Don't blink! Our trip to Florida was 53 hours long – including flights. Our goal for this trip was to decide (once and for all) if West Coast FL was a viable long-term plan for us or not. The two of us kept going back and forth about the pros and cons; we took FL off the table and put it back on several times without having any weighted deciding factor. By visiting, we would be able to see industry opportunities, look at neighborhoods in our budget range, and see what traffic and locals were really like.
Brian and I hit the ground running early on Saturday. We picked up our rental car at 8:30 am and decided to tour the Bonita Springs / Fort Myers area first. The area we liked the best was right next to Florida Gulf Coast University (hint hint Sarah). Most of the homes were (frustratingly) behind gates, but the entrances leading up to them were spectacular. We also liked the shopping in that general area. I feel like a beach snob for saying this, but the public beaches in that area weren't very impressive. Perhaps it's because we've been to places like 30A, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and even the private Naples beaches. Is that an actual deterrent? Probably not. :)
We were told Ft Myers was a hub of industry and innovation, but from driving around we didn't see much of that. So without further ado: north we went. The fun part about this drive was that both Brian and I had meticulously studied the coastline on Google Maps. In some areas it felt like we had already been there! It was good to see those areas in person though. One town we had thought would be a great option turned out to be really empty and dumpy. Driving across Manasota Key was super interesting because we discovered we liked the northern half of the island significantly more than the southern. The foliage was beautiful (this is one of our favorite aspects of Florida) and the island had plenty of breathing room. We stopped off at one of the more popular beaches along the drive. Again, not the prettiest beach we've been to. But the inlet right next to it sure was.
Sarasota was our final stop. We would have gone all the way to Tampa, but we did have to make it back to Naples for dinner with Grandad and Carol. #priorities Brian and I both liked Sarasota. It had a much younger crowd, and there was lots to do. After hours in the car driving a rather isolated strip, the busyness was a welcome change. Plus, who can forget, this is near where the manatees spend their winter months! We'd read that Sarasota was an up-and-coming place to be, and I would believe it. There was a lot of new construction and a lot of big companies located downtown. This little strip of condos was my favorite:
All in all it was an eye-opening trip, and I'm so glad we came. We had a purpose, and I think we accomplished it. There were several pockets along the bay where we would enjoy living. However, I think for now we're going to shelve the idea of moving to that area. The job market is not quite what we had hoped, and having plenty of opportunities is vital to us moving anywhere. There wasn't enough in our sightseeing weekend to compel us to leave our jobs, community and family. Florida is definitely worth visiting, and who knows – maybe someday we'll find ourselves back in North Naples looking at a beautiful gated community with palm trees in the yards. :)
PS – We flew Spirit Airlines, and we had the two VERY LAST auto-assigned seats which turned out to be 1A and 1B! We flew first class all the way home. Oh yeah! :)
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