I looked through some old blog posts recently (it’s hard to believe I’ve been at this thing seriously for two years now!), and what I notice the most when I’m gettin’ in my feels on a blog post is this theme of balance. Taking time for yourself. Saying NO to things so you can say YES to what you really need. I’ve said it a million times: I overextend myself. I have a tendency to do too much. I need to slow down. I need to take care of myself. It’s there, in a hundred different phrases with a hundred different deliveries (all eloquent and witty, of course, I’m sure).
So this week at the beach with my family is a reminder to myself that this is exactly what I didn’t know I needed. Walking for miles on the beach, collecting sea shell after sea shell, running the dogs until we all can’t breathe and we’re panting and happy. I’m having some adult beverages and a lot of water, going to bed early to get up and meet the sun, and trying to stretch my brain playing Scattergories at night – and giggling when we come up with crazy words and fight for justification.
I know there are beach people and mountain people and indoor people and all kinds of other people, but the beach has always been my happy place. Every year as a kid, my family took a trip to the beach and as an adult, the beach just brings me back to that feeling. The feeling of having nothing you have to do, and being able to enjoy whatever you want with toes in the sand and wind in your hair. As an adult, I have to work a lot harder to be able to not have to do anything for a week…but it’s so worth it once you’re actually sitting in a chair, book in hand, waves rolling out in front of you.
360 degrees of beach watching
living their best life, running from waves
We don’t realize how much the stresses of day-to-day life get to us. We walk around tense and tight, with knots in our necks and shoulders because we try to push everything down so we can make it to the next thing. We do need to slow down and take care of ourselves, and even if it isn’t for a week at the beach or any type of vacation at all, we have to intentionally set time aside to breathe and just be. It’s just what we didn’t know we really, really needed.
Now I’m going to finish this post so I can go enjoy the ocean and challenge the sun with SPF 70 applications every two hours. I’ll keep you posted on the winner.
This week flew by. I was off Monday and Tuesday, and on Monday I worked for hours agonizing over my budget and how I can save and plan better next school year so I won’t need to have a summer job. Reality check. I also made a goal to really focus on being active this week, and I stuck to it! Small victories.
I mentioned my Fourth of July plans earlier this week, but it was such a great time! The food came out perfectly and it was so nice to just relax and kick back a little bit. We didn’t end up going to the baseball game, but it was nice just to stay home and be near the dogs and take it easy!
filet mignon, honey lime ginger grilled scallops (adapted from here), garlic rosemary sweet potatoes, and grilled balsamic brussel sprouts (andrew had brats and burgers like a true american)
I got my hair done last Saturday and I am loving it! It’s always nice to get a little refresher from Jamie at the Parlor. (I’ve been going to her for like 10 years, no joke).
My family is going on a beach vacation in August, which I am so excited about! I am looking at these and these. Also loving this coverup and this coverup that could also double as a cute summer dress!
Finally, I mentioned my best friend’s wedding in this post, and a couple of weeks ago we ordered our bridesmaid skirts and tops for the big day! I absolutely can’t wait to see how everything comes together. When I put on my outfit and imagined everything on the big day, it suddenly became really real to me that this is happening! I’ll be crying like a baby when Whitney walks down the aisle (what else is new?).
Back to life, back to reality…it feels like it has been a million years since I left for Aruba, and now I only have a few sweet days before Teacher Work Days start back up. I was so glad to get back to my doggies, friends, cozy bed, and my boo thang, but if I could have all of those things in Aruba…I’d move yesterday.
I’ll try to keep this short and sweet and let the pictures do most of the talking. I had the most amazing time; pictures and words can’t do it justice, anyway.
Sunday – All of our flights went off without a hitch on the way there and on the way back. We had some long-ish layovers, but that’s no biggie. When we arrived on the island (!!!), we went to the hotel and met Aunt Sherilyn and got our room squared away, and then immediately went out to the beach! The view from our room was awesome, and we went to a nearby beach bar called Carlitos for happy hour drinks (mojito for me!). My sister and I both had a delicious grilled grouper salad. We went back to Carlitos a couple of times on the trip because our server was so sweet and the atmosphere was perfect! After more beach time and getting ready, we had a late dinner at the Sea Breeze with our group (my Aunt Sherilyn, her best friend Cay, a family friend Cindy, and Mom, Emily, and me!). It was so nice that first night eating outside and having the waves and the wind all around us.
Monday – We had a group sight seeing tour of the island! That was so amazing. We rode around, stopping at a few different places – the Aruba Aloe factory, which was awesome, a huge rock formation, a chapel with a beautiful view, the Aruba Natural Bridge, and a lighthouse. We had fresh, fresh smoothies (most of us got coconut, and don’t judge me, but I can’t stand coconut so I got mango). And I got to hold a bird!!! I love all animals, so I was really pleased. When we got back to the hotel, we walked to grab a quick lunch at Dushi Bagels and Burgers. Dushi means sweetheart in Aruba’s native language, Papiamento. That afternoon, Mom, Cindy, Emily, and I rented jet skis which was SO FUN, and then we hit the beach for a while. At night, we got dolled up for a late dinner with everyone at The Pelican Nest (with birthday festivities for Aunt Sherilyn’s 70th!). The Pelican Pier is where a lot of tourist events leave from on boats, and on the back of the pier is the restaurant, The Pelican Nest, and we had the best server named Carlos. We just loved him!
Tuesday – After working out, Mom, Em, and I met up with everyone at Starbucks and walked on the beach with our coffees, did a little bit of shopping in town, and had lunch at The Old Fisherman. Most of our meals were seafood, of course! But everything I ate all week was delectable. When we got back from shopping, we (you’ll never guess it) went to the beach. Tuesday night we had a big party bus pub crawl through Kukoo Kunuku party bus! That was one of the favorite things we did. Everyone was so nice, the music was great, and my 70 year old aunt was cutting loose with the rest of them, dancing and having such a wonderful time! (Good clean fun, people.)
Wednesday – This was a really relaxing day. We had a beach day, and then my aunt and I had a massage + facial and it was the most soothing time ever. I felt like a new woman when I came out of that spa! And I looked like I was about 12. That night, we went on a sunset cruise, which included a late dinner at The Pelican Nest again (with our server, Carlos!). The sunsets and sunrises were absolutely breathtaking. I would take a picture and immediately be upset that it didn’t show how beautiful the island really is.
Thursday – I saw a pelican on my beach jog with Emily! He was super cool and probably less impressed with us. We found a little beach hut that had breakfast sandwiches and a bloody mary bar called Scott’s Brats. We grabbed Mom, got breakfast, and went across the street to some market shops and found a cute little jewelry store. We had to say goodbye to Aunt Sherilyn and Cay, so we did a birthday champagne toast before seeing them off! Mom, Emily, and I finished out our trip by taking a snorkeling cruise, which was one of the coolest things I have ever done. I’m terrified of the ocean, but I did it! We all went for dinner at a Mexican restaurant called Iguana Joe’s, and then had to pack up to leave the next day 🙁
Friday – This was our last beach day, and the only day my sister and I didn’t get up and work out, even though we had high hopes for a morning swim. I’m glad we didn’t make it, because later we found out there had been a lot of sharks feeding that morning! Yikes!!! Sharks are literally one of my biggest fears. We walked to get a breakfast sandwich, lathered in the absolute last drops of our sunscreen, and had a little bit of beach time. Finally, we hopped down the street for a pistachio ice cream and checked out. Our flights back were seamless, and we went through both Aruba & US Customs when we left Aruba, so when we landed in the US, we were good to get our bags and head home! We were all so exhausted at that point, but we just kept talking about what a fabulous trip it was. The locals were so kind, the weather was perfect, and the food was amazing.
Mostly, I think I loved just having some quiet moments to sit, feel the breeze, be in my head, relax, and recharge. We all need that from time to time, whether it’s on a mesmerizing Caribbean island, at the beach, a lake, or even just sitting on your own patio. We need time to be thoughtful, thankful, and peaceful. Believe me, I know how incredibly blessed I am for being gifted this trip. Sometimes we need to take some time out from the real world to be able to come back swinging. And here I am, rested up and rejuvenated just in time to kick off a new school year!
This time last year, I was taking a break from teaching (actually, I thought I’d never be back in the classroom) and I worked in a corporate training job that allowed me to travel quite a bit. Since I traveled so often, I got pretty good at packing light and being resourceful with my travel items.
My sweet, funny, and world-traveling aunt is taking me on a trip this weekend to ARUBA!!! I can’t believe it! My mom and sister are also going, and we will celebrate my aunt’s 70th birthday in style – she has planned everything to a T and I feel incredibly blessed to get to go on this trip that I would otherwise not be making until maybe my honeymoon or…never (did I mention I am a teacher in North Carolina? Not exactly money bags over here). I wish more of my family could go because we always have the best time together, but we can’t have everything we want. Aruba is a tiny island right above Venezuela, and my sister and I will attend a wedding in Asheville before flying with our mom to meet our aunt in the Caribbean!
Here are my best travel tips, honed from years of over-packing:
1. Make a list. MAKE. A. LIST. Traveling is no time to wing it and if you’re a Type A, detail-loving, listing champion like I am, this is a no-brainer anyway. But if you’re not, trust me. Make a list. Cross it off as you pack things and add to it as you think of new things. You can make the list on your phone, too (I’m not even ashamed to say I made one on my phone first, and then transferred it to paper because there’s nothing like physically marking something off a list).
2. Check the weather where you will be. It is always smart to pack an extra sweater/jacket or travel-sized umbrella, because you just never know.
3. Pack extra underwear, but not extra clothes. You can roll up your clothes to save space, but that doesn’t mean you need to bring your whole closet. Stick to things you know you always feel comfortable and good-looking in. Don’t branch out on that ‘if I am feeling thin that day’ dress. Pack the one you know you can let it all hang out in. There’s nothing worse than packing something and then not wanting to wear it when you get to where you’re going.
4. If you have hanging clothes or silky/wrinkle prone clothes but have to pack them up, roll them and lay them lightly on top of your suitcase. Pack a wrinkle release spray for when you take them out and hang them up…which should be pretty much immediately when you get to where you are going. Most hotels have an iron, but I kind of refuse to iron and this is how I do it.
5. Make sure you have the most essential items you need, but understand that it is 2016, and anything you forget can probably either be provided by your hotel, bought easily, or go without being missed too much. You need underwear, you need some clothes, some bathroom items, and probably a phone charger…but everything else is just fluff. We are not our things. We do not need to pack our entire lives for a week long vacation. (See number 1)
Here are some of the essentials I always take with me on trips:
This Mary Kay travel roll-up bag was given to me as a gift a couple of Christmases ago, and I love this thing so much. It has four zipper pouches with velcro on the back. They’re clear plastic, so you can easily find your items, pull out a pouch if you need it, and clean them out without any hassle. In my four pouches I keep the following ESSENTIAL TRAVEL ITEMS:
Pouch 1: all of my makeup. I keep it pretty simple…I generally use the same face and eye makeup every day, so I pack that, then add a few lipsticks and maybe an extra eyeshadow palette – that way I’m covered no matter what comes up.
Pouch 2: all of my shower items. I use containers that I get at Target and fill them up with my everyday shower items and body lotion. I used to have fun buying little travel shampoos and body washes, but my skin and hair like what they like. I have found that it’s best for me to stick to what I know – plus, it’s a little bit of home every time I shower on vacation.
Pouch 3: other bathroom toiletries. A travel q-tips case, hair ties, bobby pins, a couple of duck bill clips for styling my hair, toner, moisturizer, cotton pads, eye drops, tooth brush, travel-sized tooth paste, travel-sized deodorant, makeup remover wipes, and a disposable razor or two.
Pouch 4: random but often needed travel items. Tums, ibuprofen, wrinkle release spray, small lint roller, clorox wipes, and a small first aid kit and nail kit. You never know when you’ll get a headache or tummy ache on a trip. I also keep band-aids, neosporin, and a small manicure kit in case of blisters, cuts, broken nails, etc.
I tie a small travel-sized loofah to the handle on top of the bag. When you roll it up, it’s a nice little carrying case and fits nicely in a corner of your suitcase or carried separately if you don’t have size limitations.
Miscellaneous travel info: I always pack one pair of casual shoes that I can wear every day if needed, one pair of nicer shoes for a nice meal out or an event I might be attending, and a pair of tennies. I always try to keep up with some sort of exercise while I’m traveling so I don’t fall off the deep end, especially since vacation, in my book, is no time for strict dieting. Flip flops are a must if a beach or pool may be involved.
I always start off with the items I know I’ll always forget if I don’t write them down, like my phone charger, fitbit charger if it’s a longer trip, laptop charger, any medications, and a notebook. I love to write, and I always like to keep a notebook handy in case I feel inspired or need to make a list about something. I like to keep travel journals, too – so I plan on doing that for this Aruba trip!
Finally, instead of buying a million new things for your trip, try borrowing some of your clothes/shoes/accessories from a friend! It is new to you, you haven’t had any pictures in it, and you can get it for FREE.99. Win-win! I am borrowing a bathing suit cover up and this fun, bright yellow clutch from my BFF Whitney (corgi not included).
And here are the two extras that I have purchased specifically for this Aruba trip, because I know my skin, I know that I will be near the equator, and I know that I need extra help (fair-skinned people, can I get an AMEN?!).
Neutrogena beach defense SPF 70 sunscreen. This goes on smooth, smells great, and offers more protection than my usual 30 I have used in past summers. After many careful but failed attempts, I just can’t trust the spray-on sunscreens.
A plain black Rash guard for wearing a few hours a day to cover areas most prone to burning, or in the tragic event that I actually do get a sunburn and have to stay covered up. This one will match any of my bathing suits.
That’s it! I could go on and on (and sort of have), but I am so excited about my trip and it feels good to have an organized system to tackle a week long trip in another country, even if it will mostly be laying in the sun 🙂 Please send good vibes for my blindingly white skin.
Follow me on instagram to see pictures from my trip!