November 18, 2017

The Flavors of the Days: Exploring St. Augustine, Florida

Vertical sundial sighting in St Augustine

(all photos by the author)

Wanna explore an East Coast city with a European feel? We had a chance to do just that yesterday, as we poked around and explored the streets of old Saint Augustine, Florida.

This was one of the first true ‘adventure days’ we’d had on our current sabbatical. Long term travel and working on the fly presents its particular challenges. Sure, it might feel like vacation, but somehow, the work (or in this case, the writing) needs to somehow get done.

When it comes to long term life on the road, the days tend to come in three basic flavors:

-Moving days: this is when you go from point A to B, picking up your base camp of operations and depositing it elsewhere down the road. Sound easy? Well, it usually involves packing, transport plus waiting, and problem solving (has the hostel burned down? Is there a plan B, C thru Z? Where are food, ATMs, laundry etc. at the new site? Then there’s unpacking and set up at the end of a very tiring day. I usually plan on moving day to take the entire day, and seldom like to move more than every other day at the max.

-Chore days: you’re traveling independently; this means the minutiae of the trip has to be attended to. Whether you brought two outfits or a Victorian luggage train of wardrobes, laundry piles up and a hurry, and you frequently have to do it remotely, dorm-style. Then there’s research, getting tickets, and planning. We once spent a week in Bangkok post-Cambodia, pondering our next step (we ultimately went to Jordan and had a great time).

-Touring days: This is what you came here for in the first place: to seek out adventure, to experience the awe and wonder. Even working and writing from the road, it’s still possible to strike out on adventure. One key I’ve found to success is that intrigue is where you find it; every place has a story to tell, though if you find yourself at highway motel across from the Walmart, might take a bit more digging to find it.

Strolling through scenic St Augustine…

To these classics, I’d add two more ‘flavors’:

-Contingency days: Back in the military, we’d always plan on getting back to base a day or two prior to the end of our leave, lest we be declared AWOL. Then there’s the dreaded sick days, as our GI tract struggles to keep up with the exciting and strange new gut flora of the world. Never cut it too close on time, and like cash, always budget more than you think you’ll need.

-Fun days: Don’t forget to just live in the moment once in a while. And we’re not talking about having too many endless party-animal nights; many an Asian traveler never makes it beyond Khosan Road in Bangkok before heading home. One of our most memorable evenings was getting stranded in the border town of Poipet, Cambodia with other dispossessed backpackers during Chinese New Year. Beer and the camaraderie of a shared experience suffered through can go a long way in the memories department.

Avast: on the ramparts of Castillo San Marco

That’s our perspective on things. Suffice to say, our walk through old St. Augustine was a picture perfect blue-sky Florida January day, and the Castillo was free, to boot. The old stone ramparts of San Marcos – made of a shell aggregate known as coquina mined from the outer barrier islands —had a very European feel. My mind always goes back to the lives of those who lived here, who built and defended the fort. What motivated them to make a stand in the Florida wilderness, and how did they make it through the day? What were there aspirations and motivations?

It was a great stroll and a good first ‘tour/fun day’ out the gate. And we’re here in the Daytona Beach/Ormond by the Sea area for another few days, with a possible peek at the largest observatory in Florida soon…

More to come!

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