My Florida Keys Birthday Celebration
When we are entirely immersed in the moment, we are astutely aware of our immediate surroundings and the rest of the world disappears. Our thoughts, confusions, and emotional turmoil are irrelevant. Our attention shifts inward, and awareness of our heart rate and breath are stronger. We sense interconnectedness with the universe, and perhaps a warming sensation of gratitude and love. The concept of time and place, which are measurable in numbers and by various means, seem incomprehensible to us. Everything slips away from us like grains of sand through our fingertips, and appears in front of us as snapshots of ourselves and our essence. We almost experience these moments as an onlooker, and are in awe at our situation. When reflecting on these moments, it’s a whirlwind.
This is how I can summarize my weekend in the Florida Keys.
For my birthday weekend, I wanted to capture my spirit. I aimed high with visions of feeling free and adventurous, while being surrounded by people I love. Talia, one of my soul sisters from New York, ventured to Florida for the third time since I made the transition to the Sunshine State. Our mutual love of the ocean has consistently drawn us to the coastline, and we’ve been on a myriad of adventures throughout the course of our friendship.
We made this weekend unforgettable with a series of events highlighting the ocean, nature, and adventure! Our co-adventurers included two friends I met playing WAKA Kickball in South Florida. These men are profoundly incredible at going with the flow, making itineraries, supplying camping gear, and providing endless laughter.
Part One: Skydiving at Sky Dive Key West
When Talia and I expressed our undying need to skydive in the Florida Keys, our adventure compadres jumped on the bandwagon to knock it off their bucket list. For me, skydiving in the FL Keys held a different significance. I’ve been skydiving three times before–first at Skydive New England, and twice on Long Island, NY. Every time, I receive the same, deep, true sensation of freedom. However, the intention with this particular dive was to soar above the blue and green hues of the Florida Keys, soaking in what I expected to be a breathtaking view. I knew Sky Dive Key West would offer an entirely different experience.
The prelude to jumping out of a plane is undeniably nerve wrecking–stimulating the release of all kinds of neurotransmitters, and making your body feel tingly. My skydive instructor laughs at anyone who tries to “play it cool” before a jump–putting up a front like they’re a tough guy. Let’s get real. You’re about to jump out of a “perfectly good airplane,” as my Nana would say. It’s kind of against human nature, and certainly warrants a fearful anticipation. Plus, the fear ADDS to the entire sensation overall. Personally, my fear is dormant until we are flying above the clouds, peering out the window of the plane, and then… The plane door opens. Wind comes rushing into the aircraft, sharpening my senses. All of a sudden, reality hits me. Here I am, crammed into an airplane, sitting between my instructor’s legs and beside my similarly insane jumping buddy (in this case, Talia and her instructor). A few seconds prior to the door opening, I was in state of blissful observation: I am peering out the window at the world beneath me. Looking 10,000 feet below, the ground is painted with streaks of blue, green, and sandy coastlines. There is an unreal, indescribable beauty below the puffs of clouds. The various shades of blue and green would require intensive blending if painted on a canvas. The expansive ocean reached to touch the sky in the horizon, like (the) God(s) was hugging the sea from Heaven. Lost in this state of marvelous enchantment, I nearly forgot I was about to jump into the void…
I decided Talia should be the first to jump out of the plane. For some reason, when I know I will enjoy an experience, I like to be the last to enjoy it and really savor every bit of it. This applies to many areas of life (especially eating ice cream), and, in this case, I wanted to see Talia take the plunge before it was my turn. When the plane door hinged open, she finagled her way with her instructor to face out the plane, and disappeared faster than I could say a single word. Next up was my instructor, Braden, and I. With a “Let’s go beautiful,” we began scooting toward the ajar door. Wind ripped through the free strands of my pulled-back hair. I swung my feet out the door, placing them on a ledge with ataxic movements due to wind resistance from all directions. Perhaps we counted down to jumping, or maybe we didn’t, but next thing I knew, I was soaring in the clouds in boat pose. Head back, hips extended, knees bent, arms crossed against my chest. The initial step off the ledge sent a lurching, falling sensation through my gastric system. Then, I simply felt the wind and pure bliss. I was aware of nothing except the ground beneath me, and the atmosphere encapsulating my physical body. I heard nothing but wind roaring in my ears, and my eyes and mouth were wide open. I lost concept of time, feeling as if I was forever falling toward the ground, barely thinking at all. (I guess this is a good thing because I didn’t have to open the parachute -something I will have to work on if I want to skydive solo… which I do. You have to be a LITTLE more keen and active to do that, eh?) When the free fall was over, our parachute opened, and we soared through the clouds. We found a circle rainbow buried in a cloud we surfed through. My vision was clouded (literally, hah) by white puffs of condensation, and I felt entirely free. I felt a deeper sense of gratitude, with my heart still pumping from the adrenaline of the fall. My face felt flush, my body weakened from the thrill. My breath? Long and slow. I continued absorbing my surroundings, jealous of the birds that fly above the Florida Keys on a daily basis for their view is overwhelmingly awe-inspiring.
All too soon, we landed on the smallest landing strip I’ve seen with ease. We touched down to safety, and words were incapable of describing the electrifying freedom I felt… According to my friends, skydiving in one word is: ZENFUL, INDESCRIBABLE, EXHILARATING.
We bid the skydive staff farewell (more like “see you soon” as I am destined to return in the near future), and offered an invitation to our campgrounds a mere 20 minutes away.
Part Two: Bahia Honda Camping
Kicking the dust up behind us, we traveled to the campgrounds at Bahia Honda. We completely lucked out with our campsite. In order to reserve a spot at Bahia Honda, you must create a Reserve America login and check availability on this site. To our dismay, we attempted reserving a campground approximately one week prior to departure and found that no campsites were available. Allegedly, Bahia Honda books up MONTHS in advanced. However, I was determined this is where we would camp. I kept the page open at home/work and refreshed multiple times until–alas!–a campsite became available. Better yet, it was a BEACH site (numbers 62-72 are prime real estate). I booked it without hesitation, and WOW am I happy I did! Sites off the beach were engulfed in trees, which likely led to a mosquito sanctuary. Our site was more open, and had a walkway to the ocean.
There was not much to see on the ocean’s bottom – a few fish, sea sponge, and murky waters, but it was entirely peaceful on the water. We BBQ’d burgers and popped open a few beers alongside one of the skydive instructors, Braden. Despite having just moved to the Florida Keys from Houston, Braden was in to join our good-vibe crew at our campground, and he was an awesome addition to the positive energy.
We packed up our tent, headed to Publix to pick up some breakfast foods, and drove to the Bahia Honda beach and enjoyed more time in the sun and salty water until our fingers were prunes and we had goosebumps. Our drive home is non-momentous as I slept soundly the entire car ride.
Video Courtesy tallymark productions
The video is literally the perfect representation of the weekend. A WHIRLWIND of excitement, adventure, and friends. I am so grateful.
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[…] in October 2015, I traveled to the Florida Keys with some of my closest friends to celebrate my birthday weekend at Bahia Honda State Park by […]