Feeling comfortable, welcomed and valued traveling from Colorado’s mountains to the Florida Keys
by Alexandria Nicole
There’s a beautiful place where people, from all over the world, come to enjoy warm weather, frozen mixed drinks, and heavenly turquoise waters surrounded by miles of white sand beaches. This beautiful place is an island that was once referred to as Cayo Hueso by Spanish settlers. The original name translates to Bone Island since the land once served as the resting place for the indigenous peoples known as the Calusa Tribe. As the years passed, and more English-speaking settlers began to occupy the land, their incorrect pronunciation of the island Cayo Hueso, pronounced “ue·so” contributed to the modern name of Key West, making it indeed a misnomer.
The current locals of Key West embrace the island feel of luxury by exhibiting excellence in all aspects of tourism, while simultaneously honoring the area’s history and celebrating their cultural diversity.
My RV journey from Breckenridge, CO to Key West, FL began with a desire to showcase and support leaders who value both luxury and inclusion, so the first stop was B&B RV in Denver, CO. Upon entering the building I immediately noticed the beautifully staged rental/sales floor, the multiple awards celebrating their accomplishments, and flags of Colorado-based camping organizations one of which being Black Folks Camp Too, whose mission is to “treat everyone, everywhere equally and encouraging unity around the campfire.” When noticing this support of inclusivity it prompted me to ask customer service representative, Rachel Foster, for her perspective on how B&B RV is inclusive.
“Me and B&B RV believe in inclusivity all across the board. We believe that everyone deserves to experience nature and we are happy to provide it for anyone that wants to go out.”Rachel Foster, B&B RV
Upon departure, as I began my quest in the comfortable 2022 Mercedes RV, I contemplated Rachel’s statement as well as the “Black Folks Camp Too” flag hanging proudly in their showroom, and I knew I was off to a great start.
As the 2,222-mile drive began, I thought about the perception of luxury and how truly subjective of a word it is, based mostly upon individual values and preferences. The definition of luxury is “a great state or feeling of comfort and extravagant living”. I never associated RVing with luxury, but I am now a firm believer that qualifies this mode of travel as luxurious.
When thinking of inclusion and its meaning, a lot like luxury, it is also based upon a feeling, but in my opinion a more straightforward concept. Inclusion, as defined by Oxford Language, is the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who are physically or mentally other abled (also referred to by some as disabled) and members of other minority groups.
After 34 hours of travel, the excitement mounted as the brightly colored buildings, crystal clear waters, and 7-mile bridge were now all visible, drawing us closer to the adventure that awaited.
The first stop I made, after parking and setting up the RV, was Fun Rentals to pick up our golf cart, one of the dominant modes of transportation in Key West along with bicycles, scooters, and taxis.
The second stop consisted of lunch at Hogfish Bar & Grill where we discovered that they’ve managed to maintain a 4.6 rating with over 5,000 customer reviews through a combination of friendly and welcoming staff, beautiful indoor/outdoor marina seating, and outstanding execution of every dish. As Head Chef, Jean Rolson Sine`, presented his culinary creations, beginning with the Mixed Seafood Ceviche appetizer, followed by a customized Fried Seafood Platter and the Signature Hogfish with crab & shrimp stuffing, covered in a mango cream sauce, and served with island rice and veggies, we spoke briefly about him being of Haitian descent and the enjoyment he receives from cooking.
After such gracious accommodations and a wonderful lunch, we decided to have a mellow evening and a light dinner and drinks at Sunset Pier, known for its tropically colored tables, live music, panoramic views, and breathtaking sunset, making a perfect end to a wonderful day.
As we began the new day and evaluated our itinerary, which was dedicated to honoring and learning about the history of Key West and also determining who had the best Key Lime-themed menu item, we thought what better way to start the day than to take a tour on the World Famous Conch Train Tour! After making arrangements with the hospitable sales representative, Lora Mims, we secured our place on Todd Picansos’ train where we enjoyed 90-minutes of historical facts, and sight-seeing, told in such a way that he captured the joy, humor, and tragedy in his rendition of the tales told of the past.
Once our tour came to a close, the quest to discover who had the best Key Lime-themed menu item, on Key West, began. It wasn’t until after having tried Conch Republic Seafood Company’s Key Lime Martini and Key Lime Pie along with Key Lime Coladas from The Boathouse and Sunset Pier that my husband and I determined, that the island’s staple fruit is beautifully executed by everyone and meant to be appreciated for its culinary differences and cultural significance.
The day ended with a relaxing stroll along the white sands of Higgs Beach, where we found the African Refugee Cemetary, the only historic African burial ground, in the US, dedicated to honoring the victims of the last slave ships.
After a great night’s sleep, we headed to the downtown marinas in preparation for the most anticipated activity of the trip, the All Day Watersport Excursion with Sebago Watersports! Upon arrival, we were greeted with kindness and engaging conversation from the crew members, and staff alike, as we awaited our turn to board our beautiful boat, named Teralani II. The Mechanic Manager, TJ, and Captain Josh Milan put our minds at ease with their exhibited knowledge of the ships and insight into their preparatory measures to assure passenger safety.
As we boarded Teralani II, Captain Josh managed to set the expectations of our adventure and explain safety procedures, in a way that proved to be concise, informative, and humorous before our voyage began. As we slowly pulled away from the marina, all the passengers enjoyed a light breakfast, and views of the crystal blue waters, as we all grew closer to the adventure of parasailing, jet skiing, ocean trampolining, and snorkeling that awaited us. While the energy of excitement was palpable at that moment, we all knew that the memories being made, with our family and friends, would be ones that we’d all cherish for the rest of our lives.
As the day to leave Key West was upon us, we lingered in a state of dread missing the island before we’d even departed, fighting the urge to add yet another day to our already extended trip. We decided to have one last culinary experience at The Breakfast Club, Too, owned by Susan Berkowitz Johnson, who personally values inclusion being that she experienced not being treated with respect in the male-dominated restaurant world. Susan spoke about the challenges she and her partner, Heather, faced when opening her first restaurant in Lake Placid, NY. Susan said “Since we were women we were often referred to as girls and we had to fight to receive the things we were supposed to get, but when I came down to Key West and opened The Breakfast Club, Too it was a very different experience. It’s been refreshing to experience little to no misogyny here.” With each sip of her delicious coffee and every bite of her wonderful pancakes, topped with homemade cinnamon butter, unlike anything we’d ever tasted, we began to muster the strength to leave Key West on a high note thinking “it can’t get any better than this.”
While on the road again, I began to think about how all of these establishments are intentionally creating atmospheres, and experiences, that allow all customers to feel comfortable, welcomed and valued. It was at that moment I realized they are all leaders in luxury and inclusion.
Featured Photo by Sebago Water Sports
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