Happy Monday from Key West, where the sun is shining and I am on my second day of two weeks in paradise. Seriously. Two whole weeks! This may be the best idea I’ve ever had.
Taking the shuttle from the airport, I rode in with a couple who were here for their first visit. I told them this would be my fifth time. “So what do you recommend doing in Key West?” the woman asked.
I hesitated. “Being,” is what I wanted to say. “Being warm. Being away. Being in a place where I can walk or bike to most everything important. All of that. But mostly, just being.” That’s what I come to Key West for.
I come over and over again, I think, because my husband and I are home-bodies, deep down in our bones. We don’t really like leaving the house, even in the full knowledge that quite enjoyable things happen when we do leave the house. But we’d still rather stay home almost all the time. Traveling is hard on home-bodies.
A good strategy to offset the home-body tendency is to go back to the same place over and over again. Now you’re not really going “away.” You’re going to a different home. A place where you know what to expect. A place that has its own comforts. You can build a routine. Breakfast at the French bakery on Duval and an hour or two reading/writing there. A walk down to the other end of the island to sit and watch the boats come and go. Back to the pool. Out for dinner. It may sound strange, but I love routine. I love the idea of a vacation in which you can develop a routine. Call me boring. That’s just how it is.
This time, I’m alone in Key West for the first four days, because I’m on sabbatical and Jeff is not. These four days are my own sort of writing retreat. And here I am, doing some actual writing.
On the first day down here alone, I wondered to myself, what am I doing? Why am I doing this? What kind of insane person goes on vacation alone? I don’t know the answer to that. On day two, it’s not a question I’m asking, anyway. I miss my husband and my daughter and my cats. But being alone is something I can sink into contentedly, like a hot bath.
Key West is not a big place, but today I did some serious biking to explore parts unknown. I saw these houseboats and wondered where they went during Irma. Last night, I biked by the cemetery at dusk. I cruised through the neighborhoods and saw people out on their porches and balconies, enjoying the evening. I picked up a sandwich at this adorable little restaurant. As my husband will tell you, when I travel, I am drawn to the neighborhoods. The places off the beaten path. I like to try and see how people live.
It is really hard to live in Key West. There was a shortage of affordable housing before Irma. The hurricane made it even worse. Today I biked by some public housing. Even in paradise, it still looked like public housing, which is sad. There’s no law that says public housing has to announce itself to the world.
I like coming back to a place over and over again because I believe there is something so valuable in knowing a place deeply. I believe every place is interesting (though some, admittedly, more than others), if you just look hard enough.
So that’s what I’m doing. Looking. Being.