By Yasmina Zatar (YES 2021–2022, Jordan, placed by AFS in Batavia, IL)
Just before the start of 2022, my host family took me on a Floridian vacation to visit Key Largo, Key West, and Miami for eight days. This was a marvelous experience! On December 27, we arrived in Florida and spent the first few days in Key Largo. We went on lots of walks and went to multiple local shops and restaurants like the Island Grill, where I ate sushi for the first time. It was delicious! I enjoyed going to the Theater of the Sea, where we saw dolphins perform synchronized dance routines, sea lions do tricks, and parrots play with toys. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always wanted to kiss a dolphin because they are such interesting creatures — and I got to fulfill this dream! We also visited the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, where we toured the breathtaking nature reserve.
On our third day, we went down to Key West and visited the Turtle Hospital, a sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation center, and learned about their work rescuing injured sea turtles and returning them to their natural habitat! On our second day in Key West, we took a Conch Tour Train Ride, which is an amazing historical tour that explains Key West’s history. We also went to the southernmost point of the United States. We got to enjoy some more relaxed activities like swimming and tanning at the pool, and then later in the evening, we watched a fireworks display. On New Year's Eve, we visited the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. I was amazed at the beauty of all the different specifies of butterflies. After that, we had seafood for dinner at a place called the “Stinkin Crawfish.”
On New Year’s Day, we visited the Truman Little Whitehouse, which was where President Truman used to spend time during and after his administration. We went on a fishing trip the next day and caught lots of fish that we then ate for lunch. The sea views were mesmerizing. On the last day of our trip, we drove up to Miami and walked around South Beach. Then, the next day we flew home to Illinois.
I loved visiting these beautiful places as I’ve always wanted to explore more tropical destinations, especially in the wintertime! My host family and I bonded a lot as we did many activities together. It was a great eight-day vacation and I would love to visit there again!