My life the past few days have been a whirlwind of emotions. The closing of one major chapter was quickly followed by the start of a once in a lifetime journey. Leaving New York City, along with some of the greatest friendships I’ve ever formed, was undoubtedly a major test of my commitment to this new path I’ve chosen. I tried desperately to control my emotional display in the closing days, not so much as to put up a front, but rather to prove to myself I could handle any hit the following years could potentially throw my way. Saying goodbye is never easy. I’ve learned this lesson time and time again. As I write this journal, reminiscing on an unexpectedly great three days in Florida, I realize my preparations have come into play much quicker than I would have liked.
I arrived in Miami on a Sunday, hoping to clock a few hours of quiet time on a piece of Florida coastline. My hopes were immediately crushed as my Taxi driver informed me of the chaos erupting over on Ocean Drive, the stretch of road in which I would spend my next few days. It was Memorial Day weekend and party animals were flying in from across the country. After spending a few hours amongst the chaos, I snuck away to meet friends that connected with me through couchsurfing.com. We shared a few beers and some $2 tacos. I’m always open to new friendships, especially while on the road as they most often bloom into great travel opportunities. Although we parted ways after our meal, it was an experience meeting people who have traveled the world, all while sleeping on the couches of strangers.
I walked through the hostel doors and was greeted by a group of German friends, Katja, Beatrix, and Paul. I couldn’t help but notice Katja’s gorgeous smile. That alone filled the room with a vibe that was totally unique to the situation and one I’ll never forget. We immediately sparked a friendship and spent the night drinking beers and smoking hookah on the rooftop of our hostel. The next day was rather lazy, spent laying on the beach for hours and eating Ben & Jerry’s ice cream on fields of grass. Their group had planned to rent a car the next day and drive the Florida Keys with the goal of spending a day in Key West. I joined them on their journey, renting the car myself after they ran into some issues at the help desk. The 4 hour drive that followed in our black convertible Mustang was mind-blowing. I didn’t feel like I was still in the United States. The combination of hot, humid, weather and stunning views gave a Central America feel, but high-class cars and the people driving them quickly snapped me back to reality. We spent the day drinking beers by a pool, swimming in warm blue ocean waters, and enjoying a gorgeous sunset to end the day. We drove home with the top down, averaging 90 mph and loving life.
Our drive to Key West marked the end of a great time spent in Florida. I was scared at first, thinking my time there would consist purely of twerking girls and expensive bottles of vodka. I need to thank Paul, Beatrix, and Katja for coming to my rescue. When it came time to say goodbye, I had a heavy heart. Even though we had only spent a couple days together, I felt such a strong bond with my new friends from Germany. I’m now in Cuba and find it hard to shake the image of Katja’s smile from my mind. As I stated earlier, I spent my last days in New York, training myself to overcome situations like this, knowing that I will be saying many goodbyes over the course of my journey. I am learning now that no amount of preparation will help you to detach quickly from the connections you make, one can only roll with the punches. I hope to see my new friends again soon, if not in a foreign country, then in one of our home states. I’ve continued to stay in contact with Katja and am searching for opportunities to see them again soon. Let’s just say, once one pops up, I won’t hesitate to take it.