Hidden Gems By Jasmine Ford
  • It’s no secret that I enjoy traveling with my husband Keith. In fact, we are currently preparing for a day trip for this weekend as I am writing this. Traveling with my little family has become my latest obsession. And while I do love to slip out of the States from time to time on a relaxing cruise, there is nothing I enjoy more than a road trip with just me and my babe. It’s a euphoric experience each and every time. When my aunt mentioned we would be traveling as a family to Amelia Island I was ecstatic. I’ve racked up my fair share of southern gems, but Fernandina Beach, Florida was the highlight of summer 2017.

    We started out early on a Saturday morning and hopped into my beloved Elantra Coupe – I will forever miss that car. I have so many memories in it and it was the first car I ever purchased. I’ll never forget when Keith installed the remote starter and a slight tinted window to compliment my style. It made those freezing winter days in Baltimore more bearable, and the gas efficiency made it the perfect road trip car. The next 7+ hours would be spent gone with the wind, cruising down into Florida. As expected, it is a ritual for us to stop at QuickTrip and McDonald’s when we are on the open road. I am so simple. All I ever desire is my cup of coffee, a good biscuit, and one hash brown. As we got closer to Amelia Island, we suddenly realized that Wawa gas stations are in Florida – and this Maryland gal was craving some Old Bay chips. It is a true staple that we both love. I even took a photo as if I was a tourist who has never eaten a hoagie from Wawa. By the afternoon we made it to the Sunshine State and we were so ready to check into the Residence Inn with the rest of my family. I didn’t have the privilege of growing up with my Dad’s family, so to be taking a quick vacation with my cousins was the intersection of breaking generational curses and exploring new heights. Traveling with intention wasn’t something I had recognized before meeting Keith. His view of the world has broadened my horizons, but not in the materialistic sense of traveling. This intention would be the sacred ground that began my declaration of relearning self. It would be my foundation of slowing down and getting back to peace.

    When we arrived at the Residence Inn our room wasn’t quite ready, so I made a suggestion for brunch. We had the ease and accessibility of being walking distance to the beach, so I didn’t mind checking out a local eatery. When I travel it is always my preference to patronize a local restaurant when possible. I’m loyal to good carryout and I want the authentic feels. Instagram photo ops are cool, but the tiny moments and personal exchanges are what I crave the most. It seems that flexing on travel destinations and jaded excursions has become the new norm, so to just enjoy the simple pleasure of a mimosa bar with fresh fruit and cute patio décor was pure bliss. By the way, the Patio Bar is a must if you are traveling to Amelia Island and the customer service is outstanding. Don’t leave without trying one of their amazing crepes. It’s the little things that often make our trips worthwhile. And yet, I often wonder why doesn’t anyone take pictures of their domestic flight ticket, or the cheap cup of coffee they grabbed in the airport? I have eaten Popeyes in the Spirit terminal at 6am, traveling out of ATL on many occasions and my trip wasn’t any less diminished. No one stops to appreciate all the tiny folds of our travel adventures. We live in a world that just wants to glorify the destination – not the work it took to get there. There are no shortcut templates in this journey of self. Will you return from your dream destination with a new perspective, or a shallow sense of self? Amelia Island was my call to action – to embrace all that will unfold to become everything that you need.

    One thing I have found to be true about many southern beaches is that there is a distinct relaxed vibe – sunbathing, tailgating, and stiff cocktails. There is no partying scene and there is a sense of maturity that you would find plastered across travel brochures in visitors centers across the country. I enjoyed sitting out on the beach with my family and just talking about life. Keith and I achieved a level of intimacy that was symbolic of pouring love back into one other. We took our time and showed grace for life, breath, and just being able to unwind. At the time my job had become very stressful and it had consumed my life in a negative way. I was in the midst of therapy sessions each week because I couldn’t handle it all. I unplugged from work so that I could recharge life into me and my husband. And for the first time in quite some months I had a chance to look myself in the mirror. It takes some kind of courage to realize that you are worthy of being seen and being loved. The beach was mystical and the energy that I felt there was powerful – I didn’t realize that I was unknowingly cleansing my soul. The waves were melodic to my ears and I remember floating off into a deep slumber while sunbathing. Wearing my all black Kenneth Cole swimsuit made me feel like a little Barbie as we caught the sunrise at Fernandina Beach. It’s funny how life comes full circle. I was the little girl with the Barbie dreamboat and virgin slushies, and now I was taking charge with adult margaritas in my hand and ocean views. I spent most of 2017 traveling throughout the entire State of Georgia and discovering many hideaways, and yet this weekend trip provided the rejuvenation I needed with minimal effort. We sat on the beach for hours and Keith captured some raw photos of me – gazing at the ocean line and just taking in the beauty of Earth. That night we returned to the beach to have cocktails at Sliders Seaside Grill. We talked and we laughed. Sometimes we sat in silence and gazed at one another. We made friends with some great people sitting near us and listened to the live band. And even though our family had already made the voyage back to Atlanta, we took our time and made Amelia Island something unique for us.

    In the midst of my new found fascination for Amelia Island, I was still clinging to the comforts of home. Residence Inn Marriott is always our kind of vibe when it’s just us two. We sat on the couch during our last night, debating on carryout options for over an hour – only to realize that we both wanted what we always enjoy (wings). We ate at the dinner table just as we would at home and we pulled out the sofa bed, despite having a large bed in our suite. And with all the beauty that Amelia Island has to offer, Hooters was still on time with the carry out, and reruns of Law and Order made our new found gem feel like a night at home.