How many of you can remember Aesop’s fable “The City Mouse and the Country Mouse” from your childhood school days? You know, the book where the two mice switch places and get to experience each other’s worlds from the urban and rural perspectives? Although I’ve not been blessed to be labelled as an official Conch (these beautiful people are a delightful rarity to find!), I’ve had the grand privilege of experiencing life here in the Florida Keys from both the “city”—if there is such a thing here—and the “country” perspectives during my time as a snowbird this past winter.
Most of my readers know that I tend to spend the bulk of my time here in this archipelago oasis on the 4 x 2-mile island of Key West. For the first three months of my winter migration, I had the luxury of living right “in town” in a traditional Conch home in a beautiful neighborhood known as “The Meadows”, only a short “bike, skip and a (20-minute) walk” from my favorite place to be—the Historic Seaport. It’s mid-April as I’m writing away and I literally haven’t driven a vehicle since I left home in January. There are definitely lots of perks to being close to where all of the action is!
On any given day, I could stroll to any number of amazing restaurants, art galleries, shops, markets, historical sights, beaches and water activities—and, of course, the ever-famous action on Duval Street. I woke up to the resident roosters and the buzz of scooters, was always surrounded by people, and was never at a loss for what to do. Heading on down to the Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square or reading a book on Smather’s Beach were always an option. In fact, the times I would “walk the rock” were some of my most cherished. I’d often listen to music or call friends and family back home while I basked in the blue skies and took in all of the gorgeous architecture and foliage this tiny island has to offer. Such a magical little place—and oh, so good for the soul.
As life would have it, during the final month of my stay, I had to switch up my living arrangements and the good ole Universe gave me the opportunity to move up to Big Coppitt Key at Mile Marker 10 (most everyone knows that staying directly in Key West is an expensive treat!). “Oh, the horror! You’ll be so far away!”, my “city” friends worried. This made me chuckle, but, I will admit, I had my concerns too. Having no means of transportation, I wouldn’t be able to access everything (and everyone) I had come to love so easily anymore. The way I saw it, though, I had spent a lot of time in Key West (including past stays), and I knew there was something different to experience awaiting me “up the Keys”. As a general rule, I’ve come to believe that we’re here to have as many experiences in life as we can, so this would just be another chance to do exactly that! How would I ever really know the Keys if I spent all of my time in Key West?
Well, to my great delight, I can tell you that there are just as many benefits to the “country” Conch living as there are to the “city”. The peacefulness that surrounds you among the mangroves and incredible open, ever-changing shades of turquoise waters are the traditional Keys I think of when I see those beautiful pictures from above and of the places I want to cross off of my bucket list here. There is a different kind of magic where the night skies shine brightly with stars that twinkle like tiny diamonds above the ocean and secret beaches are discovered at the end of dead-end streets. There is a sense of community at the local restaurants you drive to (well, hitch a ride to—thank goodness for great roomies!) and the parks where children play. The first time you hear a lawnmower, there’s a reassuring sense of home as well. The space around you, between homes and neighborhoods, also opens the space in your heart and mind, and really does bring a sense of calm to your being.
All of the Keys are so very unique, and I’ve been fortunate enough to see them all “behind the scenes” with Island Jane, but one thing remains the same—there is something for everyone and it is, indeed, the best of both worlds should you have the opportunity to experience life in the Florida Keys as a “City Conch” or a “Country Conch”. What I do know for myself, is that I am grateful for the opportunity to know and fall in love, just a little bit more, with a place my soul calls home.