Of course, “Thailand” doesn’t actually exist. It’s just a word and a concept, after all. A cobra has no idea it is crossing from Cambodia into Thailand. Huh… wait a second... it probably has no idea, later on… that it is crossing from Thailand back into Cambodia!
Anyhow… Travelers, adventurers, and potential retirees don’t simply just like a particular country, like, oh, Thailand. They like canyons, or mountains, or beaches. They like snow skiing, or water sports, or both. That’s why you’ll see the same surfer in Bali one year and then in Costa Rica next year.
Definitely, a lot of people like the beach life. Or, conversely, they love the mountain life. Or, perhaps, wildly, they love both. I trekked with this Swiss couple who alternated between the Himalayas and the beaches of Goa, India. If you don’t mind riding a bus sitting between a goat and a religious man, it’s a doable, if long, commute.
Because people are this way, I get asked, from time to time, if it’s possible to duplicate the pleasurable experience of being in third world countries – in the mountains or on the beaches - while still “safely” in the United States. The specific Question being, ‘what about Florida?’ Specifically, specifically, they mean South Florida and the Florida Keys. That way, you get safe tap water, and you can stop wearing your passport in your “hidden place”; therefore you stop agonizing about what to do with it on those visits to the beach for a swim.
It is true, even natives of the Caribbean islands find the vibes of South Florida comfortingly familiar. And, the water and beaches are usually far cleaner as far as plastic debris go. Also, “Mon, there be fewer folk ready to cut you Mon, cause you owe them a few gambling dollars”, in the words of Jamaica Bob.
Yes. Its possible, at least possibly possible, to substitute south Florida for a third world ocean/beach environment. The pace of life is quick up and down the Miami coast, but still it slows and thickens and relaxes around the water. Down on the Keys it can be like Trinidad or Tobago; sometimes. Plus… the mosquitoes don’t carry dengue fever or malaria …yet.
Florida now is also the proud new home of the worlds’ biggest snake, the reticulated python, previously only found in Southeast Asia.
So, it’s possible, possibly. And yet… two things stand in the way.
It takes money. A very decent and very prosperous amount of it in order to live the American Way. That means you’ll have to work long and hard at a job in order to make a few dollars to recreate with. Even then, you’ll be a pauper compared with the money a lot of (obscenely wealthy) people have on the southern coast of Florida. Furthermore, even those with tourist jobs like “smiling sea captain” feel working is an imposition on drinking. As those who have read my dark and brooding and bitter origin story (the one set in the black marble ruins of the Temple of Ra, upon whose cold dark, dragon bone strewn stone floors I make passionate love to Princess Honeybunch Pastries) know, I don’t much care to work.
I have my dark and bitter and brooding reasons, thank you.
The second fatal defect is that America is a little too squeaky clean about its outdoors. Hey, Smokey Bear! A tea house or two deep in the mountains wouldn’t hurt anyone. In Florida, they won’t even let you swim with wild dolphins. They have signs in the waters saying “Stay back, Dolphins...” When I point out that the signs are useless since dolphins can’t read and thus won’t stay back, park officials accuse me of being insulting to dolphins.
So the bottom line is… if you want the Southeast Asia tropical beach experience you have got to go to a Southeast Asia tropical beach.
And don’t worry, unlike Jamaica - and also Miami - nobody is waiting to “Cut you, Mon.”