What could possibly motivate two people, who at mid-life are not so enthusiastic at the thought of a major life change, to leave a home they had known for 23 years for the relative outback of Florida? We had lived here before, right out of college, so we had an idea of what we were getting into, at least with the weather. We got married down here, and this is where we started our family. And then we gladly moved up North. We found the heat and mosquitos oppressive, the vegetation without beauty, and the lack of cultural opportunities uninspiring. Why then did we come back?
Well, first of all, we are not back where we were in the truest sense. Martin County, where we live now, is a different animal than Palm Beach County, the county to our south where we lived when we were starting out. After we left Palm Beach County in 1987, we continued to visit family in the area. We witnessed a dramatic change in the development of the county over the years, and each time we visited I repeated my vow never to live there again. Palm Beach County has become part of the greater concrete-and-asphalt whole of Southern Florida. Martin County has somehow managed to escape the tourism trappings and stay true to its Old Florida beginnings. We love our quaint little town of Stuart. How it can reside just 15 miles north of the county line and manage to retain such a delightfully different character astounds me. In my heart they are worlds apart.
Martin County may still have heat and mosquitos, but it has more green space per capita than any other county in the country. It takes pride in its unique habitats and promotes its natural beauty. What I once considered ugly scrub I now see as part of a thriving ecosystem. The vegetation may be unusual, but so are the amazing animals who rely on it for sustenance and shelter. There’s an environmental world out there just teeming with intrigue and wonder and waiting to be explored. I’ve explored museums, theaters, and galleries around the world, and continue to do so when I travel; at home I’m exploring my own backyard.
When I first visited and fell in love with Stuart four years ago, before I knew how close to retirement I actually was, I began to think for the first time about the possibility of retiring in Florida. Until then, Florida was to me where people go who have no better idea of what to do with their retirement years. It was the default. Somehow the mentality of “Well, I’m retired now. I guess it’s time to move to Florida.” escaped me. Then I met Stuart and realized it is very possible to choose to retire in Florida.
Okay, I won’t lie. It wasn’t the thrill of living in Stuart that caused us to move here and retire at the age of 53. We weren’t planning on retiring so young. But suddenly my husband found himself without a job, we needed to redefine our lives, and here we are. Although I had my doubts after the first year of living here, when the dust began to settle, as to whether or not we made the right choice, it began to dawn on me about six months ago that we had. I don’t look upon it as a particularly enlightened decision. In many ways it seems more like fortunate happenstance. But one thing I know for sure: everything that happened from the time my husband’s job was eliminated until now was meant to happen. I look back now on the life we were living before that fateful day and realize we are so fortunate to be here in this wonderful place. As my husband and I always say at times of severe bliss, and with a little fist-bump, “Coup fourré!”