Prior to being faced with the concept of moving abroad and leaving home, I had never thought about the unique characteristics of Florida in the context of other places. Sure, I had friends that lived out of state and were vaguely interested in Florida, but they had always visited before and had some idea of the place. Yet even these friends asked me if I had legitimately ever seen an alligator before. Yes. The answer to that is a definite yes.
However, it wasn’t until I started to meet people from the university that had either never been to Florida before or were not familiar with it that left me to think about just how different of an environment I grew up in after all. Sure, England sounds incredibly exotic to me, but in reality I’m sure that alligators in the creek up the street and seeing Manatees at the riverfront park downtown qualify for their own category of “exotic”. I have gotten to grow up swimming in springs in the middle of the summer that have crystal clear water that you could drink without any processing. For your information, that water is also incredibly cold. I have gone kayaking through marshes where the fresh water turns to salt (brackish water). I have caught fish in lakes in Central Florida where lifeguards had to use motor boats to scare away alligators. Yes, really. I have been brutally sunburned more times than I can count. We’ve seen dolphins feet away from us at the beach and then accidentally took home a colony of hermit crabs (which we returned)
as a result of collecting shells along the jetties without checking to see if they had tenants. So yeah, to me all of this sounds second-nature, like something easily taken for granted, but for others, I suppose, this is a pretty amazing place to live or even just to visit. Of course, it is also horribly hot and humid and there are, at times, literally swarms of mosquitoes. We do also have only three seasons: bearable, hot, and hotter + humid. While there are certainly things I will be glad to have a break from (like having to crank up the AC in November because it is still in the upper 80s), there are also things that I will most ardently miss. Florida is a truly ecologically fascinating place, and I wish that I’d realized how unique it was before now. At least I’ll have the rest of the summer to bask in its springs, state parks, and endless waterfront views.