e’ve all seen the advertisements and travel videos for luxurious destinations, and white sandy beaches. While some of the images depict actual vacations and destinations as they truly are, some do not and only show the best of what is offered.

Our perceptions of the places we want to visit are often skewed and not based in reality, unfortunately. A prospective traveller is not fully to blame, as marketing and public relations plays a big part in how we perceive certain destinations we may choose to travel to.

On one such road trip we took to Florida, we had that type of experience. It was to be a multicity road trip complete with reasonably priced and fair accommodations along the way, or so we thought. 

One of the destinations we chose to visit first was Key West. We had our room set up, and it was all perfectly executed with the tours we took and just sightseeing in general. I would have to say that Key West lived up to its hype. While not overly expensive, it was a blast to walk in the “Old Town” area with numerous shops, restaurants and plenty to do and see. They also had a public beach that was not much different than some of the beaches in Otter Tail County, except it was the Atlantic Ocean we swam in. Fun fact -- mentally prepare yourself for the wild chickens and geckos running loose everywhere, it might surprise most that these animals are literally on every street you turn down, sidewalk, and occasionally every table that you sit at. They are harmless, but fun to watch.

We also spent a day exploring Miami Beach and the area which had wonderful accommodations but was extremely pricey, so our time there was very limited because we were on a budget. Overall, it was a great beach, clean and fun.

Then we got to Daytona and it all fell apart and floated up like someone rapidly letting air out of a balloon (you can add the sound effects). Prices and value can often clash in odd ways. We thought we had scored a great value with a two-night stay at a local motel that was very reasonably priced and had somehow looked adequate online. 

We knew the minute we pulled up in the parking lot that we had made an error, and quickly found out that they had a no-refund policy, so we were essentially stuck for two nights. On a positive note, the beach in Daytona was amazing. Obviously, if there is a next time, we will definitely try to stay at one of the national hotel chains with a good reputation. 

The other facet about Daytona that shocked us before we even got to our accommodations, was that on street after street -- even outside of the downtown core -- we witnessed extreme poverty and urban decay. Buildings on the verge of being condemned, to others that had fencing wrapped around them that were posted as condemned. Some were even on the beach itself. It was sad to witness. 

It is important to remember that when we travel, we learn about places that are different from ours, and the challenges they face. Travel is not always about getting that “last” activity in, but becoming an educated person about what goes on outside our normal bubbles.



James Allen is a staff reporter for the Daily Journal in Fergus Falls. 

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