Trail of the Pirates is a travel series exploring maritime history, culture and lore between Key West and St. Augustine on the east coast of Florida.
I'm taking a moment to breathe. My journey up the east coast of Florida far exceeded every expectation; it was more than anything I could have ever imagined. And you know it means something for me to say that -- being the jaded Miami Beach gal I used to be. I say used to be deliberately, because even though I still am that woman, traveling away from Miami has breathed new life into me.
I sit here writing today, with half (or possibly more) of my heart still lingering in St. Augustine. For some reason I haven't quite yet figured out, that city has brought out the best in me -- two visits in less than two months under my belt and the promise of more in the future.
Much has happened in the last two weeks to me and those I love, running the whole gamut of emotion from grief to joy. A dear friend of mine lost his mother after she fell into a coma; another friend remarried and is living happily ever now. (No sooner did I return from St. Augustine, I drove to the gulf coast to attend the wedding and explore Pine Island.) I've made new friends along the way, too, including one who is very special.
I drove 1,663 miles in a span of 10 days between Key West and St. Augustine. And another 350 miles or so between Miami and Pine Island. Mind you, not so long ago, I couldn't even get into a car.
The beach at Sebastian Inlet State Park on the Treasure Coast.
The journey from quiet coastal mangroves in the Keys to the roaring surf of Anastasia Island, with all the beautiful beaches in between, gave me a glimpse of hope, love and joy that I've found hard to find in Miami. There really is something to be said about the road less traveled, especially in Florida. And let me add this: to be inspired by beaches, as I always have, has nothing to do with sex; the most romantic moment may be nothing more then a deeply genuine, lingering embrace.
Was I really looking for pirates? Or was I really searching for treasure in my own heart and in the hearts of those whom I would newly discover?
The line is blurry right now. I did learn a lot about pirates. I did learn a lot about maritime history. But as with every journey, I also learned a lot about myself.
Being next to someone I care about, not saying a word, sitting at the Castillo de San Marcos on a glorious day, gazing at a tall ship as it sailed around the Matanzas River -- all this combined made for a perfect moment of peace and fulfillment I shall not soon forget. I really think I prefer a simpler life.
I also learned a lot about potential.
It has taken me over 15 years to get to the point where I am today. I don't regret one single step, even if I'm not exactly where I want to be. But being in this moment is as perfect as anything I would ever want, even if it's still imperfect. Travel writing is my passion and I'm finally living my dream, though it comes not without sacrifice. Realizing this was a humbling lesson.
Piracy, by definition, is the taking of something that isn't yours. But let's turn this around: what about seizing the things that are rightly yours? What about your dreams? What about your passions? What about love? Those things are your birthright.
I think that in some ways, we are all pirates. We are all trying to find some splendor that we think doesn't belong to us. But the truth is, the treasure is within, it's already part of us, shining brightly even when we can't see it, even when we're sailing in a tempest. What are you doing to salvage the gold you left behind in some personal shipwreck? What are you doing in your daily life to claim your treasure?
Anyway, now that I'm back, the complete pirate series will officially begin. Expect stories to start trickling in, including a few about pirate history right here in South Florida. Stay tuned ... I have much to share -- not only the fascinating history but also an itinerary you can follow if you, too, should decide to follow the trail of the pirates.