year was just abysmal so I went on Goodreads, upped my book challenge, and have already read 2 books this month. Remember that Christmas Tree in my living room? It's been my book reading buddy. Read a book or put away the tree? Yeah, there's no question there.

As for this year? I decided I want to live a lot more positively. My daily question I now ask myself is did I make someone happy, help someone out, reach out to someone I haven't spoken to in awhile, and/or let someone know how special they are to me? If I can say yes to even one, it's been a great day. I've been doing this for awhile though - probably since last August - and it's been fantastic.

So yeah, January is almost over and I am just now getting a blog post out but, honestly, I kept getting really stuck on a topic and after my long days I would stare at the computer to inevitably decide sleep was more important. As for the topic, I finally went with honesty. I've been told that's the best policy.

Notice how I put lovely beach sunset photos in between my ramblings? I figured I'd give everyone the choice to:

A) Look at the pretty pictures

B) Read the randomness or

C) Do both and join my Awesome Possum Club. I should get around to making a sticker for that.

Anyone else working on personal/professional goals? Have you kept them going smoothly or randomly like me? Should I mention Floridians are complaining about 50 degrees as being cold while everyone else is experiencing snowpocalypse? Who else out there was annoyed at how soon they had pukey pink Valentine's stuff up in stores?

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.