Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Art of Finding Hidden Gems While Traveling

Thousands of miles away...

I am very excited to share Beverly Hill's personal account of her hiking and kayaking trip  and how she connected and found some hidden gems in the local communities on the east coast of Florida! 

Beverly Hill works in the judicial system by day, and after hours is a feature writer devoted to Northwest Florida Outdoor Adventure. She writes original, quality content, is available for assignments and is the recipient of 4 Editor's Choice Awards from online publications. Beverly is a writer, webmaster, and owner of Northwest Florida Outdoor Adventure website.


The Art of Finding Hidden Gems While Traveling

For years whenever I would plan a trip to a new destination, my go-to source for finding adventure was to spend hours scouring the internet for state park websites, reading up on popular hiking or kayaking destinations and even reading reviews on popular travel websites, but recently I discovered a new angle – the art of listening.

On a recent trip to the east coast of Florida, I decided to do away with the written-in-stone itinerary and “wing it.” That's not to say that I didn't already have reservations at a local state park, but beyond that my days were free to explore. So on the first day of my trip as I checked into the park I asked for a local trail map and then asked “Where's the best place to eat around here?” The park ranger cheerfully gave me several options and then pointed me in the direction of the one he preferred and I thanked him and headed off to set up camp.

Arriving at Camp

I set up camp just before a threatening rain storm was about to blow in. With everything safely secured I hopped into the car and drove seven miles to a small town the ranger had told me about. I decided to grab a few things from the grocery store, and while checking out I struck up a conversation with the cashier. I asked her what her big plans for the weekend were and she told me about a parade in a town just up the road. Well, add that to my list of things to check out.

Back at camp the storm had passed so I grabbed a fishing pole and headed down to the dock to drown some worms. A fellow fisherman joined me and we chatted pleasantly about fishing and as the conversation grew I learned he was in town for a kayak fishing tournament. He cheerfully told me where he was planning to take his kayak out to the next day and where he'd fished over the past several days. He was so caught up in his upcoming adventure that he even showed me some fishing techniques I didn't know. As evening fell I wished him luck and headed back to camp to ponder where I'd go next.

Little Talbot Island State Park after the rain storm Florida Courtesy of Beverly Hill

Hiking Adventures

The next morning I headed down to the ranger station to register as a hiker on one of the more popular trails. While filling out the sign in sheet I asked more questions like where was the best place to get pictures of wildlife, where could I rent a bike and where was the best place to fish? The ranger answered all of my questions and also gave me tips about the tides as it pertained to my hike: If I started on the east end of the trail I'd still have time to hike the beach trail back before the tide swallowed it.

Driftwood beach at Big Talbot Island Florida Courtesy of Beverly Hill

I had an awesome hike except for a few bothersome mosquitoes, but the view was incredible and well worth it. I finished up and headed back to camp for lunch, a nap and to wait out the next tide change. After that I decided to tackle another nearby park and beach hike that can only be achieved during low tide. Good thing I'd picked up that little tidbit about the tides because the pictures were awesome!

On the second night I decided to pull up stakes and head inland away from the coast. I found myself at a hotel in a satellite city near the capitol. I got a good night's sleep and come morning I was off again to tackle yet another state park. There I met hikers and kayakers who were friendly and eager to give me a more leads for exploring the local area.

Okaloosa Island Florda Courtesy of Beverly Hill

Tune into the Locals in Regions

I started to wonder to myself why I hadn't tried to strike up conversations with people more often. At the beach, if someone noticed my camera they would tell me where the best places were to get some great shots. If I remarked out loud that I was starting to get hungry someone would tell me about a “great little restaurant” that I should try. If I expressed interest in an activity like fishing or kayaking someone would always volunteer information as to the best places to go.

Now when I go somewhere, I'll hang out in the lobby of a hotel or maybe on the boardwalk overlooking the beach and strike up small conversations with people that pause near me. I'm learning a lot more about the “locals” and where their favorite places are. What a novel idea this “listening” stuff is!

Thank you Beverly for sharing - this fun outdoor adventure you went on and how you found these local areas!  You may read additional stories, get the latest Northwest Florida information, and find Beverly Hill’s current activities at Northwest Florida Outdoor Adventures .

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Sharing conversations with locals in our communities, who will you stop and talk to? ~ The Fun Tour Guru

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  1. I'm glad you enjoyed it and I am happy to share. I think the key element (besides listening) was pausing long enough to interact with people.

  2. A very good point, to 'pause' that you make. Thanks for this!


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