Some friends and I recently took a road trip to Amelia Island on Northern Florida’s “Treasure Coast.” It was delightful. There was fresh air and sunshine and salty sea. Who would have believed that President James Monroe once called it a “festering fleshpot of immorality?”
To be fair, President Monroe’s assessment was based, in large part, on the population of pirates who were plundering this luscious piece of real estate booty at the time. I did not see any pirates during my stay. Well, not any real pirates, anyway. I did buy a Christmas tree ornament that depicts Santa Claus with an eyepatch and gold earring, but I don’t think that counts.
Our visit in Amelia Island included visiting some pretty awesome restaurants, splashing around in the ocean, admiring the adorable little cottages and adorable larger mansions, trawling the quaint retail shopping area, eating a crumb bun, and cruising around Cumberland Island on a tourist boat. I do not think there was much immorality involved, except for maybe the crumb bun. It was really, really good, though.
There was one aspect of our trip that did have a faint whiff of pirate panache. Given the COVID-19 lockdown over the past few months, it felt distinctly rebellious to be out wandering in the world. It was surprising how many people were visiting the island. Granted, the incidence of the virus has been much lower in Nassau County, where Amelia Island is located, than in the central and southern counties of Florida. The community of Fernandina Beach, the crown jewel of Amelia Island, has a population of about 13,000 people. Most of the activity in Fernandina Beach is outside, which means those 13,000 people are not congregating indoors in close quarters. These are just some of the differences between life in Lake County, where I live, and Amelia Island. It was surprising to see how those differences manifested themselves in real life practical terms.
At first glance, it almost seemed as if the COVID-19 pandemic had never happened on Amelia Island. Few people were wearing masks. Just about all establishments were open for business. You could try on clothes before buying them. It was a brave new old world. When one sailed further into the Amelia Island life, though, there were some indicators of safety precautions. There were social distancing measures in place. Most of the workers wore masks, especially in restaurants. Our hotel offered a free breakfast, which is usually a buffet. In consideration of the need to minimize contact, the hotel staff packed a bag with each guest’s choices instead of letting everyone get their own food from a buffet. I felt like the community was being smart about things, but there was much less evidence of a world shut down by disease on Amelia Island than there is where I live my daily life. There were protocols in place. However, those protocols were not so “in your face,” constantly reminding people at every turn that living is a risk factor. It was wonderful to ride this temporary wave of wildness.
It is amazing how far my standards of “normal” have fallen. To think I found it reassuringly normal to have a masked waiter serve me at a restaurant and to consider if having two people on an elevator was an acceptable risk! To think that I felt like a rebel because I was out in the world, where I could hear the sounds of people and commerce and entertainment!
It is not that I think that we should take a page from the Amelia Island book. As I said, the circumstances there are different from the circumstances where I live and the circumstances where I live are likely different from the circumstances where you live. I do not pretend to know the “right” thing to do. So, even though I am not advocating that we take a page from Amelia Island, it was very pleasant to read their book for a couple of days. It even gave me hope that maybe we can all regain some of our freedom and lightheartedness at some point.
In the meantime, I will remember my pirate days on Amelia Island fondly. Aaargh!
What makes you feel footloose and fancy free during this time of separation? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.