Image Source, photo by Miguel Vieira 

Read the first chapter here…

Shortly after arriving at the hostel, Emily and I began doing or own thing. I barely saw her the whole time we were there. We were probably do a well needed break. Ever since California, one minute she would seem pissed at me and the next everything was kool. I never knew the unspoken problem and just decided to give her space. These days I’m all about communication, but it has been a long hard road to get here, and back then avoidance seemed easier.

When I wasn’t cooking or cleaning at the hostel, my days were spent rather leisurely. I did a lot of journaling and just hung around talking to travelers and other work exchange. Some people were passing through for a night or two. Some were staying as guests more long term. Some were on a short term work exchange like Emily and myself, and others were on more permanent staff. The permanent staff had their own rooms, but people like Emily and I stayed in the bunks with the paying guests.

The hostel offered canoe trips in the everglades. They would organize a trip for a particular day and guests would pay for the added adventure. Some of the staff was more experienced at canoeing and would lead the group. They had a trailer with many canoes and would haul people out to the mangroves. One day, I was invited to join in on one of these excursions.

I had little to no experience canoeing back then. Luckily, someone more knowledgeable was in the back of the boat. The back is where the steering takes place. The person in front is more (hu)man power than anything, with occasional assists to move the boat quickly. I was no help at this part and maneuvering the boat through the mangroves was rather difficult. It was beautiful back there though. We hardly saw anyone else.

I’d never been anywhere quite like The Everglades National Forest before. Really, Florida in general was a new mind blowing experience for me. I loved the thick, lush forest. Moss, lichen, swooping vines. There, on the river, a forest grew from out of the water. The mangroves had an intricate web of roots, creating rainbows that protruded the water’s surface. Swamp grass shot up here and there. Birds circled overhead and flew among the tree branches. It was quiet. Pristine. Peaceful. Even still, I preferred the swampy lush, mosquito infested forest of central Florida over this less vegetated one. But I enjoyed the unique experience enough to return on a second hostel excursion a few days later.

Continued in the next chapter here