Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Seductiveness of Florida-style Living

I have been immersed in the Florida lifestyle for over a week. Here are some observations from one not yet converted.  

The original Florida inhabitants, native Indians, roamed this land leaving few permanent structures. The first Europeans to explore and settle the area were the Spanish, but most of the state was ignored by people north of the state line for centuries - until the invention of air conditioning changed everything.

The uber-wealthy discovered south Florida around the turn of the twentieth century, building mansions and inhabiting offshore islands during the winter months. The trickle-down phenomenon (along with air conditioning) attracted vacationers around the middle of the century, and healthier, longer-living seniors began migrating south about the same time. By the end of the century active adult communities dotted the swampland.

Younger folk seeking employment followed, and schools, hospitals, malls and strip retail
centers provided visual stimulus to the otherwise stark landscape. Cars, more cars, and traffic jams - especially during the winter season - proliferated.

Lots of residents are snowbirds, wintering in the south and heading north during the summer, following the route migratory birds and native Indians have taken for eons.

Below is a list of some of the positive and less positive aspects of life in the sunshine state (the southeastern part of the state to be more precise) gleaned from my limited experience soaking up the sunny life.

+ The weather is usually a lot warmer than the northern states during the winter.
-  The weather is hot, humid, muggy and miserable most of the year.

+ The land is flat, making walking, cycling, and other physical activities doable and even enjoyable.
- The land is flat and boring. It is too hot and muggy to take advantage of the long, straight, flat paths and roads much of the year. The biggest hills are bridges over highways and waterways.

+ The climate is conducive to golf, tennis, and other outdoor sports.
- Sports enthusiasts must get out on the golf course or wherever very, very early so games can finish before the stifling heat makes playing not much fun.

+ There are a lot of beautiful ocean and intracoastal waterways, great for boating and swimming.
- Most of us cannot afford life on the ocean or intracoastal waterways and it is too hot several months of the year for boating or swimming outdoors for any length of time.

+ A lot of transplanted Floridians live in gated communities, providing a sense of safety, security, and exclusivity.
 - Visitors find gated entrances annoying. Bad things happen in gated communities, too.

+ Wide straight roads, often three or four lanes in each direction, make learning an area and driving around easy.
- Wide, straight roads have lights lasting several minutes. Rarely will a driver make a light unless hitting the accelerator to get through a yellow light.

+ There are numerous choices for retirees and baby boomers seeking a first or second home.
- Old people are everywhere. I, a 63-year-old, feel really young around the geezers. Some people might consider that a positive aspect of life in the Sunshine state.

+ Housing prices range from the amazingly cheap to the stunningly over-the-top expensive.
- Lured by low prices, especially since the Great Recession, buyers may be disappointed to find their dream home and community above their price range.

+ Restaurant lunch deals and early bird specials abound. (For the uninitiated, early bird specials are dinner deals offered between - times vary - 4:00 and 6:00 p.m.)
- Sometimes we want places other than ice cream establishments open late.

+ The climate allows for light and limited clothing.
- The lack of clothing allows for every body defect and aged skin to show in all its tanned glory.

+ Taxes are low.
No negatives to low taxes, as long as you are satisfied with sometimes limited public services and less-than-excellent schools.

+ A common topic of conversation is the awful weather up north.
-  A common topic of conversation is the awful weather up north.

+ Although the official unemployment rate may be high, for those seeking some kind of part-time employment choices are available.
- Patience is often required with the large number of seniors working in grocery stores, restaurants and other retail establishments. Patience is not a trait Northerners are known for. Extended stay vacationers and new residents should reduce their frenzied Northern lifestyle and enjoy the slower pace. Maybe this should be a positive aspect of living the Florida life.

+ Summarizing Florida - The sun shines a lot, there is no need for heavy clothing and boots unless an individual wants to be fashionably in season, there are young folks but seniors rock, traffic can be horrific during the in-season (otherwise known as winter), and sunscreen is a must.
- A lot of time is spent indoors in air conditioned shelters.

I forgot to mention critters besides the ones seen in zoos or sunning themselves in ponds (alligators find the way to these waters via underground pipes). Many of the ponds are water management pools otherwise called lakes by real estate companies.  Bugs, insects and other creatures are: rare, annoying, everywhere - choose one, but if you are here long enough all three circumstances will be encountered.

I leave the state Saturday.


  1. I'm heading to Florida in early February, to visit my sister. All the things you list, plus and minus, I've observed in Zephyrhills where she lives. She is actually least happy when the snowbirds are everywhere in evidence, with long lines and impatient people the norm. In the summer, it's hot but very much nicer to live there, she says. I don't visit her in the summertime, though. :-)

  2. Yes, that pretty much sums it all up! I don't fancy ever spending another full winter in VT, but it is a nice place to be in the summer. I have actually been in Florida in the summertime and it is the humidity that gets to me. That and having to do stuff in the early morning.

  3. Our recent week in Sarasota, FL (the 10th most exciting small city in the U.S., according to one study) convinced us that we made the right choice in moving to Lancaster, PA (the 4th most exciting small city, according to the same study). Gated communities, private beaches, and the need to get into a car to reach anywhere that doesn't look exactly like your own block? We'll bundle up and deal with winter, thanks.

  4. My youngest child was born in Florida, where I lived for three years in the 1960s. Do you know what it feels like to go through a pregnancy in a FL summer without air conditioning? I do. Dianne