For someone who really hates waking up early, I tend to book a lot of morning flights. After taking off from boise at 6:20am, eating an awful salad in the Phoenix airport around 9:30am, and getting stuck sitting next to a nosey middle aged woman for four hours, I arrived in Tampa, Florida. I was greeted by my best friend Demi and her boyfriend Lucca. The first thing we did after leaving the airport was head to the liquor store, because this was my birthday week and we were going hard. We walked through the university for a while before going back to their apartment and making lemonade spritzers. We loaded the hookah and caught up for the remainder of the night.
This was a birthday vacation, which meant I slept in almost every single day. I finally got around to getting ready for the day around 3:00pm. We went to some smoke shops and drove around before finding a spot to lay down on St. Petersburg Beach where we watched the sunset and jammed out to the Jonas Brothers. We had an early night because the following morning we left for Boca Raton.
The drive was easy, but certainly not quick. The four hours would’ve been worse if Demi and I weren’t screaming lyrics to our favorite throwbacks the whole drive. We arrived in Boca Raton shortly after 2:00pm. We went straight to my grandparents country club to use their extremely nice showers and bathroom. Demi and I showered and did our makeup again before Bubby and Zayde treated us for my birthday dinner. After dark, we went to the nearby beach and rolled in the cool sand before going to bed.
We were up early for the last time during this trip on day four. We went to the marketplace so I could buy a showerhead and get some quiche to eat at the beach. Would it really be a trip to Boca if I didn’t go to Deerfield Beach? Absolutely not. Unfortunately, the seagulls got our quiche before we did. We left Boca late in the afternoon and were back to Tampa in time to take shots at midnight for my birthday.
After staying up until ungodly hours, I was sleeping until midday. I was awake and ready in time to spend my birthday at Cheesecake Factory, aka, my one request for the trip. Someone in the restaurant must’ve known it was my birthday because they airdropped a naked woman to my phone. Nice.
What better way to celebrate turning 18 than getting tattoos?! After spending the next day searching for a parlor that was available for walk-ins, we finally made appointments. I ended up drawing the ugliest stick figure palm tree for my hip, and my zodiac sign for my elbow. Demi found a beautiful leaf for the ankle. She’s fearless about the placement of her tattoos.
On my final day in Florida, we had a lovely breakfast and I spent the rest of the day on an airplane or stuck in long layovers.
Aunt Tammy and I boarded our flight to San Francisco at the asscrack of dawn. This was one of my earliest flights ever, arriving at the airport at 4:30am. I fell asleep before the flight took off and didn’t wake up until it landed. We ran to our next gate and headed out to the gorgeous island of Kaua’i.
This was my first time to Hawaii, but this area was no stranger to my mother and aunt. Since my sister, Megan, had cheer, my mother and her flew in a day later than us. So Tammy and I spent the first day picking up the car from the rental, checking into the hotel, and sipping Aloha juice. We drove through Kapaa and found a diner for dinner before walking along the beach. We found beach access that was only a 4 minute walk away. We slept in until well after lunchtime. We rushed to the airport to pick up mom and Megan. After getting them settled in, we took a walk along Hoopla Trail. The views were beautiful. Later we went to a frozen yogurt stand called The Spot. This shop was different from any froyo place I have ever been to. You choose between every fruit you can imagine and they blend it with a cream to make your own. I chose a blueberry and banana based treat!
The following day we were up early. Before driving to the top of Kaua’i, we spent some time in Orchid Alley, a small greenhouse in Kapaa. They had a strict no photography rule, but I still managed to take a short video in there. We had lunch at Bubba’s Burgers, which was a similar burger to what is served at Five Guys. We spent most of the day hiking trails and admiring waterfalls, before ending the day at a chocolate factory.
On day four, the morning was spent at Coconut Marketplace. There was a small farmers market going on in the parking lot. This is where I found a coconut stand. A man cracked open a giant one for me. Fresh coconut water/juice is much much better than any that is served on the mainland. The day was wasted at Salt Pond Beach on the East side of the island. The water was almost clear and the sand was fine. On the way back to Kapaa, we stopped at Kauai coffee.The coffee was fresh and there were too many flavors and brews to try. Megan and I waited until just before sunset to snorkel along the shore. Fish are scary that close up.
Luckily we were able to sleep in the next morning. We drove to Kilauea Point to explore the lighthouse and do some tours. Birds were soaring just inches above our heads. We used this beautiful Wednesday as a lazy day until Tammy and I decided to rent some bikes. We biked a total of seven miles along the beach at sunset. I didn’t realize how much I would regret it until the next morning.
Bright and early, we were awake and headed to the jungle for some ziplining. The guides were hilarious and insanely knowledgeable about everything. This was my first time ziplining and one of the best parts of the entire vacation. Everything was bright green and absolutely breathtaking. After getting gross and sweaty hiking, we went back to the hotel to get ready for the luau! They served us delicious food buffet style, gave us a show, and served our table far too many mai tais. We arranged a late check out on our last day so we had plenty of time to relax. We ate too many cups of Dole whip and cracked open oysters for pearls. We had a ring made for me with the pearl I chose. Our flight boarded at 10:00pm and we flew overnight back home.
After I was invited to attend the JEA/NSPA National conference, my mother and I flew into O’Hare International Airport on November 1st. Once we landed and collected our bags, we joined Mrs. Harmon, my sophomore year journalism teacher, and took the train into downtown Chicago. After walking around, we checked into the hotel and I prepared for the first meeting of the conference. I was given the opportunity to listen to Pete Souza’s keynote speech and was able to meet him. I was able to ask him questions about his photography and he signed my copy of Shade. While standing in line, I met a couple sweet girls from Highlands Ranch, Colorado who later introduced me to the rest of their class from Mountain Vista High School.
I woke up bright and early the following morning. My first session started at 9:00am. The girls from Colorado invited me to lunch with them and their friends.We went to an underground burger joint called Billy Goat Tavern. I was really impressed by the food considering the location. The girls and I skipped the afternoon sessions to lay around and talk in their hotel room. Later in the afternoon, mom and I went to Cloud Gate, but she was not a fan of my “flick the bean” joke. We explored the city late into the night. We started with delicious pizza from Giordano’s. The 35 minute wait was so worth it. I’ve never had pizza like this, and I am afraid nothing will ever compare to the stuffed goodness of this restaurant. After dinner we looked at city lights, got some ice cream, then did some shopping.This was my first time inside of a Forever 21 that had three full levels.
On the final day, I woke up very late and missed my first two sessions, but was still able to meet some amazing photographers during my afternoon session of sports photography. Unfortunately, I missed most of the daylight by sleeping. By the time I got ready, it was time for mom and Harmon to go bar hopping. I was invited by their advisor, Mr. Newt, to go with the rest of the Colorado gang to the pier. The first thing we did when we split up was head to the ferris wheel line. I’m still blown away by how I actually spent $18 for a ten minute ride. The views were gorgeous although I wasn’t a fan of the guy who kept blowing Juul clouds inside of the box, leaving the other seven of us trapped by the Virginia tobacco stench. After this, we made our way to a mexican restaurant for dinner. On the walk back to the hotel, I talked to one boy in particular a little more than the rest. I ended up hanging out with him until one in the morning, when Mr. Newt walked in and made things very awkward. Needless to say, I’m still very, very terrified of his advisor.
The next morning, mom and I did some last minute touristy things. We went to a museum and looked at local gift shops. We mostly window shopped until we found a delicious donut shop (Stan’s Donuts will always have a piece of my heart). We were lucky to make our flight on time after rushing through security and having to argue with them until they eventually took my toothpaste.