Spontaneous Summer Roadtrippin'!

Hello there, beautiful souls! This has been the longest I have gone without blogging since I started this blog *sheds a tear*, but I just have been super busy lately! My last post was right around when summer first started, and since then I have been loaded with summer classes at my university and working. I already completed three classes so far this summer and start three more next week - YIKES! However, I did get a short "break" or "vacation" in between the two summer sessions. I put those words in parentheses because this so-called-vacation was actually a business trip for work, but I look forward to it every year because it's always such a blast!

So first, let me tell you a little bit about one of my jobs! As you may or may not already know by reading my "About" section, I am a full time pre-phsyical therapy student at a university in Virginia. I begin interning this fall, which I am super, duper excited about! I also am a freelance photographer and hope to incorporate my love for photography and all things creative by bringing my ideas and blog to life through cookbooks and health guides for not only my clients, but the whole world! In addition, I am also a year-round volleyball official. This is currently my full-time job and I am absolutely in love with it. I played volleyball for seven years in Virginia Beach, VA and became the youngest official to ever be certified at only 14 years old. Since then, my love for this job has grown tenfold and I am so glad that I got started at such an early age! I officiate just about all types of volleyball that include recreation, juniors/adults leagues, middle school, high school, college (CIAA and NCAA), and junior olympic volleyball (USA and AAU). I get to travel all over the country, see some amazing volleyball, and have met some pretty incredible people along the way! 

So, now to this "business trip" of mine. Each year since 2012, I have been officiating at the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Nationals that take place in Orlando, Florida. Yep you heard that right - FLORIDA! This tournament is my favorite one each year for many reasons. First off, I mean come on - it's in the beautiful sunshine state! We get to stay in an awesome resort just a short ride away from Disney World in one of the most luxurious areas of Orlando. Second, this is an international-level tournament and I get to meet new faces each year from all over the world. I have gotten the opportunity to meet and work with international and olympic-level officials, which has always been an awesome experience! I also get to meet amazing volleyball players from different countries across the globe. I have met teams from all 50 states in the United States, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, China, Russia, Croatia, and the list just goes on!

One thing I love about this tournament is that because it's an international-level tournament, all of the teams give gifts to the other teams before the start of each match (and the officials - if they like you enough ;)) This year I got some pretty cool gifts and my favorite one was probably a handmade lei from a team from Hawaii!

After the tournament was over and seven long days of volleyball came to an end, it was time for the REAL vacation! A friend of mine (who is also an official) and I decided to take a spontaneous road trip down to Treasure Island, Florida for a few days of relaxation! I crossed a few things off of my bucket list during this mini vacation, which included parasailing and kayaking!

First, let's talk about parasailing. Umm... this was the most freakin' amazing experience EVER! Aside from almost throwing up... I had an absolute blast. I've been skydiving so I don't think it's the heights that made me nauseous, but rather the boat ride in the choppy waters of the Gulf of Mexico, then being up in the air looking down at the moving water that made me feel a little queasy. However, it was one of the most exhilarating things I've ever done and the view was to die for! My friend actually did throw up while we were sailing (poor Annie) hahaha, but despite hurling from 400 ft. in the air, she still had fun too! We went to Gators Parasail at Madeira Beach and I highly recommend sailing through them! The staff is very knowledgeable, funny, and made the entire experience amazing!

Next up, kayaking and visiting the beautiful beaches at Fort De Soto Park! We had an awesome time kayaking and had some unexpected company along the way! As we took off in to the bayou, we were greeted by some super friendly manatees who swam and played along side of us during our adventure. We visited the historical fort at the park and soaked up some sun a the gorgeous North Beach just a few miles down the road from where we went kayaking. This is one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever been to and it surely deserves bragging rights for its white sand and crystal clear water!

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Thanks for reading!