How I Became a Midlife Snowbird
I first became a snowbird at the age of "forty-something." I don't have close family who are snowbirds and we don't own a vacation home -- it's just been a long time goal to become a snowbird. A bucket list goal... to escape from the Midwestern winters. I didn't think it would happen for me until possibly much later in life. Like many people, the daily shuffle of career, family and friends can be all-consuming and focusing on dreams typically gets pushed aside for "someday."
My husband and I were married in the West Indies, on the gorgeous island of St Lucia during their prime season, which is January. Of course, most couples don't envision winter as ideal for weddings, but our plan was to go somewhere tropical and warm for anniversaries and temporarily get away from frigid Midwestern winters, even if just for a long weekend.
A year before our ten year anniversary, which was in January, 2016, we decided to celebrate with a romantic week-long visit to a lush Caribbean island, such as Turks and Caicos. We had allocated a decent budget for a beachfront hotel, airfare, food and entertainment. Turks and Caicos is stunning with everything anyone could ever want, but I felt something wasn't right. It didn't seem like a good fit for us.
We are self-employed and Reilly, our beloved Golden Retriever at the time, was advanced in years with serious health issues. I doubted we could truly get away without negatively affecting our business and/or our vacation. So, I began thinking about our dream of becoming snowbirds. We could drive to our destination, which meant we could bring our sweet Reilly girl with us. We could stay at a place on the beach, but perhaps for a longer period of time. Two weeks? Three? Could we realistically temporarily relocate our business short term? It was late Spring of 2015 and our milestone anniversary was about 9 months away. I knew to make our goal happen, it would take time to figure it all out. And great beachfront properties would be taken if not reserved months in advance. Our number one criteria was the property had to be oceanfront, or at the very least, ocean view. For us, it makes no sense to rent a property near a beach if you can't see the ocean. We feel it is a key element to having a therapeutic, restorative winter destination.
VACATION LOCATIONS VS. OUR WINTER HOME
Before we were married, my husband and I lived in Northeast Florida in Ponte Vedra Beach for several years. We have each visited and vacationed in almost every popular Floridian beach area since a very early age. And we have repeatedly traveled to Florida for work, conferences and conventions. So it was an easy decision to narrow it down to Florida as our first choice for a snowbird home. However, seeking your second home in a warm climate is much more involved than selecting a vacation destination. What makes for a perfect vacation area does not necessarily translate to a great choice for a winter home, particularly for working snowbirds like us.
THE EMERALD COAST - DESTIN / MIRAMAR BEACH, FL
After much online research looking at low and high rise condos, beach homes, and many different geographical locations, we chose the Emerald Coast as our ideal winter beach getaway. The location appeared to be perfect for us and it turned out to be even better than we expected. Not only is it a good geographical fit, we found the oceanfront rental rates in Northwest Florida to be about one-third of the price of warmer climates further south. Yet we have all of the amenities we need for our second home and running our business. It is a relatively easy drive to the Emerald Coast from our home in the Midwest. The money we budgeted for one week in Turks and Caicos was enough to stretch into five weeks' rent for an oceanfront property.
The Destin area has plenty to do and almost every major retailer in the local vicinity, plus our must-have requirements to run our business: easy access to shipping / receiving packages and reliable wi-fi.
OUR SOUTHERN HOME SWEET HOME
I found a rental with amazing panoramic ocean views. Large dogs are accepted and it has three bedrooms, three full bathrooms, a huge wraparound balcony and sliders from the master and living room. We can easily enjoy both sunrise and sunset, which is a daily ritual for many snowbirds and vacationers.
There is plenty of space in the condo for us and our business. The layout is like a true home. We use the third bedroom for our business / extra storage. The second master suite is perfect for our guests. The low rise building also has an elevator, which is exactly what we needed for Reilly.
We love the location of the condo because of the beachy pedestrian lifestyle. There is a sidewalk in front of our unit with green space, a boardwalk across the street and oceanfront restaurants within an easy three to eight minute walk in either direction.
However, our first season was bittersweet. We received the awful news on our anniversary -- Reilly's kidneys were crashing and she was gravely ill. Sadly, our beloved Reilly passed away half way through our first season. We were heartbroken.
We spent just over five weeks in Destin / Miramar Beach the first season, almost seven weeks the second time, along with Bodie, the male Golden Retriever we adopted and the three of us spent just over six weeks our third and fourth seasons. We reserved six more weeks for our fifth year and eventually plan to invest in our own rental property.
MIDLIFE SNOWBIRD BLOG
I created my first blog, Tropical Beach Escape, in 2015 as a travel journal in anticipation of our first snowbird experience. However, during the winter of 2017, I created a fresh blog with a new identity that was broader so it could showcase my writing, travel experiences, cuisine, recipes and original photography. Midlife Snowbird contains the detailed "how to" personal information I was looking for prior to becoming a midlife snowbird. Enjoy!
--Lana K Scherer, Creator of Midlife Snowbird
You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.