Here Vs. There: A Candid Case Study

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Here Vs. There: A Candid Case Study

The Emotional Impact of Trading Proximity to Family for Full Time In Your Southern Community

If you've ever wondered what it might be like to live in your snowbird community full time, consider this case study of one mostly retired couple who relocated from Ohio to Florida. They've had three years to absorb and analyze the emotional impact of what it means to move away from friends and family. I recently spent a Sunday morning with my friend, Kaley, and we had a candid personal conversation about the challenges she has encountered by making her southern community her full time home base.

On the plus side, Kaley and her husband purchased what they considered to be a reasonably priced home with an inground pool in a mature residential area in the heart of downtown Destin, Florida. A pool in a southern climate makes sense because the weather will be warm or hot much more than the Northern climate. However, since that time housing prices have skyrocketed as has homeowner's insurance. She said it is about $6,000 per year for insurance largely due to being in a coastal area, but Kaley said so far property taxes have been relatively reasonable.

Kaley felt that having a pool would be a draw for their family to want to visit, especially her grandchildren. Yet Kaley quickly acknowledged her teen grands have a pool at their own home, although pool season is much shorter in Ohio. The gorgeous nearby white sandy beaches of the Emerald Coast don't exactly repel anyone either. There are many other attractions in the area for just about any age or ability. This is what is so appealing to tourists and full time residents alike.

Housing and the allure of pools and the beaches are just one factor of being based in your warm weather community. Kaley shared that she and her husband are seriously considering moving back to Ohio. Caught by surprise, I listened carefully.

Family and friends are hugely important and that is Kaley's biggest Achilles heel. Yes, it's typically not a problem to make an effort to get acquainted with new friends in any area and be happy with them, although it does take time to do that. Kaley didn't say, but I'm fairly certain it must be challenging to sustain meaningful friendships in a community where the majority of the population is comprised of transient tourists. Snowbird friends tend to come back every year, but then they are gone again right about the time you find your groove. There's a large gap of time in between. Close friends from home will typically visit once and they may or may not return.

Family is another thing. They obviously cannot be replicated or substituted. For many snowbirds, family and friends are two of the biggest reasons to remain in close geographical proximity. No one ages backwards and there's only so many resources be with family who live a significant distance away. Kaley has made many trips back to Ohio for various occasions, but no one can be there for every single gathering or life event. Grands are born and grow up quicker than anyone is ready. There's no price that can be established for time with family. Therefore, if either the parents or adult children move away no matter what the reason, there's pros and cons. Hence the conundrum.

Kaley researched the costs of moving back to their original home base in Central Ohio. Insurance is still reasonable because they would be land locked. However, housing and property taxes are expensive which means she and her husband would be trading lower insurance for high property taxes.

Another consideration is which one of their three adult children to be nearest? The children plus grands are located in three different cities and it would be at least a two hour drive each way if they chose to base near one of the three families.

Kaley and I both personally know of parents moving to the same city as their adult children only to be frustrated with the outcome. Kaley pointed out that her friends moved to Virginia to be near their children and grands. After a period of time the grands and their family were transferred and now the parents were in a location where they didn't have many friends and now they didn't have family either.

Another friend of Kaley's moved close to family and said they see their family and grands the same amount of time as before they moved there. Although grandparents realize teens are busy with school and their own friends and activities, it's not pleasant to miss out on a relationship with them, especially when they are in the same vicinity. Regarding the adult children, it's even less pleasant to feel your children are avoiding you after the effort made to relocate nearby. This is another subject entirely and one that is all too common.

Kaley and I didn't delve into the hurt feelings, resentment and emotional issues of moving to be closer to family only to find the significant life-changing gesture isn't exactly welcome, but that is the reality of making a huge change. If Kaley and her husband move back to Ohio, who's to say how much time they will actually have with their family? To be fair, when Kaley and her husband moved away from Ohio, their children and grands, it almost certainly had an emotional impact on the remaining family. 

Whether snowbirds stay with the status quo by splitting time between two homes or permanently relocate to their southern community, there's no easy answers. For those who aren't particularly close to their adult children, whose children don't live nearby, who don't have children/grands or whose core family is no longer surviving, there's still extended family, friends, neighbors, community and the long time roots connecting anyone to a particular place.

Ultimately, each situation is personal and unique. There's several wise adages to consider before making any major life changes: "The grass isn't always greener" and "Be careful of what you wish for" are two that come to mind. No matter what Kaley and her husband decide, there's always trade offs. I believe the best option is to consider what is best for each individual or each couple, not what is best for everyone else.     


"Stress is caused by being here and wanting to be there.”

-- Eckhart Tolle, German born spiritual teacher and self-help author


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