Kansas Boy Turned South Florida Beach Pirate

Put me on the coast of somewhere beautiful.

The story of how I ended up in Southwest Florida is a good one that has yet been told.  So here we go.

The year was 2000 and I was in my second senior year at Pittsburg State University in SE Kansas.  Yes I was on the 5 year plan. Pittsburg is in the middle of nowhere.  The armpit of Kansas I like to say.  I loved the school and made tons of great friends but it’s not my idea of a place to settle down.  Most people who attend are from KC, they graduate and move back to the city.  Not me.

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That winter was a bad one.  Lots of snow.  Not quite as much as the Northeast is getting right now, but enough to start the wheels spinning on the next phase of life.  My car got stuck in the snow 3 times in one week.  While trudging my way back home and in-between curse words, I started asking myself, “why do you do this to yourself.”  “There’s got to be a better way.”  “There’s got to be more than Kansas in my future.” Deep thoughts for a 23 year old kid.  Exploration and adventure ran through my veins.

I put up a large map of the United States on the wall.  I then did research and the Pros and Cons of several states…California, Arizona, Texas and Florida.  All south and all warm.  You can see where I’m going with this right?

California had excitement, mountains, and the ocean.  It also has a trillion people and earthquakes.  I hate traffic (road rage) and rather not have the roof fall on my head, so California was out.  Arizona didn’t have an ocean. Out. Texas had a lot to offer, but in the end I was really inspired by Florida and figured if you’re going to go south, better go all the way.  I wanted to live where people vacation.  I wanted palm trees. I wanted 80 degree weather in January. But mostly I wanted a change. So I packed my bags.

My target was Tampa. It had more opportunity for a rookie graphic designer.  I did several interviews but nothing came of them.  The buddy I talked into moving down with me got an offer to manage a restaurant in a place called Naples.  I knew nothing of this town except that it was 2 hours south of Tampa and had lots of old wealthy people.  Kick the tires and light the fires, Naples here I come.

naples fl beach

You're not In Kansas Anymore

I moved down to Naples in September of 2001.  Didn’t know a sole, didn’t have a job, but knew this was the right decision.  For the first 3 weeks I woke up, sent resumes out and ran on the beach every morning. It was magical. So much to take in.  So much to explore. So many adventures to be had. Did I know everything was going to work out? No. Was I scared? Strangely no. Something told me this was where I was suppose to be. This was my new life. A small town kid, now living on the coast of somewhere beautiful. A dream come true.

By |2016-12-31T11:58:10+00:00February 11th, 2010|RSR Stories, Southwest Florida|6 Comments

About the Author:

mm
Just a salty pirate looking to explore and document the wonders of the Caribbean. Professional blogger, rum judge, consultant, marketer, and consumer of blue water beauty.

6 Comments

  1. Steve Ludwigs February 12, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Great story Ryan. As a fellow midwesterner who has thought about doing this many times, I salute you for actually pulling the trigger.

    Save a spot for me on the beach, I’ll be there someday . . .

  2. mm
    RumShopRyan February 14, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Spot is saved Steve. Come on down!

  3. Chris Shaw February 18, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    Van,
    I finally made it to your site! Can you believe that? How many years have I known you? How many brotherly fights have we had? LOL. Because it\’s winter, I think it\’s only fitting you add the Chicago Trip winter story when you came to visit. Anybody who can do a \"Dukes of Hazzards\" slide needs to have a story like that told.

  4. Courtney Anderson October 2, 2010 at 12:32 am

    I really admire you for actually making that drastic move. I made a drastic move for college, going from New Jersey all the way down to the most southern tip on the coast of North Carolina. It’s a long ten hours from my hometown but i wouldn’t care if it were 50 hours! I still desire to head more south, I still have all seasons and that is something I will not continue to put up with for the rest of my life haha I want to finish school first but I will be following your lead and uprooting again to a sunny, tropical place =] I’m also hoping to study abroad in the Barbados to get a feel for the salt life! although there has always been something about Anguilla that has intrigued me and I hope to possibly one day settle down on it’s coast. I just discovered your blog today but im already a committed follower!

    See ya at the beach!

  5. mm
    RumShopRyan October 2, 2010 at 9:49 am

    Courtney, thank you for the great comment. How long till you graduate and follow your dreams south? Thank you for reading and if you need advice moving south to the salt life just let me know. Chees!

  6. Heather July 22, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    Oh God… Pittsburg! I grew up in Fort Scott, so I know your pain. We live in Kansas City now (after Minneapolis and Oklahoma City), but everyone knows that as soon as the kids have flown the coop, my butt is getting to the coast for a little permanent vacation. Congratulations on making it happen!

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