One of the “challenges” of camping in Florida in the month of December and January is to believe that it is the winter here. For the last week we have been camped at the Everglades National Park at the Southern tip of Florida, making it one of the warmest camping spots we could be in the entire country. We are truly grateful, and thankful for the privilege of being in this place at this time. I never in my life imagined myself wintering in Florida. Up into this point, our road trip has been busy, characterized by driving long distances, visiting countless historic locations, land marks, museums, friends and family. Christmas was the first time on this trip where we parked in one spot for over a week. Speaking of Christmas, my (Josh) Mom and Dad (Grammy and Grampy) flew into Florida for a week to spend a little time with us for the holiday season. Thanks Mom and Dad- you helped bring greater joy into our holidays, even as we celebrated Christmas thousands of miles away from home.
With all this said, our New Years Celebration in the Everglades may be one of the most memorable New Years of our lives. On New Years Eve, as we explored the waterways of the Everglades we saw both crocodiles and manatees, for the first time, alive in the wild. Countless fish jumped out of the water as the sun set into the Florida Bay and birds of all types flew overhead.
As the daylight grew fainter, we rode our bikes back to camp and then suddenly we witnessed the mysterious glowing dance of the fireflies. Flashing auras of light faded in and out as we peddled alongside our illuminated friends. For a moment, in our minds, we were no longer on this place we call Earth. We were in a world of mystery, serendipity and surprise, where only the unexpected occurs, a world of awe and wonder, a place where things we could never dream come true. Our experience that evening was otherworldly.
When we did make it back to camp, as though we had arrived in a magic floating cloud, we recounted the experience with each other, and prepared for our “normal” new years activities. We began our celebration with a family card game (“Up & Down the River” for those who know the game). A camp fire under the brilliant starry night was next on the list to bring in the new year. As the hour approach we roasted s’mores and at the turn of the hour we toasted with sparkling apple cider.
But this toast was unlike any toast we have ever had. Yes, we toasted to the end of 2018, a year full of unforgettable memories. A year of growth, learning, thanksgiving, adventure and family bonding. Yes, we toasted to the beginning of 2019, a year full of anticipation, expectation and infinite possibilities. But for our family, January 1st, 2019, marked another milestone in our trip of a lifetime- a halfway point on our trip.
On August 1st, 2018, exactly 5 months to the day of the New Year, we embarked on a 10 month journey to explored our vast and amazing country as a family. This means that New Years Day marks the exact half way point in our trip. Every day from now on we will arrive back sooner than the amount of time we have now been away. Now, instead of looking behind how far we have gone, we can now, more easily look ahead to when we will be reunited with everyone on our return home. Though there is still so much more to come on this trip, we are half way there. The journey is possible- the doubt all gone. We are here, as far away from home as we can be without leaving our country, now every day we can say we are getting closer and closer to home.
With our current plan, we plan to visit Key West Jan. 7-9th and spend the rest of the month on the East coast of Florida, including 2 weeks in Orlando. January 9th will actually be the official beginning of our return home from a distance perspective, but from a time perspective, we are half way done with our trip. Thank you everyone who have been supportive, helpful and encouraging as we have embarked on this wild adventure. May your New Years be as memorable and magical as ours.