Last month, I had the opportunity to go up and down the state of Florida. I grew up going to Florida on family trips, but this time I went to visit a friend who works in Florida. My trip was centered around Citrus County, in the northern part of the state.
Citrus County is home to its own local little beach called Fort Island Trail. The whole county is definitely more of a local environment than a lot of tourists.
Our first venture was to Tarpon Springs, known as the Greek center of Florida and the sea sponge capital of the world. The city was founded my Greek immigrants, who recruited a large number of their countrymen to help harvest sea sponges. And let me tell you, they take their sea sponges seriously here! My friend went to purchase one and the lady working asked a variety of questions to ensure that she would make the best investment possible for her "eight-ten year sponge." The sponges have natural antimicrobial properties so when she mentioned getting a string to hang it with, the worker warned, "Well, my only concern is that the string would not have the same antimicrobial properties as the sponge." We also had traditional Greek food, complete with flaming cheese and yells of, "opa!" We stopped at a Greek-speaking market, where I was excited to find Halloumi cheese. One of the workers excitedly asked, "Are you Greek!? You must be Greek if you know what Halloumi is!" I had to explain, that no, I'm not Greek (though I do have some Balkan DNA!) I just got used to Halloumi as a vegetarian alternative when I lived in London.
We vacationed at a lovely Airbnb right across the Sanibel Causeway. Of course, no trip to the Fort Myers area is complete without a stop at Sun Harvest Citrus to stock up on juice for the holiday. We also stopped at the Sunflower Cafe, one of my family's traditional restaurant stops, where we were the youngest patrons by about fifty years and got asked if we were sisters. We were born just 18 days apart, but we're not related!
Though the weather had been predicted to be in the 80s, it was actually really windy so that prevented us from going the whole way in the water. It was still worth it to fight the wind and sit on the beach, even if my book ended up getting sand creased in every page! Of course, no trip to Sanibel and Captiva is complete without a stop at the Sanibel Bean and the Bubble Room.
We went over to the island two days in a row and visited most of the beaches.
There was a ton of traffic on the island. Sometimes it took us 45 minutes to get from one end to the other! That gave us plenty of time to enjoy the palm trees and little shops.
On our last day in that area, we went over to Fort Myers. This was the beach that I spent my childhood visiting and it appeared that not much had changed. We walked down the familiar pier and saw a dolphin swimming close to the surface and a few birds putting on a show for all the fisherman and tourists. They got fed a lot of fish so their show seemed to be pretty successful.
As we made the long drive back to Citrus County, we stopped at Redington Beach for the sunset. There was hardly anyone else on the beach and we saw probably the best sunset of the trip. We also stopped in Tampa for dinner on the water.
Inverness, Florida was named after the Scottish town by a Scotsman wandering throughout Florida. With the lakes, I can see the resemblance to the Scottish Highlands, but there are a lot more palm trees in the Florida one! There is also a bit of Irish flair to this town so we celebrated St. Patrick's Day there. They even lit up their fountain green, similar to how they light up the buildings in Dublin.
I flew out of Orlando on an early morning flight, so we decided to spent the afternoon and evening at Disney Springs and then stay the night at an Airbnb. Sounds like a plan, right? Right, except for when our Airbnb gets cancelled at 10 PM leaving us to scramble trying to find an affordable hotel. We did eventually find one, albeit a slightly dodgy one, though they did well with their towel art! We went the Rainforest Cafe's counterpart, T Rex, made to look like the age of the dinosaurs. I sat by a hatchling woolly mammoth so I was quite pleased. We also enjoyed watching the aqua cars from a nearby dock.
The weather was finally nice when I left Florida, but it was almost 20 degrees warmer in Colorado!
I received the labels of “fencer” and “type 1 diabetic” virtually simultaneously. One by choice, after becoming obsessed with fencing while watching the Olympics. While I was looking up Youtube videos about fencing parries and practicing in my kitchen with a wooden spoon, I had no idea that my body had turned against me and was starting to attack itself. The other label, type 1 diabetic, was thrust on me randomly and a huge shock. I think I only had three or four fencing lessons before my diagnosis.
Fencing and diabetes is a bit messy. White fencing gear and checking my blood sugar between bouts isn't the best combo. Plus, shaking an opponents hand after the bout with a finger still spewing blood isn't that great!
I thought lancets kind of looked like sabers. Sabers looked kind of like giant needles. Those three hours of fencing a week became the best part of my week. I can't thank my fencing group enough for not minding me stopping at random times to check my blood sugar or minding all the blood that didn't always stay on my meter or hand. Everyone was supportive but not overbearing and I still can't thank them enough.
One time, I felt really tired, shaky, and nauseous during a bout and my opponent kept asking me, “Are you okay?” I thought I was just tired from an hour and a half of fencing, but when I checked my blood sugar, it was 2.3 mmoL/ 41 mg. That's really low. I showed her my glucose tab stash after that.
At my first fencing competition, my blood sugar had the opposite problem, shooting up to 14 mmoL/ 252 mg. I had heard that adrenaline could change your blood sugar, but I was surprised to see it shoot up that much over nothing but the adrenaline of competing. I won my first bout, made it to the semi-finals, won my semi-final bout, and advanced on to the finals. The final bout came down to two Americans, the other was a type 2 diabetic! We got to 14-14 and I lost the final point, so I ended up second. My first fencing tournament was a lot of fun, but it was only when I was translating the back of my medal that I saw “Icelandic National Championships.” Wait, had I just competed in the (adult beginner category, but still) Icelandic National Championships? I asked my fencing instructor the next practice if it was really the Icelandic Nationals and learned that yes, it was. My fencing class remains one of the things I miss most about Iceland!
I've joined a fencing league back in Colorado and so far, my blood sugar has cooperated fairly well. As far as my white uniform goes...the tiny blood stains from testing my blood sugar in the middle of practice have not cooperated so well!
Hi, I’m Crystal! Just like you, I love to travel. You’ll get all the best tips and insights from my experiences as a former ice-skating coach in Iceland and former study abroad student. Of the 24 countries I have visited, a type 1 diabetes diagnosis has been the strangest land yet. Type 1 has not slowed down my travels and you'll learn how to take type 1 with you on the road! You can connect with me further on Instagram @CrystalChilcott, or send me ideas of where I should travel next via email: firstname.lastname@example.orgHappy Travels, Crystal
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