Growing up so close to the lovely Florida Keys, I've been blessed to have taken so many trips to Key West (and the surrounding islands) that I've actually lost count. Key West has always been my HAPPY PLACE. The sand, the surf, the sunshine, the Caribbean vibe, the lack of pretense, the small town, "no one cares" feel has always resonated with me. A hotel manager once told me, "We're far from perfect but anything but ordinary." and that is 100% true of my favorite vacation destination.
When my husband and I got married in 2001 - well, just shortly before - we took our first trip together, and of course it was to Key West! It was his birthday weekend. I was 22 and I was so excited and nervous about taking a trip with someone. I'd only ever traveled with my family prior to that trip. It was one of my first "grown up" moments.
That trip happened in 2001, and my ex-husband and I had such an amazing time. We drank and ate, walked the streets and held hands. I think that I knew that weekend that we would eventually become something.
I got my first tattoo that weekend, a small butterfly between my shoulder blades. I was learning to unfold my wings and fly, and that weekend helped me on my journey.
My ex-husband and I went back to Key West every year for our anniversary for quite a few years. We'd spend days making love and evenings dancing and drinking. We'd purchased a bike rack for my car and we brought our own bicycles, we'd ride all over the island, exploring together.
That's back in the early years, when we were still happy.
I should have know that our marriage was doomed the day he told me that he didn't want to celebrate our anniversary in Key West anymore, that he'd actually grown to hate my favorite place on earth. I guess - for him - there was such a thing as "too much of a good thing."
I continued going to Key West on my own, with friends, and sometimes with him, for things such as Fantasy Fest, and weekends away with friends. But he and I never went back together in any romantic capacity.
Then I got divorced, and then...I met a special man. He was stressed at work, we had a holiday weekend coming up, and I wanted to so something to cheer him up and take his mind off of things. Where else could we go but Key West? You can't help but be happy in Key West! So we went, and it was a fantastic weekend. We did sunset cruises. We went clothes shopping together. We stuffed our faces and sweated like pigs together - it was Key West in July, after all!
I took him to Captain Tony's and made him try to throw a penny in the mouth of the fish. He pet random dogs on street corners. We went to the Key West Aquarium and he pet a shark. We've since broken up and ceased speaking, so I can't share all of the romantic photos we took together during that trip together.
But I will tell you this: it made him happy, just as I knew it would. Who can avoid being happy in Key West?
He napped on a hammock beneath the palm trees. We kissed while watching the sunset on a Wine Sunset Sail with two different charter companies. We held hands while strolling Duval Street. We bought souvenirs for his father. We ate Key Lime Pie. He ate two pieces. I called him my little Porky Pig. We chatted with the owner of the establishment for almost an hour and he sat and watched while I took notes and laughed at me for asking a million questions. He stopped laughing when I got a free coupon for a piece of pie the next day.
We relaxed. We cuddled and kissed and he tickled me so much that I almost peed my pants. I laughed. He laughed. We were both so happy! It was magic.
So magical that I almost fell in love with him that weekend. So magical that I texted all of the guys I was talking to on the last morning while he got a massage, explaining that I really liked this guy and wouldn't be open to seeing anyone else going forward. Most of the men in my life were friends first and flirtatious liaisons second, and they were happy for me.
As I've said, we've since stopped seeing each other - he's actually moved out of state and we no longer speak. BUT.
BUT. It's okay. That weekend taught me a very valuable lesson as a traveler. There are some places in this world that are meant for romance. There are some places in this world that are so full of sunshine and happiness that you can't even help but to fall in love - or something like really close.
I was recently invited to attend an individual press trip to Key West, and I invited a man that has been in and out of my life over the last 8 months to be my guest.
BUT. Because there is always a BUT, isn't there? Key West is meant for romance. I ended that semi-relationship, because I don't want to take the wrong person. You can read about that here. He and I are heading nowhere. I know better now; Key West is a place for bonding and romance, and he and I aren't heading down that path together.
So instead, I am taking a close girlfriend who recently lost her job and needs a little cheering up. Because while Key West may be a wonderful place for romance, it's also a wonderful place for a fun girlfriend's weekend getaway!
Key West may be the perfect place to fall in love, but it's also the perfect place to let your hair down, sip pina coladas and watch the sunrise with your girls and dance the night away on the dance floor of Sloppy Joes.
It's just what she and I need right now.