Hospitality Around Florida

Fighting for a good cause helps bring people together

Set out on a long-distance hike anywhere in the country, and I can guarantee you that your faith in humanity will be restored. Our PlasTrek 2019 was definitely no exception. This post is dedicated to all those kindred spirits who helped us out along our journey, and to inspire others to respond with compassion and kindness to those nomadic travelers of the world.

A slideshow of just some of the amazing folks who helped us out during our Trek!

Seeing as there isn't enough room to include a write-up for everyone, I will highlight a few of the very unexpected encounters we experienced with generous strangers.

Bryan's extensive, Florida-based family also contributed in a huge way to the trek by providing us with places to stay, rides, and food. We were extremely grateful to have a home base at his dad's place in Melbourne for a week, especially during the time when Bryan came down with a very nasty cold and was out for an entire day. We were able to use this time to count and sort all the plastic we had collected up until that point, as well as to work on our first YouTube episode. When we made it further south to Lake Worth and Delray Beach, we each stayed at our mom's places, which helped us rejuvenate and have some much needed personal time to ourselves. South Florida was definitely a home base for us throughout the trek, and we are very grateful to our families.

With our new Cedar Key friends, Mark and Shelley

Mark & Shelley:

After a long day of driving and picking up plastic on various small beaches in the "armpit" of Florida, we finally arrived at the quaint little town of Cedar Key. We searched for a vegan bite to eat at the seafood restaurants along the wharf, but eventually gave up and decided to use our little camp stove to cook couscous and lentils, once again. However, we still hadn't found a place to call home for the night, and daylight was quickly waning. So we set out walking through town to ask locals where we could park our little trailer for the night. After gathering some intel, we made it back to the truck and started cooking dinner. We were tired, exhausted, irritable, and stressed from our day-to-day grind, and promptly plummeted into a heated disagreement. In perfect serendipitous fashion, a friendly couple quickly drove over to us in their golf cart to ask about our custom trailer we had been using to sleep in during the second half of our trek. As we grumpily tried to snap out of our funk, the couple remained unflaggingly cheerful, and were impressed to hear of our venture. Before we knew it, they generously offered to let us park our trailer in their driveway and urged us to follow them down the road to their house. We jumped in the truck and followed them, picking up our argument where we left off, yet also in a state of bewilderment at our luck. As soon as we arrived, we were humbled once again with a generous offer to sleep in their luxury RV, complete with A/C, bathrooms, and a hot shower. We ended up staying with our new friends for two nights, and were completely overwhelmed with gratitude at their courageous act of kindness to invite two complete strangers into their lives. As Mark told us, "I've been helped out a lot in my life, so it's time to help others as well. You gotta give back what you receive."

Our new friends in St. Joe: Robin, 'Little Man', & Kimball

Bryan showing bite marks in a vinegar bottle to our new friends who helped us out

Robin, Kimball & Little Man:

As we continued along the Gulf Coast toward Panama City, we started to hit beaches that had been affected by Hurricane Michael in 2018. We were finding mangled wooden piers, ruined house foundations, construction debris on the beach, and even washed out roads. Despite the wreckage, the natural scenery in this area was beautiful and provided a

certain sense of solitude. People in this part of Florida who were hit by the hurricane last year definitely knew the importance of neighbors helping neighbors, and how even the smallest acts can mean the world to someone in need. As we rounded the southern tip of Cape San Blas (St. Joe area), we came across a photogenic old shrimping boat that had been run aground on the beach last year. We could tell this was a destination point for the locals, as folks were gathering around this unique centerpiece at sunset to take photos and show friends. We were about to move on, when a group of friendly locals and their kids gathered around Bryan to inquire what he was picking up off the beach. Bryan used this opportunity as a teachable moment, and as we stood there chatting about how plastic is ruining the planet, we were asked if we had a place to stay for the night. We remarked that we hadn't, and were immediately invited to stay at the family's house the following night. We exchanged contact information, and proceeded to make our way to the road (passing some spectacular dead trees in the sand along the way), as we raced to meet our ride for the night. Earlier that day, we met a young woman who was working locally as a beach-nesting bird intern, and who had offered to pick us up in the evening and bring us back to our truck. After nearly an hour of spotty cell phone service and miscommunication, she finally found us and we loaded up her clean Subaru with our sandy, smelly bags of plastic. The following night, we stayed with the couple (Robin & Kimball) and their grandson ('Little Man'), who we had met on the beach, in the basement of their house which included our own king sized bed, a TV, hot shower, and a massage chair!! We were in heaven. The next day, Kimball drove us to the northern tip of St. Joe Peninsula State Park - paying our park entrance fee! - where we left our truck, then he dropped us off where we had finished the day before, so we could hike north to the state park where our truck would already be parked, waiting for us. We had a good day, knowing we were going to have a hot shower at the end of the night, and a big bed to sleep in. On a trek like this, you definitely learn to appreciate the little things that are often take for granted.

Our Pensacola Beach friends: Michael and Pam

Pam & Michael

As we neared the end of our trek, we felt more tired and exhausted than ever. We had just spent several nights staying with our new friend, Erik, in Panama City, where we were treated to meals, a bed, and great conversation. At this point in our trek, we were physically and mentally done with "roughing it", and didn't want to spend another night battling no-see-ums. My birthday was also coming up soon, so I was also looking for any type of luxury we could experience with our final accommodations (which was basically anything besides camping). Thankfully, Bryan's mom, Patty, connected us with an old school friend of hers, Pam, who lived with her husband in Pensacola. We reached out to Pam and Michael, whom we had never met before, but who were more than willing to take us in and cook us vegan food on our very first night! We were extremely excited and relieved about this opportunity, to say the least. Our new friends stayed up late for our arrival after we completed a long day of walking the beach, including an hour drive to their house. When we arrived, we were blown away by the fact that we were going to have an entire basement - complete with living room, kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom - all to ourselves! It felt like we had our own apartment, and was one of the nicest accommodations of our entire trip. Pam and Michael only lived one block from the beach, so it was a perfect location to watch the sunrise, as well as the ideal midday break from our beach walk. At the end of our last day on the trek, we lingered to watch the gorgeous sunset from Fort Pickens, the westernmost tip of Pensacola. Pam and Michael were on standby to pick us up from the park and drive us back to their house that night, where we shared a nice dinner together. As physically and mentally drained as we were, it meant the world to us to be taken under the wing of strangers and treated like family. Just a tiny bit of generosity goes a very long way.

There were plenty more encounters during our trek that we didn't have room to include here, but these were just some highlights of the folks who opened up their homes and hearts to us. We are forever humbled and grateful for the kindness and generosity of strangers who took us under their wing to help us on our mission to achieve a better world for all.

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