• Elle

How a Trip to Florida Changed Me

In August 2019, I took a trip to Miramar, Florida, and I did not return the same person I went in. During this trip, I found the key to being less self-conscious, coping with anxiety, how to live in the moment and the importance of peace of mind.

It all started about three weeks before the trip to Florida. My mom and I were overwhelmed with the stress and pressure of life, and it was a mutual agreement we had to do something quickly.

Florida had always been the first option for my family. Because of the variety of places to see and activities, not to mention the overall chill vibe. I come from a big family, and as you can imagine, it is rare to find something that all of us can simultaneously enjoy. Only one place could do that, and that one place in Florida.

So, when my mom and I needed a quick escape from reality, we knew where to go. We found an opening for a mini-vacation spot online, and we jumped on it. With about two weeks of preparation, we packed up our lives and took the Florida road trip. I do my schooling and work from home, and she does her job well, so we could just pack up and go away for the week.

So, on we went.

It was over three hours in a car, but I think it was 100% worth it. On the way, I listened to music and started doing some schoolwork but ultimately decided to chill back and enjoy the ride. However, I couldn't shake the thought of my one reservation about going to the beach.

The beach.

I have always loved going to Florida, the beach, not so much. Being the autistic bean, I'm not the biggest fan of sand, water, noise, or heat. So I usually avoid going to the beach while on vacation. Or I limit my time to a minimum while there. However, this time around, I intended to enjoy the full experience of Miramar. I believe having this outlook that I would enjoy everything set my mind up to start getting used to the elements I would be exposed to. Florida marked the beginning of my transformation and my mindset. The first step that changed it was me.

Before going on this trip, three main constants about me that I was sure weren't going to disappear during this little journey. I don't particularly appreciate spending money, even when it's frivolous, I like to dress more conservatively, not showing much skin, and I prefer to be inside. You think you know yourself until you have an experience that shows you, you don't know anything. As a teenager, I understand my personality is continuously changing and evolving; however, this trip to Florida hit me differently.

Three changes occurred, and this is how those happened.

Change Number One, Money Habits

I'm not one to spend money, and I'm especially not one to spend money on myself. I was known amongst my peers not to want to spend money unless necessary. I'm always up to find a great deal on something or don't get it at all. Side of the effect of liking always to have money, I suppose.

I had a set budget for the trip, and I don't think I've ever gone off-budget before, so I was pretty confident that no vacation would get the best of me. Well, sadly, it did. I opened up the purse strings a bit and got some mementos from to remember the trip.

I made the mistake of not packing a sufficient number of clothes for the trip, so I had to buy some clothes there.

We brought food with us because I enjoy cooking, the place where we were staying had a kitchen, and it seemed like a great money saver. However, things didn't go as planned, and we decided that we might as well dive into the food culture since we were in Florida.

We ate out almost every day, but we still managed to have breakfast at our place and sometimes dinner. I think it was a lovely compromise between having to cook on vacation and wanting to dive into the food Miramar a Destin had to offer. We ate out at about four different restaurants and a couple of them multiple times because who were we kidding? The food was amazingly fantastic.

It wasn't the fact that I was spending money that I enjoyed either. It was the experience that the money spending brought. We had a bad food experience, but we had tons of good to overshadow it for that one experience.

Also, a pro-tip, crabs in Florida just hit differently.

Change Number Two

Before the trip to Florida, you wouldn't catch me in anything less than jeans and a long shirt or jeans and a jacket. I never really felt right wearing anything but that because puberty went fast for me, and well, you get how it is.

Little did I know the atmosphere would get the best of me, and I'd want to dress accordingly. And I'm not just talking about the weather either. Everywhere I went, people were dressed like they were on the beach, and the whole mood was hyper and upbeat.

It instantly lifted my spirit and made me feel why I shouldn't be comfortable wearing my arms or legs out.

When I started to wear my arms and legs out there, my whole energy instantly changed. Almost like I was a different person. Until I began to dress more appropriately to the culture, I never realized how weird it felt to be fully covered; it was for me. Not that anything is wrong with being fully covered, but I concluded that it was indirectly bringing down my mood. Florida helped me to come out of my dressing shell.

Change Number Three

Boy, let me tell you, I was quite the introvert once upon a time. Even now, I still have a bit of it inside me, so I fancied myself an ambivert. Though, I'm sure I'd always be the same shy girl I once was if I hadn't taken that trip.

I loved the cottage that we stayed in. The view was beautiful. We could see the skis clearly, and they were always this cotton candy color. However, as much as I loved our place, I wanted to do everything but stay inside. I was so eager to go out and do things like I never have before.

Because we still had to work, we stayed in every morning. But I can assure you that we were itching to get outside and explore as soon as we were done. The one day we did spend all day inside wasn't the best one for me. I felt as if I was in this depressive state, and I barely talked and didn't smile. It wasn't perfect. And that's how I had the epiphany.

Staying inside all day, every day, was slowly eating away at who I am.

I'm not a sad and mopey person, but my lifestyle made me one, and Florida brought that out. And I'm so grateful it did.

All in all, I can say with high confidence that I have been a different person since that trip. I may not have done a complete 180; however, 150 is an accurate description. I plan to make many more trips to Florida. But why stop there?

After all, there are beaches everywhere.

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your professional autistic teenager Elle

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