So as of last Thursday night my exchange adventure came to a close. Having spent almost 4 months living in up state New York, with an air of poignancy, I waved goodbye to the RPI campus in Troy, wished my friends, Sodexo colleagues, professors and administrative staff all the best for wherever their futures may take them, thanked them all for helping make the last few months a pleasure and experience I will never forget, and set out on the next leg of my journey.

Thinking I would get some sunshine for a week before starting my NYC adventure, I made my way down to Orlando Florida. I did have a plan to stay at a friends place and go down to Miami for a couple of days on a side trip. However as most of us know, plans rarely go to plan!

When my friends life seemed to be turned on its head just before I arrived I made a last minute call to find myself a random home to rent a room at and stay for the week and entertain myself.

Lets just say as I sat on a bus bench sitting in the boiling hot sunshine at 5.30pm on Friday afternoon in Orlando on a main road waiting to be picked up with my suitcase by a person I had never met before, I did giggle out loud to myself and think, gosh, this is actually your life Kara..but going by my motto, you only live once, off I went to make the most of it!

I had been to Orlando once before as a 12 year old (yes, I had the choice of one place in the world to go for my birthday with my family, and of course I selected Disney World..My parents did suggest Disney Land as an alternative, being just as good, but in a more ideal location based on the rest of the families travel itinerary..I of course being the stubborn 12 year old I used to be said no, we have to got to Disney World, not Land..ridiculous looking back on it hey!?

So now my Florida experiences include: Disney World as a 12 year old, Panama City Beach for spring break, and now a random trip to Orlando. Who would have thought that would be my checklist with all the gorgeous quiet island paradises and Miami beach all in such close proximity..Ah well, I guess I just have an excuse to have to come back.

I have found that I have picked up on a lot of different things this trip though:

The suburbs are gorgeous! Given it is a rather tropical region it wouldn’t surprise many that the surrounds are very green, but what is really the stand out is the lakes that peoples homes all back on to, imagine waking up and seeing a lake and greenery surrounding it each morning…quite relaxing really! There are very picture perfect suburbs which make you feel like your almost in a movie set. I went to a very nice area one evening which reminded me of broadbeach in QLD to paint a picture for the Australians reading this.

The vast amount of wild life that follows as a result of the lakes and greenery- Whilst walking around the city lake I was greeted by a large turtle, there were birds and geckos (or a similar type of animal) everywhere, and I am told there are alligators everywhere in the lakes, but not to be scared!

The humidity is sitting on par with that of a sticky south east Asian country. Me being the sun loving baby I am did not mind (just meant the curly hair was embraced), however every Floridian I spoke with was not a fan and wanted to escape to the cooler northern parts of the country (and apparently it gets worse come August!)

Florida is a big place- The roads are long, and the highways just keep going! What’s amazing is the street signs for the highways are in the shape of the state with a number representing whichever highway you are about to go onto, however it actually looks like a gun! A little unsettling for a foreigner!

Floridians drive, they do not walk. You see people exercising around the lakes that are scattered throughout the city, but besides that, everyone is always in their cars. I must have stood out like a stick in the mud with my runners on and my ear phones in my ear, wondering down highways and main roads.

Floridians are nice people! I could have just been lucky, but when I was going to be home alone on a Saturday night, my host whom I was renting a room from kindly invited me out to join their group for the evening, the dietitian I met with made me feel so at home that instead of going out for breakfast as planned, we ended up on her brothers boat on a huge lake where they grew up as children, simply because I had mentioned how much I liked the lakes, and every person that served me whilst out for meals was actually friendly (now thats not normal these days to get GOOD customer service). I was impressed.

I did go on a random day trip with my friend who lives here to a place called St Augustine, the nations oldest city, which was set up by the Spanish, in search of a fountain of youth. Interesting to see a mini European town right off from a typical American highway with the usual fast food chains, wide roads and discount outlets. I enjoyed a traditional Cuban lunch, which was an experience for me, having fried plantains (mini bananas) simply added to my meal, like that was a normal accompaniment to a main course. I was also intrigued by the large white baguette style roll with butter that was placed in front of me prior to my main meal coming, again, without any request made by myself for this. I remember saying, if extras like this are given to people before every meal, theres no surprises people are gaining weight at a ridiculous rate.

I also managed to make my way to a wholefoods whilst in town. It was interesting that for a state that is so large, their wholefoods was the tiniest I have ever seen! Even the shopping carts were mini, which goes against the common practice of giving shoppers big baskets or trolleys so that they fill them up more.

I also went into Publix, the main chain of supermarkets in Orlando. It was interesting to see all the additives on products where they so clearly in my Australian eyes didn’t need to be, and put simply, shouldn’t be. How a breakfast cookie can have high fructose corn syrup as the second ingredient is beyond me! On a positive though there were ample options of freshly cut fruit salads and vegetable salads for people to grab in their lunch breaks which was quite impressive. There also as usual was a million options of every item on the shelves in each category!

As you can see, it has been an entertaining week, a bit of sunshine, mixed in with some typical Orlando thunderstorms, and as of tomorrow the NYC living part of my trip begins..

If we thought the trip has been interesting till now, imagine what the stories of  a month in NYC will bring.

Until next time,

The Travelling Dietitian x

About The Author

Kara Landau aka "Travelling Dietitian" is an Australian Accredited Practicing Dietitian based in New York City. She is a world explorer, healthy foodie, social butterfly, and barre class lover. When she isn't trying new cuisines, researching new product innovations in the health food space, or speaking to the media on behalf of her food industry clients, she can be found quietly conjuring up her next idea in how to make this world a healthier and better place.

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