Working Vacation

The first year I had a cellphone, I was sitting down on the beach when my friend called.

“I lost all my files,” she said, crying. “Everything is gone. My customer database. Everything.”

With the little bitty surf soothing in the background, I talked her off the ledge.

She reminds me of that every once in a while, that I was down here on vacation, working.

I have since moved to South Puffin here in the middle of the Florida Keys and I still work about as much as I ever did, so I’m likely to do it wherever I like the view. I can get away with it because I live here but I’m always sorry to see visitors not getting “Keysey.”

My inch of beach (actually, I own 5.33 inches of sand on the ocean) is just far enough from the front door that I have to leave the house and go there on purpose. That’s good.

I was late getting away from the house yesterday. Still, our lot was pretty full of cars when I got there but few people were around. I think the sand critter got the rest. Maybe ate some cars too. One young couple was snuzzling with a radio playing softly. I swam and read and swam but didn’t nap. And watched a visitor pacing the beach, back and forth, talking on his phablet. He’s a lawyer by appearance and context and he seems to work that phone pretty much all the time. Sometimes he walks the sand. Sometimes he wades.

“I wish people didn’t have to work on their vacations here,” I said to him as I passed him on my way into the water, “but you seem to have the best of both worlds.”

He agreed as his phone rang and he answered again.

That said, I don’t encourage people to work when they are here on vacation, unless they come here to do just that.

“Voluntourism” is more and more popular. “A vacation isn’t just for relaxation. It’s also a chance to pass along values to your kids,” says USAToday.

I want my kids to learn to relax but a number of Keys destinations need volunteers including the Coral Restoration Foundation, Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center, Habitat For Humanity of Key West, the Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden, Key West Wildlife Center, Marathon Wild Bird Center, Pigeon Key, and the Reef Environmental Education Foundation.

The Coral Restoration Foundation creates offshore nurseries and restoration programs for threatened coral species. Their programs and techniques are implemented in new nursery and restoration projects worldwide.

They're So SoftFlorida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center rescues, rehabilitates, and releases native and migratory birds and provides or locates a humane shelter for those birds that cannot be released. They have very good intern programs. It was at a visit to the Laura Quinn Sanctuary that I learned that pelicans are soft.

Habitat for Humanity of Key West treats its volunteers as their most valuable resource as visitors work alongside staff, homeowners, and other volunteers. They build and repair houses using volunteer labor and donations. Families purchase the houses through no-profit, no-interest mortgage loans or innovative financing methods.

Pigeon Key hosts day and overnight marine science field trips for educational groups as well as special events and summer camps but they are also open for individual visitors. They need interns and junior counselors.

Leave your smartphone home and drink plenty of water if you come. Summer may start this weekend up north but it is already summer here and I guarantee you’ll sweat.