By Sarah Martinez
SpouseLink Ambassador &
Guest Blogger

Wow, a palm tree! I remember the drive down to Key West and seeing a palm tree for the first time. For a woman who was born and raised in Virginia, this was a major change of scenery. The move from a major metropolitan area, down to a VERY secluded group of islands which make up the Florida Keys, was extremely out of my comfort zone. There were hardly any chain restaurants, or stores. We settled into a very small home about 25 minutes north of Key West. Little did I know, these islands would set the stage for some of my fondest memories.

The first few months were HARD. I didn’t know anyone here aside from my husband. I had just found out I was pregnant the day before we moved here. That limited what I was able to do. Not only that, but the heat in the middle of August in the Florida Keys was nothing I was used to, so I stayed indoors! For me, leaving Naval Station Norfolk, where we had lived for twelve years, I was focusing everything that I was leaving behind. In reality, the PCS to the Florida Keys was more about what all I would discover within myself, and what life really has to offer without the distractions of living in the city.

“Cock-a-doodle-doo,” I heard while walking up to the only grocery store for 25 miles, Winn-Dixie. “What on earth?” I thought to myself. Are there farms here? Nope! I walked right past a rooster roaming the parking lot. When I came back out of the store, I was at a higher elevation (all of the stores tend to be raised up in case of hurricanes), so I scanned the parking lot, and sure enough I saw at least fifteen chickens, roosters, and chicks. Looking back now, people could pick me out from the crowd as not being from there. Those who lived there paid no attention to these birds, while all of the tourists/newcomers were taking pictures and intrigued by the sight!

My husband purchased a boat (which I had never been on aside from being on a canoe in a lake). We spent days on the water. The rocking of the boat was calming, and I think my daughter also enjoyed it while I was pregnant with her. To this day, she loves to be on the boat, rocking in the waves. Snorkeling was not something I ever imagined myself doing. Growing up in the Appalachian mountains, this is not something that I ever did. It quickly became one of my favorite pastimes. The coral reefs I discovered around the islands are indescribable. I quickly became acquainted with the iguanas on the island. They would sunbathe on the boat dock, and I frequently saw them getting on and off the boat. I joked with my husband that we had moved to Jurassic Park Island.

Fast forward to today, approximately two-and-a-half years of living here, I am in love with not only the views and weather, but the way of life here, as well. My daughter is currently at the Child Development Center on Sigsbee Annex (this is where the Commissary, Navy Exchange, and base housing are located). She loves going, and we have made so many friends this way. Military families tend to look out for each other, but Key West military families take that to a whole new level. In my fourteen years as a military spouse, I have never personally experienced a community of people who are so eager to help others.

Living in Key West, I have learned a whole new approach to life. I live with less — less stuff as the housing in the Keys is extremely limited, and storage is not a priority feature here. I have changed how I grocery shop, also. I tend to pick up groceries for a few days at a time. This method helps if the power goes out, and eliminates food waste. Patience is another change in my life. Island time is a real thing, and people here are in no rush. Amazon orders take longer to arrive, mail takes longer, driving is slower, the overall pace of life is MUCH more relaxed here on the islands.

I do not want to leave this piece of coral rock that I have been able to call home for the last two-and-a-half years. This island paradise holds so many memories. I had my daughter here at Lower Keys Medical Center. She is known as a “true conch,” which here in the Keys (Conch republic) is a high honor. On a bittersweet note, I lost a dog here, and believe Key West will always have a piece of my heart. Living in Key West, I have gone through a metamorphosis. I am happy with the island butterfly I transitioned into.

Meet SpouseLink Ambassador Sarah

She’s served as our representative at Naval Station Norfolk, VA and in Key West, FL.


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