We are excited to present this personal travel story from one of our top ten Travel Writer Award finalists. Read more about the travel experiences of Mia Walker.
Five and a half hours south of Richmond, Virginia, in North Carolina, lies the most spectacular paradise I have visited. Sunset Beach is a place that reflects some of my most awestruck and happiest memories. For as long as I can remember, my family has gone to Sunset. It could be the distinctly named homes and personality of the island that first captured my attention.
All of my memories of being at Sunset have involved my family. One of my favorite things to do was to bike-ride around the island with my three brothers and parents. When I was younger, I would sit in a small chair on the back of my mom’s bike and watch the world pass by as she pedaled. Another one of my favorite things to do during our vacations was sitting on the rooftop deck with my family. We would talk and watch the bright shooting stars against the darkness.
Sometimes my youngest brother and I would take a laser and shine the little red dot along the road when people would walk by. I would immediately become quite amused. Although I have had many amazing memories at Sunset, it has become a place very close to my heart for another reason. Sunset Beach was a place that my family treasured; so when my dad died in December of 2008, its importance to my family grew. When I go to Sunset Beach, I feel at home and in a safe-haven far from the world’s dangers. My memories of dad almost come to life and they comfort me in my prolonged sorrow. The atmosphere of the island brings those cherished times to resurface and brings me solace.
At the crack of dawn, the soft and gentle glow of the sun slowly rises. By around nine in the morning until four in the afternoon, the sun poses with its brightly shining rays on the golden-brown sand. The crystal clear water lies nearby in its own calm manner. Beach towels, small tents of every color, chairs and toys adorn the sandy beach as far as the eye can see. Small and large families are everywhere. Young moms can be observed running after their energetic and excited kids. Some children can be seen building sandcastles, while others are gleefully splashing in the waves. Young couples walk along the ocean and sand in deep conversation.
Some people walk as far west, as one can walk on Sunset Beach, about three miles to a place called Bird Island. Located on this small, unpopulated island strip is a haven of hope known as Kindred Spirit. It is a place to release thoughts, convey hardships, blessings or heart-felt stories. Kindred Spirit, is a mailbox high upon the dunes, that contains paper and pens for people to write their thoughts for others to read. Some entries are jubilant: an impending marriage, a new grandchild or a family reunion while other entries are more solemn. Many people write about losing a loved one, marital problems or even a plight about a wayward teen. I love to ride my bike at low tide to Bird Island. My mom and I take the trek usually our last day of our vacation. Both of us converse along the way, but as we near the mailbox, we are silenced in deep thought as to what we will write to Kindred. We are in our own worlds at Kindred Spirit. We are confiding the deepest sentiments of our heart. It is a ritual between the two of us that I will always cherish.
After a long day at the beach, many families go bike riding to explore around the island. Others go to the small shops that adorn the main road, while some families enjoy seeing the exquisitely painted skies. Warm streaks of pink and orange can be seen as the sun slowly sets above a gentle stream that flows freely. Some people even return to the beach with their dogs or for an evening stroll by the water. Late at night, when the sky becomes a colossal canvas of darkness and the dazzling stars sparkle, families can be heard chatting on their roof-top decks. When I near the end of my week at Sunset, there is a ripple of sadness, however, I am always reminded of how blessed I am to be part of a special place. At Sunset Beach, I permit myself to retreat to my past, but it also allows be to ponder my future.
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