a reoccurring challenge i often face is the leaving behind. as i packed up my things and separated them into piles of what goes and what stays, i had a bit of worry that i was taking too much or not enough. none the less, the piles became smaller of what would be able to go with me and as i loaded up my car to hit the road, i found contentment in the process of letting go of some of the comforts of having it all, the knowing and in the journey that was ahead.
peace for me is often found in routine and consistency while chaos is in the unknown or unpredictable. without any exact reason i picked new smyrna beach as my first stop on the venture and although most of the days there were gloomy and the ocean was flat, there was an energy that buzzes from the ocean and a passion and openness to the things presented in life that sparks in the eyes of the people who live there.
i picked out my place to stay with a lovely couple, brandy and ryan who were conscious of their impact on the environment and made efforts in their daily lives to make these the best and more beneficial choices for all living things. i was put up in their guest house in the backyard that was surrounded by a garden that they planted and spent time nourishing weekly. the house was steps from the beach and minutes from the main street in town that i spent most of my stay roaming up and down.
one of the main focal points for the upcoming months as i travel and spend time exploring places and the people who live here, is to discover and experience without expectations. this was something that with little effort on the first stop, was serving and although my days here were limited, it was revealed that i am on the right path.
the people of new smyrna beach are the type of people any solo traveler wants to engage; friendly, simple and passionate about the things they spend their time doing. people are up early and active, find peace in being connected with the ocean and activities that challenge their physical strengths and are interested in the conversations that they begin and the people who they are having them with. i spent most of my time here getting up early and walking or running to the beach at the beginning of my day, connecting with the ocean and observing the people who wanted to do the same. watched the sunrise and took a few minutes to capture a beauty that can only see in the first minutes of the day, when the sun greets the day with it’s gentle warm kisses.
over the days spent here, i emerged the best i could into the locals scene and get a feel for what this place was all about. i spent a few hours on my laptop at a cute coffee shop, nichols surf cafe as i watched locals and visitors who were there to catch some summer sun and surf drift in and out then headed next door to the surf shop to see if i could figure out anything about the locals and the local surf scene. this is where i met my first friend on the road, connor.
i spent my next days with connor, meeting new people and exploring new places. connor and i exchanged stories about projects we were working on and he told me about his family, his girlfriend and his project, brigads that he was building out with his brother that he was super stoked about. we met up with fran, another traveler from chile and listened to her stories about her travels and headed to met up with some local surfers at casey’s, sharing beers, photos and stories of our favorite travel memories.
friday was a bit of a lazy, rainy day; one spent leisurely drinking coffee and writing at third wave café where they bake pastries fresh daily and have an outdoor patio that welcomes you to just take your time starting the day. i listened to collon jam out a bit on the guitar and bought some fresh mahi from ocean’s seafood to make fish tacos with brandy, ryan and our friend paul, a retired firefighter who still spends his days catching surf.
early saturday morning, we headed over to winter haven park beach for the surfrider foundation – volusia / flagler chapter eco surf clinic where i spent the day capturing moments of joy and the successes of catching their first wave by some of the locals kids and their families. these kiddos were brave and adventurous, charging the small swell that had rolled in, many of them significantly smaller than their boards and fearless with determination to get up and catch a wave. seeing the pride in the eyes of the parents and the happiness that filled their tiny bodies when they succeeded was a reminder of what it feels like to achieve something that at one point was unattainable to you.
my last day was well spent engaging in conversations about life and personal passions with new and old friends, exchanging stories over afternoon beers with fran and our friend danny about why he still skates regardless of having surgeries from injuries and being asked when he’d grow up or told he was too old. listening to the sweet sounds of cover and original songs by stealing vanity on the patio at barracuda’s while the rain pounded down and getting to know the parents of the band.
my time here was spent in easy days, closed off by chill nights and filled with genuine people who shared interests similar to my own. i left new smyrna beach with a little bit of peace, consistency and inspiration to take with me on the road to the next place. the ease of living that flowed through the town was one that you don’t find everywhere.
i found the people inspiring for their dedication to keeping their beaches clean, their waking before the crack of dawn to attempt to catch a wave even when the swell was bad, for their persistence and support in the live music and the time they took to greet strangers with a smile and welcoming conversation on any given day. i’ll be back in a few months as i make my way back to miami and hope to catch some surf with the locals at the inlet and get a little more acquainted with why there is a spark that lights the eyes of the locals and why they do what they do, regardless of if the surf is good or bad, their age or what other people’s perception is.