Where I Wend: Fort Lauderdale, FL
I’m a Florida resident, born and bred. Still, I haven’t made too many trips South of my Central Florida base. The few I’ve made I remember vividly. Turning off that Turnpike recalls memories like:
The morning my Dad and I woke before sunrise and drove to Hollywood, Florida so that at 9am I could dance before the Royal Caribbean casting team.
My first trip to Miami as a preteen to audition for Julliard’s summer program. I remember likening this city to a scene from the Jetsons, with all the flyovers overlapping each other like futuristic fingers.
I’ve made the journey to South Florida most often to dance. It’s a popular Southern stopping point for audition tours and summer programs. It’s also home to the head office of many major cruise ship companies and their auditions (Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian).
But last month I drove to Fort Lauderdale NOT to audition or dance. I was there inspired by my other passions: travel and writing. I was there to attend TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange).
Traveling has captured my heart much in the same way that dance has. I love it for it’s freedom, and ability to transport me to alternative worlds.
But at the root of it all, the reason I dance and the reason I travel are the same. I do both in an effort to surround myself with passionate, likeminded people.
I do both for their community, and the feeling of belonging.
With that as my motivating factor I don’t often find myself in bad company.
Travel blogging is still new to me. It fascinates me that many people make money this way. It seems like the ultimate dream…and ultimate curse? I know all too much about turning your passion into your job (ahem, DANCE. You certainly don’t do it for the money). But then again if my job were hopping from city to city, exploring the arts and culture of some of the world’s most desirable destinations, I’m not sure if I could complain.
On the other hand, when I see these same bloggers taking tours, trips, and organized excursions back to back with hardly a breath in between, I’m a little disheartened. This is part of their job of course, one that I admittedly envy. But I can’t help but wonder if these pro-bloggers have ever wished for a more unique experience? Or perhaps that’s where their travel infatuation began, but somehow it’s morphed into free drinks and composed infiniti-pool photos.
I wonder, do these bloggers look out of their bus windows wishing they weren’t traveling in a human herd?
On my stay in Lauderdale I took care in making it my own. I selected my own Airbnb, a tiny cottage in the suburbs of Lauderdale.
I was not keen on staying in a chain hotel giving away free nights in exchange for exposure, write-ups, or credit-card endorsements. Something about that seems counterintuitive to why I travel.
I didn’t overbook myself on FAM (Familiarization) trips and tours. I attended only one, intimate tour. A look back into my old maritime life and seafarer’s house of Port Everglades.
I crafted my own memories on this trip, as unique as the ones I made on my first journeysto South Florida as a kid.
On this trip down South I…
Met an old coworker in Port Everglades, docked for the day on the cruise ship he was working. We drank beer and reminisced on our days at performing at sea.
Picked up Thai Food from a yelp-loved restaurant. I made conversation with the friendly Filipino waiter who took my order. He told me how he was liking Fort Lauderdale as his new home. I listened.
Fell asleep to the croaks of frogs outside my airbnb cottage, the afternoon rainstorm still dribbling onto my roof.
Grabbed coffee at the mom-n-pop drive-thru, Expresso Coffee. A tropical looking hut in a parking lot full of pot holes. I chatted with the gregarious owner, proud inventor of his infamous Cinnamon Morning Spice Coffee.
As I drove away with my spiced beverage I felt warm and welcomed. I wondered if I would have had the same feeling had I hopped from tour to tour. Or if I’d made my morning coffee with a mini maker in a hotel room. I was glad, in that moment, that I had taken some time to see Fort Lauderdale for myself.
I look forward to my next visit to Fort Lauderdale, and exploring it’s arts, music, and dance scene. Perhaps I’ll even be welcomed there by a tourism board or a music venue (of which I’ll probably gladly accept the invitation… Guilty).
But I’m glad I took the time for a closer look at Lauderdale; at it’s people and lesser known restaurants. My weekend unfolded organically. It presented me with stories and anecdotes that no one else may have. It’s in these moments that I find the real character in a place.
The people handed out smiles and kindness as freely as the sunshine that bathed the whole city. As I drove away from Expresso with my spiced coffee in hand I felt like I’d found my own meaning behind their motto “Hello Sunny.”