My family and I have been traveling to the part of Florida known as 30a for the last 12 years. Easily accessible (an eight hour drive or a one hour flight) from Nashville, the white sand beaches and clear turquoise water beckon frequently. It is a destination that many refer to as the “New Florida”. With plenty of beautiful homes, restaurants that boast top notch cuisine as well as the predictable children’s menu favourite’s, it is a holiday that we happily repeat at least once a year. But with any popular destination, there are the negatives. The largest of which are the crowds. Because we travel during school holidays (wouldn’t it be nice to not do that but that would involve home schooling and there isn’t a destination on this planet that is worth that…), we always visit at peak times which can mean that the beaches and the beautiful restaurants that make you feel like you are dining somewhere remote and tropical are crowded. I am crowd-averse so when I am the eighth person in line to get my morning soy latte, I feel like I am on MTV Spring Break…
So when my girlfriend whose family owns two beachfront condos on Anna Maria Island in Florida recently invited my friends and I to spend 4 days there, I could not have said yes fast enough. Here was my chance to experience “Old Florida”.
Anna Maria Island is a barrier island located on the coast of Manatee County. It boasts 7 miles of white sand beaches that rival any I have ever experienced. While it has received many awards, it has managed to receive the notoriety without losing the quaint island feel. Each local that I spoke to was kind and lovely and made me feel as if I had stepped back in time, in all of the good ways. There were times when we had the beach to ourselves and I drank in all of the empty space. And the rosé. I definitely drank the rosé until it was empty…along with my girlfriends of course.
The next few days were spent jumping in the ocean, reading books cover to cover and eating delicious seafood. We laughed until we cried and cried until we laughed. We were like the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants without the shared jean size.
My girlfriends are truly my life’s lifeline. I have built my life with a foundation of solid friendships that have given to me more than they will ever know. This particular group of friends have been in my life since my oldest daughter was one. Although our collective children were the reason for our introduction, they all scattered to various schools and we remained woven together. Through deaths and divorce and damn hard times, when our lives were more different than the same, we continued to get together and simply show up for each other.
So were there any negatives to Anna Maria Island? Perhaps just one. I spent each and every morning searching the entire island for a soy latte but to no avail. With each hopeful, and perhaps desperate “May I have a soy latte?”, the replies were a consistent blend of kindness and “No-we don’t have soy here.”
While I missed my morning coffee routine, I cherished my time spent on Anna Maria Island. And I will continue to cherish our annual holiday in Rosemary Beach. Because when you find yourself recalling a moment or conversation and smiling, you realize that it is not the destination that matters. It is the people you are with.