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I starkly remember the first time I ever saw (and heard) a hot air balloon. I was playing basketball in my backyard when I heard a “whooshing” overhead. I looked up as a hot air balloon appeared from over the woods behind our house and continued overhead. Minutes later it landed in one of our neighbors’ backyard.
Ever since I’ve had a preoccupation with air travel, not the least of which has been hot air ballooning. However, as much air travel as I’ve done, via helicopter, airplane, and airship, I had yet to travel by hot air balloon. It was in part, because if I was going to do it, I wanted to do it right. And what I always envisioned was not just a hot air balloon ride, but a hot air balloon ride in Africa…over the African bush…while making out (shooting for the stars here). However, when you get invited to go hot air ballooning over South Africa, you do it.
Growing up, Los Angeles (and in general, Southern California) stood out to me as this Rivendell-esque type of place. It resonated with me much more than many other cities, since it was home to so many things I only found in bits and pieces elsewhere, from beaches to mountains to celebs to Disneyland. And when I visited Los Angeles at age 11 it didn’t disappoint, even if our cab driver drove off from the Getty Villa without my mom.
So at the end of last summer, just months after my 30th birthday, I packed up all of my things in my car and fulfilled a travel dream I’ve always had of driving the length of the Pacific Ocean coastline from Seattle down to Los Angeles. However, when I arrived in Los Angeles, I found myself never wanting to leave, and I haven’t, nor do I have plans to, as I have an affinity toward Los Angeles and creating a home life here like I’ve felt no other place. That’s right, this good ‘ole boy who grew up in rural North Carolina went Hollywood.
This week saw me in a destination I never thought I’d see myself in again: Panama City Beach, Florida. Growing up in the south, I spent many of my spring breaks in high school and college at Florida Panhandle beaches, including Panama City Beach, which has a variety of nicknames, of which the “Emerald Coast” is one of the more desirable nicknames. This spring Panama City Beach launched their “PCB Bucket List,” and being the bucket/life list maker and doer that I am, I teamed up with Travel Mindset to see what it was all about.
So what did I find? For starters, Gulf Coast sunsets may be among my favorites. Also, I’m either more ambitious or more stubborn than I thought, depending on who you ask. While a recent trip to Hawaii to successfully standup paddleboard found me falling in the water more than standing on the board, I didn’t let that stop me from mastering the skill on this trip. Tacos were consumed. Dolphins were seen. Waterways were navigated while kayak-fishing. See some of the highlights in my photo essay below.