I took a walk recently to the edge of the world – to a place where the sunset and the subtly crashing waves were all that the eye could see. I stepped barefoot through the Gulf of Mexico with the sky to my left and a beach in my toes. I have worked hard this semester of graduate school, and a relaxing weekend away from my daily routine proved both necessary and centering.
We spent a weekend in St. Teresa, Florida, a tiny beachfront community located along the Gulf of Mexico and about an hour South of Tallahassee. I shared this venture with my “sorority sisters” – my biological sister and our two biological sister neighbors, Emily and Hannah – all of us who share the roof of a double shotgun house in New Orleans.
The saying goes that everyone deserves some time away, but my experience holds this recess as an essential need to self-care. Many times, we do not even realize how badly our bodies need a break until we find ourselves looking back on our routines and thanking God that we have arrived somewhere new.
I found it only appropriate that our sunset walk took place on Florida’s “Forgotten Coast.” St. Teresa’s neighboring barrier island of Alligator Point houses a small beach community – one of natural beauty and little development. From the moment I stepped onto the white sandy beaches, all I wanted was to be forgotten for a few days.
I would be back to reality again soon, but routine and I took a break from each other during those days away. And, I centered my free soul again.
St. Teresa is the type of town that has a grocery store called “Supermarket” and a local seafood shop that would probably rake in the same amount of profit without a roof. The town caters to visitors, but not tourists. Individuals who live in nearby cities own beach homes in St. Teresa. Besides that, most others who come through town are friends of the local families. That is how we made it in.
During the days, we laid on the small, quiet beaches, getting up only to stroll for seashells or return to the beach house for refills of sangria. We watched dolphins swim near the shoreline and sanderlings run from the waves when the tides came in. At night, I soaped my sunburn in an outside shower enclosed with a wooden frame under the stars. As if standing under hot water on a clear 60-degree night wasn’t enough to put someone at complete peace, doing so under a bright, black-speckled sky made these moments complete.
At the end of the weekend, we drove the coastal roads back to New Orleans – a longer, but more beautiful option than the inland Interstate-10. We drove through beach towns like Panama City and Destin and ate dinner at a restaurant that overlooked Pensacola Bay. I remembered my place in the world when I watched Panama Beach spring breakers walk half naked along the streets decked in henna tattoos, hangovers and cut-off sorority t-shirts. At another time in my life, this would have been my idea of an ideal getaway. This trip, I was happy to spend my time alone with the conch creatures and the stars.
We may do it in our own ways, but we all need some time away.