SnowBird Adventure – Part 1

A big part of our retirement lifestyle vision is spending more time at our beach cottage. Hubby would like to spend 100% of our time here, so the “more time” is a compromise in his mind. I committed to doing a snowbird last year as responsibilities up north got into alignment, but life happened. So we are now embarked on our first 2-month snowbird visit in our fourth year of retirement.  

You would think it would be easy. Simply lock the door and go. But, what about the mail, since I’ve heard horror stories about forwarding for short periods of time, and the Post Office will not hold for more than 4 weeks? What about random things being dropped off at the house? What about the indoor plants or the outside snow? In preparation, I ran scenarios and planned contingencies. And finally, we locked the door and left. (And, no the snow was not shoveled last month. So much for pre-arranging!)

We had the transmission on the pick-up truck blow up within the first 300 miles of the trip, turning a 14-hour drive into 44-hour excursion.   Luckily, we found a great transmission place and a cheap hotel that took pets. Was this a bad sign for the snowbird adventure?

I knew that this trip would be about creating new routines and I wanted to focus on local friendship creation. These are two of the critical elements holding me back from me agreeing to move here full time. Those two things plus the connections I have up north, my sense of responsibility for my SIL, and my regular theater subscriptions. Not all of that is logical, but it’s real.

So how is it going?  

I’ve committed to doing beach yoga 3 days a week and located a sunset yoga class to take, hopefully next week. I had hoped that regular yoga would help generate new friendships, but I’m not seeing that occur. It is great for my self-care though and committed means I’ve purchased the class passes (I hate to waste money).

I have reached out to people we’ve met on previous trips and had some nice lunch/ wine/ dinner & conversation experiences. Two are even “compatible couples”, and we’ve done repeated things with each.  I am still needing to be the instigator on most connections.

We have done a few mini-adventures – some new restaurants, a food tour in St Pete, the big Sunday flea market, and a great day trip to Sarasota. I’m trying to be more spontaneous as well, so we did a visit to the Sunken Gardens (with one of the couples), a shuffleboard evening, and a bike ride to the local Kite Festival. My 101 New/Fun Things list has 21 things added to it!

So why am I feeling like it’s “not working”? Why do I feel that I’m not being a successful snowbird? Why am I reacting to the slightly negative “why are you only here for two months” critiquing comments?  Yes, I’m feeling like I’m not doing enough; I’m not doing it “right”.   

Less than a month left.  Any thoughts on how to change those feelings to ones of accomplishment?

Picture Credit: my sunset picture at the beach.

 

46 thoughts on “SnowBird Adventure – Part 1

  1. I can empathize with you on all counts, Pat. I think about going south for a couple of months and immediately start listing the reasons why I can’t go. The fact is I’m very rooted here in my home with family close by, lots of friends, a comfortable home, and no shortage of things to do! Maybe I’ll start with a week or two getaway to see how that goes before I make any longer commitment. And as far as ‘doing it right’ I’m sure I’d also have those thoughts since I know there is a right and wrong way to do most anything. I did have a breakthrough yesterday in my progress with retirement. I planned a spontaneous movie date with a friend and another visit with friends I had not seen in ages. Both on the same day! I tried to talk myself out of it – cancelling one or the other because it was just ‘too much.’ But when I followed through I was proud of myself. It’s the little things, right?

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    1. Molly, it is definitely the little things. And celebrate them, too. This week, I am up to three different people reaching out to me to do things…. all that stuff I did in January is paying off! And it feels wonderful. I’m trying to take things as they come more, be more spontaneous, and just enjoy. Just so you know…we started with 2 weeks, then it was 3 weeks, then 4 weeks, and now 2 months. Everyone has been a bit of a learning curve, but I really do enjoy our time here in Florida a lot. And this year, with the polar vortex, it’s been really nice!

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  2. I found this very interesting, Pat. My husband would like to spend winters in Mexico. I love going there on vacation, but I’m not comfortable leaving my other life behind (family, friends, hair dresser, gym) for that long and I am concerned that I will be restricted by not understanding the language or the customs–and certainly not the driving. We’ve got a few years to work it out. #MLSTL

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    1. Christie, As I’ve pointed out to some others… we started with 2 week trips. Then 3 week, then a month. This is our first 2 month trip. Each one, the area has become more familiar (and the learning curve a bit different). In fact, this time, I sent messages to a couple of people that we were coming and my yoga buddy immediately stopped and picked me up for yoga. I do miss folks, but I’ve been texting with friends a bit and will start planning things on our return north. Net, you might want to think about starting off a bit shorter and see.

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  3. I’ve never heard the term “snowbird” but love it. Some things take a while. We’re 2 years into our sea-change and now starting to chat to the people we’ve been seeing on our morning walk every morning. My advise is to let it all flow – and enjoy the ride. I hear you though…:) Best wishes…

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    1. Jo, Deb had same question about the term! I didn’t realize it was so American.

      Snowbird is a US term for people who “fly south for the winter”. Usually retired folks from the Northern US or Canada. They head to southern states for the winter months, like birds migrate south in the winter. For some it’s Jan-Feb-Mar, others will do longer. I know some who are 50/50 north and south. Many just rent for their southern time, some bring RV’s, others own – condo’s usually.

      I know that it can take time…. I just had higher expectations. A killer, I know.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Pat, I’m not actually sure what snowbirding is but I guess it means going away during winter for an extended stay. I’m sorry you don’t feel settled but perhaps it is because you don’t feel it is your home. It isn’t the same and friendships are harder to form in a temporary situation. Two positives are that you have been doing yoga and also taking mini adventures. The most positive thing though is trying something that perhaps you don’t really want to do – leaving your comfort zone to be a snowbird because you love your husband you are making a compromise for him. Thank you for sharing at #MLSTL and I hope you enjoy the rest of your week. xx

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    1. Sue, Snowbird is an American/USA term that I I did not realize wasn’t well-known outside the US.

      Snowbird is a US term for people who “fly south for the winter”. Usually retired folks from the Northern US or Canada. They head to southern states for the winter months, like birds migrate south in the winter. For some it’s Jan-Feb-Mar, others will do longer. I know some who are 50/50 north and south. Many just rent for their southern time, some bring RV’s, others own – condo’s usually.

      For us, we actually own a beach cottage on the Gulf Coast of Florida. It’s 2 blocks to the beach (awesome) and in a neighborhood that is 75% full-time people. So it is not full of snowbirds…which some of the condo’s right on the beach are.

      On the beach right now, if you chat with people, the first thing most ask is “where are you from” – Michigan, Wisconsin, Canada, Ohio, or Indiana is usually the answer. Sometimes Massachusetts, New Jersey, or New York, but those folks tend to go to the east coast of Florida. There are some snowbirds who go to the Southwest even (Arizona is popular).

      Since we own our place, we have met many neighbors though the years of visiting. And it does feel like our home – in fact, we can arrive here with practically nothing and be fine. Clothes & beach toys, full kitchen for cooking, even books to be read on the shelves. I guess I had hoped that we could slide in with those known-neighbors a bit easier…. but yeah, they have their lives and we are not here all the time to be an integral part. All the comments on this post have helped me work through my expectations a lot!

      Hope you’re having a great week.
      Pat

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  5. Hi Pat, this was very interesting, along with all the comments, but I’m still not exactly sure what snowbirding is? Like a holiday house somewhere else and going away fro a few months a year to stay there? I know what snowboarding is 🙂 . I’m sure you’ll work it out in your own way, but it does help to talk things through with other like minded people doesn’t it? #mlstl

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    1. Deb, Snowbird is a US term for people who “fly south for the winter”. Usually retired folks from the Northern US or Canada. They head to southern states for the winter months, like birds migrate south in the winter. For some it’s Jan-Feb-Mar, others will do longer. I know some who are 50/50 north and south. Many just rent for their southern time, some bring RV’s, others own – condo’s usually. The term has been around for many, many years. I’ve learned to not head back north on the first of the month in March, April, or May… the roads are packed. And absolutely, it’s wonderful to “talk things through” on my blog…. the comments have certainly helped me a ton this time!

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  6. It was really interesting to read the “real” side of snowbirding Pat – I always see it on documentaries where everyone is having fun in the sun – but none of the logistics are ever mentioned. It would do my head in trying to arrange everything (I struggle with a 2wk holiday!) and making friends would definitely be tricky. Aren’t there any bloggers nearby that you can hook up with – I can vouch for that being a great way to connect without the drama of establishing the first steps of connection! It was interesting reading the comments too.
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Leanne, I have not found any local bloggers. I hadn’t at home up north either yet. Lot’s of you-all down in Australia, but even there I know many are far apart. I have been told that 1) the logistics get easier the more you do it and 2) focus on the positives about creating connections…plan things and enjoy them; invite people to join and if folks come, great; stop stressing over it. Interestingly this week, we had a morning text from a new friend about going to a museum that day since cloudy day was expected (spontaneous excursion, an invite from someone!) and I joined another new friend for an afternoon at the “spa” (girls only, lots of different hot water sources – steam room, sauna, hot tubs…. interesting thing to do for an afternoon). So maybe some of that reaching out in January is paying off and Part 2 will be better! See, stop stressing Pat. Thanks for the share. 🙂

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  7. Natalie the two years we did get to snowbird were easy but I had no preconceived ideas about how I wanted them to go. We knew we wanted out of the cold and snow. We went to Pensacola Fl and the first year it was wonderful. Nice warm walk and sun on the beach every day. Last year it was not that warm in Jan. and we spent a lot of time indoors plus husband got his cancer diagnosis which cut the trip short. I am a go with the flow type of person and making friends or meeting ppl would have been ok but nothing I was striving for. Of course, it did help that we have a daughter that lives in the area of where we go.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh, preconceived ideas and expectations are the killer, aren’t they? Plus, I’m not a “go with the flow” person. I think if I was, it would be easier. But I’m also focusing more on the positives (everyone’s comments are helping that!), so hopefully Part 2 of this adventure will be better.

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  8. Pat, my two comments are — your life is not their life. So what if they spend more/less time in Fl or elsewhere. — it can get old always initiating activities or events. Some people just dont like to organize or initiate. But if you organize and invite others you are both have fun. So if you enjoy it, do the planning and have fun.

    * Loretta *

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    1. Loretta, Thanks for the reminder about “if you enjoy it, do the planning”. I came to that conclusion last year (up north)…and it did help my mindset. It’s something that bears a reminder now and then!

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  9. A very interesting post that I’ll have to share with my sister. She’s now snowbirding — twice autocorrect tried to make it “snowboarding,” which I think is hilarious — in Scottsdale from Michigan for 3.5 months every year. She’s on her third year now, but it seems it’s still a struggle to arrange everything; basically all the things you mention too with the exception of pets. I joked with her over the weekend that she needs to give it ten years and she’ll probably have it down without any hitches. 🙂 – Marty

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    1. Marty, I’m pretty sure I post sometimes only to be able to say, “Phew, I’m so glad I’m not the only one!” But it’s kinda scary to know that in her third year, it’s still a struggle…ugh! I have had some other snowbirds tell me it does get easier… but apparently it also involves turning off the water (didn’t) and getting family to check on house (hah – ain’t gonna happen). Snowboarding! Love it. I’m even less able to manage that skill. Have a great week. Sun is shining here and 70 predicted for the day, so I cannot complain!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Pat,
    Dan and I are trying the snowbird thing for the first time this year as I just retired this past September. We are jumping in with both feet and will not return to NH until the end of April. Dan really does need the warmer climate for his health. We are in Lake Placid FL.
    I empathize with the “not connected” feeling…for us a contributing factor to this is that we have been traveling a lot and this has delayed making new friends in our Florida community. I am just starting to connect with all the activities available here.
    What HAS helped is having neighbors (also retired) from our lake community snowbirding as well so we have been able to spend time with them here and there.
    And, just my two cents…you two are the only ones living your lives…no one else gets a say-so…do what feels exactly right for you two and tune out the rest…
    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nancy, Yeah, that “tune out the rest” is a big learning curve for me!

      Interestingly the community we live in is actually 75% full-timers with full range of folks – from families with young kids to those who have lived here forever (40+ years). We are meeting folks and I need to focus on the positives of the connections we have made. Like I said below, appreciate the friendships for what they are (friends for a reason/season), not feel disheartened what they are not (friends for life).

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  11. This is an interesting post, Pat. I’ve heard similar comments from my sister who shares her time between Florida in the winter and Canada in the summer. The end result is that she feels ‘unconnected’ from both communities since she is absence from both for 6 months of the year. As she said, other people’s lives go on without you and it’s not necessarily easy to just plug back in when she returns.

    The comments about ‘only 2 months?’ is a variation of what I’m getting from many friends now wintering in Florida every winter. I get badgered to spend time in Florida too and their conversation leans heavily on how wonderful life is there and how much winter in Canada sucks in comparison.
    BUT. I. DON’T. WANT. TO. GO. TO. FLORIDA!
    To be honest, it is starting to create a gap in our relationship. My husband and I are feeling disconnected from our friends and I feel resentment that there’s an expectation that we will follow in order for the friendship to continue.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Joanne,
      I feel that your last statement is just so sad…your “friends” shouldn’t predicate their friendship with you on whether or not you decide to snowbird with them. I have not seen my best friend from college in over a year and I still count her as among my closest friends. The distance should not matter. 😦

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      1. Nancy, I have such mixed reactions to Joanne’s insights. On one hand, friendship in the creation phase is definitely about repeated connection. On the other hand, you would hope long term friends could handle distance.

        I wrote a post about different types of friends – friends for a reason (my yoga buddy), friends for a season (time of life), friends for life. I think I need to view friends here as “friends for a season” and not expect the same as I do from “friends for life” which as some of my northern friends. I love when everyone’s comments further’s my thinking. Thanks to both you and Joanne for pushing me to delve into this more!

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      2. The problem is that over time, you start to have fewer things in common. They develop friendships in Florida with other expats and those friendships transfer back home in the summer.
        In the meantime, we get involved with other people and activities in their absence.
        In the end, it’s no longer the same 😕

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    2. Joanne, Oh dear… do I have feeling disconnected at both ends to look forward to? I think I need to have a good chat with 2 friends for some suggestions – one who is the 50/50 north/south and has been for a few years…she always seems to be connected in at each end. Another is a friend who travels extensively, yet I never sense she feels disconnected when she is in town….again I wonder if she has some suggestions.

      Isn’t it interesting that when we don’t do what others are doing, we get a sense we are doing “it wrong”. And yes, I do think friends, both yours and mine, are implying you/I are doing it wrong. I definitely need to think on this … and figure out how to not worry what others think! That is definitely a work in progress for me.

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      1. Good luck, Pat. Hope you get some sound advice to take away that unsettled feeling you have.
        Yes, it seems we both are sensitive to these messages – implied or explicit – that we aren’t doing it right. My only solution at this point is to cultivate a wide and disparate group of friends.

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  12. First of all, you have a beach cottage! Great! Secondly, it’s no one’s business how often you visit or how long you stay. Enjoy your time! I’m sure you will work out all the logistical issues to your own satisfaction – and no one else! 🙂

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  13. Hi Pat. I really love the idea of having two separate places to live depending on the season (spring in the south of France sounds nice 🙂 ), but I can understand why it also could be a challenge. When you “visit” somewhere – even for a few months – you are dropping into a place where most everyone already has their friends and routines established. I think the fact that you’ve already made some connections a real win. That you are the one who is the instigator is completely understandable.

    I imagine that you two aren’t the only snowbirds there… isn’t there some sort of meet-up or organized outreach just for people like you? The only caution I would make (understand that I have absolutely no experience as a snowbird) is to not try to recreate what you have up north. Where you are now probably has a whole bunch of things to do and experiences to have that can’t be found at home. Discover these things, do what makes you happy there. I wouldn’t be surprised if you find yourself missing some of those activities once you arrive back home.

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    1. Janis, Great advice and thanks for your perspective. In fact, we’ve “played tourist” quite a bit this trip – going to museums, gardens, and local festivals. We have met a few other snow-birds and have tried to connect with them, as well as some recently arrived local retirees. Lots of northern folks retire down here! And yes, the fact that we have made some connections IS a win – as I need to learn… it is enough!

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  14. Hi, Pat – Richard and I have spent 6 weeks (October-November) in Palm Desert for the past three years. We are VERY familiar with that question about length of stay. I just see it as people advocating for what they love. But just because something works for them, doesn’t mean that the same thing will work for others! I know that you know this, but you are not remotely doing snowbirding wrong. AND I am totally jealous that you are in the warmth while I am back in the cold! 🙂

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    1. Donna, So nice to hear that you got the same question. It does feel like I’m doing it wrong when I hear the question, so I will try and hear it differently in the future based on your insight. And it’s funny how many folks are “complaining” about the cold here…. which has been cooler than normal. I’m still in shorts most days, or jeans & a light pullover! I’m more than happy to be enjoying this than the polar vortex we got back in Ohio!

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  15. Hmmm…interesting that someone feels the need to comment on your length of stay. I don’t get it.

    I wonder if there is a newcomer or snowbird club to help those new to the area get acquainted. I just returned from Vancouver Island and heard that most communities there have a “newcomers group”, to help people new to the area meet others and discover the wonders to be found there.

    Deb

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    1. Deb, Yup, lots of comments since we are only here for 2 months. From quite a few people – it’s obviously not the “right amount of time”! Good suggestion about a new-comer’s group. I need to look at MeetUp also, but that tends to be for singles more than couples. I know building connections takes time… and in fact 2 months isn’t really that much time to do it in. I need to focus on the few successes – They are enough!!

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  16. wow, your timing is amazing!! We leave on our first snowbird trip later this week. Our first will only be 4 weeks. Similar to you, my hubby is looking forward to the warm weather and can’t wait. I on the other hand am dreading the trip. I’ll miss my weekly knitting group. I’ll miss the friends/acquaintances I’ve made at the Y. Yes I plan to go to the Y in Florida but I know that I won’t be making friends. Having to create a social life in Florida also makes me want to not become a longer snowbird but we will see. Hence the compromise of 4 wks for the first one. Being retired, I don’t care if it snows. The driveway will get cleared when it gets cleared. I’ll miss our weekly game night with friends. Being trapped in a one bedroom apartment with my husband is not likely a recipe for success. We will have family in the area, son and snowbird father, so 4 weeks should be manageable. Wish me well!!

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    1. Hi, I do wish you well! We are into month 2, and I’m actually starting to dread going back north. For me, it’s the sunny days, not the warmth. Winter up north is gray…endless days of gray. The warm days, shorts & T-shirt weather isn’t that bad either! We started with 2 weeks, then 4 weeks, and now 2 months. It is helpful to be down longer to start meeting people and planning things. We’ve done a bunch of things this trip because we had time to plan them out. I’m not sure where you are but here (St Petersburg), every museum has a “cheap day” or night, there are festivals every weekend somewhere, and outdoor markets almost every day somewhere. Plus the beach if just to walk. No reason to be trapped in an apartment. 🙂 Hope you can find things to have fun with your time.

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  17. Thanks for writing about your snowbird experiences. I think you’re doing great and just need to relax and let things happen. It may take a stay longer than two months to find what you want.

    As we think about what we might do in a couple of years, I’ve started a list in my mind (it needs to be on paper soon) of all the considerations. It’s easy to think about the good parts of a warm winter and then I remember what happens here that time of year. I’ve also started to assume I will have to leave my sewing machine here which makes me kind of sad. It’s not that easy to pack your life in one Murano and take off!! It’s good for us to think about these things now as I’m beginning to realize it may require more mental preparation than I assumed it would!!

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    1. Linda, thanks for the advice to relax a bit. My perfectionism is showing, isn’t it? Yes, it has taken more planning than I expected, but other snow-birders tell me it gets easier with each year. I’ve already started a list for next year of things to bring or to leave here – we do have a place so that is an option for us. And yeah, I do encourage you to get the list on paper… but I’m a list maker too. 🙂

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      1. It appears people have misunderstood my comment about your length of stay. I wasn’t suggesting it was the wrong amount of time. I just know anytime you go somewhere new, it takes a while to feel like it’s home. Maybe you and others can accomplish that in a couple of months. I know I couldn’t and that’s ok. I have lots of patience!!

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      2. Linda, I did not take your comments “negatively” at all…I think I am the same that it’ll take me more than 2 months. It took me 2-3 years to gather a group of friends post-retirement up north. And if I’m truly honest with myself, even there I have similar feeling of disconnection at times. Years ago, I told new people moving into our town (with work) that it sometimes took 5 years for it to feel like “home”…. I need to remember that now. And practice patience… not my best skill!

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