Okay, I cheated. Technically, during the duration of The Gap Year, I visited Fort Myers twice. But the second visit was relatively uneventful and while the first visit was somewhat of a trainwreck, some great stories unfolded and a friendship formed between my brother and me that I didn’t anticipate.
So let me back up and explain how Fort Myers, Florida found its way into The Gap Year Tour. Because let me tell you, a week-long visit to southern Florida in the middle of July was not in my plans.
My brother, who is now a college baseball player, was still in the process of playing in showcase baseball tournaments for college recruitment during the summer of 2015. This particular tournament’s organizers must be incredible masochists because I can’t even begin to comprehend another reason why they would schedule a baseball tournament in southern Florida in July. Who. does. that.
Anyways. My family had an important vacation planned for the following weeks and consequently, my parents couldn’t take any more time off of work to take my brother, Alec, to Fort Myers. However, I was as free as a bird and offered to submit myself to the 110° agony and accompany him. So, at 21- and 17-years-old, we set off on a twelve-hour road trip. We took turns driving, we ate a lot of junk food, and we sang a lot of songs.
Our week in Fort Myers turned out to be a bit of a disaster. It rained, and rained, and rained. Did I mention that it rained? I don’t think I can emphasize the sheer amount of rain. Which is, as I’m sure you can imagine, not ideal for a baseball tournament. So Alec and I ended up driving back and forth across Fort Myers, chasing the clear spots in the sky that had already escaped from the reassigned baseball fields as soon as we arrived. Games were postponed and eventually canceled, and we spent more time in Alec’s car with all of his smelly catcher’s gear than we did in the hotel.
But we talked more, laughed more, bonded more than we had in years while I had been away in college. It didn’t really dawn on me until that humid, muddy, sweltering week that he had grown up so much during those four years that I had been gone. He wasn’t the same goofy 14 year-old that I left when I was 18. He was clever, witty, kind, and, well, still goofy. I learned more about his life, his friends, his struggles.
Takeaway: We still have jokes from that trip. All of the ways that it was the worst were the same reasons that it was the best. Now that he’s moved out and we’ve essentially traded places, him away at college and me back at home, that trip means even more to me. We’re not big on feelings and sharing, and I’m not the best at expressing myself, so I’ve never told him how special that chaotic, messy week was to me. But I’ll always be grateful that my parents trusted two kids to take that trip, and that I didn’t say no, even though it was not my idea of an adventurous Gap Year vacation. That muggy week in Florida serves as my reminder to say yes when I don’t have a reason to say no, even if it doesn’t seem enjoyable initially. You never know where you’ll end up making some of your favorite memories.