Armadillos in Paradise

We did take a brief sojourn to Washington DC which we also loved for many reasons, but after few years we missed home so we packed up and came back. We’re both glad we did, as we have family in Oklahoma and Texas and we’ve loved being closer to them for the last decade. But…we’ve started to think about where two Texans might want to retire, eventually, and we’d like to move early enough to get settled and make new friends (I’m 50 and he’s 45). Of course, we could stay put and be pretty happy, but we do like adventure.

So, we started looking around. One thing we both more or less agreed on is, we want to go where we can hang up our coats for good (we’ll keep one on hand in case we want to travel to the cold…but not sure we will). And we love the ocean. I’d prefer to live out in the middle of nowhere but that’s not practical for two consultants who still need to be near a major airport. And he wants to be in a walkable town.

So, with those parameters, we set out to research options. Well, I did anyway. I research when I’m bored or in need of a break. I looked into Mexico, and as nice as it seems, we’re just not ready to leave the US, plus it’s not practical as long as we are still traveling for work. Next we checked out the Texas coast, and we DO love it there. It’s so laid back, lots of great food, and it’s still our beloved Texas. BUT, the water is…brown. Well, to be fair, it’s not always brown, sometimes it’s a nice green color, but it’s not ever going to be featured on the cover of Tropical Paradise magazine. It’s still in the running, because it’s hard to beat Texas (or so we say), but still, I want white sand and blue water. I also want a change.

We looked into the Gulf Shores region, but lack of a major airport is a drawback. I did like the “country” feel though, it was like being back home in Oklahoma. Being liberals, though, that has some drawbacks…but it’s not like Texas has been a progressive haven, so we’re kinda used to that aspect. We thought about the Atlantic Coast, because I love N. Carolina and maybe even S. Carolina, and St. Augustine, FL sounds amazing, but…we really like our water as calm, warm and blue as we can get it. And the Atlantic doesn’t always cooperate. I will say some of the island communities on the Atlantic sound pretty wonderful but for now, we are sticking with the Gulf.

So, that pretty much leaves Florida, somewhere near a big airport. If we stick to the Gulf Coast, that pretty much leaves Tampa. So, bingo! We have our starting point. Once we narrowed it down to the Tampa region, a little town called Dunedin really started to stand out. It’s quaint, it’s highly walkable (checkmark for Jim’s list), it’s near some of the most beautiful beaches in the US (Honeymoon Island for one). It’s close to the Tampa airport and in a pinch, it’s not crazy far from Orlando’s airport. The housing looks pretty affordable, compared to Dallas, and it has three major advantages we liked: it has a Scottish heritage and festivals (I LOVES me some Scottish everything); it has four (count them, four) breweries including the oldest one in Florida (my craft beer-loving husband almost swooned over that one), and it has a huge city park with OWLS in it. Yes, I said owls. Who doesn’t want to see owls on their nightly ramble around the old city park? I’m in, anyway. Oh, and you can drive golf carts around town (that was another must-have for us) and it has a huge walking and biking trail running right through it (Pinellas). So, for now, it’s top of our list.

We head out for a week in Dunedin soon to check it out. We’re staying in an adorable little Airbnb that is somewhere between a farmhouse, craftsman, bungalow style. We’ll also check out some other cities we hear are quite nice, like Bradenton, maybe even up to Tarpon Springs. We’ll let you know how it goes!

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