Personal Journey: An escape down to Florida

Posted: May 22, 2011

Last summer, I was living in my own personal hell. Sitting behind a desk, the hours passed in slow motion. I had nothing but time to Google search anything that sounded fascinating or wonderful. What I came across put my life into forward motion for the first time. Perusing many a travel website, I decided on a whim to quit my job and fly off to Florida to visit my best friend and my closest sister.

At the airport, freshly unbound from the chains of office drudgery, it occurred to me that I hadn't flown in four years. Had I really robbed my life of seeing the world for that long?

Quieted and ashamed by this realization, I looked around, surveying the scene. The airport was bustling with an array of intriguing strangers. Where were they going? Were they off to a business meeting in Albuquerque? Flying to a funeral in St. Paul? I was now one of these nameless faces, unleashed into the wild world.

My trip lay ahead, and I was ready to experience, to live - to take a flight from here to anywhere. I was ready to decode my piece of life's puzzle.

Upon arriving in Tampa, I was greeted with a warm, salty breeze and promptly scooped up by my friend, Colleen, feeling alive and rejuvenated with friendly recognition and lively banter. Our plans were mind-blowingly simple: relax on the beach.

I spent a day floating aimlessly in the salty waters of the Gulf while Colleen and I talked of old times, baking under the rays like sun-dried tomatoes.

Fourth of July was the main purpose of this trip. How was it that, just days ago, I was paper-pushing for the man, and now I was selling slices of watermelon from a pushcart in the sleepy beach town of Gulfport?

I chatted away with a crimson-winged macaw, blissfully aware that she heard more of what I said that any member of senior management at work had ever heard.

We decided to hightail it to the Florida Keys, where my older sister, Melissa, lives. A Keys rat for many years, Melissa chartered a snorkel boat out of John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo and gave us a private tour of the remaining living coral in the once-thriving but sadly diminished ecosystem.

An additional 120 miles south would land me in Key West. Windows down, sea breeze flooding my olfactory senses and Creedence Clearwater Revival's Proud Mary blasting in the car, I drove down the two-lane highway, flanked by the Gulf of Mexico on my right and the Atlantic Ocean on my left. There couldn't have been more than 50 feet between both bodies of water. I was in the middle, and CCR's hit reminded me that I wasn't "rollin' on the river" but rolling through time and space between two oceans.

It was on this trip that I learned that life keeps on rolling, and I'm just along for the ride.


Jill Kozak lives in Philadelphia.

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