It’s the fragrance of frangipani and the ever-present scent of saltwater. The feel of summer heat on sun-browned skin. The soft, rhythmic wash of waves lapping the shore, or the faint sound of tropical tunes playing on the back deck of the house next door.

Key West Marilyn Monroe sculpture

Once home from Key West, relax by recalling the island vibe and activities like encountering Seward Johnson’s Marilyn sculpture outside  the popular Tropic Cinema. (All photos by Mike Freas, Florida Keys News Bureau)

But the Key West and Florida Keys experience is much more than those sensory elements. It’s a laid-back attitude; an atmosphere of welcome and acceptance; an approach to living that blends individuality, a refusal to take life too seriously, and a near-reverence for relaxation.

And you don’t have to give it up when your vacation ends.

Whether you’re a first-time visitor sorry to leave Key West or a wannabe resident whose real-world schedule leaves little time for tropical escapes, you can create an oasis at home that allows you to transcend daily hassles and recapture the magical Key West mindset.

The process is simple. Select a small space in your home — a shelf, a tabletop, or corner — and gather items that remind you of the island city. You might choose photos of a Victorian guesthouse dripping gingerbread and hibiscus blooms, a blazing orange sunset, an underwater world alive with tropical fish and reef life, or the bow of a boat against turquoise water.

Include cocktail coasters from your favorite Key West watering hole (Bourbon St. Pub or Aqua, anyone?), the program from a local theater or  cabaret show, colorful beads from an island celebration, or maybe a handful of beach pebbles. Find some bright tropical fabric and set your mementos on it.

But that’s only the beginning. Key West and the Florida Keys aren’t just a visual paradise. They surround the senses — and, to truly recreate the island chain’s ambiance, so should your oasis.

Key West Guesthouse

The scent of sunscreen and the sound of beach music call to mind lazy afternoons by the pool at guesthouses like New Orleans House.

Add a bottle of fragrant sunscreen. When you open it, you’re practically guaranteed to trigger a powerful olfactory memory of hours spent lazing on the beach. Or light pillar candles with tropical aromas, or slice a fresh lime for a tangy reminder of your favorite frozen margarita.

Don’t forget the sounds of the islands: palm fronds rustling in the constant breeze, lazy waves lapping shore or boat, tropical rock music drifting through the air from somebody’s CD player. All can be recreated in your oasis. Whether you favor the Fabulous Spectrelles, the guitar mastery of Dave Feder, or the natural noises that flavor the Keys’ subtropical days and nights … they’re available on tape or CD.

Once you’ve completed your Key West corner, make visiting it a regular pleasure. Close your eyes, cast your mind back to a favorite Keys memory, and let your cares float away on a sunscreen-scented breeze. What could be a better reminder to slow your pace and savor the things that matter most?

Of course, enticing as it is, your oasis can’t compare to an actual escape to Key West and the Florida Keys — so if the pressures of everyday life get too stressful, start planning another getaway to your favorite subtropical haven. After all, don’t you deserve it?

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