When people think of Florida, they tend to imagine Disney World, the beaches of Miami, maybe the Daytona 500, or possibly sunset in Malory Square in Key West. They might think of college football or wild spring break parties. Some imagine hurricanes and swamps teeming with vicious alligators, dangerous snakes, and blood thirsty mosquitos.
For me, Florida is my home. I grew up in Orlando and spent my childhood exploring the woods, the waters, and the beaches of the state, yet I have only seen a small portion. I haven’t spent more than few months at a time in the state since I was 18 and I am dying to get back and explore.
Florida has 161 state parks protecting nearly 800,000 acres across the state. It has a national preserve, two national seashores, three national forests, three national parks, one of which was the first national park to be created to preserve biodiversity rather than geological or geothermal resources. It has 29 national wildlife refuges, second only to California. It has over 5 million acres of land protected in the largest system of wildlife management areas in the country. Yet despite all of this, when most people think of Florida they don’t think of nature except in a negative connotation as a dangerous swamp where you are sure to be eaten alive by a hungry gator.
This is my home state, despite not having lived there in the last decade. It is where my heart thrives. It is where my dreams lie. When I arrive in Florida after the long drive from New York and step into the woods my entire body relaxes and I am home, even if it is a particular location I have never been before. I want to change the way people look at Florida. I want to change the way people view Florida. I want to show people the Florida I love. I want to do it at across different types of media. It is an amazing state and needs to be shared. I hope you’ll join me in this journey of exploration.