I’m a firm believer that travel is a form of therapy, especially for those suffering with depression. It’s something to look forward to in your future, the building excitement releases those feel-good endorphins and, for those few days you’re away, you have the opportunity to rest, reflect and recharge your body. So I was thrilled to jump on the chance to visit the Florida Keys last month for my best friend’s wedding.
Being the person that I am, I researched the Florida Keys and the drive to Key West – our ultimate destination – in great detail; I feel better when I’m prepared, so having an itinerary with ETAs brings a warm and fuzzy feeling of accomplishment pre-departure.
My boyfriend and I flew from Grand Cayman to Miami and spent the day shopping until our feet hurt – living on a small island has it’s disadvantages – before having dinner at the super cool Wynwood Kitchen & Bar in Wynwood, the art district of Miami, FL. Being surrounded by all of the street art – which I love – inspires me and opens my heart to the unspoken words that artists speak through paintbrushes, spray cans and the like. It was a beautiful night with my love and high on my list of must-try restaurants in the Miami area.
That night we crashed hard and the following morning we set off for Key West. Along the way we stopped for breakfast at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen in Key Largo – oh. my. gosh. Such a charming little hole-in-the-wall eatery. Any restaurant that has the tagline ‘Eat Well. Laugh Often. Live Well.’ is a friend of mine.
We filled our bellies with lots of good home cooking: biscuits and gravy, ‘gator links, scrambled egg sandwiches and blackened lobster and grits (we may have been a bit too eager while ordering); we even grabbed their famous key lime shake for the drive.
Some cool things we saw and learned along the way included:
- The Seven Mile Bridge – which is sort of cool to us because there’s a Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman
- There are 45 bridges from Miami to Key West, which means we passed 90 bridges in total
- A digital sign warning residents in Islamorada of screw worms (?!)
- A deer crossing sign (deer in 90 degree weather???)
- Duval Street really is where everything’s happening in Key West
- Don’t trust the bar/staff at Señor Frogs, Key West … they will get you drunk
- The Florida Keys are like stepping back in Caribbean time
After what felt like a super long drive (3.5 hours with traffic), we were so darn happy to finally see the La Concha boutique hotel where we stayed for the next two nights (which did give me some grief at $500/night!). After ditching the car we strolled along Duval, bought a few souvenirs and grabbed a late lunch at DJ’s Clam Shack and shared a picnic table with some friendly faces in the minuscule dining area around back.
That night we met up with the rest of the wedding party, had a few drinks and laughed our asses off – it’s the most fun I’ve had in a while. It felt so great not to think about my depression, but to just live in the moment.
The next morning, my best friend and I had a lovely pre-wedding breakfast – life is often so hectic between kids and work commitments (and sometimes the anti-social element of depression plays a role) that it was lovely to catch up with him. It was a nice, cool morning so we walked the two blocks and took in the beauty of the hanging trees, historic buildings and quaintness of Key West.
Later that day I held his hand down the aisle and choked back tears as I gave him the biggest hug ever because I knew in that moment that I would always be there for him and he would always be there for me – whether they be the drunken nights of our past, or the challenges of marriage and my depression in the future.
For travel inspiration to Key West, view my Pinterest board.
Photos: Nasaria Budal