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Welcome to a world apart...

The first time I discovered Southwest Florida? The exact year isn't important, but let's just say that places like Golden Gate and Cape Coral weren't on the map, the only designers doing business in Naples worked on boats not window treatments, and you had to take a ferry to get to Sanibel. The snook were thick, the bugs were thicker and the roads were, well-there might have been fewer of them, but they were no less vexing than they are now.

It was less than 40 years ago; I was just a kid, and compared to the way the region looks these days it might as well have been the Dark Ages. Mostly I remember: blinding white beaches, dreamy palm trees, the blue promise of the Gulf and a distinct sense that this little chunk of Florida was far, far removed, not only from the rest of the state, but from the world at large. Indeed, over the years, as I kept returning to Southwest Florida and eventually made my home here, that sense of "apartness" is the quality I treasured most about the region. And despite the incessant march of so-called progress, despite upscaling and gentrification, despite the apparent linkages of interstate highways and regional airports and wireless technology, it remains wonderfully disconnected. This place we call home has not become so much like other places that it has lost its essential core and character-the ability to surprise and delight.

This means it is still possible to "discover" Southwest Florida and to do so on a daily basis. The natural attractions are vast and unparalleled (through all my years here, there remain countless beaches and backwaters I have yet to visit), the activities are endless (yes, even if you don't golf or like to shop), and the sybaritic diversions seem to increase in geometric proportion (so many great restaurants, so little time).

Which begs the question: Why are you still sitting there reading this? Get out, go discover for yourself.

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