Looking for Paradise
This is an article I wrote many years ago when we first set out looking for a place to raise our kids. Looking for paradise.
A rare, two-parent household with kids and a dog but nowhere to call home. Sure, we could stay in Dullsville but that's like saying: The bird can stay in the cage. But it wants to fly!
Even if we could afford it, we were never the type to be limited to just a two week vacation in paradise. We wanted to live there and our search for it began in Key West, which as it turned out, would have been pretty close - if we hadn't had kids.
Paradise evolves and reshapes in much the same ways that we do. Our paradise shifted and transformed with each new experience and it was a long time before we could pinpoint exactly what we were looking for.
In December of 1991, paradise simply meant a small town with a nice beach. Disheartened after a recent transfer to Miami, my husband and I saved for six months and left the rat-race, career oriented, 60-hour work week city for the sunny, stress-free, English speaking shores of the Florida panhandle. The beach was breathtaking enough. There was a natural beauty in the pure white sand and the clear blue water and sky, broken only by the dark silhouettes of the rolling dolphins. We swore every time we walked it that we would never leave. Unfortunately it was the end of the rainbow for spring breakers, mobile home salesmen and T-shirt vendors who stained the streets with neon.
Paradise is more than just a place. Paradise must have a pulse and it must beat in time with your own. It was there that we realized that paradise must also include like-souls to share the experience in order for it to be truly lived.
Our quest led us to the coast of Massachusetts - to Cape Cod and the islands which, without their wind chills and sideways snowstorms, may actually have passed for paradise. In certain areas you can sense the spirits of the settlers tug on your shirtsleeves and back bumpers forcing you to slow down a bit. The centuries-old architecture and quaint Main Streets decorated at Christmastime brought back childhood memories of a simpler time when people had the time to chat after church and fathers were home on weekends. Summertime on Cape Cod sure came close, but it was over before we finished cutting the grass! The seasons change too quickly there until the dead of winter. It's then, in the setting cloud-shine of mid-afternoon, that it seems like even the clock stops ticking.
With several snowstorms under our belts and predictions of more to come, we began our plans to head back down south. Biting on the stories of others and trusting them when they said "Oh, you'd love it there", we planned to move to Charleston, SC before even visiting it, but luckily snuck a day trip in to realize that it was a nice place to visit, but... And so it went. We were still searching for someplace where we could listen to Jimmy Buffet music without wishing we were someplace else. A place where we could leave the doors unlocked, take a midnight stroll along the beach and sit on our front porch waving to everyone who walked past.
Still relying on the advice of unrelated souls, we researched information on outlying islands and coastal towns all the way down the lower eastern seaboard. In one magazine we found Kiawah Island, SC and read how the main mode of transportation is bicycle so, full of anticipation, we hit the road only to find that the end of the vegetable-stand road was punctuated with the dreaded checkpoint gate, separating the farmers (and us) from the golfers and their BMW’s.
That was a devastating blow because we started to believe that no matter what we read, everyplace was the same. Everything lacked character. No matter how hard the architects tried to make a place look interesting and unique, it all came out cookie-cutter clear and I still can't believe how many people are okay with that. Where is Old Town? Main Street? What happened to the old oak tree?
Paradise… it can’t be just be a state of mind. I'll keep on looking until I find.....my paradise.