“You’ve never been to an ocean?” most people would gush when they discovered my lack of exciting vacations.
“Never,” I’d reply, knowing I’d probably never see one until I was an adult planning my own family’s vacations. The typical “some sunny beach in Florida” vacation wasn’t at the top of my parents’ list of must-visit destinations.
It’s not that I didn’t adore our yearly vacation—renting beachfront cottages on Lake Huron in our home-state of Michigan—but I always felt like we were missing out on something great from how fondly others often described their Florida vacations.
So when my friend Anne’s family invited me to vacation in St. Augustine, Florida with them for a week in July, it’s not surprising that my parents were willing to let me go: it was one of the only chances I’d have to appreciate an oceanfront vacation.
When we arrived, everything was new to me. For starters, I’d never flown in a plane before or been to the South. When Dorothy reaches the land of Oz, she exclaims, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore!” and when I reached Florida I would too have said “Toto, we’re not in Michigan anymore!” If only I had owned a little dog. I was seeing sights I had only seen in pictures before: palm trees, the Atlantic Ocean, beached jellyfish, jumping dolphins, the ocean view from our oceanfront condo, and Winn Dixie supermarkets.
Besides all of these novel sights that attract so many to Florida, there was something else new—the heat. Michigan summers were hot at times, but never this hot. I’m sure I could have fried an egg on my forehead if I had tried. The downside of being in such a beautiful place was that it was almost too hot to do anything. Being outside was less-than-enjoyable unless the sun was down, and even then the humidity was stifling. It was hard to appreciate the beach from inside, where Anne and I spent our time reading, coloring, relaxing, and watching movies, all of which are activities I’ve often done on my own family’s Lake Huron vacations, the only difference is that now I had to do them inside instead of with my toes in the sand.
What further complicated matters was my desire to go for a run every day, just as I do at home. Possibly this was the eye-opener for me. I had to carefully plan my run so it was before the sun rose or after it set. Back home I seldom had to worry about this. Previously, I had never appreciated Michigan’s fickle weather. In fact, this had always been a cause for complaint. Being in Florida, however, showed me just how great we have it in Michigan. Sure, we have it all: snow, rain, hail, sleet, and sun, but we also have variety, and that’s what’s great. I had always thought the grass was greener on the other side, the other side being Florida, but in reality, enduring a cold winter makes the summer that much sweeter. And instead of mild weather all year round which sometimes sounds tempting, I am privileged to enjoy the crispness of autumn and the spring thaw.
My week in Florida was relaxing, and I don’t regret finally experiencing what seems to be many people’s ideal vacation. Along with a salty-smelling conch shell, one of the most important things I took away from the trip is an appreciation and a love of Michigan’s weather, where the grass is just the perfect shade of green for me.
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