Today was a short paddle to Florida Bay Outfitters in Key Largo. They are generous enough to let us paddlers campout at their store. I couldn’t be happier because I was exhausted, sunburnt, and dehydrated. I was on the verge of calling it quits because it just wasn’t fun anymore. What’s the point of doing something like this if you’re not enjoying yourself? I’m not breaking any records or doing anything ground breaking. I was starting to think it didn’t inspire anyone until an old friend contacted me tonight wanting to figure out a way to get veterans having a tough time out on the rivers and changing their lives. It’s something I’ve considered before because I know it works. So, there is inspiration. I know there’s going to be hard days. That’s just the nature of these long distance trips. But I won’t lie, it’s stressful trying to find campsites down here. The guidebook only list $200 hotel rooms and overpriced campgrounds that aren’t exactly paddler friendly. They’re trying but there needs to be a resource listing keys that can be camped on. I’m always asking locals about suitable spots to camp for a night. I don’t mind camping in solitude. Once I get my snorkel mask, life on the keys will be much better. That’s where the excitement is at. Exploring the pristine waters booming with life, or sitting on an island watching the sunset while reading a book. It’s relaxing. There are things I want to see on land and people I want to meet as well. I’m not sure you can honestly do it all.
My birthday is coming up, March 8 and I’m sure it will be the usual me, myself and I celebrating it. Maybe I’ll get steak like always. Toast myself wondering how I’ve lived so long in the first place. Maybe I’ll just sit on an island and eat a can of salmon and talk to the local wildlife. Who knows. The latter seems a little less depressing. Even though I’m experiencing a wild adventure I’m also missing out when it comes to my kids.
People always ask why I’m doing this and I always lie. I tell them I just want to see Florida. The truth is, I needed to get away and try to rebuild myself. All the self healing I got from paddling the Mississippi River, I destroyed when my girlfriend broke up with me. I let myself fall into a deep and dark place again and it was going to kill me. For those that don’t know, I have pretty severe PTSD and a traumatic brain injury from the military. It’s wreaked havoc on my life. But I’ve managed to find ways to fight it and eco-therapy is the best solution for me. I often wonder why I have to go to such extremes to find myself worth. I don’t know if there’s an easy answer but I know this helps and that’s why I really do it.