In 2010 I stepped foot in the USA for the first time. I was 21-years old. A J-1 visa issued for a summer exchange program called Work and Travel was allowing me to spend 4 months working legally on American soil. For a young girl born in an Eastern European country, who grew up devouring American movies/TV series and such a different lifestyle, it was a dream come true.
It was my first long-haul flight and my first trip on a different continent. Since my mom had been to the US a year earlier, I was already briefed about customs procedures and let’s call them ‘American differences’. Even if I somehow knew what to expect, I could not help to not be amazed by the size of Philadelphia and Fort Lauderdale airports, the typical American smiles everywhere and the easiness with which a security guy at the metro in Miami offered to take me to the right bus station even if it was raining like hell outside.
I remember thinking ´WOW´ when…
- I visited Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise, FL, in top 10 largest shopping malls in the country.
- I entered the residential complex that was supposed to be my home for the next months and saw that we have a private gym and a pool.
- I saw the celebrities´ mansions while crossing one of the bridges to Miami Beach.
- I was taken in a convertible car with the wind blowing in my hair on an American highway.
- I experienced glimpses of Miami Beach: nightlife, music, Art Deco district and its colours, local residents jogging shirtless, fancy cars everywhere.
- I just chilled in big parks, endless beaches and harbors with impressive vessels.
It felt like being in an American movie and I honestly wished to be able to live in Miami someday.
I always said that I will eventually go back to Miami and I finally managed to do it this year. I organized a trip with my mom, which included a couple of days in Miami Beach, a 5-days cruise to the Caribbean and the cherry on top…my birthday.
Overall, it was awesome! I had plenty of time to relax, to read books, to think, to do people-watching, to explore places, to try new foods. But this time something was different.
Now, I was seeing Miami with the eyes of a 28-years old, who traveled a lot in the last seven years. I am sure the city also experienced changes, but most of all I am different. My perspective about everything changed, which led to some mixed feelings.
Do I still like it?
Yes, I do. It is Miami and its vibes never get old.
Would I come back to visit?
Yes, but it would be awesome to rent a car and explore the surroundings, like Everglades, Coral Gables and Coconut Groove, Biscayne Bay or the coast up to Jacksonville.
How are the people?
Well, I didn’t get the chance to talk with the locals, just observed their everyday life. They are definitely people who enjoy spending time outdoors, either jogging, playing sports, going to the beach or relaxing with friends/family on a terrace. They use the car a lot, which is also because public transport is not very well developed in the area and you definitely waste less time getting to places by car. They own big cars, such as SUVs, others have fancy ones (convertible or sports). You either see people preoccupied by their appearance (shirtless guys doing jogging which look awesome) or obese. I have the feeling there aren’t so many falling into the middle category.
Would I still move there?
No. Although climate is great and you can go to the beach all year (it is called ‘The Sunshine State’ for something), I want variety. Land is flat all over Florida, mountains are quite far away and you need to grab a flight in order to change the landscape. I don’t want to use the car for everything and there aren’t so many places where you could walk like in Europe.
With all that being said, please do visit Miami and its surroundings, it is definitely worth it.