Finally the day came to leave Pensacola! I had been waiting on this day for weeks! I got to go home, see my friends, see my family, my dogs, return to familiarity. Keep in mind, I traveled a lot when I was younger, but this was the first time I had been away for a decent amount of time in 3 years. Also the first time I had been away with any amount of freedom in 5 or 6 years, and my first time as a 21 year old ever. I forgot the liberating feeling of being somewhere totally unfamiliar, somewhere you could do absolutely whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted. Not worrying about what the person next to you wanted to do, not worrying about what you were allowed to do, not worried about anything. When I got out of my Navy duties for the weekend it was all about whatever I wanted to do whenever I wanted to do it.
My first weekend after getting paid I went straight to New Orleans. Everyone I know was telling me I was insane, that I shouldn't go there alone, it was so dangerous, yada yada yada... Being the human being that I am I did not care, and I went anyways. I booked myself a hotel, right outside of the French Quarter. It was close enough for e reasonable taxi ride, yet far enough to be a calm place to stay. I will say, it was a total hole in the wall motel, it looked like it was straight out of a terrible indie movie! I loved it though, I think it gave a lot of character to my stay in New Orleans. I checked in, got ready, and called a cab to pick me up. My cab driver was a super cool black guy, with waist long dreads, and his girlfriend was in the passenger seat. They picked me up, and we had good conversation as we listened to Drake on the radio the whole way to Bourbon Street, and I loved them. Read my blog titled #OneLessStranger to read more about my first experience in good ol' NOLA!
I also went to Alabama a couple times. I went to a Bar/Restaurant called Florabama and had an incredible time. There was always good music, and they had Landshark tallboys! I went there two Saturday nights, and they also had a church service I attended at 11 AM on a Sunday morning that was really wonderful. I truly loved the atmosphere there and enjoyed all the time I spend there making friends, drinking Landshark, and listening to good music.
The Sunday I went to the Florabama church service I knew was going to get up to 70 degrees, so I brought my bathing suit and went to the beach after. This was my second to last weekend there, and being at the beach reminded me of home and I was filled with so much joy that day. The water was freezing cold, but I didn't care, I went in anyways. It felt so good feeling the salt water on my skin again, and the sun in my eyes. Things I always thought of as inconvenient I began to appreciate.I basked in the sun, and swam in the ocean, I texted my Dad and my best friend Sarah, and thought back on my life at home, visiting the ocean at any given moment, and felt a new appreciation for it. After I had been at the beach for a long time I decided to leave as the sun started to set and it began to cool down. I pulled out of the beach parking lot, and turned left, the opposite of where my hotel was. Earlier, looking for a beach access I had seen a building that looked very interesting, it looked like it may have been under construction, but there were also a lot of cars there. I also could see it in the distance from where I had been laying out on the beach and I just had to go explore and see what was going on!
I pulled up to find a dirt parking lot filled with cars, and a restaurant called "The Gulf". It was absolutely wonderful. It was basically a Gourmet food truck, with a wall behind it, a bar next to it, and a gift shop next to that. It was right on the gulf, there were picnic tables, lounge chairs, couches with tables in front of them, it was an absolutely beautiful scene. I could not be more grateful that I decided to go out of my way to check it out. I ordered a grilled Mahi sandwich, they gave me a number I so my food could be delivered, I set it down on a picnic table, and I walked to the bar and ordered a mojito. I took my mojito to my seat, and I sat down and just took in the scenery for a moment. It was so beautiful, and I was so blessed to be there by chance. I watched the sun set, I had another mojito, and I appreciated the beautiful view. It is probably my best memory of the trip.
My last weekend I had a 4 day weekend, and I went back to New Orleans. This time it was during Mardi Gras, the last weekend of Mardi Gras to be exact, and it was absolutely insane! The video I posted in my earlier blog was from that weekend. I guess I was also absolutely insane, because instead of booking a hotel I booked a hostel on Magazine Street! I stayed in the 16 bed, mixed dorm room at St. Vincent's Guest House, and if I ever go back to New Orleans I will most definitely stay there again! It was a little far by foot, but still a walking distance from Bourbon Street and the French quarter, and a wonderful experience. The first night, I can't lie, I was less than social because I had a hard time getting a cab there, and just wanted to go to bed, but I overheard the other people in there talking and there were even people staying in there from Canada! The staff was so welcoming, and it was not a scary atmosphere, there was a sense of community throughout the room. Everyone had their phones plugged in all over the walls as they slept, no one was there to steal anything, we all stayed for the same reason. An affordable place to stay in New Orleans for Mardi Gras! Saturday morning I even woke up, plugged in my phone and GoPro, and walked across the street to an amazing coffee shop for breakfast, and came back and all my things were safe and sound. I met a nice red headed girl named Rebecca from Tennessee there with her friend, and we did our hair in the hallway together where we found a free power outlet and no mirror, and we talked about what we were doing and where we were from. That afternoon I was supposed to go home, but I wanted to stay another day, so I asked the front desk, but nothing was available. They told me to call back around 3 PM to see if there had been any cancellations, but there hadn't been. The St. Vincent's Guest House staff was sweet enough to put cots in their day room for all the bedless nomads like myself wanting to spend another night at Mardi Gras. Some people would never consider such a thing, but I was absolutely thrilled! What a great experience, and all I really needed was a place to sleep other than my car! It was a wonderful stay.
Sunday morning I woke up and drove back to Pensacola, Monday I packed my stuff, and Tuesday I made the drive home. I looked forward to coming home, but was soon disappointed. While I was gone the traveling, nomadic spirit inside of me had re-awoken, and everyone, and everything back home stayed exactly the same. All my close friends were arguing about useless things, making big deals of nothing, and were in exactly the same mindset as I had left them. No growth. I can't judge them for that though, because I had been stuck in that same rut since getting back from San Diego two years ago. I will say that I came back with a new perspective though, and had an opportunity to be introduced to a new group of people, and even met some with a similar perspective as me, which was hopeful and refreshing. I was home 6 days, and hung out with these people I think 3 or 4 of the 6 days, it was nice. Going home I was excited, but also disappointed feeling like my adventure was over, so I made a goal to treat home like a new city I had never seen before, I think I did that successfully, and hope to continue that when I get home in April.
I had highs and lows in Pensacola, but overall I left with only positive things. A new perspective, and a new confidence in my ability to do things alone. I rediscovered myself, and my love for experiencing new things. I started planning my next trip, and a few other mini trips in between. I was reminded how valuable my family and my true friends are, waiting for me at home with open arms and open minds, and I came back truer to myself than I have felt in years. Moving forward I have made a goal to always look for new and beautiful things, even in the oldest and most mediocre, and to never stop exploring and discovering. Just make it happen. It doesn't matter who is or is not with you, just stay true, and do it.