Location: Key West, Florida
“I’m going to pull over here,” I announced two seconds before I did just that.
We were driving down a bridge between the Keys, and I couldn’t remember where I had seen water more beautiful. It was the perfect blend of blue and green — an entire ocean the color of Gatorade Frost, crisp and pristine. Small trees and shrubs grew on the waterline, and fluffy white tropical clouds drifted lazily above the whole scene.
I had to get a picture.
Fortunately, my friend is also into photography, and he was pleased rather than annoyed when I sloppily veered the car to a spot along the shore. Other cars were also parked haphazardly along the side of the road, their owners doing the exact same thing that we were — marveling at the view, posing down by the water. The sun was inviting, not overbearing, as we snapped shot after shot of one another.
As we drove further south, a pastel building, a quirky mailbox, or some other roadside attraction would catch my eye, and we’d get out to take pictures. The drive from Miami to the Keys was supposed to take about two and a half hours, but we took our sweet time getting there. We explored motels, beaches, houses, restaurants. We must have pulled over on a whim at least five times on the way to Key West, but so far those parts of the trip have been my favorites.
This is what makes traveling so beautiful to me — giving in to spontaneous whims, taking the time to explore the hidden gems of the places you’re going to, enjoying the physical experience of travel (such as the long drives) and cherishing every single little detour taken. It’s also been a real pleasure to find others who share my excitement about getting cool shots, who think it’s cool to do super-extra things like pulling over just for photos. Since I gave my inner artist permission to roam free, I’ve been experiencing being shamelessly creative for the first time.
I don’t think I’ve ever been happier. I’m writing every day, the trunk of my car is filled with tropical-printed dresses I left at my dad’s house when I moved out of Florida, and I’m filling my time with endless photoshoots and interesting conversations. Obviously, not everything is sunshine and rainbows — I still have a few really interesting stories down the line for you, so get your beer and popcorn ready — but honestly, I welcome those experiences too.
My friend and I leave Key West tomorrow, and while I’m sad that we could only stay a short time (he’s got school, and I’ve got a long list of places I still want to visit during this trip), I’m actually really looking forward to the long drive back to Sarasota. Who knows what cool and quirky things we’ll find this time? ♚
Note: This article is part of my January 2019 One Month Project, where I will be traveling around coastal Florida and publishing an essay a day about my experiences there. I’m excited to bring you along on this adventure!