I think it was early September when I was hanging out with one of my best friends and she asked if my sister and I wanted to go on a trip to Florida with her in December.

Obviously, we said yes.

My sister and I have a weird sort of vacation schedule with Florida. Since our first trip to Orlando (Disney World) in 2015 we’ve visited every two years. But this trip changed things by visiting Florida within a year of our last visit (we visited January 2017 to see a friend who worked in Disney World, so we almost kept with our strange tradition) and changed it more by exploring Florida.

But before all of that we had to plan, since the vacation plan was suddenly brought up in September it gave us little time to plan what we were going to do, where we would stay, and everything in-between. Luckily the three of us came together not long after we agreed on the trip and our flight was booked, tickets bought, and a countdown made to when we were off to Florida.

I was excited for a number of reasons, the biggest one being that I love travelling and I was doing it with friends which always makes travelling so much better. I’ve been on a few trips with friends (all of them to Florida weirdly enough) and there have always been so many fun moments and memories with them. Another reason I was excited was because I’d actually be exploring a bit of Florida on this trip where in the past I’d only visited Disney World and Universal Studios, which of course is fun, but I’d been curious about what Florida was like beyond the theme parks.

And then September to November seemed to zoom by and it was time for the trip! But I remember just before the trip feeling incredibly run down and not necessarily in a good place. I just felt incredibly stressed and tired and was overall finding it difficult to be happy, especially when it got to December and the excitement for Christmas really began. But I finally had my last shift before vacation, and then we were off to Florida!

I was debating how to write this blog post, whether I should write out the whole trip in one long post or split it up into parts by each day, but there’s literally too much to say! I thought about just focusing on the highlights but the whole trip feels like some neon highlighted thing where every moment was just as important as the last.

So I guess I’ll just start rambling, and see where I go!

***

I’ve always loved the act of travelling almost as much as travelling itself. Long car rides, train rides, flights, I find them all relaxing, a time for my mind to wander and to let myself drift (unless I’m the one driving, that could get bad fast otherwise). The longest plane ride I’ve been on has just been to Florida which is only about a two and a half hour flight, but even though it’s cramped and takes forever to actually get on and off it, I enjoy it.

What I don’t like are airports.

They stress me out, the hustle and bustle between stations. I’m always clutching my passport and boarding pass as close to myself as possible, and double checking my bags an annoying amount of times to make sure I have them. I ask the attendants too many simple questions just to make sure I’m going the right way, am doing the right thing. I have an irrational fear that I’ll somehow get shuffled along to the wrong gate, the wrong plane, and I’ll have to rush to another terminal to avoid missing my flight. Incredibly irrational and probably impossible considering how many workers point you in the right direction, but a fear nonetheless.

Luckily I had my friend and my sister to keep me calm as we talk together and figured out where and when we were going. My friend bought a travel wallet before the trip and was in charge of holding our passports and boarding passes, which helped me relax. We got through customs easy as usual and waited outside our gate until we were called to board. It didn’t take too long, and then we were sitting together excited that when we landed it would actually be hot and sunny and so different from the Canadian winter that was coming (though really it hasn’t been that bad yet, knock on wood).

What I love most about flying is that it’s an overall surreal experience for me. The plane is always so smooth, so calm that it almost feels like driving and somehow we’re travelling God knows how fast and how high. Our flight didn’t have a screen to tell us, but it’s always something that amazes me, excites me, and makes me want to travel further and further every time I fly.

***

Our first theme park was Universal Studios, particularly the Wizarding World of Harry Potter because like my sister and I our friend is obsessed with it but unlike our friend she had never been to the Wizarding World. It was one of the most important stops on our trip and a fantastic way to start off our Florida adventure, and somehow fate (or wizards) were on our side. The park was pretty empty, and the longest wait time for a ride was probably fifteen minutes. When my sister and I went to the Wizarding World it was packed, and we spent our whole day in the Wizarding World because it took so long in the rides and shops. It was amazing to breeze through the rides and shops and still have time to explore the entire Universal park and ride some rides we hadn’t before.

Maybe it was magic, which might make sense because of Harry Potter World. But if so that magic didn’t extend to the next day when we went to Magic Kingdom in Disney World. We were lucky without fifteen minute wait times because at Disney the average wait time for a ride was around fifty minutes to an hour, and a few rides were temporarily closed when the park opened and one before closing. The next day at Hollywood Studios was better, though still busier than Universal and with about the same wait times as Magic Kingdom.

Though of course, you can argue there are at least two types of magic. We had the good one at Universal, the bad at Disney, but even that didn’t make it bad. Both were fun and equally magical days, but being in a less crowded park and only having to wait at most fifteen minutes for a ride is a day I much prefer.

***

Cockroaches scurry just like on TV, but they’re braver. They aren’t always hiding in a drawer, they like to pop out on the kitchen sink or sit on the coffee maker or crawl under the couch when you don’t expect them. And a house doesn’t have to be cobwebbed or decrepit to have them. I learned that from the AirBnB we stayed in for a night.

My friend who is a few months older was able to rent a car which made travelling from Orlando to Cape Canaveral/Cocoa Beach a breeze, and we managed to find the place easily enough (I was the unofficial GPS). But while we were driving our “super host” messaged my sister (who had booked the reservation) and said that we may find some dead insects in the house because it had been fumigated the day before. This immediately lit warning lights in my brain, because what place lets guests in to a recently fumigated building? But we went to check out the place, and I could handle bugs if they were dead.

They weren’t all dead though.

Though the AirBnB looked exactly like the pictures on the website and appeared clean, the chemical stench of the bug killer was very present. We looked around the place, took out the cot from the closet and found a small any very much alive crawling around on it. That was easy enough to kill.

But then I saw a cockroach.

Or at least that first night I thought I did. it scurried like the ones on TV did, under the couch, and a part of me was tempted to drag it out just to see if it was, a much stronger part though was too afraid. When I slept that night I kept waking up because of my worry over the possible cockroach siting, but forced myself to sleep because it was better to be asleep and unaware of what was crawling around me than awake and watching it.

The next morning I definitely saw a cockroach.

It was after my friend grabbed a bowl for breakfast and stared into it before dumping something out, saying to wash out the bowls because there were some dead insects in them. She didn’t say what was inside, I didn’t ask, but later said it was three dead cockroaches.

My sister was standing by the sink when a cockroach looked at us from the sink appearing out of thin air. We looked at it and discussed it for a bit, not wanting to confirm it was a cockroach but recognizing that brown body, those twitching antennae. I handed her my boot and she killed it.

We went to the beach after that, which was only a three minute walk from where we were staying and tried to figure out what to do. My sister talked to her boyfriend and he found out what we could do as tenants to get out money back and get out of the AirBnB, but we still had to figure out where to stay. We ended up further into Cocoa Beach looking for a pier and not finding it (until out second last day) and ended up walking by a seaside motel that was even closer to the beach than our current cockroach filled “home.” We went in and booked a room at the Sea Aire Motel right then and there and moved out of the AirBnB as fast as we could.

It set us back a bit, costing more money than we had expected to spend on where we would stay, but it was a necessary move that made us all feel better. My sister paid for both the AirBnB and motel, and though AirBnB was great at communicating with her and agreed to give her some money back, she won’t get a full reimbursement. And while I understand why because we did stay a night but also don’t because come on AirBnB, there were cockroaches in there!

***

I swam in the ocean for the first time and fell in love with it, like I suspected I would. My friend taught me how to boogie board and I ended up getting more than a mouthful of salt water while trying to ride a wave.

I couldn’t believe how high the waves could get or how strong the current is or how many different kinds of shells there are when the ocean pulls them all out of the sand. We walked along the beach with a tin from Disney and collected sand and shells and dried coral, our own mini beach to come back to in the snow.

And then I lied down on the beach and rested my eyes for a short while, only to wake up with a sunburn. I wore a red dress that night and it only made me look redder and more touristy, but it faded fast, it brought my freckles back.

***

On one of our beach days we explored a bit of Cocoa Beach and went on a boat tour. An apparently unusual amount of dolphins played and teased us by our boat while a manatee floated by and dipped underwater. Before we got off the boat we saw an alligator, an eight footer the hosts said, floating at a distance in the middle of the water.

***

Going home is always bittersweet.

We stood by the ocean the day we checked out of our motel, taking pictures, breathing in the salt, happy for our longer clothes because apparently Florida can get cold too. We talked about how a part of us wanted to stay because it was sunny, because it was relaxing, because there was no stress here (or at least minimal).

But vacations don’t work that way.

I know those same old stresses from before my trip will come popping back up in my life, and I know I’ll deal with them in some way. Though it’s so nice to feel so light right now, so calm, so happy.

But I’ll miss all the fun I had with my friend and sister, how well we traveled together, how I can’t wait to do it again (when our bank accounts raise a little more). But I never forget how so incredibly lucky I am to have them in my life. I have them here, in the sun or in the snow; I’ll always have them for comfort, for guidance, for fun. And how can you worry when you know that?

(Picture of my friend, sister, and I in Cocoa Beach with Surfing Santa at a Winter Festival in Cocoa Beach!)

 

2 thoughts on “Florida 2018

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