The Day I Fell in Love With Paradise

A drive from Disney World to Miami changed my life forever.

By staff April 24, 2014

By Luis Eduardo Barón

Twenty years ago, while on a family vacation from our homeland of Colombia to Disney World, we found ourselves driving back to Miami down I-75. We agreed it was about time we experienced the "other" coast of Florida. Not too far along the interstate we were seduced by a sign for "Gulf Coast Beaches.” We arrived at Siesta Beach on a beautiful winter day. It was like a picture in a golden frame. While a pack of seagulls swooped down and formed an orderly line, my two kids played in the sand and I walked to the water with my wife, taking her hand as we watched the sun dive into the sea and felt the wind caress our faces. I promised myself that one day I would come back to this paradise.

Five years later I decided to change my life. My country, Colombia, had plunged into insecurity, and I had lost confidence in the future. On July 2, 1999, my family—now larger by one child—and I packed our bags and returned to the paradise we had discovered in Southwest Florida. It was the beginning of a journey, and I did not know on those first days here where that journey would lead.

In the intervening 15 years, we discovered we had chosen a great place to live and raise our children, full of opportunities and love for culture, diversity and innovation. It was also a great place for me to start my business, a company that creates publications for the growing number of other Latinos who have also found their way to paradise. From the very beginning, we met wonderful people who welcomed us and our dreams.

It was the best decision of my life and I am thankful for the day I discovered a little city south of Tampa while driving to Miami. It’s a place I call not only my paradise, but my home.

Luis Baron is a best-selling author and the founder of La Guia magazine and 

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