The military will move us to many different places throughout the years. Growing up a pilot’s daughter, I now realize how lucky I was to travel around the USA and abroad for free. Oddly enough, my family never made it out to the Gulf Coast, so I’m incredibly thankful that as an adult I have the opportunity to live here for a short time.
The beaches of the Gulf Coast definitely take the cake for most beautiful in my book. If you visit Pensacola Beach, remember to go around sunrise or sundown for the magnificent views and preferably with friends but I’ll get to that later. FYI: For newbies, there is a $1 toll to get onto the beach
Last night, I attended a work event and helped film the 2017 Taste of Pensacola Beach bartender’s challenge. The challenge is designed to choose a winning cocktail that will be presented at the annual Pensacola Beach food festival on September 16th. The winning drink was a Strawberry Banana Mojito made by Dedrick Harmon of Flounder’s Chowder House. This guy had so much personality and the crowd loved his enthusiasm. Afterward, I decided to take advantage of the moment and stroll down the beach at sunset. I was able to capture some beautiful views past the Portofino Island Resort, but it didn’t come without a nerve wrecking situation to follow…(scroll past my photos to read more)
After I had made the decision to go take photos of the beach, my first mistake was driving out to a secluded part of the beach where there were only two other cars in the parking lot. I did do this on purpose because I didn’t want anyone killing my photo vibes. Yes, that’s the introvert in me.
As I got out of my car, I was immediately greeted by a man in his mid-30s loading his things into an SUV after what looked like a surfing session. He said “Hi” in a thick, foreign accent and smiled. I didn’t think much of it because yes, this is the South and everyone is friendly. I went on my way to take photos at the beach. Luckily, I was carrying my selfie/tripod stick with me. As I was snapping a few photos (this one below in particular), I looked up and noticed the man from the parking lot standing on the beach boardwalk…watching me…*my heart sunk*
I immediately felt uneasy because I looked around and realized that while I was distracted by the gorgeous beauty of a Pensacola Beach sunset, the other couple that had been there upon my arrival had walked to their car and left. I looked around to come to the realization that was NO ONE ELSE around us for miles…
In order to test the stranger’s intentions, I decided to walk back inland and down the beach more. I couldn’t head for my car because he was blocking the only entrance in and out of the beach. I acted like I was taking a walk down the shoreline and my heart dropped again when I realized he had come down the stairs to start following me.
I immediately resorted to some advice I had received from a strong military spouse years ago. She told me if confronted in a situation like this to do these things: (1) Immediately turn around (2) Stand up authoritatively and use a soul-piercing stare (3) Shout at them to let them know that you are aware of what they’re doing. This will make it known that you are not about to be their next victim. I faced my fear, turned around and glared at him while shouting, “Can I help you?!” In my left fist, I was clenching my selfie stick between my blue fingers…or should I say “selfie-defense” stick.
The man immediately stopped in his tracks and fumbled to make up the excuse, “Oh, are you looking for your keys? It was obvious that I hadn’t been looking for keys. Me: “No, I’m here taking photos.” At this point, my heart is beating incredibly fast and all I’m thinking is, “OMG. There is no one around for miles and if this guy lunges at me., I will have to shove this selfie stick in his windpipe and then use it to beat him senseless. As General Mattis would say, “Be polite and be professional but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.” I’m sorry if that is morbid, but it’s the truth.
Well it turns out the man was a foreigner and had only moved to the US two days beforehand. At least that’s the story he gave me. He was “lonely” and looking for “someone” to talk to in a new country. I’m not sure if he simply made a cultural mistake by following a young woman alone or if he changed his tune once he realized I wouldn’t be an easy victim. Either way, it was a learning experience for me and it was terrifying at the same time.
My story didn’t turn out sadly. But there are so many females who aren’t as lucky. Human trafficking, rape, and terrible things can happen at unexpected times and even in the most beautiful places. If you learn anything from this – please be vigilant and be aware of your surroundings. ESPECIALLY if you’re in a beautiful area where you could easily be distracted by the sights you’re observing.
From now on, I will ALWAYS try to carry some sort of protection – even if it’s a “selfie defense” stick. If my story can help spread the word to other women to be vigilant of their surroundings, please feel free to share!
Until Next Time.