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In September 2017, Mike and I packed up a lifetime’s worth of memories and headed to our new home in Southwest Florida (SWFL). Having sponged off visited friends here for the past 10 years, and having vacationed in various parts of FL and Arizona to test the waters for an eventual Next Chapter, we were certain that we had found the perfect fit for our new life—-a beautiful community with golf for Mike; a pool for me; warm, sunny weather for much of the year; and lots of new places to explore and enjoy. We packed the car, said our goodbyes to New England, and embarked on the two-day road trip to our new home.

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been here for two years, and that so much is familiar now. Our community is close to being completely sold. Mike and I had been among the early residents, deciding whether or not to buy a home here while wearing hard hats and driving around in a golf cart to see what was to become the community pool and café area. There were a lot of construction vehicles and a lot of dirt—-purchasing a home had been something of a leap of faith, believing that the developer would follow through with the plans, and that the community would sell. And yet, it all happened. Two years later, we’ve met many wonderful new neighbors, enjoy the now-finished beautiful pool, café, and clubhouse, and life is different but oh so good.

How did a born-and-bred New Englander adjust to living in laid back SWFL? And is it really heaven’s waiting room? The answers are, “Quite nicely, thank you,” and “Absolutely Not!!!”

So, life is very different here, and yes, of course, I miss seeing family and friends. But we stay in touch, and let’s face facts—we all have our own lives to lead. We raised our kids to pursue their interests, wherever that took them. They did just that (dammit:), and now they’re scattered all over the country! In all seriousness, while I would love some quick family visits on a Sunday, all of our kids are where they want to be, doing what they want to do—and where they want to be, doing what they want to do is where they should be. That can be said for Mike and me, too, and besides—-we have some awesome places to visit.

As for SWFL and New England—they’re really different and each is incredible in its own way. I love them both, though I’m happy to be in FL for this part of my life.

  • Weather—the first thing that people think of when they hear that someone has moved to FL from anyplace up north, is the weather. FL wins the weather category for me, though New England’s fall tops anything, anywhere. The cool, dry air; the beautiful trees changing color; the crisp apples—you just can’t beat it. We visited our daughter, Lael, and her family a couple weekends ago, and I slept better than I had in months. It was so nice and cool and dry. Our weather in SWFL was still in the mid-80s, with another 6-8 degrees thrown in for humidity. We have fall festivals and pumpkin lattes, here, but the feeling that you get from either one of them just isn’t the same. I actually miss a good snow storm, too—until about mid-January. Then, I’ll take SWFL—even when you throw in our miserably hot, humid, and rainy summers.
  • Lifestyle—FL wins this category for this part of our lives. New England takes it for the earlier stages for me, though, because of the history and tradition that surrounded us there. The reminders of Colonial times are everywhere, particularly of the Revolutionary War, which for many of us made history come to life. History and tradition became a part of us. The Shot Heard ‘Round the World, the Battle of Bunker Hill, Paul Revere’s famous ride—our region was part of that history and now it was our turn to be hardy, smart, and independent—tough enough and resourceful enough to navigate anything from stifling heat to treacherous ice storms. That’s how we New Englanders are raised to be. And despite my assertions in the prior paragraph—however frustrating I found much of that weather—I’m glad that our children got to experience such a wide range of weather conditions and the feelings that each season evokes. Lobster rolls and the shore in the summer, the beauty of fall with its “pumpkin or apple everything,” snuggling up in front of our fireplace, and hunkering in for a few good snowstorms created memories that are irreplaceable. Even spring had some good memories—baseball was starting. I’m glad that our kids had those memories to take with them.

Many of our old friends are now saying, “Oh, I can’t believe she said that—not with that FL heat and no change of seasons.” Yes, I said it. I loved the north’s change of seasons, but much of the weather during those seasons wasn’t good—except for fall. Spring in New England? Were you talking about the half-a-dozen-or-so days between April and June that aren’t cold, rainy, gray, and raw before you plunge into hot and humid summers? There isn’t quite as much humidity in a New England summer as there is in FL, but there is still plenty of it unless you’re lucky enough to be near the ocean. If that’s an option, I’ll take a New England summer in a heartbeat (lookin’ at you, Bar Harbor). I also feel that, while FL’s summers have more rain, we also get more sun—and that is a huge plus for me.

And now? Life is more relaxed and social; historic charm has been replaced with a newer, cleaner, better-manicured environment (sorry New England—some of the cities can look old and dirty:), and more of life’s amenities that Mike and I are drawn to are not only at our fingertips, they’re accessible 12 months a year.

SWFL’s warm, sunny climate makes us feel like we’re on vacation, even when a full-time work schedule was part of the picture. We’re out-and-about more—walking, golfing, and enjoying the beautiful beaches and waterways. Living in a community has been different than living in a traditional neighborhood, in that it’s more coherent and self-focused. There are a variety of pre-arranged social and leisure-time activities within half-a-mile’s distance. Plus, as transplants, many of us make an effort to meet our neighbors.

There are many things to see and do outside of the community, as well. Renown for its Happy Hours, there are hundreds of restaurants offering early dining promotions in SWFL. We, the people of SWFL, love to go out to eat:) As of 2017, the most recent data that I could find, the number of “food-service establishments” in Lee County (the Ft Myers/Bonita Springs area) topped 1,900, according to FL’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Of that 1900, 1550 are seated restaurants, which equates to one restaurant for every 452 residents, similar to New York’s 1:432 ratio. Collier County (Naples) had an additional 1,140, or one restaurant for every 380 residents. There are also cultural events and activities—lots of art shows, and lots of shopping. Plus, Miami is only an hour-and-a-half away for those who crave the ocean and the bigger-city life. There is a lot to do here.

Some people snickered that Mike and I were moving to heaven’s waiting room…it’s so not that way. I’ve learned that age really is only a number, whether that number is 23 or 85. Yes, the area has an older demographic but the people that we know and get together with in the “more seasoned:)” end of the range are vital, accomplished, knowledgeable, and genuinely nice people. Many of them are also the smartest people in the room—-those people that we all wanted to become when we were in our 40s. Oh—and btw—just try to beat our 80-year-old friend with the 5 handicap at golf. He’s the guy you want in your foursome, whether it’s golf or dinner, because not only is he almost a scratch golfer, he’s extremely interesting and fun to be with.  

One thing that has been a nice surprise is the diversity of our group of friends, both in terms of age and ethnicity. In New England, most of our social relationships stemmed from kids’ activities, and the parents that we would be with during those events. That was great, too, though it was a pretty homogenous group. Here, we regularly get together with people whose ages range from 30-80. Occasionally, there’s a 20-something. The group often includes people who have come from different parts of the US—-and sometimes, different parts of the world—-to make SWFL their home. Whichever group we’re with, the conversations are interesting, insightful, and often hilarious—collectively, we span a lot of decades and everyone loves to find the humor in situations. A lot of the conversations cover similar ground, though, no matter which group we’re with—there’s a lot of food and travel talk. That’s the key—great conversation and a lot of laughter. Each get together is equally fun and interesting, no matter which group we’re with. Good people are good people—and age really is only a number.

So, go ahead and call it heaven’s waiting room—-just know that we’re all gonna’ go with smiles on our faces after having had an awesome dinner with fantastic company in incredibly beautiful weather …

To sum it up, SWFL and New England—I love you both, and am so glad to have had the chance to get to experience the very different, but truly wonderful lifestyles that you offer—I’ll be seeing a lot of each of you in the years to come.

Until next time,