2017-12-06 16:43
Journey to the Sunshine State
By Lee Hyon-soo

To escape the cold, many Canadians take vacations in winter and flee south, mostly to Florida. They look on their annual trip to Florida as a basic survival rite, one that gets them through all the shoveling, scraping and sniffles. Retirees and those who do not have to work in winter ― farmers, for example ― pass the whole winter in Florida. Like migratory birds, they return to Canada in spring. Roughly half a million Canadians own winter homes in Florida.

Although I came to Canada a long time ago, I did not get around to visiting Florida ― until recently, that is. My seeming lack of interest in Florida bewildered my Canadian friends who go there every year. Just because I had not been to Florida, they seemed to think that I was averse to travel. To them, my trips to other interesting places did not seem to count at all.

Not wanting to be the odd man out, I finally decided to drive to Florida in July. My Canadian friends tried to talk me out of making my trip, pointing out that it is sizzling hot in Florida in July. But I did not heed their advice because I did not think much of the hot weather that might be waiting for me in Florida. After all, I had lived in Singapore for a couple of years, a tropical country which is incessantly hit by heat waves.

It was in mid-July that my family and I set out on our long journey to Florida which bills itself as the "Sunshine State." Our destination was Orlando, about 2,400 km away from Toronto, or roughly five times the distance between Seoul and Busan. We drove and drove and drove, stopping only for gasoline, food and sleep. It took us two-and-a-half days to get to Orlando, having passed through as many as seven states, namely, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Since we traveled along inter-state highways, our journey was uneventful. Our boredom was broken only by the mountains and rolling hills that we encountered on the way. They proved welcome diversions for us.

We arrived at Orlando at about noon on the third day and spent the afternoon at Universal Studios. During the next two days we toured Walt Disney World which includes the Magic Kingdom and Epcot Theme Park, among others. Of all things we saw there, we were most impressed by the ingenious ways in which various themes were explored and presented at Epcot.

As all Canadian vacationers seemed to go to Florida in winter, I thought Orlando would be deserted in summer. How unprepared I was! Tourists swarmed all over the city. They all must have come from other places than Canada. Everywhere we went, we were swallowed by crowds.

What’s more, Orlando’s hot weather proved unbearable, despite our earlier experience in Singapore. So we quit Orlando, skipping many tourist attractions which we had originally planned to visit, and moved to Daytona Beach just to relax on the beach for several days, basking in the sun. But the heat was so intense that we could not remain on the beach even for ten minutes. As there seemed to be no reason to linger one more day there, we repacked our suitcases and headed homeward. Disillusioned, we put in more driving hours and got home in two days.

Although my trip to Florida turned out to be untimely (I definitely should have waited until the weather cooled off there), I took consolation in the thought that my pilgrimage to the Canadian Mecca of holidays might help me strengthen my camaraderie with my Canadian friends here.

The writer is a retired international banker who lives in Toronto, Canada. His other writings are posted on his blog, http://blog.daum.net/tom_hslee.