The plane accelerates down the runway, humming, rumbling and pushing my back against the seat as it lifts off into the sky. Pro: I’m on a plane. Con: It’s a one-way, direct flight back to reality.
Almost every year since we’ve been here in Canada, my dad and I get up very (VERY) early on December 26th and drive down (yes, drive) to Naples, Florida to ring in the New Year in full tropical vibes.
By the end of the second day on the road, we’re approaching Florida’s exit 101 on I-75 just as the sun is setting. I open my window and let the warm, tropical air flood my lungs. I’m inhaling the very essence of my home. The sun sets behind the row of palms and pines lining the interstate and a coral glow takes over the sky, highlighting every cloud in sight with the brightest yellows, oranges and reds. While golf courses and gated communities illuminate their grand entrances, the marshy air betrays Naples’ humble wetland origins.
At that moment, there is nothing better than being back in Naples. I spend the next five days sunbathing at my favorite beaches, eating my fill of coconut shrimp at the Turtle Club with my feet in the sand, drinking iced coffee at Tony’s off Third, and admiring the twinkly lights strung around every palm tree on 5th Avenue. I catch every sunset, spend time with new and old friends, shop at Coconut Point and browse the isles at every Publix.
But the thing about going home once a year is that over time, things change. The same way you grow, this place that raised you also grows. And although you may not feel yourself change so much, you can’t help but notice the changes your home has undergone. Businesses move. Forests are cut down and developed into plazas. Intersections are expanded. Communities are re-landscaped. Things change. But with one deep breath, that feeling of home returns. The marshy air. The song of cicadas. The steady hum of the ocean. The rays of sunshine sinking into your skin. The sand shifting between your toes. Your mind swimming as you drink the wild air. A high you never want to exhale.
And when the time flies by all too fast, my dad leaves me at Southwest Florida International to fly back to reality where the sweet memories of this new perspective of home base will flood my mind.