Spontaneously Solo in Florida
Imagine a private yacht longer than a 15-story building is tall. It’s so big that it’s considered a Super Yacht. It holds fourteen crew members and room for twelve guests. Imagine picturesque French sea towns and colorful Italian cafes, free ice cream, and an automatic espresso machine. Now imagine that you have packed all of your belongings and come aboard with a couple suitcases, planning to spend the entire summer as a traveling nanny before heading off to a romantic year in Geneva with your boyfriend. Yes, it all started out quite lovely.
Not to start the article by being too melodramatic, but since first arranging to write for Go Girl, I have been heartbroken, homeless, and have completely changed paths. Go Girls are strong and adventurous and are tackling uncertain circumstances with creativity, independence, and gusto. I was about to do the same thing; I was going to document my post-graduate-school year in Geneva with my then-boyfriend while sometimes writing about my Peace Corps experience in Eastern Europe. “Go Girls can’t be heartbroken!” I told myself. “This won’t work now.”
Ah, but of course, that was a selfish thought. First of all, I still have Go Girl-worthy stories to tell. (Who doesn’t want to write about jumping off the bow of a yacht, young Italian waiters, or living by yourself for the first time?) And, secondly, Go Girls are going places despite challenges, not without them.
To introduce you to my new life, let me clarify by saying that I was working as a tutor on a private yacht this last summer. And by “tutor,” I should really say “well-educated nanny who sometimes taught the kids things.” I spent 12-to-16-hour days traveling the Mediterranean with someone else’s children, learning how to polish stainless faucets, and cursing my contact lenses for not letting me enjoy the seawater. It was a beautiful ship, a worldly crew, a generous and interesting family, and, without a doubt, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Partway through the summer, though, I experienced the pain that other girls before me have termed “heartache” or “devastation” or “the stab in the heart that leaves a woman pained and bitter forever.” At uncovering the dirty news that a bit of my life had been a lie—dramatic, yes, but that’s what it felt like—I went into shock, my body temperature dropped instantly, and I realized that betrayed girls before me were not faking their pain after all. Pain is real. And shock is worse.
Fortunately, I was still on a private boat floating on the Mediterranean. And when the family I was working for found out that I was no longer going to Switzerland, they offered me a position teaching their daughter science in Florida. (Not to underscore my pain, but this entry is not about airing dirty laundry, but, rather, enjoying the adventure that has spawned from that dirt.)
Let me just say that I had always avoided the thought of moving to Florida. California natives like myself don’t need Florida. But moving to West Palm Beach has been one of the best surprises I never would have asked for. I’ve had LASIK, gone kayaking, read at the beach, seen snakes and lizards, been horribly sunburned, seen the sunrise from the Atlantic (see right), started taking ukulele lessons, signed up for a scuba certification class, and gotten surprised by a swimming manatee. I went to Miami this weekend and had the full dancing-guy-in-a-Speedo experience at South Beach. That doesn’t happen in Geneva. And, unlike in California, the water is actually warm in Florida!
In agreeing to come to Florida, I also realized that I had actually come to feel more at home in Europe than in America. The realization that I had only visited a pathetic portion of American cities was embarrassing. So, voila, here I am!
I had never had to make friends from scratch before, either (graduate school dorms and Peace Corps adventures are intrinsically cohort-building). I knew no one who was both older than nine and younger than forty; most of my neighbors were more than twice my age. Exactly how does a person start going to pubs by herself? She joins Groupon. She also uses studying for a scuba class as an excuse to hang out at the coolest tiki-ish bar on the waterfront. (And perhaps she also signs up for an online dating site that shall remain nameless. She has since canceled her membership.)
Upcoming articles on this experience will include tidbits on the places traveled this summer (including Corsica, Sardinia, Pompeii, Monaco, Corfu and Kefalonia), living in a rural village in Eastern Europe, and a surprising new life in South Florida where there is very little Asian cuisine and quite-a-many ladies who walk their dogs while wearing heels. Ah, but I did find an Indian restaurant! “Why is a beautiful woman like you left alone?” asked the owner when I pulled a U-turn and hopped in for their Saturday brunch. Was that a compliment? Doesn’t matter. I’ll be back, and I’m bringing friends! Now if I could only find Korean BBQ…
Here’s to surprises…and no more winter.