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Beachin’ it at Boca!: An Offshore Adventure

For those of you who have been following my journey, my snowbirding experience here in Key West has certainly been an adventure. I have had the opportunity to watch the season change from winter (Really? Winter is a season here?) to spring, and fully witness the everyday happenings of island life, here in the Florida Keys.

One of the most exciting things about being here has been the everyday opportunity to get out on the water.  There is so much to explore here where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Atlantic Ocean, and it’s all right at your fingertips. Playing for the day aboard a local charter is a must when visiting Key West–and a total bonus when you get to partake in the adventure with friends you finally get to meet from back home who also share your obsession with the Southernmost City!

Waking up with the roosters and taking an early morning (peacefully dark, I might add!) walk down to the dock for a 7 a.m. half-day charter is magical when this little rock is still asleep. But, even more magical, is watching the sunrise over the harbor as you leave port and head out for a “Sunday Funday” offshore of Key West. The Conch Republic is well known for its sunsets, but the early morning light and color show over this tiny island is equally as magnificent!

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Beachin’ it at Boca Grande Key!

As we made our way offshore, I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a sea turtle from the flybridge and watch flocks of birds in synchronicity, swoosh past the bow as we set out to sea. It’s not uncommon for dolphins to come and play in the wake and alongside the boat when venturing out in these waters, so I made sure to keep a look out for these wondrous creatures too. What an incredible way to wake up with the ocean!

The first stop on our scenic tour brought us by Ballast Key– famous for the home that “Fast Buck Freddie” built (or perhaps your very own pockets, if you were an avid home décor shopper in Key West’s former famed department store on Duval). This house is a sight to see, even from a distance! And a distance we kept, since rumor has it, if you get too close, the groundskeeper will ward you off with his rifle!

Next, we made our way out to Boca Grande Key. This beautifully breathtaking island is pretty much the stuff island dreams are made of (beaching a boat this large was exceptionally impressive too!). We were the first to arrive on shore that day, which meant that we were also the first to gather up and see some amazing treasures! Newly washed up seashells, sponges and coral, along with hermit crabs, nostalgic lobster traps, and even a freshly hatched sea turtle nest, were among our finds. Oh, the stories such a pristine place would tell if you were there to witness it all arrive ashore. Walking along the shoreline, and around the magnificent mangroves (this area is protected so you are unable to set foot further into the Key itself), the backdrop was something straight out of a Corona commercial with the incredible shades of blue that the water seemed to shimmer and show off just for us. We made sure to stop and get a picture near the lone palm tree that stands proudly untouched by mother nature, before we headed back to the boat.

After our island exploration, we arrived back at the boat to enjoy our brunch and begin another adventure. The next sight to see was an old Navy ship that had been purposefully sunk to be used for target practice years ago. Parts of the ship still protrude up out of the water, so this makes for great sights both above and under the water. Cormorants lined what was left of the bow, while barracudas zoomed past the boat and a shark patrolled the area in the distance. This wreck makes for a great place to snorkel, but being as spoiled as we are down here, the water temperature, in the mid-70s, was still a little chilly for some of us!

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What remains of a former Naval target practice. Let’s snorkel!

As we made our way back to the harbor, while more boats began to head out for the day, I began to think about how grateful I am for this experience I’ve been manifesting here in the Keys for so many years. One of my favorite parts of the trip was spending time with new friends from back home. These people share my love and passion for Key West and to have connected with them while we share the same hometown roots, made it all the more special. Throughout my time here in the Keys, it is the people that have become an important part of my journey and, for that, I am exceptionally blessed.

Arriving back to the dock before lunch, the harbor now fully alive with tourists and locals alike, it was clear everyone was glowing from our day on the water, and our island adventure. My offshore was “chum-full” of sunshine, fun and friendship. And all of this in a mere 4 hours—imagine 6 or 8? Next time, maybe we’ll paddleboard through some mangroves, take a trip to another local marina for lunch, visit the Marquesas Keys, brave the waters for some snorkeling, take a sunset cruise or even plan an over-nighter to the Dry Tortugas. I’m not sure what the next island adventure will bring, but I do know, I can hardly wait!

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Back at the dock with plenty of time to enjoy another glorious day in Key West!

Everything is Right On (Island) Time

Have you ever wondered why it took you so long to do something you love?  What about overcoming a fear and finding out you really had nothing to worry about?  Why you put off that trip that’s been on your bucket list for as long as you can remember?  To finally meet someone special?  It seems it takes us forever to build up the confidence, find the time, or simply be ready to move forward towards our passions and in realizing our dreams.

Lately, I’ve had a lot of lessons in, what I like to call, divine timing.  And it really is only in hindsight that you can see how you’ve been lead to where you’re meant to be at just the right moment in time.  For those of you who have been following my journey—from the first SOULo trip I took to Key West (after some five years of internal dialogue nudging me to return!), to the very space in time as I write this article, officially snowbirding in my soul place (yes, I’m back again!)—you know how long it’s taken me to get here…in mind and body!

Through a series of visits that have grown progressively longer—from three nights to five, one month to two, and now four glorious months of migration—I can honestly look back and see that I am right on time.  That I couldn’t have arrived here any sooner to be as fully prepared as I am in this moment.  Each visit brought with it more confidence, more magical people and more experiences that have allowed me to make some major decisions, break from the routine of my life up north, and live out this dream that has been tugging at my heart for so long.  So many things have aligned for me to be here…now.

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Enjoying some down time at the Casa Marina Hotel

I often wonder why I was so scared (I actually forfeited a ticket once because I just didn’t feel ready to make the trip on my own) and if had I just worked through those fears sooner, that perhaps I wouldn’t have wasted so much time and missed out on the opportunities that have presented themselves to me here in the Keys…but, my soul knows better.  Good things take time, and although we are never fully ready for anything, each previous experience I had here when I did decide to start making the trips, has connected me to the right people and circumstances to be having the experience I am living in now.

This go around I am experiencing Key West even more like a local—renting a room in an old Conch home instead of a fancy vacation rental, furnishing it myself (with the help of Amazon Prime, as well as some generous offerings from my island family), working even more from my computer to afford it (and missing some of the sunshine because of it), but I still feel so very grateful for it all.  I have people here that I am learning from every day, friends who offer rides for me to get groceries, and even those that bring me Cuban chicken soup when I’m sick (yes, those germs make their way down here in the winter too!)—all of whom have played an important part from my previous visits. Every day is not all sunshine and palm trees, but I just know this is not a time in my life that I will ever regret, and I’m proud of myself for pushing outside of my comfort zones and taking this “leap of presence” to get here.

Overall, I think I’ve learned to pay close attention to the callings of my soul and act, with reflection, a little sooner on the thoughts of my still small voice—it’s much like a lighthouse guiding you along your course.  I also know, that those nudges from the Universe that never seem to go away are there for a reason, and won’t likely be leaving anytime soon until you act upon them.  And, with all of that, comes a deeper understanding and faith that when I do make those steps forward, whether it takes me two months or two years to begin, I’m right on time and exactly where I’m meant to be.

So, if there are things in your life that are taking a bit of time to manifest, breathe, relax, let go.  Know that what is meant for you cannot pass you by and that you are right where you’re supposed to be.  You may take the long way ‘round on your travels, but you’ll still arrive at your desired destination right on time—and likely with more of the provisions you needed to settle into your new surroundings because of it.

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Everyone knows that things take a little longer in paradise, so embrace your journey—even when it is unfolding on “island” time.

Plan Key: Reset at Mile Marker 0

Happy New Year island friends! It’s that time of year when we all hit reset and begin making plans to start over again with goals, new and old, as we hoist our sails for success in health, wellness and personal aspirations. With these “reSAILutions”, we chart timelines and expectations, and, more often than not, place an enormous amount of pressure on ourselves for smooth sailing to our desired destination. Inevitably, the compass changes, or we get blown off course while life is happening around us, and we become frustrated, angry or upset. Quite often, we succumb to the sea of setbacks and just abandon ship on the whole voyage altogether. But, just what if you decided to pull out “Plan B” and sail forward, seemingly “off-course” without giving in to the disappointment of the change in tides?

On October 16th, I left home, packed complete for two weeks, to set out on the high seas; an “adventure of a lifetime” on a private shared charter cruise from Nassau to Turks and Caicos—anchoring out, exploring outer islands with new friends, and basking in the incredible blues of the great wide ocean. Unbeknownst to me, however, the Universe had prepared an entirely different itinerary for this trip.

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Correction…this is NOT what’s happening.  This ship quickly sank from “Mermaid Tales” to “Mermaid Fails!”

After boarding a boat that was in a condition much less favorable than I had anticipated, as well as spending two nights at the dock in Miami while the captain spent all of his time in the engine room attempting to get it started (notice the first change of plans here—this boat was already supposed to be in Nassau), it was clear that this vessel was not going to leave port as expected—if at all. My faith in both the captain, and the unreliable mode of transportation set to make the eight hour trek across the Gulfstream to begin this journey, lead myself, and the other guests, to begin exploring “Plan B” for the vacation time we had all set aside for this much anticipated experience. We brainstormed ways to get to Turks and Caicos by air and share a condo (where our return flights were awaiting us), while I (now, not so certainly) “joked?” about heading back down to the place I had just said was “next on the list” after this trip—my favorite little island, Key West.

When we awoke to rain and a holding tank that was “full” that second morning, we decided to salvage what was left of our vacations, put “Plan B” into effect, and literally jump ship; each of us heading off in different directions. After a few texts and phone calls, I packed up my provisions and was on my way to (yep, you guessed it!) the Conch Republic; a four hour ride via a Keys Shuttle down the scenic A1A, where good friends graciously hosted me for the remainder of my trip—which was meant to send me packing on the 30th of October. But, I think we all know where this was heading…

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Saying “so long” to new friends made–everyone off on new adventures! Shuttling down the Keys from the airport!

After setting foot in this space that feels so much like home to my soul, it didn’t take me more than a few days to know I couldn’t leave, to find my own place, and settle in for the following month…and then some. As this article makes its way to the publishers for the premier issue of the new year, it is actually the first week of December—and I am (surprise!) still in Key West. For those of you who already know my pull to this magical little island, this won’t likely be a surprise at all. From Fantasy Fest to Halloween, and Powerboat Races to Christmas, I have been fortunate enough to see and experience some of the best of times Key West has to offer in one single stay alone!

The adventures I have had here in Key West have far surpassed those that may, or may not, have been awaiting me on my two-week charter cruise. I have connected with so many incredible people from my past visits, as well as formed new relationships with other island friends; all of which have become an extension of my island family. Some of my own family, from back home in the North, also had the opportunity to come down and visit me during my stay—finally gaining a greater understanding for what it is that draws me here. Key West has delivered, yet again, the magic of this place I have etched in my soul.

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Touring family from back home!

What I want you to remember from my story is this: Sometimes “Plan B” is just to “go with the flow” and know that something different is okay, release your expectations, and be lead to where you’re meant to be. Keep this in mind when you’re blown off course with your “reSAILutions” or when things aren’t going “as planned” while moving forward with your goals and dreams as you begin this new year. Above all, trust the process. Sometimes the Universe has a bigger plan than even you can dream up! I had the opportunity to reset my journey at Mile Marker 0 and “Plan Key” has been even more amazing than I could have possibly prepared for myself. I can hardly wait to see what’s next as I sail forward and continue charting my course towards my dreams!

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‘Tis the SEAson: The Top 5 Reasons to Spend Christmas in Key West

The holidays are upon us and the magic of the season is all around. It really is “the Southernmost wonderful time of the year” in the Florida Keys. There’s nothing more magical than walking through the streets of Key West at night, seeing all of the pretty lights spiraling up the trunks of the tallest palms, and the historical white picket fences adorned with classic red bows and starfish. Island Christmases, no matter where they may be, have their own special vibe. I’ve been lucky enough to spend a few of my own tropical yuletides in the Conch Republic and here I have the Top 5 reasons why you should too!

1. Sunshine and Tropical Temps

With temperatures averaging in the mid-70s you can stop “dreaming of a white sand Christmas” and actually have one! Walk, bike, boat or lounge around this little island paradise during one of “the most comfortable times of the year”.

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2. Lighted Boat Parades

It’s the “Bight before Christmas” and all through the Seaport this festive floating light show will be sure to put you in the holiday mood–with or without rum! 😉 You can watch from land or sea and, while there, take a stroll down the famous Harbor Walk of Lights where all is “happy and bright”.

3. It’s the Real Life “Island of Misfit Toys”

Do you remember all of those unique and original toys stranded on the “Island of Misfit Toys” from the classic Christmas movie Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? Well, Key West has well been well known as the place where the “weird go pro” and you will likely find a “star of wonder” just walking along or busking in the streets on any given day. The most beautiful thing about this is, on an island where the motto is “One Human Family”, everyone’s individual gifts are not only celebrated, they are welcomed and embraced as well.

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The Abominable Spongeman

4. And On Every Street Corner You’ll Hear…

Along with merrily accepting everyone’s individuality within the distinct diversity of this tiny island, also comes an offering of a plethora of places of worship. Regardless of your own traditions and celebrations this time of year, “on every street corner you’ll hear…silver bells (and roosters)” and have plenty of choices for holiday services and community gatherings in the ever present churches, synagogues, temples, and more.

And, if these five reasons don’t completely convince you to head south for your own Key West Christmas, you should know that even Santa is known to vacation here! Keep an eye out and you just might find this jolly fellow catching up on his Z’s in a hammock after his own big night out! 😉

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Traveling Off the Beaten Path: Jamaica Soon Come

I’m not sure about you, but when I first started traveling all of my experiences involved charters to big box resorts plunked on the coast of the Caribbean and I thought that this was the cat’s meow. All of the food and drink I desired, fancy accommodations with all of the amenities and, of course, the pristine beaches and palm trees placed perfectly around the strategically crafted pools. From the Mayan Riviera to the Dominican Republic, this was the only way I traveled. Occasionally, I’d venture off the resort for a touristy excursion, while, more often than not, I spent most of my time waking up early to place my beach towel 
on a lounger, just to reserve a spot amongst the crowd for 
the day.

As time passed, I tired of the cookie-cutter chain resorts and started to break free from the traditional resort packages and began seeking out my own experiences. After all, once you’ve seen one resort, it would appear as though you’ve seen them all. Was I sitting on a beach in Jamaica or Cuba? The Dominican or Playa del Carmen? I really couldn’t tell, nor did it really matter if I wasn’t stepping into the heart of the island or country I was visiting. Aside from the shuttle to the resort, I really wasn’t seeing the heart of the places I was vacationing and I certainly wasn’t immersing myself in the culture and magic of my new surroundings.

On one of these earlier trips, I met Michael, a German wedding photographer and local resident, at a resort in Jamaica. Like many of my travel friends, we stayed connected via Facebook. Over the four years that followed, I watched him pour his blood, sweat and tears, into bringing his own dream to life and, just recently, announce the completion of his own luxury rental villa in Ocho Rios; a contemporary European styled guest home that was so carefully thought out and detailed, I’d be lucky to stay if I ever made it back. Trendy and posh it would be a dream to stay!But, wait a minute. Wasn’t this the year I was dedicating to bringing my own dreams to life? Wasn’t this time away from the classroom spent building my own remote business my personal “Leap of Presence” to follow the callings of my heart? I actually did have the time to pack up my MacBook, grab myself a flight and spend a week indulging in the amenities of the stunning “One Luxe” Jamaica Villa–and I did just that!

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“One Luxe” Jamaica Villa, Ocho Rios, Jamaica

From the moment I stepped inside, I could really sense the “art and soul” that Michael had put into designing this gorgeous “home away from home”—what an incredible manifestation of a heart’s desire! From the sparkling, refreshing pool at the center of the villa, to the trendy blue lights that surrounded the perimeter of the ceiling in my modern, spacious room, there was a whole lot of thought put into its creation. I made my own breakfast in an upscale, fully-equipped kitchen each morning and was able to stargaze and enjoy the jacuzzi tub under the island moon on the soothingly lit rooftop each night. Listening to the coqui frogs in the evening was incredibly relaxing in a time when my life is filled with so many unknowns.

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Catching up with Michael and his beautiful wife, Sofia, was one of my favourite treats of the entire experience. It didn’t take long to see that Michael and I were living parallel lives from different latitudes. Michael anxiously awaiting the arrival of new bookings, while I was living in the faith of gaining a clientele for my own new business venture in the online world.

While I toured Jamaica’s backyard with Michael and Sofia, I got to see and experience the true essence that is Jamaica. The one that is hidden by the tall structures that are scattered about the coast, blocking the real heart of the island. My gracious hosts took me sightseeing through Fern Gully, into the mountains and the center of real Jamaican villages. They shared their favorite restaurants, made knowledgeable recommendations for activities and sights to see in and around the area and really made me feel at home–encouraging me to partake in the fruits of the surrounding gardens (coconuts, lemons and limes…oh my!). The beach was a short three-minute drive up the road and I enjoyed being on the other side of the resort boundaries to explore it. I made friends with the local bartenders and even got to learn a little Jamaican “Patois”—an English-based creole language with West African influences.

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At the local market in Ochi

One of the Patois phrases that really spoke to me was “soon come.” Jamaica, has a very laid back vibe, with little regard for urgency of time, that can be extremely frustrating as an outsider, yet, we could likely stand to learn a few things from off island. This phrase generally means “it will come”, but that can mean tomorrow, next week or when you’ve completely forgotten you were even waiting for something in the first place! It really does require a lot of patience. And patience is hard. It requires faith, a positive mindset and an absolute belief in divine timing; that when things aren’t going your way, you have to let go of the control you wish to have and trust the process, knowing the Universe is working on your behalf, potentially preparing the delivery of an even better outcome than you could have possibly planned yourself. It was easy for me to see that this is where Michael and I were at on our own journeys, both growing something new and stepping into the unknown.

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My gracious hosts, Michael and Sofia

The “One Luxe” Jamaica Villa Rental Ocho Rios was the perfect place to reflect upon the experiences of the first month into my new life adventure and an excellent reminder to move in the direction of my dreams with patience and faith. Whether a snowbird preparing your winter reprieve or an island lover in search of something new, I encourage you to step off the beaten bath and enjoy Jamaica as a local, rather than a tourist, in this beautiful villa. You can contact Michael and Sofia at 1-876-433-8776, www.OneLuxeJamaica.com or join their online community on Facebook where you will find more beautiful pictures and booking links. When you fly into Jamaica you are always greeted with a warm “Welcome home!” and Michael and Sofia will be sure to make you feel that way.