There’s Something About Dunedin

The more I explore the sunshine state, the more I realize I really, really love small towns. I actively seek out places that feel inviting, are small enough to explore on foot, and – ok – have at least one really great spot for an ice cream cone.

Funny then, that in my multiple past visits to Dunedin, I never ventured past the Dunedin Brewery and nearby 7venth Sun Brewing Company. (Turns out afternoons are easily lost when eating delicious food and sampling 3 too many craft brews.)

Dunedin, FL: A colorful, artsy city in the gulf coast of Florida that makes the perfect day trip

While the brewery scene is lively and worth experiencing, I knew this town had more to offer, so it was time for another visit. Continue reading “There’s Something About Dunedin”

There’s Gators on the Path Up There

“There’s gators on the path up there, if you want to get some good pictures.”

Aside from the guy we spotted off the path wearing mid-calf boots and poking the ground with what appeared to be a stick* (coincidentally after just having had a conversation about how this path might be a bit scary to walk alone because strange people are everywhere), this was the first person my mom and I had come across on our hike. He’d walked into my photo just as I was about to press the shutter and, noticing my camera, let us know what was ahead.

PaynesPrairie_February2016_009

Gators were the reason we’d come to Paynes Prairie Preserve in the first place – you’re guaranteed to see them on the La Chua trail. However, we didn’t expect to see them on our current path. The description of the Bolen Bluff Trail on our map had only read: “2.5 miles round trip. Named after a family of pioneers, this trail is a shady loop with a spur to a wildlife viewing platform. If lucky, observe the wild Spanish horses or the bison herd.” Continue reading “There’s Gators on the Path Up There”

Micanopy: Inviting, Photogenic and Totally Day-Tripable

When I first moved to Florida in 2012, I knew of little else in the state besides beautiful beaches and jam-packed theme parks. I didn’t think about open fields, quaint towns, or an abundance of state parks. And I certainly didn’t think of places like Micanopy.

If one word comes to mind after my half day spent in Micanopy, (pronounced Mick-ah-NO-pee – I’m not proud of how many times I botched the name) it’s inviting. The town is tiny with a population of less than 600 people and the main road is lined with old buildings, antique shops, and large trees covered in Spanish moss. It’s like a bite sized version of St. Augustine and Savannah, GA rolled into one. In other words, right up my alley for an afternoon of exploring.

The quaint downtown of Micanopy, FL

I owe the discovery of Micanopy to my mom. Always up for a day trip, she sent me an article a few months ago with a list of picturesque small towns in Florida and we decided to check out a few – Micanopy being one of the choices. Continue reading “Micanopy: Inviting, Photogenic and Totally Day-Tripable”

Show Up and Do It

Belize-ATM-Cave-Adventure-11-580x435
Image credit

Just yesterday, I finished reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It’s a book that came into my life at the exact right moment, a book about transformation during a period of change in my own life.

The book is all about a journey (life and following your dreams) serving as an important reminder that we are always traveling. It may not be towards the place we hoped or expected, but we’re traveling nonetheless.

More importantly, this book speaks to the truth that without action, we often can’t progress towards the very things we want so badly to achieve in our lives, relationships, careers, travels, personal development, and our futures. What good is all the research, planning, living inside of your head making yourself crazy (speaking from experience here) if you can’t show up and do it? “It” being your talent, dream, vision, purpose.

In reflecting on this, I’m instantly taken back to Belize:

It’s a few hours into my first caving experience and I’ve almost reached the main attraction of the ATM Cave Tour. I’ve spent the past few hours swimming, climbing, and scrambling over rocks and boulders to get here. But before me stands a ladder, propped up against the cave wall, illuminated by the glow of my headlamp. I’ve never liked ladders. I watch as, one by one, members of my group ascend the ladder and disappear into the cavern above.

“Next!”

My turn.

Going up isn’t nearly as terrible as anticipated. The adrenaline dissipates, making way for amazement to take over as I view ancient Mayan pottery, crystallized skulls, and a fully intact human skeleton from Mayan times known as “The Crystal Maiden” – the main attraction of the tour.

The ladder is completely forgotten until the moment I realize I have to go back down. (Cue anxiety.)

After expressing my concern with Ben, our guide, he decides to make me go down first. Great. He demonstrates where to place my feet and hands to ensure a safe descent. The first step is the hardest, but eventually I start descending. Knees weak, legs turned to human Jell-O, I’m afraid I’ll just fall the rest of the way down. But I make it.

At the time, I laughed it off and made fun of myself, but long after I saw the situation in a new light. It was one of those rare moments in which I allowed myself to become completely vulnerable and afraid. It was 30 seconds of pure fear and uncertainty, but I made it down and so did everyone else. Full disclosure: the Snickers bar awaiting me at the bottom may have had something to do with this…

When I’m traveling, I have a tendency to just go for it. I face my fears, participate in activities I might normally say no to, and often act more fearlessly than when at home. I show up, and I do it. And I always leave less afraid, renewed self-confidence in tow.

In short, I’ve shown up and done it in regards to so many things in my life and travels. Why not treat my ambitions and dreams with the same fervor and respect?

Here’s to embracing the uncertainty, getting to know your fears, and showing up to take action towards what your heart is begging you to do.

Welcome to Travel Taste Click

Bicycle in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye BelizeHave you ever had a travel experience that taught you something about yourself?

For me, that trip was Belize in June of 2015. I traveled there as part of a group of 7 women, all of them family. While on the surface it was sunshine, laughter, adventure, and good eats, on a deeper level it was a beginning.

I’d been feeling lost and stuck for months prior (blame it on being in my twenties) and didn’t know what to do with myself. So, I threw myself into getting ready for and planning the entire trip. It was a blast reading about other people’s experiences, scouring TripAdvisor reviews, and reading guidebooks. What can I say? I’m a planner through and through. It took my mind off of the stress, uncertainty and disappointment in myself that I was feeling.

A little background: for most of high school I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life after graduation..until I found my way to a darkroom junior year. I had a natural eye for photography, although I kind of scoff at my stereotypical railroad track pictures now. My incredibly supportive parents drove me around to photo locations and patiently waited while I “got the shot.” For the first time in my life, I actually felt like I’d found something. I soon enrolled in art school and received my degree in photography.

The Split, Caye Caulker BelizeIn school, I created constantly and was surrounded by like-minded people who gave me sometimes harsh, but necessary, critiques of my work. Even when I thought I was burnt out, I could still create and improve. Yet when I graduated, I just kind of…quit. I can’t say what it was really. Too much pressure on myself to succeed? Laziness? Creative burnout? I think it was complete and utter lack of confidence. I was afraid, so I did what I always do when I am afraid…retreated to my safety bubble and stopped trying.

Over the years, my passion faded. I didn’t carry my camera everywhere with me and I let my fear of not being good enough overwhelm me. Belize changed that. I was excited to take my camera. I even got my camera CLEANED for the occasion. (Big deal. My poor camera.) And when I got there, I took a ton of pictures. More importantly, I was excited about them and having fun again. When I got home, I felt relieved. I’d been doubting my creativity and whether or not I was meant to pursue any form of photography at all, but this was the affirmation I needed to get over myself and start trying.

Sailboat on Ambergris CayeI came home and edited photos, but I also wanted to write. I didn’t want to be stuck. I reached out to a friend who has since turned into a mentor, and I wrote about my trip, my fingers not always able to keep up with my mind.

Looking back now, I truly appreciate that trip for the lesson it was. I learned that I can do things that scare me and overcome those fears. I learned how good it feels to push myself when things are scary and uncertain and then come out on the other side alive and well. I learned that creativity is my passion, along with helping others and using my creative talents to do so.

It was the food, the experiences, and the feeling of being present that made me feel so happy and alive in Belize. And upon coming home, I realized those are the things I love about living in Orlando too.

It’s the satisfaction of finding a new local restaurant around the corner, or laughing with complete strangers at a local brewery over a couple beers. It’s feeling exhilarated after spending 3 hours inside of a dark cave full of Mayan pottery and human remains climbing slippery rocks (and scary ladders – more on that later). Or the simple joy of finding a coconut stand at the downtown farmer’s market and sipping fresh coconut juice with someone you love, sitting by a lake while a stranger plays guitar in the background. These are the moments I live for and seek out. The great eats, the challenging and exciting experiences, and the simple moments. And through it all, photographing and writing about those things to preserve them as best I can.

Life, unfortunately, cannot be an endless vacation. But if we’re open to it, there are wonderful experiences to be had, foods to be discovered, and simple moments to be relished and celebrated no matter where in the world we are.

These are the things you’ll find here. Welcome to travel taste click!