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MKTG Rewards: The Key(s) to Happiness

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CDEach quarter, MKTG INC staffers select one lucky MKTGer for a reward trip to a destination of their choosing. Upon their return, winners are asked to report on their trip and make us all sick with envy. Here’s the rewards recap of Charlie DeCrescenzo, Account Executive, in MKTG INC’s New York City office.

Work travel can be exhausting. The early flights, the multiple hotels, kayaking in mangroves, hopping from beach to beach – we’ve all been there. Alright, so maybe this trip to the Florida Keys wasn’t exactly a typical trip through work. It was, however, an incredible experience that got me through one of the colder winters I can remember and I am incredibly appreciative for it.

I have to preface this by thanking MKTG INC and in particular, my colleagues, for voting me into such a unique opportunity. Being recognized by my peers for a domestic trip anywhere in the country is the greatest form of flattery I can think of. Thank you again.

When offered a free trip for you and a guest of your choice, it’s amazing how many long lost friends come out of the woodwork just to say “hi.” It’s also a challenge when both parents offer their services as travel companions, especially after a fellow coworker previously took his mom on a safari to Africa with his trip (thanks a lot, Jav). In the end, my best bud since kindergarten won the bid and it all worked out…I think.

Next was the decision of where to travel. At first we considered going somewhere unique to us, maybe Colorado for skiing or Alaska to explore the wilderness. But then this past winter happened and the thermometer was below freezing day after day. This made the decision pretty easy: the turquoise water and warm beaches of the Florida Keys was the clear answer.

We started our voyage in Ft. Lauderdale where the air temperature was a perfect 80 degrees and the water temperature was only 5 degrees colder than that. My friend and I just took the day to hang out on the beach and wait until our bodies figured out what this “sun” and “warm air” were. It was simple, but it was a great and much needed day of rest.

The next day began our tour of the beautiful Keys, starting with Key Largo. Best known for its John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, we took advantage of the opportunity and went kayaking in its famous mangrove water trails. An hour and fifteen minutes later we had conquered all available trails, fought some tough ocean currents, and we couldn’t lift our arms anymore. To deal with the pain we checked out the happy hour at a place called the Bayside Grille which, if you ever find yourself in Key Largo, I highly recommend. The combination of the sunset view, the seafood ceviche, the old timers Jimmy Buffet-esque cover band, and the array of koozies available to all customers really makes it one of my top picks from the trip.

After a night in Key Largo, we moved the convoy down to Marathon for a 2-night stay. Marathon is about the mid-point of the Keys so we felt it was a good location to spend the rest of our trip in. It also meant that we would be driving back and forth throughout the Keys, which isn’t a bad thing at all. The drive can be slow at times, but it really is one of the most picturesque drives you can take. On the way to Marathon we detoured to a famous pit stop called Robbie’s where travelers can feed the 5-foot long fish-monsters called tarpon. These tarpon were massive and would suck the fish right out of tourists’ hands as they leaned over on the docks. We didn’t end up actually feeding the tarpon, but watching fellow tourists get attacked by either a tarpon or an even more ferocious pelican was certainly a spectacle worth seeing. Seriously though, those pelicans were mean.

After dropping our bags off at the hotel in Marathon, we headed straight for a Saturday night in Key West. I mean you can’t be in the Keys without going to Key West, right? There we saw an incredibly talented street performer juggle fire and swords while balancing on a rolling board while doing push-ups (or something like that). We traversed the town by going from live cover band to live cover band at every bar until we found the one that felt right. We also came across someone dressed up as Darth Vader on the street who was playing an LED-lit banjo. Yea, Key West was a lot of fun.

The rest of the trip was mostly comprised of driving around discovering small hidden beaches, eating as much seafood as humanly possible, and trying our best to deny the fact that we were eventually going back to 15-degree weather with a wind chill of -75.

This rewards trip couldn’t have come at a more perfect time to mentally and physically escape the dark and dreary winter we had this year. It was an amazing opportunity to explore a part of the country I hadn’t seen since I was a child and allowed me to rub it in all of my friends’ faces as I sent them photos throughout the process. I want to thank MKTG again for providing me the opportunity to have such an incredible experience that I will not soon forget. For those looking to get away from it all, the Keys certainly know how to unlock the happiness inside.

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