I close my eyes and begin to imagine everything that this time of year means to me. Blistering hot summer days spotted with dripping, melting ice cream cones, lazy strolls along the river, sweaty afternoons at the pool, the smell of banana boat tanning oil and smoky bonfire, cool summer nights spent waiting in line at JoJo’s for a s’mores sundae. Summer has always been and will most likely always be my favorite season. It’s given me just as much relaxation as it has thrills and adventures and travels up and down the East Coast as well as across the world. I often find myself slipping into a mild period of depression once the closing weeks of August arrive, wishing that the sun would stick around for just a little while more, that the pool would stay open just a few more days, and that school could wait just a bit longer to begin. So when the first promising days of summer present themselves, I try to make the most of every fleeting moment all the more.

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This summer is going to be a little different for me than my past few have. This is the first summer in two years that I am not waking up at the crack of dawn every day to run off to a job during which I spend the days staring longingly out the window wishing I was sunbathing at the pool or doing anything more worthwhile than sitting behind a desk punching the clock. I actually did have a summer job lined up; long story short, it fell through, and I wasn’t really too upset about it. I spent my spring semester neglecting my schoolwork as well as my business and photography ventures because I was much more worried about my stressful part-time job. Needless to say… I’m happy. Happy to be able to focus on nothing but taking the time to step back, draw up some even bigger dreams for myself and my business, and put those dreams and goals into action. I am going to seek meditation and inspiration at some of my favorite places in the world. I am spending my last teenage summer as a wanderer, because wandering isn’t always such a bad thing.
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In some not so cryptic terms… I will be traveling. A lot. Those closest to me know that traveling is something I have always loved and always done as often as I can. I usually spend three to four weeks of the year away from home in addition to five or six weekends away. I run off to the escapes of sandy beaches, to my relatives’ country home in rural Indiana, and sometimes even to the exciting new promises of a foreign country. This summer, I’ll be returning to a few places I’ve gone to in the past as tradition: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Emerald Isle, North Carolina; Elkhart, Indiana; Wildwood, New Jersey; and a few new locations as well during an Eastern Caribbean cruise that will make stops in Falmouth, Jamaica; Labadee, Haiti; and Cozumel, Mexico. I know… it’s a lot for one summer. It’s a lot for one nineteen-year-old girl. But this is what I love, this is what I want my life to be about for as long as it can be. The wandering, the getting lost, the lack of serious responsiblities. I want to look back in five years and know that I lived my life to the fullest during one of the only times I was truly able to.
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This picture was taken two years ago the first and last time I was in Wildwood Crest, New Jersey. I was with my boyfriend and his family, and I loved getting to see what his traditions were (his family has been going to the same motel on the beach for over fifteen years)! Wildwood is just so much fun, and what makes it even more enjoyable is seeing how happy it makes Justin to be back there with all of the treasured memories and good family friends. The beach is always beautiful and fulfilling, but being there and sharing laughs with the people you love makes it all the more magical.
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(On the right, Justin and me on the Cape May Ferry in June 2011; on the left, visiting a luxury resort on the beach in south Wildwood). So when we leave for Wildwood in just one short week (!!!), I’ll be remembering how special it was the first time I got to go with Justin and see all of the sights he’s always enjoyed seeing growing up as a kid on the East Coast. With it’s wooden plank boardwalks, timeless amusement parks, and classic beach tourist attractions, Wildwood is a true American summer vacation destination… and I can’t wait to see it again.
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Perhaps the only East Coast destination that can compare to Wildwood in my mind is Emerald Isle, a gorgeously green and blue coastal island in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. My family is lucky enough to have some very close friends living along Bogue Sound (the body of water that seperates Emerald Isle from the mainland) that invite us to visit several times a year. We usually go for the Fourth of July and Labor Day Weekend (I’ve yet to make it down there for the Seafood Festival in mid-October!), but this year we are going a little earlier in the summer for our friend Emily’s graduation party. The most enchanting thing about Emerald Isle is its “untouched” feel. It isn’t at all touristy (being a tourist is fun, but sometimes it’s just as fun to play the local!), and all there really is to do is lounge in a hammock with the sea breeze blowing through your hair and the smell of saltwater wafting in with the wind. And the water is so crystal clear blue.
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There is just something about the Carolinas that set them apart from all of the other eastern coastal states. I’m sure Nicholas Sparks would agree with me (his home is about twenty miles from where we stay on the Bogue Sound)! They’re quiet, sweet, romantic. Even Myrtle Beach, which is quite arguably the most touristy beach destination on the East Coast, has a calming air to its white sandy beaches. It’s where my friends and I have gone for our annual beach week the past two years in a row, staying in a beach house right on the water, spending our days tanning on the beach and nights celebrating the completion of another school year under our belts.
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Of course, whenever I’m at the beach, impromptu photo shoots somehow seem to always happen…
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Carefree days filled with warm breezes and the sun shining on your face have a way of making every problem seem a little more trivial. The usual traffic jams and stressful work environments dwindle just a tad more when summer slowly but surely sneaks up on them. I’m looking forward to three months of soaking up every ray of sunshine that I possibly can and thanking God for all of the opportunities He has provided me in the past and will provide in the future. For right now… I think the best I can do is meditate on Him and His plan for my life, weaving my dreams with His, and getting my heart lined up with His own.
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“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

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