credit: minds-eye
credit: minds-eye

From the first moment I can remember, I’ve had a feverish case of wanderlust. As an adult, I’ve indulged myself with a fair amount of traveling and have even lived in a diverse variety of settings. Usually, I get the itch to leave a place around the year mark. Now, I live in Jacksonville, FL. For the first time, I feel like I’m home. There are some great things about this town and, if allowed to, I see a great future for it.

First, Jacksonville can be quite beautiful. I’ve seen many stunning sights from lights of New York at night, petals falling like pink snow from forests of cherry blossom trees of Ueno Park in Tokyo, and twin bucks leaping over a shimmering creek in the deepest woods of Georgia.

Still, one of the most breathtaking views of my life occurred shortly after turning onto I-95 South from I-10. A blue bridge shone clear and bright over a black satiny river. Behind it was a backdrop of buildings from a variety of eras and visions of what a Bold New City of the South should be. Their windows twinkled like Christmas tree lights in the dark night. I still crane my neck every time I pass the point at night. In one day you can witness the gentle marshes of the north, the bright beaches of the east, the motley arrangement of homes from Avondale to Murray Hill in the west, and the manicured look of the south.

credit: Ed Yourdon
credit: Ed Yourdon

Then there are the people of Jacksonville. When I lived in New Orleans, it was easy for me to spot the people who belonged and those who were just visiting. Really, I could do that just about any place I lived in or visited. The only defining characteristic I have identified in Jacksonvillians is that they all seem to know each other. For a town of this size and population, it is unusual how many connections people seem to have.

The most important quality that Jacksonville has is its potential. Jacksonville has a lot of opportunities it should take advantage of. I work with local businesses and I’m always impressed with their competency, optimism, and amiability. They embrace the new even if the changes seem a bit scary.

credit: DeusXFlorida
credit: DeusXFlorida

We have amazing resources like the Beaver Street Enterprise Center for these businesses as well! We have communities with creative solutions to make living in Jacksonville a great experience for everyone. We have a unique arts and culture scene. We have incredible restaurants, even if we’re having a difficult time defining our town’s culinary brand.

There are clearly challenges with Jacksonville. Some of the worst drivers in the world seem to live here, Downtown is struggling to stay the hub of the city, and there is definitely a crime problem. We’re not New York or Seattle or New Orleans so when people hear about Jacksonville, they don’t automatically have a sense of what this town is about. I truly do believe we are on our way though and I am thrilled to be witnessing it all.

So, this traveler has found her home base. I get the urge to jump on a plane and I greatly enjoy my journeys. Still, it’s such an enjoyable moment when I arrive back in the Jacksonville International Airport and sigh “home at last.” And then I brave our traffic.

Audrey Keith, Urban Jacksonville’s most colorful contributor, is an Internet and TiVo addicted quirky suburban mother of two girls, Madeleine and Penelope. She loves to travel, write, delve into the arts of all types, and put together clothing of her own design. Her blog is roaringtulips-audrey.blogspot.com and her Twitter name is @roaring_tulips.

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