May 21, 2024

Another Reluctant Traveler

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Rehoboth Ramblings

By Leslie Patterson

  “Travel is stressful.” So say 92% of those responding to a recent survey quoted in the Boston Globe. My first thought was what about the other 8%? Maybe they travel on private jets. But I have to say that our most recent flights (on Southwest, no less) were just fine. We flew to Ft. Lauderdale from Green Airport and even got in early on our return. After all the alarming stories about flying recently, it’s worth remembering that the vast majority of flights are uneventful, even if a little too crowded for comfort.

On our first vacation to South Florida since 2019, it seemed much as I remembered, only worse as far as sprawl, traffic and truly scary driving are concerned. There are the endless identical pink and beige shopping plazas. Which city are we in again? I can’t tell. And most of all, having to drive on the local main streets that are actually six-lane highways with traffic lights and intersections. Speeding drivers on the highway weave recklessly in and out, even worse than here (I realize that many of them are from up here). So yes, driving was stressful.

The one truly nerve-wracking incident was having a flat tire on the Tamiami Trail on the way to the Everglades on our last day. Long story short, it all turned out OK but it ruined our plans for the day. We’ve seen the Everglades before but always enjoy the wide variety of wildlife there, especially birds. Fortunately, we visited a favorite spot, Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach and saw a variety of birds (anhingas, herons, and egrets as well as large colonies of wood storks in the trees). Reptiles too. OK, so the iguanas are invasive here, but we did see a large alligator lurking in the water.

How I admire everyone who eagerly takes off on adventurous travel, but I am an anxious traveler myself, even going somewhere as touristy as Florida. Various travel incidents (mercifully, none of them dire) over the years only served to increase my anxiety. When the tire on the rental car blew out, it was as if I had been anticipating something going wrong.

I really enjoyed the series on Apple TV called “The Reluctant Traveler” though I see where some are criticizing celebrity travel shows. It stars comic actor Eugene Levy just being his anxious self as he gets to visit places all over the world, from Finland to Costa Rica to South Africa, not to mention Lisbon and Tokyo. In spite of staying in some very luxurious lodgings, he approaches each new experience with some reluctance, though he actually has a pretty great time everywhere. As a somewhat reluctant traveler myself, I enjoyed the series and Levy’s deadpan humor. Plus, it’s light-hearted entertainment, not dark and edgy like so many shows on streaming services.

It’s always nice to get away from the cold, even in a mild winter, but it was already quite hot in Florida. With blessedly low humidity it was pleasant in the shade. We discovered that 4 pm on a late winter day, when the sun has calmed down, was the perfect time to go to their beautiful beaches.

But it is hard to visit Florida without some real environmental concerns, including, but not limited to, rising sea levels and monster hurricanes like the one in Southwest Florida last fall; red tide and a mass of seaweed thousands of miles wide heading for the Gulf of Mexico; way too many invasive pythons moving north from the Everglade decimating the native wildlife; and manatees starving because so much of the sea grass they eat has been destroyed by pollution. These gentle giants like to seek out warmer water in winter but in late February the water around Manatee Lagoon in West Palm Beach (near the power plant) was already too warm for them so presumably they had already headed out to sea.

So, I’m not one of the many people in New England who like to go South for the entire winter. I would enjoy living there year-round even less. Florida summers are unbearable and go on for way too long. It’s nice to go somewhere quite different on vacation, but it’s even nicer to come home and realize that you really do like where you live. Not only do we have four distinct seasons and ponds and waterways free of alligators, New England just feels like home.

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