I’ve been in Florida since December 20, or about 51 days, the longest I’ve ever spent in Florida. Guess it seems right, since I’m now a Florida resident. Will be back around by November or December, so meantime goodbye Florida with its warm air and blue waters…and hello Texas and its familiarity (lived here over 35 years in various places). My arrival in Texas was a bit too chilly, compared to the reviving warmth of Florida, but at least it’s not “chilly” like Ohio right now.
Beaches – While part of nature, these delights deserve their own highlight. Besides the white sands, blue-green waters, sounds of waves cresting and rolling in, sea birds, and fantastic people watching, beach walking has always been a soothing, relaxing, de-stressing activity for me. Walking and looking for seashells is a naturally present-minded activity where thinking about anything else is nearly impossible.
Family – Had several long visits with brother/family (Tampa area) and sister/family (Sarasota). Been ages since we’ve had that much time together. Good stuff.
Nature – Other than no black bear or panther sightings, I saw countless cool birds (including my first roseate spoonbill), manatees, alligators, fox, coyote and a variety of fauna especially a healthy dose of calming, relaxing palm trees. Took many long, rejuvenating hikes in pine forests, on beaches, in mixed wilderness areas.
New friends – Met many Travatoites in campgrounds and made some solid connections for budding, long-term friendships. Having the commonality of vanlife, travel, and (mostly) retired status, makes for easy opening conversations and lots to talk about. An introvert can be very social once a door of familiarity cracks open.
Retiree credentials – Not exactly a highlight, but is in the sense of completing the steps for medicare, social security, company retiree benefits, and fixed-income budget living. Ugh. Ten years ago none of those would be in my highlight reel, but aging has a way to make such things a big deal. These and obtaining my Florida driver’s license and voter’s registration without a huge hassle ), were necessary checkmarks for the days and years ahead. Voter’s registration for full-time RV or boat lifestyles in some Florida counties was temporarily in peril, but but settled by the time I got here.
Self-reliance – Learning to function and supporting myself in this lifestyle solidified during my Florida time. Living in a van and doing the daily things needed to take care of oneself is quite different than a house and the convenience of known resources when needed. While I’ve not spent a lot of time boondocking, which has its own, unique self-reliance skills, I have learned how to be self-sustaining while living in Tamasté.
Tamasté – Many things finished or refined in and about Tamasté during my days in Florida. I continue to tweak things, but now from an experienced view versus a perceived one. Adapting well to living like this, but yearn for times ahead where I can stay in one place for at least a week at a time. Enjoyed hopping around Florida to take everything in (check out the spaghetti routing on my Tripline map), and certainly Tamasté’s setup/breakdown is quick. Yet the desired settling into habit for writing work and life pondering has occurred only in fragments so far. Heading west I’ll have longer stay-put stops where I’m hoping these will become routine.
Warmth – Having left Michigan/Ohio with temperatures in the teens and twenties, it’s been so nice to have warm weather and no snow to shovel, or windshields to de-ice, or layers of clothing to wear daily. Florida had its cold spells, but by comparison are not cold nor long-lasting.
To be fair, not all went perfect but such is life. Overall, a great time with few low moments, all of which were fortunately brief. Still, have to share the oops and acks as well.
- Tamasté damage. While no permanent (or too expensive) damage, several rookie errors happened.
- While visiting the St. Augustine Lighthouse, I drove under a too-low-, too-large oak tree branch and thought I’d sheared off the a/c on the roof! Loud? Sounded like an explosion from inside the van. Fortunately, only scratches, no damage.
- Another time I backed onto a large rock resulting in tearing, then loosing, a rear tire mud flap ($150 oopsie as it will turn out).
- And lastly, not seeing a speed bump which, when traveling too fast in a five-ton vehicle full of a LOT of little, loose parts, results in a loud cacophony of unholy sounds. They say an RV is like driving a house through an earthquake, and that mistake was at least an 8.0 on the dumb-ass richter scale of RV tremors.
- Traveller’s sickness. Worst case of food poisoning (salmonella we think) I’ve every had hit me at one campsite and lasted about seven hours. Nothing worse than a) being alone when that sick, b) unable to go for help, or even know where to go, and c) messing up the small box you live and sleep in while sick. Fortunately, having gone through this before, I knew I wouldn’t die, but for a while there I wanted to! Checkbox marked on the “sick while solo traveling” bucket list from hell.
I look forward to next winter’s wanderings around Florida and will be smarter then from my time in Florida this year. Not wanting to plan that far ahead, I will have to make some state park reservations if I hope to stay longer than a day or two in each place, which is the goal for next year.
For now, it’s time for a Texas visit with friends and familiar places, and spend some sprit-rejuvenating time in far West Texas in the Big Bend/Davis Mountains areas. After that, it’s New Mexico wandering time for a month of intense nature and exploring a favorite part of the Southwest.