Voyages of a Non-Traveler

I'm not the typical traveler. The closest I've been to Europe is watching Rick Steves on PBS. I've been out of state twice, counting both times I was too small to remember the trip. Pining after some great adventure that takes weeks to make, months to plan and years to fund only seems like a wonderful way to overlook local prospects to me. As a native Floridian, I'm proud of my state and of the escapades it affords me.

Some places I've discovered and loved include:

Eureka Springs Park in Tampa

As the only botanical garden owned and operated by Hillsborough County, the park boasts a large collection of native flowers and animals. The true attraction of the park lies in its greenhouse, however, which shelters some of the rarest orchids around. The winding boardwalk and a modest picnic area aren't suited to children's birthday parties or other typical county park activities, but a rose arbor and abundant butterflies and hummingbirds provide an escape route from my frequent artist's block.

Morse Museum in Winter Park

Driving to and through Orlando from Tampa just to get to a museum may seem crazy, but it's a miniature pilgrimage to me. With the theme parks, tourist traps and outlet malls, the city tends to lose people to consumer culture. I was lucky when I first stumbled out of Florida's summer heat into the jarringly dark, cool lobby of the museum: it was Open House Day. No fee to gawk at the best collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany's work on the planet? Sign me up. Walking in, I knew about the lamps, stained glass and jewelry. But the chapel was news to me. Gorgeous, impossibly inspiring news.

Caspersen Beach in Venice

Musing and strolling suit me on most days, but sometimes I want to let the inner 6-year-old girl loose. I want to dig and explore, hunt for treasure and actually find some. This part of me was disappointed the moment I stepped foot on Caspersen Beach. Unlike Pass-A-Grille Beach in Pinellas County -- my favorite beach for many years -- the area seems deprived of shells, animal life and that nice soft white sand the tourism ads like so much. The only things Caspersen has in abundance are scorching coarse gray sand and slippery seaweed. Oh, and shark teeth by the thousands. Although the beach looked bleak at first blush, learning how to hunt for the teeth became my obsession over the summer. Questions about how to dig and sift quickly turned into research on ancient sharks and subsequent classification of my finds. My search for information eventually led me to YouTube, where, with a series of videos, I convinced my father to take up scuba diving.

University of Florida in Gainesville

Even after living here for more than three years, I never stop marveling at my alma mater. The magnificent architecture, beautiful wilderness and spirited people make for a great combination. All hail, Florida, hail!