The Aftermath of PCSing

When you receive orders to a new base, you immediately think of all the big things to take care of – and for good reason. You need to start planning to move out of your current residence, find a new place to live, decide if you’re going to do a DITY move or have the government take care of it, take care of all the change-of-address hassles, take care of school for the kids, etc, etc etc. But when you actually arrive and the cloud of stress and constant activity begins to settle, you find yourself getting back to your real life. And in real life, you need more than boxes, packing tape and forms.

It doesn’t unravel all at once, but bit by bit you begin to realize that you need something you no longer have a person for. You need your hair cut, a massage (if you’re really lucky), an accountant, pest control services, heating and air professionals, a handyman, a plumber, a car repair shop, a shipping store, jeweler, gym… and the list goes on. All those errands and day-to-day things you did before the move still need to be done, but there’s the added burden of needing to figure out where to go and who’s reputable.

The tough part about finding many of these types of businesses is that “word of mouth” is generally thought of as the way new customers (ie you) are referred to them. And now you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place because when you just moved, you don’t know anybody! And those you do know, you just met. Sure, they might be willing to tell you who they use, but you don’t yet know them well enough to know if their “stamp of approval” matches up with yours.

I’m not going to pretend all those things are of paramount importance, but you do need them and it’s easy to forget that you do until your car starts to smoke or your hair starts to act the way it does when it’s time for a trim. So my recommendation? Use this resource as your jumping off point. The businesses that are listed are here for the sole reasons that they understand the value of the military community to their business, they want to say thank you, and they are reputable. I used this to find just about everything I needed when I arrived, and I have yet to be disappointed. So take a look around the Business and Professional Services section of any of our base guides, give these wonderful people a call, and let them know how you found them.

And if you wish, let us know how your experience was. Tweet us @militarymedia_ or leave us a message at Facebook.com/MilitaryMediaInc

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To Rent or To Buy? Part Two

It’s a beautiful (and extremely necessary) thing the military gives its service members: BAH. When we were trying to make the decision of what to do with it (rent an apartment or house, or buy a home), we had a lot of options to weigh. At the time, we decided to rent just because it was easier and we had never owned a home before. While it was the right decision for us then, we found ourselves with four months left in our lease deciding we wanted a bigger place. Though we initially had the intent to rent a house, we quickly realized buying in this area can really just make more sense. After all, I don’t think I’ve ever seen lower home prices… especially not a mile from the beach.

So, why did buying make more sense? Well, assuming you have a budget of about $1100/month, you can find a house in a decent neighborhood with anywhere from 1000 – 1500 square feet of living space. But with buying, we were able to find a home in very nice neighborhood that we could rent for about $1400 – $1500/month whenever we have to PCS again. And here’s the kicker – our mortgage, with insurance and property tax included, would be about $100 a month less than the rentals I was talking about. Especially considering the housing market is just now rebounding but still low, it’s a good investment.

On top of that, you should consider the area. This area is gorgeous, meaning you might very well want a property here either to vacation at or eventually retire to. Even if that’s not up your alley, look at the rent I mentioned above. While I will never say it will be “easy” to find a renter, there are a lot of military installations in this area. That means there will be constant influxes of new people coming in that guess what? Need homes to rent.

While I think buying, especially here in this market, is a great move, I’m not going to pretend home ownership is all flowers and roses. If something breaks in our home, we will have to fix it ourselves or hire a handyman – no more property management office to call for free. Whenever we do PCS, we’ll either need to find a buyer or a renter instead of just vacating and washing our hands of it, like with a rental. And there will be projects. All the time (even though they can definitely be fun).

So think long and hard about what you want to do with your BAH. Consider your needs and those of your family (if applicable), and then consult a realtor. There are tons of amazing ones listed in this section (I know ours was a lifesaver), and when you’re the buyer – totally free. They get their commission off the sale of the house. It’s like using a travel agent – it makes your life simpler and it costs you nothing. Enjoy living on the Emerald Coast!

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To Rent or To Buy? Part One

It’s the classic question from the time you move out of your parents’ house (or dorm) until seemingly forever: should I rent or should I buy? There are plenty of arguments one way or the other filled with facts and opinions galore, but at the end of the day, you need to make whatever decision is right for you. And since I didn’t start writing this article to tell you nothing, here are some of the pros of renting on the Emerald Coast.

  • It makes your life easier

When it all boils down, renting an apartment just plain simplifies things. Your shower/dishwasher/stove/window lock broke? Don’t pay for a handyman – just call the maintenance office. Think you need new carpet? Great – you won’t be paying for it when it gets installed. Time for the roof to be replaced? You might suffer through some noise, but your bank account won’t budge an inch. Owning a home comes with plenty of maintenance costs and headaches, all of which are built into your rent and taken care of by the property management staff. It’s a wonderful thing.

  • You get amenities

In this area more than any other I’ve lived in, most of the moderate to nice apartment complexes come with a lot of amenities that can make you feel like you’re in a great hotel (in a good way). It is not uncommon to find a complex that offers one or multiple pools, a sauna, a workout facility, a business center, free coffee and/or snacks in the clubhouse, playgrounds, putting greens, tennis courts, basketball courts, car wash stations, etc. It’s really pretty impressive. And the best part is the rent costs are much less than what you’ll find in most areas of the country.

  • You meet a lot of people

PCSing means leaving behind the friends you made at one duty station and finding new ones wherever you’re going. While you’ll still have neighbors living in a single family home, there are many more people living in an apartment complex. And from what I’ve seen around here, it makes meeting friendly people much easier. You’ll not only meet your immediate neighbors, but you might bump into other people at the mailboxes, the pool, the gym, etc. Apartment living offers a great opportunity to feel welcomed much more quickly after you arrive.

  • Military Discounts

Aside from the benefits of the VA loan for home buyers, you don’t exactly see military discounts offered off the purchase price of the home or your closing costs. But many rental apartments offer discounts that make the process of moving in more affordable. For instance, you could find you’re able to have your application fee waived, background check fees waived, and security and pet deposits cut in half. All in all, several hundred dollars of discounts. Not too shabby.

  • You can be in and out

Signing an apartment lease gives you a whole lot more flexibility and less stress when it comes to the possibility of getting orders again. It may be the last thing you want to think about when you’re in the process of PCSing, but you must always realize unexpected orders are a very real possibility in the military. When renting an apartment, it is quite simple to walk down to the leasing office with a copy of your orders and an intent to vacate letter and get on with your list of to-do’s. At that point, you can move on and wash your hands of it without any stress – something we all need when we’re preparing to move.

Like I said, everyone is different and you need to make the decision to the rent or buy question on your own. However, the above are what I have found (in my personal experience) to be important things to consider. So, take a look through the Apartments and Rental Properties sections in the Eglin Guide (eglinguideonline.com) and Emerald Coast Military Directory (ecmdonline.com) and check out some of the great communities offered here. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

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Go Fish

Fishing has got to be the greatest and most misunderstood sport of all time. It is fiercely loved those who have done it (and done it right), and completely judged by those who have not. Critics say that it is boring, consisting only of sitting around and staring blankly at the water, waiting for it to (maybe) ripple. But as we fishing enthusiasts know, this simply is not the case. As is the case with everything, it may not be for everyone. But more often than not, these critics have merely been done a disservice – taken out onto the water by someone who either did not know what they were doing or were too busy being awesome at it to share the wealth.

I’m going to assume most (if not all) of you reading this are already keen on fishing. However, if you’re not, or if you’re looking to get a friend, family member or reluctant significant other to give fishing a shot (or a second chance), here are some tried and true tips to take to heart to make your outing a success. Because as we all know, there need to be more “Gone Fishin’” signs hanging up in the world. It’d be a happier place.

  • Imagine You’re Stranded on a Desert Island

    We all know the old “what if” question – If you were stranded on a desert island, who or what would you bring? Not that going out fishing is quite so dramatic, but you’re going to be out in a generally serene environment with the person(s) you’re going with. So if you don’t think you’ll have a good time in their company, regardless of how many fish you do or don’t catch, you should probably go with somebody else. Find a good fishing buddy, and you’ve got a good foundation.

  • Do a Little Research

    So you’ve found the perfect friend. Now focus on the best part of fishing: catching a fish. Figure out where you’re going to go, and then find out what kind of fish are actually there. Is it well-populated? Do people generally have good luck? Is it saltwater or fresh water? Are you trying to hook bass or marlin? If you try to go out with the wrong bait, lures, pole, line, etc, you’re not going to catch anything, and you’ll probably have a lousy time.

  • Bring the Right Stuff

    Aside from the equipment we just mentioned, make sure you have everything else you need. If you’re planning to catch and release, great. If not, make sure you have coolers, knives, buckets, ice, etc. If you catch something great, you’ll want to keep it that way. And don’t forget to plan for yourself, too. Think you’ll want some chips, sandwiches, beer or sodas? Bring them! No one likes a road trip without the radio.

  • Learn to Adapt

    You may think live bait is disgusting or unsettling. But the fact is it works (in many situations, anyway) a lot better than the fake stuff. Like we said before, catching a fish is the best part of fishing. Increase your odds.

  • Enjoy Your Catch

    Don’t shy away or go to the nearest dockside restaurant that offers to cook your catch for you. Learn how to scale, gut, clean and cook your fish yourself. That might make you cringe, but get over it. That feeling you had when you caught it will be multiplied by 50 when you taste the satisfaction. Besides, plenty of fishermen have pictures of their catch in hand. Why not have that plus one of it on a plate and in your mouth?

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Why I Had to Stop Biting My Tongue

So, we’re going to break a huge business no-no and (kinda) talk about politics. But before you click away from here for fear of a heated party-based debate and anger placed one way or the other, it’s not like that. I promise. No, what I have decided I cannot hold back on any more are the military budget cuts being proposed, and what they mean. I might be a little ranty at first, but I have a really important point to make, so just stick with me here.

Today, it dawned on me that it seemed every day I was receiving a new email in my inbox talking about one cut or another proposed to the commissary or the DoD budget. So, today I went and checked. And as it turns out, it didn’t just seem that way. I’m not becoming crazy with how busy I am (well, at least on this… overall is really another story). That thought I had is really, truly, depressingly the case. And when that became apparent, I decided I was done biting my tongue. Sure, I’ve posted articles on the company Facebook and Twitter pages about what’s going on from time to time, but I’ve tried extremely hard to state the facts and nothing more. Every time I saw something wonderfully opinionated, calling out someone or another for what they’re proposing, I basically sat on my hands to stop myself from re-tweeting it. Really, guys… I’ve been good.

But I’m done. And thankfully, my computer is keeping me from yelling. Because I’m much more calm and reasonable when I have a keyboard.

Now trust me, I obsessively budget my own finances and have for years, so I get it. If you need to make cuts, it has to come from somewhere. Money, as much as we like to hope it would, just doesn’t appear out of thin air. But why, WHY, does it seem the FIRST PLACES looked at are the DoD budget and military benefits? That’s like me deciding to cut my rent payments out of my budget to save money, but choosing to keep my wine budget in tact. Because after all, I spend a LOT more money on rent than wine, so that totally makes sense right?

Honestly, these men and women are putting their lives on the line every day, whether they’re deployed or not. Because the truth is, that could change at any second, and they signed up for that. Their families are thrown for a loop either dealing with deployments and/or moving way more than anyone should ever be asked to, all because they’ve decided their country, their loved ones, and the service is worth it. The retirees and vets have been there and done that, too, and guess what? They deserve a break. So, why does the government think that the commissaries, one of the few great day-to-day benefits provided to service members, are an easy place to start the slashing? Or that the already horrendous Tricare system should be battered even more? Oh, because it costs the taxpayers a lot of money? Is that it?

Well, last time I checked, government salaries and insane pensions and benefits cost the taxpayers a lot of money, too. And all those random projects that aren’t doing any hardworking American any good sure cost a lot of money. But those are being rolled out like donuts at a Krispy Creme.

What I’m trying to say here is we, as a country and individuals, need to appreciate our military way more than the bulk of us do. It’s not enough to simply have the valiant supporters go to events, wear the t-shirts and protest what is wrongly being done. We need a cultural shift. Our freedom to act and be any way we want to has been taken for granted, and our country isn’t even that old. We need to think back, and I mean really think back to how awful it must have been to not have it. Because if the whole military went on strike tomorrow, we’d be in a LOT of trouble. Unimaginable, almost inconceivable trouble.

Now most people and business owners I run into, especially around here, are very pro-military and supportive. But I do run into the occasional person who is almost anti-military… and it’s quite disturbing. It’s something I just don’t understand. As far as I’m concerned, if you want to be against war and violence, fine. Whatever. That’s your opinion and that’s alright. But when you cross the line to being anti-military, I just can’t handle it. How can you be actively against the group of people who have stepped up to defend you when they don’t even know you? That takes character, and heart, and bravery.

So, let’s ramp up. Let’s show these men and women just how much we support them. Let’s show them that there’s no end to our appreciation of their service and sacrifice. And let’s show them that we’re willing to make some sacrifices for them, too. Because at the end of the day, our lives would be a lot more terrible without them.

 

If you’d like more information on how you or your business can show your support or would like information on upcoming charity events, please leave us a comment here. Thank you all!

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Taking “Long Distance” Off the Bad Rep List

For any of you who have ever planned a wedding, you know it is a LONG process filled with dozens of appointments, more email and phone correspondences than you probably want to count, and decisions on details you never even thought actually mattered (or existed). Now don’t get me wrong, all the planning and time is definitely worth it (if you can keep your sanity), but it is extremely and painfully understandable that the whole idea makes some couples want to just run off to Vegas and never look at another fabric swatch again. But before you go to that extreme, there’s another option: Destination Wedding.

You might think I’m crazy for having just said that, because it honestly makes zero sense that planning a huge, life-changing event like a wedding would be less stressful long distance. But hear me out. You’ve got tons of friends and family at home that want nothing more than to come to your wedding and support you. And while that’s wonderful, that’s also the cause of a lot of stress. The more people in attendance = the more planning you need to do, and on a larger scale. A destination wedding makes it very easy to say that it’s just going to be the two of you and immediate family (and maybe a couple of particularly close friends). And what’s more, when it’s completely impractical for you to go meet with a bunch of vendors and be physically present for every single detail, you can relax. Skype and picture messages suddenly become perfectly acceptable means of communication and approval.

And I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet. Florida business people and wedding planners have actually realized that coming here from all over for a simple, beautiful wedding is not a trend – it’s here to stay. So, it’s quite easy to find full-service wedding planners and coordinators who will take care of darn near everything for you. They find and book the venue, reserve a block of rooms at a reputable and near-by hotel, take care of all the decorations and flowers, find you an officiant or justice of the peace, take care of the music, cake and food… you name it, they do it. You might think just anyone can do this back where you’re from. But that’s unfortunately just not the case. If you’re working with a company and/or an individual who is used to working face-to-face with their clients and taking them around to places, they are going to find it quite trying and difficult to give you the same results when you’re hundreds or thousands of miles away. It’s just the way it is. On the other hand, many of the companies here deal mostly with destination weddings, and have found their niche in how to get you just what you’re looking for without ever physically meeting you (until the big day, at least).

Now, let’s talk budget. Another thing in favor of this Florida destination wedding idea. Like I said before, less people = less stress. But it also means less MONEY. It’s not unusual for a wedding to cost a couple hundred dollars per person in attendance. But aside from that, how fancy you want your venue and decorations to be will determine a lot of the rest. I know I’ve probably said this a hundred times on this blog, but the military is a good thing for you. Given the shear number of bases we have here, most wedding planners have worked with their fair share of military couples. Sometimes, they go the extravagant wedding route with the typical length of engagement (like my parent’s checking account will tell you I did), but more often that not, small and simple is the way they go. And on a limited budget. Which means that these wedding companies are quite experienced in pulling off beautiful events on budgets of literally all sizes. All you have to do is tell them what you have in mind, and how much money you have to do it with. It’s amazing what they’re able to come up with.

You don’t even have to stick to just getting married on the beach (although our beaches here are phenomenal and you really can’t go wrong). You can do a yacht wedding – think about how amazing it would be to actually be on the water; pick a theme park – yep, your chance to take a walk in the shoes of a Disney princess; or pick one of the countless really cool historical sites – the Sundy House in Delray Beach, for example, is crazy charming and has everything you could ever want.

So, de-stress, enjoy your moment, and don’t let the planning overwhelm you. Have input from your own Florida destination wedding? What more ideas of specific beaches or places to go? Need to know how to find a great planner? Comment away or catch us on Facebook (facebook.com/explorefl) or Twitter (twitter.com/explore_fl)!

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Who Cares About a Wedding?

First of all, I’d like to apologize for not posting anything for the last couple of weeks. As it turns out, almost single-handedly planning a parade with over 4,500 trinkets and beads to attach stickers to is WAY more time consuming than I could have imagined. Go figure. But, I am happy to say it was a TON of fun and there was a phenomenal turnout. Thanks to everyone who came on Saturday; we hope you had fun!

 

Now, on to the next thing!

 

So, it’s now March. And before any of you ask, I have NO idea how that happened. I’m still trying to process the fact that it’s 2014. Just like I’m pretty positive I only started complaining about it getting dark early like two weeks ago… only to have my calendar tell me that THIS coming Sunday is time to “spring ahead” already. Seriously? I mean, I’m excited, but I feel like the calendar in my head is about six months behind where it should be.

Anyway, what March means is that we are now dangerously close to wedding season. And especially here in Florida – where the scenery is beautiful, the weather is generally gorgeous, and there is seemingly no end to the miles of insane coastline – our destination wedding traffic is way higher than average. Now I understand a lot of you are probably not planning on getting married and are wondering why this is relevant to you. Don’t worry, I’m getting there.

Whether you’re the bride, groom, family member, friend, or completely unrelated in any way to anyone getting married right now, wedding season affects you. Maybe you’re a photographer, florist, decorator, dress or suit shop owner/employee, etc. Maybe you like the beach. Or maybe you just live here and go places and/or work somewhere. Any way you look at it, the people involved in these weddings will either be visiting your business for something related or unrelated, dining at the same restaurants you work or eat at, taking over the beaches and hotels you enjoy, and increasing traffic. Basically, at the very least, they’re bringing their dollars into your local economy and their presence into your world.

Now let me clarify: it’s hard to convey tone in a blog, so please know I did not mean any of that negatively. The end of the “winter” slump and the beckoning in of lively towns is a great thing, even if you don’t like the added traffic. And weddings are great! They bring lots of (generally) happy people into one place – something we have an unfortunate shortage of more times than we’d like to admit.

So why am I telling you all of this? Well.. this might sound bad, but I’m prepping you. I’m using this blog post to tell you about tomorrow’s blog post. And before I start writing that, I want you all to weigh in. How do you feel about wedding season? Have you ever been to or planned a destination wedding? Did you get married in Florida, or have you been to a wedding here? And finally… if you have experience with any of the former, who was your all-time favorite, saved the day, couldn’t have done it without them, vendor? Because if they’re that awesome, we want to to tell people about them.

So put on your dancing shoes (or flip flops), folks. Explore Florida is walking down the aisle (or beach sand made into a make-shift aisle), and we’d love to see you all at the end of it.

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Coupons Should Save You Money (Not Coax You to Buy Something Because It’s Cheap)

You caught me: I’m the worst kind of complainer. I hate asking people if their business offers a military discount. I know, cue the world’s smallest violin. But seriously – you fellow military spouses know what I’m talking about. We all want the discount, but asking everywhere you shop can eventually make you feel like you’re being cheap or annoying the perfectly nice business owner. And what if they don’t have one? Awkward.

Assuming at least some of you are just like me, you’ve tried to remedy this by taking to your keyboard. And you’ve probably spent a good amount of time searching for the business you needed and then trying to find out which one had a military offer of some sort. In the end, you’ve typically saved a few bucks, but at what cost? Your eyes were all glossed over, your head was foggy, and you just realized you missed out on a solid two hours you could have used pretending you were going to go to the gym. But now there’s a solution: GIsave.com – a coupon-based website dedicated exclusively to showcasing military deals offered by our adoring local businesses.

Now I know, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of these coupon sites out there that are all virtually the same and offer some crazy low prices on things. While I’m all for crazy low prices, most of the coupons are not for places I shop at on a daily basis, or for things I actually need. More often than not, I find myself trying to rationalize why I suddenly need an 8-mode digital pulse massager, just because it showed up in my inbox. And though the ones for restaurants give me a great excuse for a night out, I could really do without the annoyed stares when I inform them of my coupon. Not that I can blame them, because there are way too many people out there that take the discounted price as an excuse to tip lower (please, please, please – don’t do this!), but it’s unfortunate to get caught in the crossfire.

And like I said, when I need to go out into the community I actually live in and get some pet supplies, have my car’s oil changed, get my hair cut or go to the dentist, most of these coupon sites are useless to me. GI Save helps me save money at the places I am already going to, and helps me find businesses I know are reputable when I need something but don’t know of a place to go. And let’s face it, if you are military or part of a military family, you know what it’s like to move. You know what an absolute pain it is to find all the places you need again and how awful it is to waste money at a store or on a service that just wasn’t what it should have been. GI Save gives you an avenue. It helps you find places run by good people, and it saves you money while it does that. And you can very well think I am just embellishing because I work for these people – but guess what? That’s a good thing. It’s because I work for these people that I know exactly who is going out and finding the businesses that are featured. They all have a conscious and want to do the right thing. What’s more, I have watched each one of them not work with a business if they thought they weren’t going to stand by their customers. That says something.

Thankfully, with GI Save, all the businesses are local. That’s why the home page has you pick your base before it shows you deals. Every single one of these companies is happy to have military business. And not one of them thinks that the discount they are offering is too over the top. Why does this matter? Because your experience when you go somewhere with one of these mobile coupons is pleasant. You leave feeling great that you saved some money, but better that you found an awesome place where the owner really appreciates your business. They help you, you help them, and you both help some really good military charities by supporting GI Save.

Coupons are the number one thing military spouses ask for – so here they are. Now all you have to do is get the word out so we can have even more deals and businesses to throw our debit cards at. Thank you, internet.

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Giving You More Than The Right To Play Candy Crush

It’s easy to tell you the obvious reasons why you should appreciate the military: They are the reason you have and will continue to have the freedoms you so depend upon. They’re the reason you even have the option to debate gun rights, speak out against politicians, or use your entire day to watch cat videos on YouTube (oh, and watch “If It Fits, I Sits”… then thank a service member). But you should know all of that. And if you don’t or you don’t believe that, then shame on you, but that’s your right.

What I’m getting at (or going to be getting at) here is a different reason the military should be appreciated: the economy. For those of you without ties to a service member, all you may hear are the ramblings on the news about defense spending and budget cuts and blah blah blah… all stuff that probably leads you to think the military is just a big, expensive organization. And while it is expensive, it also offers a great deal of stimulation to local economies.

Think about it: in or around areas where there are one or more military installations (and there are a LOT of these areas), constant influxes of new people are more or less a certainty. Even if someone coming in means someone going out, moving is anything but cheap. Both of these individuals or families will be spending lots of money getting things they need. The incoming family will need to find a new place to live, storage, food, etc. They’ll also need to find a place to get their cars serviced, get their hair cut, buy new clothes… everything they may need now or in the future. Not only this, but military bases employ a large amount of civilian contractors, sometimes equaling the number of active duty personnel. More working people + more paychecks = more money to be spent in the local economy. That’s the kind of math even I can do.

And then, you have examples like us, Military Media – a private business specifically established with military bases or clientele in mind. There are plenty of other businesses of all kinds that fit this bill, and we all succeed ONLY because of this demographic. For example, we started out producing base guides and maps, a business endeavor which would be 100% pointless without the bases (obviously). While we may now work with bases throughout the country, do you really think our home office would be here, employing locals? …Nope. Sure, it might be someplace else, but why have only a few economically booming areas when you can have many? The military makes that possible.

The military is also responsible for building up areas which may otherwise be extremely underpopulated and struggling. Take, for example, the real-life community situation over here. The Panhandle region, Pensacola to Destin, specifically, may be on prime real estate with beautiful beaches and generally great weather. Sure, tourists would come here whether the bases were here or not. But let me ask you this – what happens when the peak season is over and the tourists go home (or somewhere else)? Yep – the remaining residents and businesses sit in the quiet and struggle to make it through without the tourists to visit their businesses and stimulate their economy. Every off-season is a gamble, and many businesses do not make it. I’ve seen it happen plenty of times in other areas.

But, fortunately, that’s not the way it is here, thanks to the military. There are certainly peak and off-seasons still, but thanks to approximately SEVEN military installations (many of them small), there are roughly 66% more people living here full time than there would be otherwise. And an estimated $8.2 billion in annual value to the local economy.

The numbers don’t lie. Just like your ability to say funny things on Twitter followed by the hashtag #firstworldproblems doesn’t lie. So be thankful. Whether you realize it or not, the chain effect the military has on your well being is astounding on so many levels. Reach out and show your appreciation in some way. And if you need a little help, we’re here.

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X Marks Anything You Want

We’re not pretending to be doing anything crazy revolutionary or ground breaking here. I’d love to say that we are, but I promised not to lie to you guys. It’s not going to be the best thing since sliced bread – hopefully that title will be able to be saved for a healthcare system that actually works. But what it is going to be is a new spin on an old trick. Here’s why:

Every state has a tourism council that puts together a magazine/booklet/website that tells you why their state is the greatest thing to ever happen to America and why you should use your vacation time to visit them over anyone else. And I have nothing against these – heck, I’ve used these plenty of times. It’s always pretty interesting to find out the quirks and attractions about a state you may never have given a second thought. However, all these guides are generally pretty generic in who their audience is, and they all boast that they have been contributed to by born-and-raised locals. Now before I put my foot in my mouth, I have nothing against born-and-raised locals. The one place that I can claim that for myself, I will probably be more arrogant about my know-all than anybody. It comes with the territory of being familiar with a place to the point of having a list of 147 different back roads to take to avoid traffic or construction. That being said, there’s a certain advantage you get to having the insights of a transplant.

Explore Florida is a brand new (just launched on Friday 2/7) virtual publication about (drum roll)… Florida. Yep. Shocker. What makes it unique is that it is put out by my wonderful company, Military Media. Most of my co-workers have lived here a lot longer than I have, but only one of us are from here originally. Otherwise, we hail from Rhode Island, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Colorado, New Jersey, California, Texas, Honduras… the list goes on. Why is that a good thing? Because we have our local girl keeping us in check, but we get to take our extremely varied life experiences and form opinions about places some locals may have never thought of. And what’s more is that, as our name hopefully gives away, our roots are in the military. We are contracted by bases all over the country, and everything we do is in the interest of pro-military. So while Explore Florida is definitely useful and user-friendly regardless of your military status, it was designed with the mindset of fun things to do on a day-long or weeks-long leave.

Now that I have talked your ear off – here’s what we did. Explore Florida is basically a virtual magazine – the pages are designed for you to “flip” through. The home page showcases our five main sections – fun, food, lodging, shopping, and transportation – as well as Florida-related articles by yours truly, links to our social networking sites, and links to some of Florida’s great businesses. Pay special attention to the social networking links. We want to be different, and your input will help. Explore Florida is going to be a constant work-in-progress. We’ll be adding more businesses, pages, topics, and articles all the time. Using the social network links to share with your friends or give us your feedback will help make this thing as much catered to you as possible. And wouldn’t it make you feel important to have all these people here creating content just because you said so?

Now, if you click on one of the five section links, you’ll find a magazine-like intro page. Click on one of the links to check a place out, or click on one of the three colorful logos on the bottom left to explore an entire region at a glance. These logos will be your guide throughout. Here’s your key:

  • Blue Dolphin: North Florida
  • Green Palm Tree: Central Florida
  • Pink Flamingo: South Florida

We know we’re not exactly the smallest of states, so we wanted to help you out. If you’re as Florida-illiterate as I was about a year ago, you’ll thank us for this.

So click away, check it out, and give us your input! Like I’ve said before, we’re a small enough company that we can make things happen pretty quickly – so speak up! Ideas, thoughts, comments, concerns, questions… we love ’em all. Happy exploring!

http://www.xploreflorida.com/

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