Natalie Hedger finds her second home in Florida


Natalie Hedger

Natalie poses in the beautiful fall forest

Freshman Natalie Hedger looks forward to one trip every year. 

When school and sports get stressful, sometimes it’s helpful to have a nice relaxing family vacation to look forward to every year. Despite not having traveled to many other places, Natalie eagerly awaits her yearly family trip to Florida with her mom and dad. 

“[Before the first time we went to Florida], I had never really been on a big vacation before,” Natalie said. “My parents kind of surprised me [with the trip].” 

Anytime between March and May—right around spring break time—is when they pack up their car to go to Florida. Natalie and her family flew to Florida the first two times, but since then, they have chosen to drive to see some new views. 

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, Natalie’s family was not able to go on the trip this past year, breaking their vacation streak. 

“I was sad and I definitely miss it a lot,” Natalie said. “I’m really hoping we can go back next year.”

This Florida getaway tradition started when Natalie was in third grade with the reasoning of having “just a fun thing to do” and now she looks forward to it every year. 

The first time she went to Florida, the traveling proved to be a little bit of an adventure. With her flight scheduled to leave at eleven at night from Grand Rapids and arrive in Florida at one in the morning, it was a bit of an abnormal schedule for Natalie. 

“I got to walk around the airport at one in the morning,” Natalie said, “and we were all alone and it was really scary but fun at the same time. It was memorable because that’s not an experience that you get every day.” 

However, this experience did not alter her family’s excitement level for the opportunity to get away for a while. Although flying could be considered easier and more time-efficient, her family decided it would be best to drive down to Florida instead.  

“I would probably rather fly [to Florida than drive],” Natalie said, “but I don’t mind [long car rides] at all. They’re kind of nice; I just watch Netflix and text people.”

While driving through the numerous states in order to reach Florida, Natalie enjoys glancing out the window at the passing scenery.

“On the drive there, in Kentucky and Tennessee, there [are] mountains,” Natalie said, “and [one time] we drove through the mountains at night; that was really scary. We [also] drove through Atlanta and [I enjoyed] seeing the big city.” 

She and her family always stay at the same place every time they make the trip: a hotel that “has that old, 80s motel vibe or [Motel] 6 feel, but updated.” Despite the quaint ambiance, the hotel is constantly overflowing with enthusiastic beach-goers who are also taking advantage of Florida’s welcoming climate. Located in St. Petersburg, Florida, Natalie is very enthusiastic about how the proximal oceanic setting allows her to walk directly out onto the sandy beach. 

“I love the beach and [how] you can basically just walk everywhere [in Florida],” Natalie said. “There’s always something going on and there are so many people. I feel like [the hotel] is almost like a second home or something. I just love it there so much.” 

I feel like [the hotel] is almost like a second home or something. I just love it there so much.”

— Natalie Hedger

Florida has much to offer, and Natalie and her family make sure to cover as much ground as they can on their annual and highly anticipated Florida vacation. Whether it’s driving out to Anna Maria Island or shopping in the many malls situated along the coast, Natalie enjoys every second of the relaxing sunny trip. 

“We always go to this place called Clearwater that has a bunch of shopping,” Natalie said. “We really like driving around and exploring.”

One time during her Florida trip, she went to Disney World, a popular place to visit on a vacation to Florida. 

“I really liked Disney,” Natalie said. “It’s hard to just pick one [favorite] thing, but I loved the rides. I love roller coasters and rides.”

Disney was a great experience, but for Natalie, the overall atmosphere of Florida overrules all the activity. When it’s all said and done, Natalie doesn’t waste any time she is given in the sunny Florida climate.

“There’s just something about the atmosphere that I love,” Natalie said. “I’ve been there so many times that I know where everything is and the beach, restaurants, and shops are all within walking distance so I feel really comfortable there and I know the place so well.”