Florida

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. 

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Breaking My Own Photography Barriers by Rachel Abrahams

My mind's eye never stops "composing" shots. It's incessant.

 It's something I've done since I picked up a camera and made it my own when I was 13 years old. Back then, I took more social shots of friends and classmates. I would catch them unaware or make people pose into fun shots. It made me so happy to print them out and share with anyone who was in the shots. 

In high school, I was introduced to journalism, received basic photography training, and it was off to the races. With just a wee bit of training, everywhere I looked I saw potential photos. As the years go by, it's pretty much all I see when I am out and about. As the sun goes down, I ooh and aww over the colors and my poor husband has to say "Yes, honey. Nice (insert thing I oohed over here)". 

Having an iPhone has really changed my photography and put the fun back into making creative photos on the fly. It's removed the barriers between the beauty I see in front of me and sharing it with my creative touch added. 

I used to hesitate and not make the pictures super colorful or add layers of textures and light leaks. Now I tell myself "Screw it. Do whatever you want". And you know what's happened? The more authentic I've been with my creative touch on my photos -the better the response.I don't care anymore about the "rules", whatever they may be. I just make art that makes me happy now. 

So, what make me happy now? Stopping mid-step (with no regard for my safety) to take that perfect shot against the setting sun. Nearly driving off the road while attempting to hold my phone up to the open window to catch a drive by (just kidding, mom). Seeing an amazing possible photo in the distance, U-turning like a crazy lady and parking in random spaces to whip out my phone. Ignoring the looks from people who see me squatting low to the ground and taking magical shots. Layering, tweaking, coloring, and letting my imagination have it's way with editing the photos. All that makes me cheese like a kid being offered all the candy in the world.

......And seeing all the happy smiley feedback I get from Instagram when I share. It's an amazing community that has transformed my work over this last year. If you're not on there, I highly encourage it. You can follow me and "My Florida Life" on Instagram -here.

Are there rules getting in the way of you doing something you love? Do you view the world in a special way where the details always catch your eye? What barrier do you have that's preventing you from being super creative? I wanna know, so share in the comments below.

**All photos were taken and edited on my iPhone**

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Hogsmeade In Real Life | Universal Studios Photography Harry Potter by Rachel Abrahams

Islands of Adventure Harry Potter - Hogsmeade Entrance - Spell Limits Sign by Aspiring Images by Rachel

I recently decided to re-read the Harry Potter series from start to finish. I was watching one of the movies and realized I was now remembering the stories based on the movie plot lines and forgetting a lot of the amazingly intricate details and characters from the books. I mean, there were entire plot lines and characters removed from the movies (Hello, Peeves the Poltergeist - you were sorely missed).  I'll admit, I read the first 4 books several times but the last 3, I read only once each so my memories were also a bit fuzzy due to lack of repetition.

I've been totally nerding out over the books and it has been getting me super amped over the expansion opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, scheduled to open this summer. Yes, that means it's only MONTHS away before we get to see Diagon Alley, including Gringotts Bank, in super-sized real life. I know it's going to be slammed with visitors, so I will just have to be patient and wait a bit, like I did when the first part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened with Hogsmeade Village and Hogwarts. At the beginning, they would actually start turning people away from just that section of the park (!) it was so full of visitors. That's redonkulous.

The movies were still pretty amazing. It was my first chance to see what I'd imagined now visualized but getting to actually walk around what I'd only imagine or saw in the movies? Absolutely fantastic.

My patience paid off and when I visited it was a perfectly pleasant amount of visitors. Don't let the photos fool you, even though the roofs are snow topped, it was pushing 100 degrees the day we visited (Yay, Florida! Blech). I even found a new ride that is my most favorite ride - ever - and that says a lot since I am such a Disneyphile. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (which takes place inside Hogwarts castle on the property) is an insane mix of visuals, movement, and storyline. It's very original and I was absolutely blown away. My advice? Don't drink adult beverages beforehand. Well, at least not too many.

You know the one thing I didn't try even though I'd been dying to do so ever since reading about it in the books? Butterbeer. The line was about 30 people deep and I was just not having it. I'm also spoiled with the mentality of thinking "Next time, I'll hit it up". Most people who visit don't have that luxury and have to now-or-never these things. I've seen some interesting knock-off recipes for butterbeer on Pinterest. Tempting, but I'd rather wait for the real deal. FYI - It's alcohol free. Yeah, I can hear the adults groaning now. There's nothing wrong with spicing it up yourself, right? Hmmm, what liquor goes with Butterbeer? I bet Google has the answer. I can't be the only person who has wondered this.

Islands of Adventure Harry Potter - Hogsmeade Entrance - Hogsmeade by Aspiring Images by Rachel
Islands of Adventure Harry Potter - Hogsmeade Entrance - Hogsmeade by Aspiring Images by Rachel

Who are my fellow Harry Potter obsessives? Raise your hand if you've only watched the movies and never read the books (ain't no shame)? Have you tried the real Butterbeer and did it live up to your imagination? Anyone else drink possibly one too many before riding a topsy-turvy-spinny ride and live to tell the tale?