Mt. Dora, FL | Ybor City, Tampa, FL
Like most people, I occasionally need that escape from daily routine, repetitive scenery and the same old people (not that I don’t love them). Unlike most people, I love the escape so much I’ll look for it anywhere, even if it means the random little town next door. My escapades, or explorations, excite me and inspire, allowing my wandering spirit to roam free for a day, or whatever amount of time it may be. I learned quickly after I returned home from my year-long adventure that sitting still in one town week after week was not going to work. I also learned that didn’t mean I had to spend the money I didn’t have on expensive, long-distance trips. While trying to save money and keep myself grounded in one place for a while, I’ve (semi) satisfied my longing to travel by taking day trips to surrounding towns whenever I can break away.
See for me, the addicting and fulfilling part about travel is the opportunity to roam freely… looking at and learning from all the new buildings, landscapes and people around you. While the difference between traveling within the same state and overseas is quite drastic, that doesn’t mean the fulfillment of travel can only come with a plane ticket to a foreign country. Overseas travel takes your learning and self-growth to a whole new level, yes, but the urge to explore and the eagerness to be inspired should not be trumped by a current inability to take off on an exotic adventure. If moving around brings you joy like it does for me, then take those Saturdays or Sundays and move around. It’s amazing what kind of treasures can be found just around the corner.
Over a couple weekends in January, I used my Saturdays to explore Mt. Dora, FL and St. Petersburg / Ybor City, FL. Both days were lovely and refreshing, and made me feel that same joy I feel no matter where I travel to. It’s like taking in a long, beautiful breath of fresh air. I traveled with a good friend to Mt. Dora, where we were able to talk and laugh along the way, and met up a couple friends in St. Pete. But I also spent the evening wandering solo around Ybor, snapping pictures of signs, buildings and art I found interesting. Just the mere act of getting away was enough. It was a great reminder that there is always room to learn and discover if you can just open your mind and hop on the road.
As for Mt. Dora, it is a small, quaint town set above Lake Dora. It’s made up of short, old buildings and has a calm, rustic feel. I felt relaxed walking around its quiet streets and through its quirky shops as I found myself in a place where time didn’t seem as important as enjoying yourself did. My friend and I slowed down for tea and took our time in whatever restaurant, shop or pub we found ourselves in. We took pictures for fun and browsed in a book store just because we could. There was nothing we had to buy or see, and that was the best part about it.
After my visit with friends in St. Pete the next weekend, I made Ybor City my travel destination of the week. I was eager to learn something new and observe something interesting so I thought Ybor, being a place with both history and character, I would find both of those things. I learned that Columbia Restaurant was the first Spanish restaurant in the U.S. and I read about the community’s role in Spanish-American ties. In coffee shop windows, I noticed men and women of Spanish or Cuban heritage rolling cigars and selling them to customers at the coffee shop. I also observed the large amount of diversity in the area and it made me smile. There were business men and women, hipsters, families, girls dressed in unicorn onesies, old dudes smoking cigars, etc., and they were all coming together at Ybor’s several bars and restaurants to have a good time on a Saturday night. It was killing me to not join them but someone had to drive my car home…
When we can’t be exactly where we (think) we want to be, what we can do is make the most of where we are. Take a day and drive to that little town next door. Dig deeper and you’ll find plenty of new sights, smells and stories to discover.