Destination Belleair Bluffs

The idea of being a snowbird is migrating to warmer climates in the winter months. Ideally, in our heads , Key West was always going to be our spot – it was warm, friendly and happening . The downside of Key West is cost and if we were going to live like retired folks we needed spend like retired people ,which means cutting back Key West was not in the budget , at least for now.

Friends had suggested the west coast of Florida as the tolls were less and less tourists . Trying to find a town that met our needs was hard ..We wanted quiet and close to the beach as that is what the beach house in Old Orchard gave us ..A sense of serenity and peace. We needed to have jobs so we needed to be outside of a city or something . Community is a giant part of our life, so finding a place that has some sign of lesbian life is ideal…We had two dogs , so wherever we rented needed to accommodate them . We were also sure we did not want to pay for a rental year round but wanted the flexibility of coming back year after year . I spent countless hours looking on Airbnb and VRBO, and found cute places but nothing that grabbed my eyes.All of a sudden, Michelle had came across a place on craigslist for the same exact amount we were paying in OOB. It was a mile from the beach and was furnished with no long term commitment .

Belleair Bluffs has a population of about 2,000 with half the population being retired . It was about 10 minutes outside of Clearwater and 45 minutes from Tampa . It really seemed perfect for us . Judy was the owner and asked us for everything except a stool sample to get the place , but after about a week of waiting ,she said yes !

Belleair Bluffs here we come ….Our home away from home October thru April ..So long cold winter and hello sunshine !

Operation Snowbird

A “Snow bird” is normally related to a retired person who heads south during the colder months. It has always been the plan to be a snow bird . From the time we purchased the RV and embraced the “camping life” we set our self up to move twice a year . In October we would head to the beach house and in the spring head back to camp . We have been doing that for about five years now and I know that lifestyle is not for everyone .

Operation snowbird went into place a few months ago as we set a plan in action. We did not just wake up and decide to be middle aged snow birds. We looked ahead at the fall and winter months ahead and noticed we had 3 trips planned to head south from November to February and by the time I added up what we paid for rent, oil and three round trip flights for two, it came to about $12,000 . It occurred to us that it would be cheaper to just stay there and the idea came to us…Why not just stay down there in the fall and winter and come back in to camp in April ? What was stopping us ? I had the option to work from home and she could get a job anywhere … That spawned many serious discussions from where would we live to the benefits of this life style. We were pretty sure people would think we were crazy , just like they were when we gave up the condo and bought a RV .

The hardest part about a snow bird life is family and close friends. Realistically, Rylee would be the big factor as she is the only grandchild. As we though about it , yes , we would miss her but this would give our family a chance to head south for a vacation. In the winter , we only see Rylee at the beach house once or twice a month and so we decided we would try it the first year , and if we could not do it , then would go back to the beach house . We had nothing to lose and we know that many grandparents have this lifestyle and their family adapts. If a 65 year old can balance snowbird life and grandchildren , why couldn’t we ? I had met a retired couple once who lived on a cruise ship and they said they plan for their family to vacation with them once a winter to help. As I think about it, that creates memories ,year after year . Skipping the commercialization of holidays and spending that money on a memory . Skipping the stress of figuring out what to get people, avoiding the long lines and giving our family something that would stay in their mind year after year . It all goes back to less is more .. But Rylee would be the toughest factor in this decision and making sure we face time and plan visits.

I’ll admit – this snowbird decision is like jumping into the unknown . The are no guarantees ..But if you think about it , there are no guarantees in life . When you have no debt and the money you own is all yours VS the banks or credit card companies , you have much more flexibility to little by little get to the life you want . It does not happen over night . I have been working the five year plan for many years . This snowbird life has always been the plan . We just assumed it would be closer to when we retired . I never realized the flexibility we have in our life til now. What a blessing as it is a true gift .

Where It Begins ….

The truth is , this all began five years ago at a RV show . We had no intention on buying a RV ,much less living in one. Its like sending your husband to a boat show and two days later one is parked in your yard. We had no idea what we were looking for that day , if anything . We ended up the proud owner of a 5th wheel camper and wanted to spend our summers there , embracing the outdoors . I was just in my forties and now that I look back on it , I knew I needed change. I was sick of doing the same thing every day . Like most people out there , I wanted more . No idea what I wanted but I knew I wanted a simpler life with less static .

As we parked out camper in the middle of Maine and commuted back and forth to work , we learned so much on who we were and what we wanted . Both my wife and I had good jobs , so it was not about money . We would own a house, but didn’t want to do the maintenance and mow the lawn . To much hassle ! We wanted the easy life and by staying at camp during the spring and summer we actually saved about 10K that first year . We used that money for extra vacations and paid off our debt. Now its amazing how much money you have ,when you have no bills. Close your eyes for a second and think about where your paycheck goes … My favorite game is to look at your tax return from previous  year and see how much money you made and then scratch your head on where that went.. You should try it – it will open your eyes !