It's pretty, isn't it?
A place I grow more fond of every time I visit, even if it is off the beaten path- at least the best parts of it are. It's the Florida Panhandle on the Gulf of Mexico, with quartz beaches and sand that doesn't stick.
If you drive the length of it, you will be treated to a cultural encapsulation of the USA- from small town hicks of Alabama to the uppity Beverly Hills-ish faux folks to the old blue hair NY Jews to the the Ivy League Spring Breaker Party crowd to the Ex- Hippie Lets camp on the beach and let the dogs shit everywhere while we eat oysters sort of family folks.
Undeniably, the place has its charm, one being its location in retrospect to large commercial cities, the new airport on the way and the undeniably sweet income tax structure.
I can almost forget the traffic jams and construction delays always encountered getting down there and how I almost died and got divorced on a shitty 3 hour walk once. Because each time I try a new area, I learn something else. Like, cheap rentals are cheap for a reason. There isn't always a grocery store around the corner. You don't want to stay where people shop. It's best to be on the south side of the highway. Oysters can go bad fast. Crabbing isn't as easy as they say. And when away from the shore's breeze, summer may be way too hot and buggy to be enjoyable.
I have always been drawn to the ocean. Our family vacations were spent at The Jersey Shore or in Cape Cod, and once The Virgin Islands, which I thought was a funny name for a sexy place.
When I was old enough to strike out on my own I finagled a deal with a small company, convinced them to send me to the West Coast to open new locations and settled my little ass in San Diego. I went to the beach almost every day. Gave directions that started with, head toward the water... Later, after I left that job, I took sideline jobs that were on or on the way to the beach. I dated boys that lived in small apartments on the beach, married a man who grew up on a California beach and still pretty much plan all my family trips around beach time.
During the recent visit with the psychic-- who so far has been RIGHT ON THE MONEY-- he told me I was fueled by the beach, that being near the ocean was good for me creatively. It is a happy spot for me. I cannot agree more.
For the past four years, I've been shopping beach property. First with the idea of rental income, a family getaway spot, then with the intention of having my writer's escape pad. I went to South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and three different areas of Florida searching for a place that felt right, a place I could convince myself was "it."
I still get emails from realtors every week, and I troll Trulia and Realtor.com like a crack whore, looking for my fix.
Sometimes in life, you find yourself waiting for that "aha" moment, and when it doesn't come, you think ok... not here. Time to move on. But I have found, with both my writing muse and my inner navigator that sometimes the moment is hiding just around the bend, sometimes it won't look perfect, it won't be without a challenge or a few road blocks, and if you blink you might miss it. You have to believe it's there, be open-minded about what it looks like and you might have to pull on some gloves and dig.
In comparing the perfect, bug free weather of laid back but costly ( earthquaking) California to the culturally rich ( hurricane-y) communities of North Carolina, the golf and tennis folks of South Carolina, the partiers and history buffs of Georgia and the buggy, muggy and sometimes snooty, yet tax-free and very tan Floridian beaches, I'm thinking I may need a few pairs of gloves. I'm thinking not just one place will do.
Especially when I remember the gorgeous possibilities of the Greek Islands.
Thanks to VRBO, I can continue to try out new beaches, continue to fuel my love affair with ocean views, maybe even finding a little place with a sunny window where a writing desk needs a home.
By tomorrow night, I will have survived yet another road trip to a sandy location. This time no whining kids or dogs that need to pee, just a few good friends with a common purpose: warm sunshine, cold beer and great conversation.