Miami Beach: Sunshine and Changed Minds

I think that every traveler has a bucket list of must-visit places humming in the back of their mind at all times. With each trip, the goal becomes to visit as many of those places as they can, and to see as many of the sights as possible. Greece, Scotland, Portugal, and Morocco are still at the very top of my list of places to see, though sometimes— as was my case— decisions have to be made and some places have to be shelved for “next time”. That being said, you may also find yourself in completely unexpected places for infinite reasons— I’m referring mainly to Germany on this one. I have yet to set foot anywhere in the world— outside of my home state— that didn’t feel like a wonderful adventure, but I’ve also been rather selective in deciding where to visit.

Now I am in Florida, literally the last place on Earth that I ever expected to be. I actually made quite a point during one period of my life not to come to Florida, ironically enough. Coming from a tropical climate myself, I didn’t see the appeal of humid days, brightly dressed crowds, and skyscrapers blocking once pristine views of the sea. I built an image in my head of what Florida would be, and nearly missed out on a wonderful opportunity to visit a place brimming with culture, fantastic food, and a history much more vast than I previously imagined. Don’t get me wrong, Florida is full of skyscrapers, brightly dressed tourists, and its fair share of humidity, but the reality is so much more colorful and exciting than that. I am thankful to be spending my time here with family, and if it wasn’t for them, I likely never would have set foot in this state at all. I’m realizing now that would have been a shame.

Though I’m not making my way to Disney World or Key West (this time!), I have found myself in the Miami Beach area (thanks to my wonderful family for having me, of course) and I think that is more than enough for a first timer.

Some of the things that strike me most about Miami Beach:

The colors! Miami has not let the Art Deco era die. Some of the various flamingo pink buildings can come across as a bit much, but hey, at least it’s a city that knows itself and isn’t afraid to undeniably Miami.

The beach! I’m an ocean lover, and could never see myself living anywhere too far from the sea for very long. The long, white sand beaches may be a little less magical due to the fact that they are partially man made, but a sunset looks just as beautiful from any beach in the world to me.

The cultures! I was somehow not prepared for the international flare of Miami. It makes complete sense of course, as it serves as a sort of gateway between North America, South America, and parts of Europe. I can walk into a grocery store and see holiday posters with the Star of David, buy a magazine in Spanish, visit a bookstore and find a selection of books in foreign languages, or can say “Hello”, “Hallo”, “Ciao”, or “Hola” and be greeted with a smile.

The food! One of my favorite things about virtually every place I visit will inevitably be the food. The blend of Cuban, Caribbean, other Latin foods, as well as more “new wave” options— like vegan food— and everything else in between allows anyone to find something that they will enjoy. (I tried fried plantains for the first time and am upset that I have been missing out on this for all my life.)

Of course, like any place, Miami has its problems. Like many other tourist or luxury driven economies, Miami thrives on a particular subset of people and industries. This can make every day living difficult for people in “off season” times, or when there are other patterns of change that cause instability. Florida also suffers from the simple issue that it is part of a nation that is undergoing great— and sometimes terrifying— social, economic, and cultural changes as a whole, all of which have a trickle down effect to the every day people living in cities like these. (Florida is a “red” state in spite of the multicultural atmosphere of some of its cities, which is a whole other conversation.)

Of course as a visitor, Miami is not particularly affordable. It has an air of luxury, pride, and vanity that isn’t necessarily rooted in a bad place, but does set a certain image and draws in a particular group of people. If you’re like me— living life on a shoestring— it may not be a super welcoming city, at least to your wallet. That being said, if you have a need to live in America with a desire to travel internationally, and perhaps with an affinity for sunshine, a fast paced life, and spicy food, Miami isn’t a terrible place to look.

If I have learned anything from my time in Miami it is that you can find beauty and excitement anywhere. I have at times heard travelers say “I have no interest in ever going there” or “It’s not really my scene”— yes, by this I mainly mean me— but Miami has been the city to convince me that maybe there really is something amazing to find in every little corner of our big, beautiful world. So thank you Miami, for the family time, the sunshine, the fried plantains, and the epiphanies.

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