Next up in my travel series is a 2 parter. A love letter to the state I am blessed enough to call home. Divided into sections about areas that mean the most to me…I present first, Daytona Beach.
Daytona Beach. How I love thee. It may not be the prettiest beach or the nicest beach but by God, it’s the World’s Most Famous Beach.
And I love it.
While my official roots have been put down in a neighboring beach town, they were planted in Daytona originally. As we’re all familiar with by now, I came to Florida in 2017. I was blessed enough to score a brilliant deal on a beachside condo (referenced in other posts) & while I knew it wouldn’t be home forever (for reasons also listed in previous posts), my beloved musty scented condo by the beach was a great starter home for a young, pretty, single girl.
It started back in Alabama. I was in Hoover doing job training when my aunt called my phone back to back. I couldn’t answer but panicked thinking it may be something about my MawMaw. I tried calling back when I could but got no answer so I was anxious all day. Later that evening when I was home, my dad called me & was excited – “Jake found you a condo! It’s on the beach!” I told him “that’s great daddy but I’ve been looking at beachside properties & I’m just not going to be able to afford anything like that” & to that he responded “well now hear me out! It’s fully furnished, water & cable included in the rent…it’s $900 a month” to which I simply responded with “I’ll take it”
I called the next day & said I wanted it. The man handling the renting of the unit sent me some photos & I cut him a check. I would get the keys Valentine’s Day (except I didn’t get them till the 15th) & I looked at that as a Valentine’s gift to myself. I had never bought myself something so nice before.
I had been coming to Daytona my whole life. Both my aunts lived there so I’d been coming since I was a little girl and stopped when I was about 16. I came again in 2009 and didn’t come back until 2016. I had been cruising a lot back then so I got my beach fill with that I guess. The 2016 visit was so wonderful though! We came to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando but stayed in Daytona. I enjoyed seeing my family & being back in Florida. We ended up having so much fun that every day we were supposed to leave, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to do it so we just kept extending our stay day by day until finally we HAD to get back to Alabama! I have always felt that visit prepared me for days to come, days I didn’t ever know were coming – a sort of sign that Florida was my only logical choice of where to live when the dust settled. It has been the best choice I’ve ever made. It has been so good to me over the last 5 years. It has restored my relationships with my family who I never saw & had pretty much given up on – especially my daddy. He told me one day a couple years ago that he believed for a while that we’d lost each other & while I’ve had quite a rocky time with my dad ,oh, over the span of my whole life I never want to lose him. Literally or figuratively. Living here has also restored my soul, which for a long time was beaten, bruised, and battered.
I look back over our history together, me and Daytona. It makes me smile. My childhood summer vacations & the occasional Christmas vacation, spent going to the beach. Usually with just my mom because no one else in my family really goes to the beach! Which still holds true & drives me insane because what is the point of living by the beach if you don’t enjoy the beach?! Madness, I tell you! Sometimes my dad would come along & sometimes we’d venture off further. I remember they took me to Cocoa Beach once & they told me that’s where the genie bottle was found in “I Dream of Jeannie” so of course, I believed it to be true & thought I could possibly find one too! Usually though, my dad was busy being a typical Florida Man & found himself in trouble! We’d been to the Kennedy Space Center to see the rockets, Melbourne to see MawMaw’s sister (my great aunt), St Augustine, etc. I remember coming without my parents at all occasionally – my Aunt Patty paid for my first flight ever. Lexington to Atlanta, Atlanta to Sanford. I stayed 2 weeks and flew back to Charlotte ALONE for the first time at 15 years old. I was with MawMaw Rose when I was 8 & experienced my first hurricane. We were down for the summer & Hurricane Bertha blew in. My aunt lived beachside at the time so it was safer to go farther inland so we went to my -now- uncle’s house. He was out of town & they were just dating at the time & none of us had even met him but I remember thinking his house was the most beautiful home I’d ever been in (their house is still amazing). Coming back years later, I got to be the hostess to my friends and family. My first Bike Week resulted in my former best friend and I getting locked out of my condo at 1 AM. She was barefoot. We had to stay at my aunts because no one at the condo building would answer their phones to let us in. I Googled “how to break in somewhere” while she laid in the floor of the lobby and pet Emma. The next morning she called and cancelled her credit card because she thought she lost it at one of the biker bars & I found it in my bathroom trash later that day. It was really something. In our defense, we also did normal stuff like go to Disney & had a beach day. Another friend came down for a weekend that resulted in my nipples getting pierced. Also, in our defense we did normal stuff too & went to Cassadaga & shopped the outlet malls. It was just this constant wild ride for me because I never got to do anything while I was married. Being single by the beach was a weird kind of magic. I had so much fun. Every day was a new adventure. It still feels that way actually, but calmer.
This particular area of Florida may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Daytona is certainly not Miami, Palm Beach, or the Keys. It’s lost a lot of it’s popularity from the 90s when it was all about MTV’s Spring Break & cheer competitions but it’s still a good time with the NASCAR & biker crowd. I like to think it’s on the come up again though, they’re always putting in new shops & restaurants but I truly wish they’d focus on the beach area. Put in some new, luxury resorts or something! But anyways. It has meant so much to me being able to call this part of Florida home. It is my cup of tea. I’ve been seeing a meme circulating on Facebook lately that says “my toxic trait is believing that moving to Florida will solve all my problems” & I’m like, “why can’t it?”