Key West: The Perfect Prologue to a New Beginning

tarpon feeding on dock in islamorada included in gay florida keys tour

By Julianne Keskey

View of the lush tropical garden and ocean from a penthoues balcony.

Outside my bedroom window, beyond the warmth and comfort of my bed, that I dare not crawl from, measures a chilled air of 25°. My home in Salt Lake City’s Westside is filled with glowing strings of lights, stockings stuffed to capacity with trinkets and a tree fit for the Griswalds, brushing the ceiling and all.

sea bird on dock during weekend of gay key west house party

It’s been almost two weeks now since returning home from my week of work and explorative play in Key West and even if I didn’t have the photographs to show for it, I’ve got a plethora of pesky noseeum fang marks from a hidden swimming spot to prove my travels were, indeed, real.

Sailboat on the ocean infront of a warm Key West sunset.

Two years ago, if you were sitting with me in my brownstone in Brooklyn, NY and asked me where I’d be at this time in my life, it wouldn’t have been here. Here I am, on an island where the air’s dew instantly quenches your skin from the consequences of the desert’s parched atmosphere. Bikes are most locals’ (and visitors’) first choice of transportation, coffee shops hide within cobbled alley ways, chickens are just as likely as your common two-legged man to walk with you along the street and you may have to stop in the middle of a drive for an iguana crossing- I did! Homes are charming little cottages festooned with conch shell flags and weathered, peeling exteriors. Palm trees and other various tropical varieties are plenty and hibiscus petals bloom in the cool of the night.

black and red butterfly at butterfly conservatory during gay house party

A sense of infinite vacation and relaxation plague the city that never seems to need to snap back to the reality of the hustle that keeps most of us sprouting a couple more grays and wrinkles every year. I met so many wonderful people, both Key West locals and island invaders, partook in delicious meals and cocktails, dipped my toes into salty, sea-treasure filled beaches and soaked in the warm-toned pallet of sunset hues.

Sea plane unloading at the Dry Tortugas National Park.

View of the ocean and sea plane from fort jefferson at dry tortugas national park.

One of the most memorable experiences I had was on a ten-person sea plane bound for the Dry Tortugas, an island just a short flight from Key West. There, a coral reef covered moat hangs around an abandoned, brick military fort like your grandmother’s most prized pearls. It was here that I adorned myself with flippers and snorkeled for the first time. An activity that I had wanted to partake in since I was a young girl, unhealthily obsessed with dolphins. My dreams of gliding through the ocean with a pod of my prized friends quickly faded as I passed a barracuda while glimmering my engagement ring in his direction. A quick swim to shore to stash my fish lure and I was back in action, diving into the coral with a parrot fish as my reef tour guide.

View of dry tortugas and beautiful turquoise waters from a sea plane window.

I suppose that this island and its surroundings have an enlightening, special place in my heart because it holds the merit of being my first ever work trip and it still feels like a dream. Because in reality, it is.

rainbow flag at gay key west house party venue

HE Travel came to me in a way that I don’t normally accept life gifts. My fiancé was sent to Zach Moses by a referral to help in the remodeling of his garage. I stopped by to drop him off a hard-earned lunch and was offered a cup of coffee. Soon after a couple of backyard conversations, I was offered an opportunity that was entirely out of my comfort zone and within a couple of months, had me teetering between the option to stay in a stagnant corporate job, chained to a cubicle or to take a chance, broaden my horizons and work in travel. Hopefully by now, you know that I took the better of the two. I can say that I’ve never been happier with my foreseeable career path than I am today. I am so pleased and honored to be part of a company that strives to make world travel just a little more accessible for everyone.

Heron wading in the ocean with a gorgeous sunset backdrop.

I can’t wait to help you make your wildest travel dreams come true- and maybe I’ll have the pleasure of accompanying you.

A seagull flies in front of palm trees on a Key West beach.

A happy Julianne feeds giant tarpon at Robbie's on the island of Islamorada

For more information about next year’s Key West House Party, click HERE.