My grandparents spent over 35 years visiting Daytona Beach every January. They would spend three weeks in one of the hotels on the beach, soaking up the sun, before heading back to the cold Michigan winters. One year, when I was 18 years old, they invited me to go with them on their yearly trip. Little did I know, they would be introducing me to a place that I would love and someday call home.
While I'm a Michigan native, I spent a decade living in Las Vegas prior to moving to Florida (I'm a Rebel!). When we were ready to move to Florida we researched online about the best areas. I had read at the time how Tampa was the best "family friendly" area in th state. It was ranked such at the time by a popular family magazine. They had a hockey team in the area, which was a big plus, so we decided to head there. We trucked our way from Las Vegas to Tampa and moved into an apartment that we had never seen. We had never seen the Tampa area before, either.
It wasn't what I expected. The vision I had in my mind about living in Florida wasn't matching up to the reality of what I was finding in our new location. My vision was that of Daytona Beach, where I had spent three weeks with my grandparents. I suggested we take a weekend trip over to the Daytona Beach area, so my husband could see what it was that I had in mind when it came to living in Florida. We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Daytona Beach Shores that weekend. Ah, that was what I wanted and had envisioned all along. My husband fell in love as well. We packed our bags and made our way to this side of the state, and haven't looked back since.
Not only do I love Florida, but I love living in Volusia County. Here are some of the things that I love about living here:
- It's a nature lover's paradise. And I'm a nature lover (I have a nature blog here)! This state and county are filled with beautiful and wonderful natural places to visit. We hike regularly, camp, swim in the springs, kayak, and just look for ways to spend time in nature. I'm amazed at how much beauty there is right here in our county, as well as around the state. We have some wonderful places to spend time in nature - from the ocean that is minutes away, to the springs, to the trails in the woods. I'm in love with it all! No matter where I go in this state there are some great trails, state parks, springs, and other natural areas to explore. Add to this the abundance of wildlife this state has, which is awesome. From manatees and gopher tortoises to dolphins and wild boar, there's so much diversity. I have a year-round bird feeder on my office window!
- The weather makes me smile. At least most of the time. We have mild winters, which allow me to hike, spend time on the beach, bike ride, and look out my office window at the beautiful blue sky. The summers are hot, but they are not as hot as they were in Las Vegas, and there are plenty of ways to keep cool. From spending time at the beach, taking a dip in the cool springs, or using our season passes at Daytona Lagoon, we have no trouble finding ways to cool off.
- The close proximity to so many things. Florida is filled with many things to do, and the great thing is that you are never that far from those places. Whether you are into theme parks, taking cruises, attending trade conferences, or doing a variety of other things, there's so many options in Florida! And the opportunities for recreational activities abound here. There are great cultural festivals held within an hour away that I love going to (e.g., Earth Day Festival and Vegetarian Festival, both in Orlando each year).
- The sense of community. When I moved here I didn't know one other person outside of my home. I have no relatives in the area (the closest is in Tallahassee, where one of my sisters moved to just months before I moved to Florida) and didn't have friends here at the time. I told my husband that I needed to feel like I was a part of my community. Here I am 8.5 years later and I feel like I'm a part of the community, and I love it! I have met so many great people, made a couple of close friends, and I'm happy to be a part of this wonderful community.
- No state taxes. Michigan had a state income tax, but Nevada did not. It's great to live in another state that does not have a state income tax.
- The access to fresh produce. Being able to attend farmer's markets year-round is awesome! I don't think Floridians realize how fortunate they are that they get to do this. In many other states the farmer's market is just a summer thing. I love that I have access to affordable fresh produce year round, right down the road from me at the farmer's market.
- We live where others vacation. People choose vacation destinations because they are great places to visit. Well, we live here! Others look forward to that one week per year when they can vacation here. I get it all year long.
- The history. I'm a history lover (part of my college major, along with psychology and political science, to be exact). Florida has some great historical sites that I like to visit, which include the shell middens, Civil War battlegrounds (such as Olustee), and even the oldest city, St. Augustine, and more.
- Quality of life. I live in a county that has set aside acres of land to preserve so that people can enjoy getting out in nature. I love that! Not only have they ensured that there are nature areas and trails preserved, but they are also building several wonderful paved pedestrian trails that are used for biking, jogging, etc. Some of these trails have been put in place, others are in the works. These pedestrian multi-purpose trails and nature trails are wonderful and they help create a great quality of life here.
Sunshine, 1,800 miles of coastline, professional sports teams nearby (I only like hockey, but my family likes the basketball and football), standing in the driveway to watch rockets launch, driving an hour to a port to catch a cruise, loads of wildflowers, natural springs, frequent gorgeous sunsets seen from our back porch, palm trees, pine lillies, loads of parks and natural areas to explore, Ethos Vegan Kitchen, Florida Hikes, a wonderful public library system, lots of great seashells (particularly at Sanibel Island), cool things in nature like the Atlantic Ghost Crab and seashell casings, and Florida Crystals, all help to make this a great state for my family to live in. I could go on and on thinking of things I love about living here...
I must admit, too, that I love the idea that my grandparents introduced me to their special place so many years ago. They had traveled the state (and country) over, visiting numerous beaches, and they thought the beaches in the Daytona area were the best. They loved it here! There are often times when I'm sitting and relaxing at the beach that I think of them both. I picture them soaking up some sun next to their car in their beach chairs, my grandmother pulling her shirt down and tucking it into her bra as she always did, discussing where to go for lunch. I can't help but to smile. They may be gone, but Daytona Beach was a special part of their life for decades, and now it lives on as a part of mine.