But few people who know me would have predicted it. You see, I have never been a big fan of Florida.
Once I started traveling alone as an adult, I looked in remote places. I wanted to go far to unknown places where I could get by with little money.
This led to a two and a half week trip to China in 2008. In 2009, I quit my job, sold half of my belongings, bought a backpack and a ticket to Brazil. I was planning to travel around South America for a year or until my money ran out. The trip lasted 10 months, and I would do it again in the blink of an eye.
Later, when I met my husband, Steve Lastoe, we found the joy of traveling to Hawaii (“Can you believe that Californians are what Florida is to us, New Yorkers?”, We wondered, envious of Hawaii’s rich and exotic offerings); Barbados, where Afro-Caribbean culture has dominated; and finally in Japan, for our honeymoon.
Don’t feel too Florida
Fort Lauderdale is not all beaches – there is also a thriving art scene.
Courtesy of Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB
However, we have traveled to Florida together at least once a year to visit family. If I am honest, we have never been very excited about it.
I resisted going in the summer (“too hot” I would protest) and wanted to stay in Miami in the winter, even if it was a long journey inland where my mother-in-law lived. sister. In the eight years that Steve and I have been together, I have skipped many trips to Florida, encouraging Steve to visit his family while I was at home with the dog.
He didn’t always accompany me on trips to Buffalo State, New York, where my family lived, and the occasional family trip just made sense to us.
Of course, Florida was not Buffalo – it was actually a tourist hotspot.
It was really the equivalent of the east coast of Hawaii but flatter and with more amusement parks.
Florida was also a family vacation that never happened when my father threw his back and gathered us around the table to spread the bad news. Florida was consecutive Easter vacation trips to the Gulf Coast with my friend Jennifer and her family. Florida was Disney World – one and done – and it was hot in winter.
Florida was spring training baseball, restaurant chains and malls. Florida was an inland hotel when we wanted to save money and avoid miles on the freeway by rental car. Florida was for snowbirds and spring breakers and golf enthusiasts.
Florida was basic.
It was such a vacation spot that it couldn’t be a vacation spot.
Sure, there were beaches, but a ton of other places too, with more color and character.
Slow warming in Florida
A straight section of Fort Lauderdale Beach seen from the Conrad.
Courtesy of Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach
Maybe my favorite hobby in Florida (h / t Steve) – and one that I clearly took for granted – is to spot a Cuban roadside restaurant, turn around and do the full of beef pasta, queso and guava empanadas and coffee con leches served in pint-sized styrofoam containers.
After a recent visit to St. Petersburg, I marveled at the laid back and laid back atmosphere of the city.
Was it the most dog-friendly city in the world? Were the breweries designed to thrive in this sunny and carefree environment? Were the consignment shops sufficient to make you think about the economics of renting a U-Haul and driving north with a van full of used real wood furniture? Yes, yes and yes.
A revelation: I love this state!
It turns out that over the years, I have collected more happy memories of trips to Florida than anywhere else.
This past year was a spring break at West Palm Beach with my four closest friends. We drove a red Dodge Durango from New Jersey to South Florida.
We took turns driving, sailing and sleeping. The road trip included stops at Cracker Barrel, songs at 50 Cent “In da Club” and at least two bad turns. The trip itself, packed with court tops, pre-game and more hip-hop.
When I returned to West Palm Beach several years later, it was to meet Steve’s oldest and closest friend who would ultimately be the best man in our marriage. Brent and his wife, Anelle, took us to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner; on a subsequent visit, we convinced Brent, a picky eater, that there was nothing to dislike about a Hibachi Grill. Her 4 year old son loved it. We are still unsure of Brent.
Miami Beach, usually a tourist hotspot, is closed due to coronavirus. But I hope that future visits await you!
Cliff Hawkins / Getty Images
Of course, I can’t forget the time of an ex and I went to South Beach in Miami for the weekend.
It was our first trip together, and it’s mostly a blur thanks to several nights spent until the last call, but I’ll never forget to come home after the Marlins baseball game when the team still played in the old stadium, which turned out to be a hike from South Beach.
We were young and stupid and quite worried, the driver would drive us to our hotel room under the threat of a gun and demand that we give him all our money, which we had previously put on the bed to dry after accidentally submerged it in the ocean. .
Years later, a trip to South Beach was more successful, and a little more upscale too.
We spent time with Steve’s sister Alison and her husband Chris on the beach, ordering another ride, why not? We had no place to go. We were on holiday.
It was on this trip that we discovered a wonderful steakhouse that we would return to again and again and recommend to anyone asking for restaurant recommendations in Miami.
I also ran my first half marathon in Florida. I ran almost 50 at this point, but no race will ever be as flat or as beautiful as the one along the A1A highway.
I guess I have been to Florida more than anywhere else apart from the few places I have lived. Now that leaving is both impossible and irresponsible, I find myself wanting nothing more.
Because here is what I learned: In the familiar is comfort and security and a sense of belonging.
No place will be as familiar as Florida. And if there’s one thing we could all use in this time of great uncertainty, it’s a bit of familiarity. Blue skies and bright sunshine on a sandy beach open to the public wouldn’t be that bad either.