Sometimes God, the Universe, or whatever higher power you believe in (because there’s no way it’s just chance) just lines up some incredible circumstances for you. I was lucky enough to spend the past 10 days by the ocean: Captiva Island, FL, Puerto Vallarta, MX, and Sayulita, MX. While I traded fresh water lake life for some hardcore salt life, there were a few things that remained constant at my time on both the west-facing shores of the Atlantic’s Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean: there is magic and healing in nature, especially at dawn and dusk. Over the course of the trip I witnessed some of the most stunning sunrises and sunsets which paired quite well with the daily dolphin sightings in Florida.
People ask me if I’m an early bird and if that’s why sunrise is so easy for me to capture. The answer is, not really. What I have found instead is that when you let your body fall into rhythm with nature, often you naturally wake just before the sun and are rewarded with a gift that sets a tone of gratitude, and for me, inspiration for the day.
I was fortunate to explore new coastlines via swimming, boating, and walking, and was constantly surprised at all we uncovered: islands seemingly to myself, happily eating manatees, jellyfish, beaches covered in incredible shells after rough night waters, massive stingrays, humpback whales breaching and playing, dozens of spotted dolphins (including the smallest baby our marine biologist guide had ever seen) escorting our boat, dolphins fishing just feet from shore, pelicans dive-bombing their prey, and all sorts of other birds and fish. I explored architecture, shops, restaurants, and bars. We chatted with vacationing Midwesterners, beach vendors, ex-pats living new lives, and a countless number of smiles with friendly people selling their passions and enjoying the views. During one particularly WILD, windy sunset that followed a quick rainstorm, we watched in the distance a dolphin jump clear out of the water with the setting sun as its backdrop. First, we cried. Second, my mom and I charged the choppy waves and joined it for a sunset swim.
After our whale watching tour Tuesday in Sayulita, the marine biologist noticed my Chase More Sunsets hat was still on board and she flipped over it, “How can I get this? I need this!” Obviously I left it in her hands, and she gave me the warmest hug and thanked me repeatedly. Which is funny because in her version of sunset-chasing, pursuing that life, sharing knowledge and exposing our lil crew to the majesty of these creatures in their natural habitat, she not only opened our eyes to an even greater sense of beauty in nature, but hopefully inspired the ripple effect of the great need to both take care of our planet and make sure we always make time to do, see, and live the things we love.
Why was I even in Mexico? One of my dearest friends of 22 years, Cassie, (another avid sunset-chaser and photographer who just so happens to occasionally photograph our gear for us) was shooting two destination weddings. Elopements and destination weddings are part of her brand, as she knew she wanted to see the world and capture its beauty, including the beauty of love. Because she chased this sunset, followed her heart, and built this life, there I was exploring new horizons as her sidekick. Think Chasing More Sunsets only affects your own life? Wrong. It creates a ripple effect. Do yourself, everyone you love, and the collective a favor and light up your life.
This is all not so ironic. The day before I left Milwaukee for the trip, I was encouraged by a friend to lighten up a bit - create a new reality based less on urgency and more on bliss, flow, and joy. After 10 days of pursuing the sunrise and sunset, spending hours soaking in the sun, and letting the water make things new, I’m returning tired and my favorite shade of summer tan, but with a light, renewed heart. I’m excited to let nature’s inspiration drive me forward.