Goodbye Winter Home

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One snowbird’s thoughts upon leaving the community where she spent the past two winters

Like many other snowbirds, my husband and I are now on our way home to Canada after spending five months of the winter in Arizona, where we rented a home in a 55+ community. Although many residents of that community are permanent, year-round Arizona residents, it was mostly other snowbirds we met in the various activities we participated in.

From mid-March onward, conversations with other snowbirds tend to include questions about when you plan on leaving and returning home. Departures occur from late March through late April.

Many clubs and activities hold wind-up events. One morning at the end of March, two women in my early-morning water aerobics class brought mimosa for us to sip on in the hot tub after class, before the group began to thin out (in numbers as people head home, not loss of weight).

People develop friendships in the 55+ communities, especially after spending several winters together. Some groups make plans to meet up in the summer.

As snowbirds begin to disperse, they wish each other safe travels and say “Goodbye” and “See you next year.” But, in our case, we may not see any of them next year. We don’t know if we will be back. This is the second winter we’ve rented the house. It is up for sale and not available for rent next year. We have not yet made any other plans for next winter.

It feels strange to have left the community and think we may never see these people again. I enjoyed my conversations in the hot tub after water aerobics. My husband got to know a group of men he regularly played pool with. We attended Friday happy hours and other events with these people.

There is a part of me that wants to do more travelling from place to place next winter and go further afield. Another part thinks returning to the same 55+ community would be a welcome relief and feel like returning home.

There was a time when I thought returning to the same place year after year would be boring. And that life within a 55+ community would be insular. It can be insular if one chooses, but one can also choose to explore beyond the gated walls. I am beginning to understand the appeal of returning year after year to the same community. Think back to your most memorable or pleasant vacation experiences. Often it was the people you met or travelled with that made the difference.

Whether we wind up back at the same community or not and whether we ever see these people again or not, it’s been great being part of the community for the past two winters and knowing the people for the time we did.

The great differences between voyages rests not with the ships, but with the people you meet on them. ∼Amelia E. Barr

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  1. I know this must be a difficult decision. I used to think that I’d be bored if I chose to reside in the same community year after year. But the older I get, the more value I see in it. Hope this summer back home in Canada is a good one. It will allow you all plenty of time to make decision:)

    1. Jacquie, isn’t it funny how our perspectives and preferences change over time? Good reminder to “never say never”.

  2. My parents lived in a community in Florida like that, but most everyone was there about 9 months out of the year. I remember my mother complaining at a certain point that everyone had already gone up north and nobody was around anymore. I think it would have been really sad for them if all of a sudden one of their friends wasn’t there. Having said that, everybody pretty much owned their homes, so it would have been a real surprise if they suddenly weren’t there. I guess you have to just check with your gut and see if you are up for a new adventure. If you are renting, the world is your oyster so you can explore anywhere you like if t suits you.

    1. Erica, I like thinking the world is my oyster, although logistics and finance may narrow that world. I’m content right now not having any plans in place for next winter.

  3. Isn’t it nice that you are leaving the community with such pleasant thoughts of the people and the time you spent there? That will remain, whether you return or not, I rather enjoyed the picture of all of you in the hot tub sipping mimosas – quite a contrast to Winnipeg where it has been brutally cold with piles of snow.
    Bet you loved every moment. Welcome back to Canada, by the way.

    1. Catarina, having the two different worlds has worked out very well for the past 3 years. I’ll find out what next year brings.

  4. I can tell by the way you wrote this piece that this is weighing on you Donna and there is some sadness. I do understand the benefits of returning to the same people with whom you have a relationship and like some of the others this is a perspective that came with a little bit of age. I hope you have a great summer back in Canada and remember the world will be there when next winter arrives. You can go to Arizona or you can go to, wherever. All the best.

  5. The same general sort of feeling used to pervade employees at Yellowstone when the season drew to an end. Some went back to college, but another faction set off for various parks to work the winter season in warmer climates. It was always a strange mix of sadness and anticipated and this post brings back those memories for me.

    1. Jeri, the feeling with Yellowstone employees as the season comes to an end does sound similar to my feelings leaving our winter home.

  6. We have a LOT of snowbirds that visit the Islands during the winter. The south shore of Maui has many condos and it’s not unusual to see Canadian flags hanging over a balcony. I’ve traveled extensively but never lived in any other place than wherever I happen to call home – for most of my life that’s been Maui – but I can certainly appreciate your feelings. Whatever you decide I have no doubt you and your husband will make the most of the experience.

    1. Thanks, I’m sure we will make the most of whatever experience comes our way, It is hard to say goodbye to people, though, when you don’t know if you’ll ever see them again,

  7. Awww…that’s kind of sad. It sounds a bit like Summer Camp : ) I agree with you Donna, I enjoy that, “at home feeling”, having my favorite people and hang-outs around me is grounding. But, I’ll miss the stories about Tucson 🙂 I hope you have a wonderful Summer back home in Canada! I have a feeling you’ll be on the road again in the fall.

    1. Pamela, I never went to summer camp, but I imagine there are some similarities to the feelings. I’m glad you enjoyed the Tucson posts. I have one more to come. And I do plan to visit Tucson again sometime. There is more I want to see and do there.

  8. It is definitely difficult to make a change, but you may be ready for a new adventure! Maybe you should pick another city and put your Winter roots down there next year! I loved your choice of quotes! “The great differences between voyages rests not with the ships, but with the people you meet on them”. ∼Amelia E. Barr

    1. Suzanne, it might be interesting to try winter roots in another city, although at the moment I’m leaning to covering a few places next winter. That is a great quote, isn’t it?

  9. Mimosas in the hot tub sounds like a lovely way to celebrate the end of a season! Best wishes for a great trip home!

  10. It’s great that you had two great years in the winter home. I bet it will evolve for the best. It’s hard to know ahead of time what you will want to do during the next winter. I guess I probably rely on serendipity too much but it works for me.

    1. Beth, I’m learning to rely a bit more on serendipity than carefully orchestrating everything. We will see how that turns out for next winter.

  11. Donna — it’s hard to leave friends, even if they are temporary snowbirds like you and your husband. I know when I’ve traveled in groups on vacation you bond over your shared experiences and promise to stay in touch but you move on, time passes, and you lose contact. I’m moving to Florida soon where there are many Canadian snow birds. You might think about that as your next destination.

    1. Jeannette, I have actually considered spending part of the winter in Florida, so we may wind up there one of these winters.

  12. I live in what is called the Snow Belt, off Lake Ontario in Upstate New York, I can understand you living in Arizona during the winter.
    It is sad when you leave somewhere you know you might never come back to. Spending 15 years in the military, that was the story of my life then. People I knew who were dear friends, I know I will never see again. But, that is the nature of what I did, I also knew the next step in my life, I would meet new friends and experience new adventures. Progress sometimes means we must leave things behind, but it always means new things to experience in the future.

    1. William, you are right about progress sometimes meaning leaving things behind. And there are new experiences and new friends. And sometimes, the friends you make stay friends even if separated by distance – that is truly special.

  13. Hopefully you will get a get chance to see those people again. It seems like you enjoyed their company in Arizona.

    1. Thanks Jason. Yes I enjoyed their company. But I am also happy to see my family and long-time friends back in Canada.

  14. Hi Donna. Although it’s bittersweet venturing back home to Canada, you definitely made the most of your time in Arizona! So many wonderful adventures shared and lots to look forward to no question.