From the moment I know the trip has been planned, my mind anticipates the relaxation, and when I see the low, aquamarine median wall out of the car window on U.S. 1, I know I’m close. Salt water creeks emerge on either side of the road, and soon after, the bay is visible. Driving through Key Largo, the roadside billboards advertising cheap t-shirts, sandals, and sea shells start to appear, while the big corporation-owned businesses become scarce. I look out for diving shops and restaurants, noting the mile-marker signs as I pass. Islamorada is my favorite destination in the Keys, and my favorite escape.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Stepping out of the car, the sun warms my skin and the breeze dances around me letting me enjoy its clean, fresh saltiness. It’s only 17 miles from the mainland but it feels like a world away. Lush trees line the main road and every few miles, there are clusters of unique, local owned shops and restaurants. The shore is rough crushed coquina rock, but the water is warm, calm, and inviting. I think it’s the silence I appreciate the most. The pollution of large cities, the cookie-cutter shape of suburbia, the chores at home, the instruction of teachers, and the incessant stresses of life have no voice here, and my mind is clear. There’s a freedom granted and that allows me to get lost in this paradise.
While Florida is regularly referred to as the sunshine state, it’s also important for one to consider the frequent downpours which can kindle the need for indoor activities. Still, I enjoy these just as much and often find peace in music, films, books, games, and sketching as a storm showers, flashes and thunders. With my family, or on my own, I amuse myself childishly without fear of the possible danger outside from the crashing waves and frantic trees.
On a sunny day, the islands provide a tropical array of distractions. When feeling daring, I’ll embark on a snorkeling trip with my dad and sister to explore the cool, deep-blue waters and watch the vibrant fish and coral, swaying seaweed, and other graceful marine life. If I want to relax, I’ll lay back with my mom by the water on a chaise lounge while sweet sunshine mingles with a sea breeze and sunscreen protects me in a coconut blanket. Either way, the snack, lunch, and dinner breaks are always anticipated as my whole family part-takes in careful strategic planning of which local restaurant to dine in next. Fresh seafood, tangy barbeque and key lime notes along with gentle grill charring combine harmoniously in many dishes.
Picturesque sunsets of pink, orange and yellow tell us another day in paradise has ended. Most nights, drained from fun in the sun, we’ll fall sleepily rest, eager to regain strength for the next day. However, that last night you fall with a hint of disappointment but a sense of accomplishment at having experienced another satisfying trip to the south most gems of the U.S..
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