Z Land is the Central Florida listening area of the local Christian station Z88.3 that I have listened to these last few summers. Why only during the summer? Because it is that magical season that we teachers are out of the classroom but not necessarily unemployed.
In my case, I was blessed to have a bright, young boy in my Pre-K class a few years ago. His family moved down to Florida immediately after the school year ended and needed summer help the following year. Having struggled to find summer employment in VA in previous years, I jumped on the opportunity to be somewhere different for a few months but still have income!
And what a gig it has been now for three wonderful summers. Each summer has had its own vibe and personality but each one has been an amazing experience of discovery and learning for myself.
The first summer was spent getting re-aquainted with the family; meeting their friends and getting my footing in a new community. Many evenings I would head out to see what the Orlando region had to offer.
I was delighted to discover that Winter Park was only 25 minutes away. In this delightful town, I watched an old, classic movie in their central park and walked the main shopping street. I drove around the Rollins College campus and stopped to take pictures of the beautiful Spanish style architecture. I ate at delightful local only restaurants like The Coop and Jimmy Hulas (it's a party in the mouth!). I marveled at the cozy feel of small town America complete with a train station that could transport you to farther flung towns in Florida. I painted pottery at a local shop and visited a sculpture museum. I took a boat ride and saw amazing homes where famous people have lived and worked. I enjoyed sitting beside a lake eating my dinner while watching the sun set. I explored new bakeries and cupcake shops not found in Virginia and revisited familiar restaurants and stores as well.
I visit the familiar too because if I dismissed it I wouldn’t know that the Shake Shack in Virginia is in a busy, ritzy mall while the original Shake Shack in NYC is located in a park with open air seating and the Shake Shack in Orlando is situated neatly beside mesmerizing fountains and the aforementioned lake but in a traditional restaurant setting with essential A/C. They are all unique and special to where they are located but they all serve the same delicious hamburgers!
There is so much more that I did that first summer just in Winter Park alone but there were still many more secrets to the area that had to wait for future summers to be uncovered. As I wrap up this third summer in Z land, I know that even with my most recent discoveries of Baldwin Park and East End Market, there is still much more waiting for next summer.
When you have the opportunity to spend extended time in a region, go for it! Exploring is like peeling an onion. Don’t stop at the first layer! Keep peeling and over time you will see just how much depth there is in one place.