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A view of the front porch of a ranch style home in Sarasota Florida

Time To Travel Differently

Kristy Dodson
Kristy Dodson

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Ever since my first visit, I have dreamed of going back. Sarasota, Florida has become one of my favorite places. We visited two years ago, and the memories have tapped me on the shoulder many times. This summer we decided it was time to return but also time to travel differently.

Tall wheat grass along the path heading to the coastline
A pottery plant holder and a straw hat hanging on a white wall inside a Florida cottage.

Family Vacation Spot

I’m not certain if it is a southern tradition or not, but many people I know have a much-loved vacation spot that they visit every year. It is a comfort knowing your family will be close and you know what you will find when you arrive. We were no different. As our kids were growing up, we always visited the same southern beach. Our family owned a condominium there that we rented during the year but always reserved the first two weeks of summer for our family beach trip. These trips cannot be topped in my opinion.

Sea grass lining the edge of the sandy beach with small sailboats in the distance

It Is Time

To no one’s surprise, family dynamics change and so our approach to vacation needed to shift. The nostalgic side of me dreams of family travel, traditions, and the return of little feet to the beach. That unknown day has a unique bookmark somewhere in my future. In this chapter, it is time to travel differently.  

A Love for The Coast

For now, we seek variety and spontaneity. Two years ago, we camped at Turtle Beach in Sarasota/Siesta Key, Florida, and discovered a love for this part of the coast. Finding our way back was a must. This time we chose to leave the camper at home and find a VRBO. We have rented vacation homes for long weekends and our experience has been inspiring so we were confident in the process. The Blue Heron Cottage was the winning choice. I couldn’t wait to share this quaint cottage with you. Along the way, I share some of our considerations and findings. I hope that you will find it easy to get out there and discover your own Sarasota.

The Destination

Once we decide what type of trip we will take, we start focusing on our destination. Our last trip to this area was mostly about having our camper parked right on the beach. We did just that and it was glorious! We ventured out and found one of the best botanical gardens, kayaking, tons of thrifting and antiquing, and loved downtown Sarasota. However, the beach was so beautiful and remained the focus for that week and we longed to see more of this town.

A man and a woman sitting on the beach at sunset.

The Blue Heron Cottage

This time around, we chose a house that is in a Sarasota neighborhood. I wanted to experience the local vibe. We had become most comfortable in our camper but felt it was time to travel differently. We knew we would be kayaking and antiquing on most days so choosing to stay a few blocks away from the beach was no problem. It made our beach time more distinctive. We chose to visit several different beaches (Siesta Key, Cortez, Lido) and each one offered new curiosity.

This cottage was not only beautiful, but it was spacious and quiet and we knew we were getting more for our money. I’ve learned not to listen to all the available advice. While some can be helpful, often it can be controlling. Vacation for us is about the local experience, learning the culture, and diving into the people. Travel should always be a new exploration and not just a time of seeing what is expected. The Blue Heron Cottage gave us this good fortune while providing a warm welcome home each day.

Judith, Our Host

One of the benefits of staying in someone’s home is just that… you are in their home. They know the ins and outs, the community, and all that makes their place special. I could never discover all of that during my short travel time. Judith (Jude) was our host and her excitement for sharing her home was evident when we spoke on Sunday. We knew she was a quick call away if we needed anything. A host that wants the best for you is like a having family eagerly awaiting your arrival. You just will not find that level of human connection at a hotel.

People Loving People

Judith knew we were arriving in the evening so she made sure to stop by the house and turn on lamps throughout the house. The air conditioning was cooling perfectly, and peaceful music was set in the background. You know, you set an expectation for just about everything, and when it is exceeded it is often overwhelming. I was speechless when I walked into The Blue Heron Cottage. I really couldn’t believe I was lucky enough to stay here for an entire week. Every detail had been thought through… just for us! We had not officially met, but the desire to love and care for one another was evident. She wanted the best for us and in return, we wanted that for her. We cared for her place like it was our home and being true to his nature, John even did a few repairs for her before we left. People loving people… that is what true vacation is all about.

The master bedroom with a queen bed and two pictures inside a cottage.

Pictures First

One of the natural processes is to look at all the online pictures of a possible VRBO choice. I do this for many reasons. First, I am just curious. I so enjoy how others choose to decorate and prepare a home. Once I find a home that appeals to our style, I flip through the pictures again and again. This sets a realistic expectation. I’m looking for the obvious- the number of bedrooms, kitchen space, and living details.

Hidden Surprises

However, once we arrive, it seldom fails that we discover something we had not even noticed while scrolling through the photographs. On this trip, it was the daybed. I likely saw it in the pictures but what a pleasant surprise. It was placed in a sunny, quiet corner of the house and offered such a retreat. We found ourselves there for morning coffee, afternoon reading (and naps), and there again as we relaxed before bed. It created our tagline during the vacation. “I need to get back to the daybed.” Now that I am home, I find myself looking for a corner that might just need to become that kind of respite for our everyday.

The side view of a daybed with a white coverlet and white throw pillows.
A lady sitting on a white daybed in the morning sunlight.

House Rules

With every VRBO comes the house rules. While some may find this less than appealing, I often gravitate there first. These house rules are different. This is where the VRBO host offers you helpful tips and tricks. They tell you where to find the extra towels and offer some of the best local restaurant suggestions. Reading through the house rules is unlike other rule books. They are your ticket to the inside. It is where you glean a little about your host and get the fast pass into knowing your vacation home. Since The Blue Heron Cottage was in a neighborhood, our host made sure we knew about trash pick-up, recycling, restaurants (and the best time to go), and even notes about the décor and landscaping. This is your vacation guide written by the ultimate local expert. Judith took it a step further by also leaving us a fresh pineapple and a pretty bottle of Prosecco. The pineapple became the snack we had no idea we needed after being out in the Florida heat. Vacation rules are like no other… they are the sweet spot for any VRBO.

A pineapple and a bottle of wine on a kitchen table as a welcome gift.

Find Your Sarasota

Travel is truly the ultimate in curiosity. While I’ll always appreciate familiarity and tradition, taking time to travel differently will ignite your sense of adventure. Beaches and hotels do look similar wherever you go but adding in human connections turns travel into life-breathing adventures. Choose your path and seek out whatever it is that inspires you, take time to travel differently, and find your Sarasota.

Stay Curious,

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