I was 19 when I moved to Florida. I knew virtually no one, had no historical knowledge of the state and really only associated it with the vacations I took with my grandmother to her time share in Buena Vista. But in the sixteen years I have lived here, I have explored more of Florida than any other state I lived in, and learned more about its history so that my Florida native babies will know the lineage they come from.
Despite the length of time I have called Florida my home and the loyalty and love I have for it, I’ll never be a true native. (My father-in-law just recently stopped calling me a Yankee). But I married a native Floridian (and his entire clan) and have learned a thing or two about Florida natives that I feel are singular to this group.
Prior to marriage, I marveled at my to-be-husbands’ choices of entertainment and just how Floridian he was; I had never met anybody who spent as much time outdoors as he did. Seriously, not a weekend went by without him asking, you wanna go surf? You wanna go fish? Kayak? Knee board? I mean, we never were indoors while the sun was out. I can honestly say it was one of the main things that attracted me to him. He took me out of my comfort zone and I loved it.
But I still wondered, are all Floridians like this? And he would nod his head and say, “everyone I know.” And he was right of course, they may not all have the same exact outdoor interests as he does, but every Florida native I have met loves being outdoors.
Here are a few things I have come to learn about native Floridians:
1. All Floridians, no matter what part of the state they live in, are immensely proud of their state. In their eyes there is no better place to live in the world than Florida. Despite living in central Florida his entire life, my husband would rather travel inside the state lines than go explore another state. When we set out to plan trips I always ask, what state do you want to see? And he always picks Florida. With a miriad of water sports, to lakes and beaches, to caves and historical sites, this state has something for everyone. And each area is vastly different, despite what some tourists might believe. The panhandle has a completely different vibe than St. Petersburg than the Florida Keys, but all take pride in their neck of Florida.
2. All Floridians LOVE the outdoors, especially IN their state. Whether they like to hog hunt, fish, hunt deer, go to the beach, go offshore fishing, or go hiking, they want to do it IN their state. Floridians have an appreciation for the natural beauty of old Florida that is unparalleled. They scoff at the photo shopped pictures on a vacation brochure because in their eyes nothing will ever compare to Old Florida beauty.
3. True native Floridians are pirates. Now, this doesn’t mean they steal or attack or plunder. But rather, they like doing what they want, when they want, and in their own way. This falls in line with number two; if a Floridian is into fishing, they want to do it their way not how some wrangler on TV is telling them to do it. And chances are the way they learned was from their dad or their granddad. Likewise, if they have a favorite beach they have been going to for years, you are not about to talk them into going to a different beach; they want to do it their way. The way it’s been done for years (or generations for some families). Don’t mess with a Florida pirate.
4. Floridians take pride in their work, because they know their vacation IS their back yard. I don’t mean to say others don’t take pride in work, but rather that when your backyard is a destination place for so many, you work hard to keep it a destination for you. No one wants to bring the rat-race to their happy getaway, therefore Floridians work hard to keep both in balance.
5. A follow-up to #4, the majority of Floridians, don’t like tourism. Now let me be clear, I don’t mean they don’t like tourists. No, it’s not about people; in fact they want to show off all their state has to offer, it’s what the tourists represent. Floridians don’t like tourism, as defined by the tear down and build up of their land for the expansion of certain amusement parks. Or the onslaught of chain restaurants that are giving mom&pop, hole in the wall (awesome!) local restuarants too much competition. But what really bothers native Floridians is that there are thousands of people each year who choose Florida as their vacation destination, and the only thing they ever see is the inside of the hotel, a monorail and an amusement park. Visitors don’t truly get to appreciate all Florida has to offer and that upsets native Floridians.
6. Finally, the last thing I have learned about native Floridians, is that no matter how serious or stressful their job, all native Floridians know how to have fun without an amusement park. This doesn’t mean that they’re not used, it’s just that they know to get back to the simple life. They don’t need the high energy, fast paced, thrill-seeking amusement park to have a good time. Floridians know how to kick back, relax and de-stress in nature without external stimuli. The water, the trees, the animals are their stimulus and it relaxes them.
I didn’t know how to do this before I met my husband and his family. They have taught me the joy of being on the water, taking a hike in a nature preserve, fishing, laying in a hammock under a canopy of Spanish moss, and bird watching.
Floridians are preservationists of their state, they love to be in it as well as share it .
The next time you decide to visit Florida, ask a Florida native what you should do. Or message me for a list of off the beaten path places to visit, sights to see, or even local eateries. I can tell you what beaches fit your needs and where to find the best surf, fishing holes, camping spots, kayaking, paddle boarding and more. Don’t let Florida escape you; escape to Florida like a native.