It’s Totally Possible To Bore Yourself In An Awesome State Like Florida. Here’s How.
I, Katie the Domestiphobe, am a true study in contrasts.
It makes my eye twitch to detonate that overused travel writing cliché on my little niche in cyber space, but it’s true. While many writers apply that phrase to the striking juxtaposition of a modern electric vehicle parked in front of centuries-old architecture, I’m forced to apply it to myself.
Because really, I’m two very different people trapped in one highly confused body.
At home, I’m neurotic and scattered. Every decision — from what I’m going to eat for breakfast to where on my incredibly diversified to-do list I’m going to focus my energy — is a huge ordeal. My fuse is short and my attention span shorter, and it’s like the slightest bit of static electricity might send me into spontaneous combustion mode because I can’t get everything done and I don’t know if I’m working on the right things and if you don’t pick dinner tonight Justin, I think I might actually IMPLODE from the pressure of deciding one. more. thing.
But when I travel, it’s different. When I travel, there is no wrong decision because we’re just having fun. It doesn’t matter if we take the road on the right or the road on the left because either way, it’s not going to affect how much I get done in a day or where my career might be headed.
I realize it would be healthy to apply this line of thinking to my day-to-day activities, and trust me. I’m working on it.
But in the meantime, this is one reason I love travel. It allows me to just go. To live in the moment without over-thinking it. I become the spontaneous and carefree Katie of my youth. The girl who wouldn’t hesitate to take a road trip for a month or move to Costa Rica to make hot sauce.
I like that girl. I miss her sometimes.
But sometimes — sometimes — I’m wrong.
So, so wrong.
See, when we went to Florida last month and stayed in that beautiful resort in Kissimmee, we also drove down to see my sister in Fort Lauderdale. On the drive back to Kissimmee, I told Justin we’d be taking a detour and that I’d wake him when we arrived at our surprise destination. (Justin is a notorious car-sleeper and self-admittedly the worst co-pilot in all the land, but I love him anyway.) I’ve been to Florida many times, but I never had the opportunity to see that giant wet spot in the middle — Lake Okeechobee. I didn’t research it. I just assumed that a ginormous lake with a cool name like Okeechobee would be totally worth seeing. Plus, I’d get to drive through part of the Everglades which, in my mind, would be dank and swampy and filled with pythons and alligators.
No matter. We still had the lake to look forward to, right? And, like my map showed, there would be a beautiful shoreline drive.
“Look, honey! Cows!”
There were signs, but where was our scenic shoreline?
Eventually I pulled off into a marina so we could catch a glimpse of this so-called lake. If it even existed.
Turns out it did, and it was really quite beautiful.
But something was still missing. Where were the adorable lakeside villages? The ice cream shops? The tacky souvenirs and jet ski rentals and “I Heart Okeechobee” t-shirts?
Um… where were the people?
We made a friend. It wasn’t hard, since he was pretty much the only person around. When he pointed to a giant alligator out in the water (no telephoto camera lens – sorry.), I finally understood.
Florida is a state surrounded on three sides by beautiful ocean warmed by the Gulf stream, long strands of sandy beaches, and dotted with quaint coastal towns and club-thumping cities offering fresh saltwater seafood and colorful cuban cuisine. Spicy fish tacos and authentic ropa vieja and salsa music blasting through speakers and minty mojitos and boat tours past winter homes of the filthily rich and famous. Tourist shops galore selling sunglasses and sun dresses and sun oils and sun screens. Further inland, there’s this little city called Orlando, which may or may not host one of the biggest — if not the biggest — tourist attraction in the United States: Disney World.
It’s no wonder no one wants to visit a stinkin’ lake.
Especially one swarming with alligators.
Look. I don’t want to insult the good people of Okeechobee. I’m sure there’s plenty to do in the way of recreational activities, like dock fishing.
And… um… boat fishing.
And if you’re into birds, they have those, too.
We walked back to the car, sweat from the swampy lake air trickling down our backs. I directed the vents towards my armpits and blasted the A/C, shooting Justin an apologetic look.
Have I mentioned how much he hates car rides?
Nature did its best to provide some inspiring scenery on our drive back to Kissimmee, but our hearts just weren’t in it.
Next time, I’ll take Justin to Shark Valley in Everglades National Park.
He may not see any sharks, but if it’s anything like the last time I went, he’ll see one of these, up-close and personal:
Home of the happiest grins on earth.
Have you ever poorly researched a spontaneous side-trip? Been sorely disappointed in a travel destination? Let me know in the comments so I know I’m not alone.