It’s alway interesting, and sometimes a bit scary to actually meet and talk to the people who read or follow your adventures. On the other hand, I have managed to score the occasional free lunch so it works out for the best. In this case, I met up with Chris back in 2013. He was a fan of the blog and came down from the cold and remote reaches of the northwest. We spent some time talking about all sorts of things and became friends as a result. I asked him, since he was obviously caught up in the whole minimalism movement and coming down here to the other end of the world, to write me a guest post so his perspective could be shared with others who may be at a crossroads in their life and looking for something more better. Well, it did take a while but Chris came through. Have a read if you please:
Hello Fritter fans!
About a year and a half ago, during my first visit to Key West, I took the opportunity to meet up with Captain Fritter. He asked if I would be willing to put together my thoughts about Key West for his blog. I unfortunately was expecting to do this sooner than later, but as happens in life, procrastination took over and I kept putting it off. I’ll blame a raging case of ‘Keys disease’ instead. As I prepare for my next trip down there in a few weeks, I figured now would be a good time to get that item off my checklist.
Rewind a couple of years ago. Like many of you, I found myself dreaming of a different life. At the time I was going through a difficult divorce, and not overly enjoying my job (who does, right?). I was looking at becoming an empty nester and really questioning which way to go with my life. I felt a bit lost and at a crossroads in my life. I was really thinking about a change. I am not sure how I stumbled across it, but I found an article about living on a sailboat in the Keys. It piqued my interest and I started doing some research, which brought me to Captain’s book on living in the Keys, in addition to the Manatee Fritters blog. And thus, I was hooked.
After reading other books and articles about living the island life in the Keys I figured it was time to actually book a trip there to check it out myself. I had done a bit of tropical island traveling/vacationing over the years, so with the books I had read and my preconceived idea of what Key West would be like, I booked a week stay on a sailboat in Key West.
I think my expectations of what Key West was going to be like was based more on my various vacation experiences in places like Mexico and around the Caribbean. Captain Fritter mentioned in his book and blog about how island life is different. Things we take for granted living in bigger cities or metropolitan locations are harder to come by or find on the island. Life is slower. Everything runs on ‘island time.’ Those that come from a larger city where the pace of life is much faster may find Key West a little frustrating. Those who come from smaller towns and cities where life runs a bit slower may not find it to be that different.
When I arrived in Key West and rode my way through town, it all seemed very familiar. Again, maybe its because my idea of what to expect was based on my past vacation experiences, but Key West didn’t seem any different than any other American town. Yes, there are obviously unique characteristics that Key West has that no other place does, but it all seemed…. somewhat normal. Don’t get me wrong, though. Peel back the layers of this town you’ll find it’s soul is still built on thieves and pirates.
Over the week that I was there I rode around the island on bicycle as much a I could. It’s really the only way to see the island. If you ever go, don’t even worry about renting a car. It will be more frustrating than it’s worth to try driving around. And not just because of the traffic or parking issues on the island. The island caters to bicyclists and getting around is just more enjoyable by bike than car. You can take a much more leisurely stroll around the island, enjoying the sounds of music coming out of the bars and restaurants and the smells of flowering bushes and trees.
I had a couple goals for myself on this trip. One was to just decompress from a stressful and trying period in my life, and to also look into this idea of actually trading my life in for something a little more laid-back and less stressful. This trip was just by myself, which seemed like it could be a little lonely, and admittedly probably not for everyone.
But traveling by alone, especially in this instance, gave me a chance to actually enjoy Key West on my own terms and agenda. Because I was by myself, I ended up talking with quite a few people who live there. It forced me to have conversations with complete strangers, and I would go out of my way to talk to the people who live and work there. I was able to hear the different stories of how each of these people ended up in Key West. Some, like me, were just looking for a change in their life. For others, it was just fate. There were even a few who had no idea they were even in Key West and had no idea how they got there (little bit of an exaggeration, but not far from the truth!). But everyone had a story to tell. And pretty much everyone wanted to tell you his or her story. Above all, everyone seemed really happy. No one I spoke to were unhappy with living and working in Key West, even if it meant holding down a couple jobs to make ends meet.
Can I see myself living in Key West? Definitely! But if you have read Captain Fritter’s book, the ones who make it in Key West are the ones who take it seriously and prepare for such a change in lifestyle. And as we know, the Captain prides himself on his minimalistic lifestyle. I am not that extreme and my idea of minimalism includes a few more creature comforts. But, a minimalist approach would definitely help.
Key West is welcoming to all, but she will kick your ass if you are naïve or foolish. When I make this move some day, I want to make sure it is successful as it can be. I am not in a huge hurry, but I am definitely ready for a change. My son is about to leave the nest, and as a divorcee, I don’t have much tying me down now. I am in my mid-40s and I never expected that it could happen this early in my life, but here I am. Living somewhere like this has always been a dream of mine.
I can’t remember if the good Captain Fritter said this in his book or blog, or it was elsewhere, but somewhere I read, “everyone in Key West is either running away from something or trying to find something.” I think in my case it’s a little of both.
Now, I probably should start getting ready for my trip here soon….
Keep dreaming the island life!
As it happens, Chris will be coming down during the same week I will be going up north so we may not meet up for this particular trip, but he sounds like someone who is making all the right moves before coming here. One of these days, I am sure, Chris will be living in the Keys too.
If any of you others have a similar story to share like Chris I highly encourage you to express it somehow. Writing is the obvious way, but not everyone is a Hemingway and comfortable with writing. I know I ain’t. Still, there are other ways, photographs, video, whatever. Start a blog if you can or use the many social media outlets available these days. There are others out there looking for resources, inspiration, or advice. Some just like to read the stories. Don’t be afraid to share. Trust me, there is an audience out there and they will seek you out.
Thanks Chris for your contribution to the Fritter. I appreciate the plug. For those of you interested in the book, here is the link: Moving To The Florida Keys. It’s on the iBookstore for the iPad. Or get the app version for the iPhone. If none of those work for your device, contact me in the comments for the PDF version.