« Nokia PureView | Main | The Real Photographer Has Now Died »

Thursday, 08 March 2012


Can't give you any info on FL but I would like to add that I made a similar decision 5 years ago and moved to the Austin, TX area. Don't miss the ice and snow at all. Here it is March 8 and I'm in shorts and tee shirt. The grass is getting green, bees are buzzing, flowers blooming and the leaves are returning to the trees (after a whopping 2 1/2 months absence.) Do it Mike.

Hi Mike.
Are you dead-set on the Florida panhandle or can other states vie to host the TOP world headquarters?
What are your requirements?

Why the panhandle? I live on the Atlantic side and this is the real Florida—with soul. Its not really the retirement home that most people think it is.

If you want to settle here and are not familiar with true state, spend some time here first. Check out different areas unless you have some unknown preference for that area.

Many like the Gulf side of Florida, especially Mid-Westerners who've visited via I-75. It's Winters, though, are somewhat colder than the Atlantic side, hotter in Summer; and alot of hurricanes have made landfall in that area.


My sister has lived in the Panhandle area for several decades and IMO you do not want to live there.

Take a vacation down there in mid summer to discover heat and humidity. Also just remember that the Panhandle is known as 'The Redneck Rivera' or South Alabama. Be prepared for culture shock.

In the summer tourist traffic is really awful. Miramar Beach is a great beach getaway in the fall but after 2 days of living in a urbanized retirement community you might go nuts if you don't golf, tennis or love to dine and shop.

You might also consider Florala, AL. A very neat rural community on the FL/AL border. Very definitely rural and very small town.

But if you do move to the FL Panhandle consider the Pensacola area. But the summers are brutal and you may want to keep a small summer home in Wisconsin.

There are some neat communities in the Panhandle but you may wish to consider the Cedar Keys area which is much less developed and doesn't look like a continuous shopping mall.

Florida: God's waiting room...

I'd love to know what you find out as I have similar plans to relocate there, somewhere...
Your take would be valuable.

Will Mike, my family and I left the North for a life in Florida about ten years ago. I live in the central part of the state--between Orlando and Tampa. I'd be happy to discuss the good and the not so good anytime. You know how to reach me.

I grew up and worked in the Panhandle over a 40 year span before my job moved me. Great place to live. No metropolitan areas but the weather is mild and if you love the beach or boating...it is heaven.

The Florida Panhandle is one of the most under appreciated jewels of the state. Do yourself a favor and get a quick vacation there in April/May. Just glorious. I live in Northeast Fl (Jacksonville) and often travel to the panhandle to get away. It's all there. If you want high energy beach towns and loud parties or if you want sleepy little getaways. All that's really lacking is proximity to a "Major" city. I see that as a feature and not a bug. It's where I intend to retire in about 15 years... at least if I have any money left :-/

Yes, I do.

Prices are a bargin right now.

Wildlife, people, remote from most hurricanes if you are 5-10 miles from coast.

No winter.

Drop me a line.

I hear houses are going for cheap right now in that area. One thing I know for sure is you would HATE Miami; I would define that city as "the opposite of Mike Johnston".

As for Z(X)ander, he's probably thinking Geez dad, I only just graduated and you're thinking of leaving me already?

Read some Carl Hiaasen novels. They will tell you what you need to know about life in Florida.

Why wait? Your occupation can be done anywhere. You might as well live where you want.

I'm your age. Three years ago, I moved to the area I want to retire in. I'm still working as hard as ever, but I'm in the place I want to be. (The area could be described as "the opposite of Florida")

Take a look at South Walton County, FL on the beach. We live in Gainesville, FL but we like to visit Seacrest and Rosemary Beach, FL. Much less busy than Destin.

Hi Mike,
I live outside Tampa, well south of Pensacola, and I'll tell you, spring fever is capable of making anyone long for the South. Right now, the weather is good to great and will be for the next 6 to 10 weeks. Then it will be a humid and bug infested inferno until about October. I marvel that people lived here before A/C was commonplace. I'm not trying to dissuade you, just trying to inject a little reality. I know our tourism board advertises up there during the long cold months and it has an effect. I guess when you're old and your circulation goes south,(I couldn't resist)maybe the heat is easier to tolerate. Early spring and late fall are the best times of year here if you like to be outdoors, although this year's mild winter made the whole season pretty good for the outdoors. I expect others will chime in as well. Especially the off topic police. :)
Jim A.

The weathers great, the beer's cheap, and it's full of widows.

Strictly as a tourist, I find the panhandle part of Florida wonderful. We've done some spring break trips, usually to the Apalachee Bay area, east of Pensacola, but the panhandle still retains some of the "Old Florida" feel; especially a little off the beaten track. The only problem I can see is having to learn a new "Language". 8-) Good luck with this; it's the only part of Florida I would consider moving to.


Mike - It is a big change. It is hot! I would suggest something more moderate like rent a place for the winter before you take the big leap. In fact why a buy a second place at all? Spend your golden years being a sequential mover in winter. But come home for the nice summers.

Come down to San Diego. 75 Deg. and sunny EVERY day ;-) And, you don't have to worry about hurricanes and mosquitoes.

You might want to factor in some post-Peak Oil considerations when you make a decision.

Florida is BORING and stodgy go visit your Bud in San Francisco. west coast is much more pleasant and artsy

wrong coast, mike. california is the place ya oughta be, so load up that truck and move to beverley ....

Oh, yuck. I have been to Florida. Why would you want to move there? For a man of your discerning nature, I think it would be a trauma. But, I do understand the "long winters" problem. But even this cannot make me consider moving south, anywhere south actually. And Montana is hardly a liberal haven. Hardly.

Hi Mike,

Ah, no you can't, not at least until I do. Will keep you posted.


I love Pensacola Fla. I went to photography school there when I was in the U.S. NAVY. I found it to be a nice, open and friendly town. Good schools,tennis courts,cool bars"I was 21". My only negative comment is that there are to many RR tracks, I don't like to cross tracks on a bicycle. I have been back many times and I have not changed my opinion.

I'm from Illinois, but my mother-in-law used to live in Pensacola and we'd visit there a few times a year. My impression was that they only have two seasons - too hot, and too wet. I don't recall ever enjoying the weather there.

During our travels more recently, we've found that we much prefer the weather in Phoenix. Yes, it's hot in the summer (and spring and fall) but it's a dry heat and not nearly as oppressive as Florida's one-two punch of heat and humidity. Of course, Arizona is all beach and no ocean, so if you're seeking liquid water, it's not the best place.

Another place you might consider is St. George in the southwest corner of Utah. It offers mild climates, no bugs, great scenery (it's just outside of Zion National Park) and it's just a short drive from Las Vegas.

Aw, heck Mike, why don't you move to Oriental, NC. Let all the other lemmings go to Florida. Get a 15k sailboat, park it in the harbor and live onboard. Fly down to Florida January and Feburary. Rest of the time it's better climate in NC on the coast. Plus there are 15,000 people in that county as compared to probably 15 million wherever you go in Fla.
Just saying......

Here's a start: http://goo.gl/NWKHr

Been there. Gone from Wisconsin to Utah 2 months each year. Recommend reds, oranges and blues as a superior pallette to the colorless winter Wisconsin landscape,

Hello MIke,

Ah, Florida.

Don't know about the area you're looking at, but on the east coast of Florida, it's a buyer's market at the present time. Two familly members have each bought a condo at defleated prices (Delray Beach) just before last Christmas while my neighbour bought his last summer in Pompano.

Seems people from Europe are also buying into the defleated Florida housing market at this time.

If housing prices held up in your area recently, now might be the time to have a closer look in Florida.

you know Mike, it's an urban myth that you have to move to Florida when you get to be a certain age.

Mike --

In my callow youth i was in the U of Chicago Phd Economics program (which i didn't finish; whole story there). I clearly recall a mantra: "value advice at its price to you." Ahem. This advice is free . . .

I spend a fair amount of time on the FL panhandle. (Why? Well i will be speaking for 45 minutes later this month at a conference on "Precision Munitions.") Believe me, i have thought about it, and here are my thoughts:

1) Can you -- seriously -- emotionally handle the prospect of losing your home? If not, make your housing choices accordingly. There is world of difference between being on the coast and, say, 8 miles inland. Ah . . . Katrina indicates that you might wanna make that 38 or 68 miles . . .

2) Do you really, truly, need to be in Florida? There are some big implications of doing so from, for example, an insurance point of view. Essentially, every homeowner in FL subsidizes those that live on Key West; i could hold a seminar on why that is true. To me, Missippi is 90% of the attributes, without a large fraction of the burdens.

3) What kind of world to you like to live in? One in which 70% of your neighbors are retired under better circumstances than yours . . . or worse; actually they are a load either way. There is an artificiality to the age demographics of much of Florida that makes living there a particular distortion of reality. Much of the state is bipolar: heavily weighted to the under-30s and over-60s. I find that part -- um -- synthetic: few families in middle age (tourists aside).

Best of luck. There are no perfect choices.

Well, except for the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

-- gary ray

Well, if you are very adventuresome perhaps you might want to check out where I live:




Come on Down!
(And bring plenty of Deet.)

Start, by practicing leaving your turn signal on.


I live near Ft Myers on the SW Gulf Coast, so I'm a little biased. My wife and I moved here full-time in July 2008 and have never looked back. Our only regret moving here, is that we waited so long to come.

Not to say there's anything wrong with the Panhandle or Pensacola, but it can get fairly chilly up there.

Feel free to contact me anytime.

Thanks, but I think Cedar Key is too rich for my blood! (Never understood that expression...perhaps I shouldn't use it....)


Back in the 70's, after grad school and a few working years in Madison, I decided to leave for good when it hit 64 below (with wind chill) one day. I moved to Maryland, my birth state, the following Spring, despite my not so fond memories of the Summer humidity.

Well, the Florida coast, including the Pensacola area, is even more humid, and has lots more rain. With the climate across the country becoming increasingly extreme, I would certainly not relish living on a hurricane prone coast. And while warmth throughout the year has more appeal with age, some seasonality still has appeal for me.

Another consideration for me would be small town feel, but still having access to bigger city culture. I'm not sure that area would qualify.

These things are of course quite personal, and I can only offer a personal perspective having traveled to Florida, but not having lived there. Somehow I didn't envision you as a Floridian. But, since I am an aging Jew, I certainly know a lot of folks who share your aspirations!

Mike, I lived in Tallahassee for two years and in Miami for four. My wife grew up in Sarasota. Our oldest son lived in Panama City for four or five years, and we've spent a lot of time in various parts of the state.

I definitely would not recommend the panhandle. We saw two degrees below zero in Tallahassee in the winter of 1965-66, and the summers are hot, hot, hot, and humid.

We moved out of Florida some years ago, but talk about moving back someday. I like the area from Sarasota south to Ft. Myers, but it is pretty crowded. Many parts of the east coast are much less crowded than you would imagine. If we do move back, we would probably settle in the Hobe Sound area on the mid-lower east coast.

And who are you going to cheer for? Dolphins,Bucs, or Jaguars.

If you are driving down for a look, please consider stopping off along I-75 to stay a night (or longer) in historic and photogenic Macon, Georgia. My wife -- the formidable chef de cuisine Dr. Pratt -- and I will feed and water you. We're about six hours from the Panhandle, so it makes a nice drive from here.

I once assisted a photographer on a series of shoots in that part of Florida and every time the heat or the humidity or the humanity got really awful he'd say "At least it's not Houston", but I didn't think it could be much worse.
A year later we did a shoot in Houston and it turned out he was right.

Mike, I lived in Central Florida for all of the 1980s (Daytona Beach and Orlando). I also visit the Orlando area every year in order to see our daughter and grandchildren.

And I do not mean to put the state down when I say the Sunshine State isn't for me. A lot of it is the heat and unrelenting humidity (which becomes dampness on winter nights - you won't belive how cold 40 degrees can feel). Some of it is the culture - although I had lots of friends there and had a number of important career opportunities.

But that doesn't mean you won't like it. I'm from the Northeast. But many friends and colleagues from the Upper Midwest defined quality of life as the absence of cold. Therefore, Florida was God's Country to them.

Florida is essentially three states: Northern Florida, which is occpuied Georgia and Alabama. Central Florida, which is a mixture of natives and displaced Midwesterners. And South Florida, which is divided between natives, relocated retirees (in the Miami area, they're mostly from the New York City area) and Cuban-Americans. It can be very interesting.

As others have posted, home insurance can be prohibitive because you're subsidizing those who live near the coasts (and deductibles are a percentage of your home's assessed value, not a fixed figure). Primary education can also be spotty in places.

But the Panhandle has its charms and can be downright cheap by Northern standards if you don't have to live near the Gulf (which might be a good idea anyway).

I advise you to go down and visit - don't ever move anywhere without visiting first. You might also want to consider buying a small bungalow or even a 15-year-old mobile home (you'd be suprised how cheap perfectly serviceable and reasonably attractive units can go for) and live there only during the winter.

Whatever you do, plan carefully and good luck!

This ex-Minnesotan spent fifteen Christmases in Pompano, and, well, I kinda liked it.

Recently I spent a week at Thanksgiving in the Panhandle, Miramar Beach/Destin. My California wife remarked they've got the prettiest sand beach she's ever seen, sand like fine flour. Unspoiled (BP be damned), gorgeous.

However, everything else up from the high-water mark -- the endless strip mall drive from Pensacola, the constant shop-here landscape of beige Dryvit boxes, the lack of "there" there, the wannabe Margaritaville clam fry shacks, the badly-built yet tremendously expensive beach homes with their cold tile floors and Ernest-Hemmingway-was-here decor ... well, I'd be concerned you'd really need to get in good with a sophisticated/authentic native or three who could show you the way to real old Florida, and not the ubiquitous, scenographic, suburban-sprawl one.

I know I'd like a copy of that map.

You've heard a nice range on opinions. I just want to emphasize, be sure to spend some time there during the summer heat and humidity before making any comitments. I now have several retired friends who have left the state because they could not adapt to the climate. It can be a rather expensive mistake.

Think outside the box, other side of the gulf is where you should be. Come to Merida where it's sunny, safer than Florida and costs a lot less!

Spent a year in the Tampa area in the early eighties. Way too humid year around. Would not recommend it.

Mike, some advice from an old geography teacher of mine: the closer you live to the equator, the higher altitude you want to be. That way the humidity is less and the nights are cooler for sleeping.
Australia has a Florida, it's called the Gold Coast. Stinking hot and humid in summer - you become a prisoner of the aircon. A great place to visit in winter, spring and autumn.

My parents winter in fort Meyers and love it. Personally, I''be told my wife that I-25 is the eastern limit of my range now, so she better think Cali.

I grew up in Gainesville- a great place to grow up b/c of the university mainly. But I left for college in CA and never looked back. Still, I do miss the huge skies with its tall tall cumulous clouds, and the purple raging apocalyptic thunderstorms; only to end a few hours later by oyster like lightning with rolling thunder in the distance. Here on the Left Coast lightning's all too rare, and despite the water and mountains of the SF Bay, the sky is surprisingly small. FL beauty is subtle; the spanish moss lazily hanging off the live oaks that line a dirt road, the scores of spring-fed creeks and rivers. Growing up there I never understood geographical terms like mountain passes, peaks, and ridges, for there are none.

I never understood why snow birds came down for our cold winters till I moved to Pittsburgh for a few years.

One thing tho'. If you live there, you need to live on the water somewhere, and need to be able to get into it, like 5 times a day. The summers are tropical, and the way FL works is AC. Which always gave me headaches as a kid- changing from 87F/95%RH to 68F/15%RH does terrible things do your sinuses.

We live in Bethlehem, PA and compared to Minnesota weather... need I say more. We're an hour and fifteen to the Lincoln Tunnel which makes it a short hop for a day in the city visiting AIPAD, MOMA or ICP which we do frequently. Did I mention BH. Almost forgot to mention Broadway and Katz's Deli. We're also the same distance to Philadelphia. The closest beach is about an hour and a half and decent skiing is a half hour away.

Gas the car and lay in some Doritos and your in Vermont, DC or the Coast of Maine.

We have great music, good food and we're the home of Olympus USA.

What else could you want?

My buddy from Minneapolis thinks that Eastern PA is tropical.

End of speech.

Love to have you.

Florida?? After reading TOP for so long I feel like I know you. You never struck me as a Florida kind of guy. I picture you better wintering in California or New Mexico -- maybe even Arizona. Please elaborate on why you feel the Florida panhandle would make a good home.

I'd go for the Gulf coast side...Tampa, St. John's Pass, etc. Been to Pensacola several times, just wasn't impressed with the town itself, perhaps the surrounding area is better? Life's a little slower on the Gulf side (but a good slow, not boring) and there's always that possibility of very bad weather...but the Pensacola, Ft. Worth area can really get slammed (and has in the last 15 years or so) with hurricanes.

So how's that darkroom project coming along?

One problem with moving to Florida is that there are no volcanos. Without a volcano to hollow out, TOP could not have the World Headquarters it deserves.

You could have minions. You could have an evil plan. You could get a really nice chair to sit in while you stroke your dog. : ]

Try Mobile, AL over Pensacola. Never understood the appeal of P'cola unless you were in the Navy.

But none of these suggestions really hit the mark. Your destiny, young man, lies in Magnolia Springs, AL. Southern Charm, plenty of quirkiness, the last water delivery mail route in the U.S. and they make their own cheese just down the road in Elberta!

I live in the Tampa Bay area. The summer heat and humidity is not really any worse than the other Southern states I have lived. Being near the ocean to cool off and take in the fresh breeze more than makes up for the heat. The "winter" is wonderful.

There is a good reason so many people retire to this area after living elsewhere.

Since you spent years in Washington DC, you surely understand humidity and hot summers. Therefore the panhandle humidity warnings shouldn't bother you. My parents chose a warmer state but higher altitude and moved to Clemson SC. The biggest advantage for them was a college town environment. You get more acceptance of new people, a better mix of ages and attitudes. Austin TX would work too. Next comment you are going to have to explain why you said the panhandle to help us give you more guidance. Regarding my parents' decision, they sold their house, put their stuff in storage, and visited many places over six months before they decided on where to stop. Smart plan.

I moved from the Philadelphia to Tampa and more recently to Sarasota. Yes it is hot in the summer but is a beautiful place to live with more culture than should exist in a town this size. I have never regretted the move for a QoL perspective. The sky is blue, its sunny most of the year but we do have hurricanes that usually miss the greater Tampa, St Petersburgh, Sarasota area. I believe that last major landfall here was in the 50s. A fantastic place to live.

You're going to think this is nuts, but I don't think retiring to someplace that you need a car makes any sense at all. It is only in cities served by public transportation that . . . Ahh, nevermind.

I will echo the sentiments of an earlier post:

"Take a vacation down there in mid summer to discover heat and humidity." Plan on being their long enough to get a good indicator of what you can tolerate.

Consider it fair warning. If don't think that you can handle the humidity, it might not be to your liking.

Mike, I lived in Waukesha retiring in 1994. I took 11 years of travelling to decide where to move to. My recommendation is to spend at least a couple weeks during Winter and also Summer in a place you think you would like to live. It is also helpful to check out the local newspaper online.

The ultimate is to go south in the Winter and north in the Summer. I didn't feel I wanted to afford that option.

I moved to Montrose, CO early 2005. I found that I liked the dry climate and few if any violent storms. Plus, mountains, canyons and desert aren't far.

It is fun looking and thinking about where you would like to be.

Good luck.


Remember the further North you go in Florida, the more Southern it becomes. That's good if you're from somewhere like TX, as I am

Yup, wrong coast Mike you need to move to California or Arizona. Forget Florida too humid and too many bugs. No humidity and spectacular photography opportunities!

Mike, you are thinking too narrowly. Think about retiring to England. We have some of the best rain in the world, and the skies are 18% Kodak grey. And we speak and spell properly.


Seriously, best wishes in your choices. My Canadian cousin and her husband split their year between a summer lakeside home somewhere quite remote in Ontario, and a winter apartment somewhere to the north of Tampa. I think there is a US phrase for that of "snowbirds".

I'd move to France, Italy or Spain instead of settling down in some American tropical and/or geriatric hick town.

Ignoring the desirability of mosquitoes, humidity, and hurricanes, I'd ask whether you are prepared to live in the bible belt.
I grew up in mildly-religious Austin and as soon as I was of age I escaped. I'd rather live among the heathens of the east or west coasts.

Hi Mike...your Irish fan club have met over a couple of pints, we've debated long and hard, we've considered every nook and cranny and decided that you should retire to Galway. Just one thing... you might want to get a hard top for the Miata..!

"your Irish fan club have met over a couple of pints, we've debated long and hard, we've considered every nook and cranny and decided that you should retire to Galway."

Galway is one of the few places in the world I am actually familiar with--I spent a pleasant three weeks there in 1979. (I was supposed to meet a girl there, and she backed out at the last minute. Long story....)

As a bonus, there are lots of Johnstons in Kinvara!

It's not a bad suggestion, not bad at all.


Hi Mike, I have lived in Cedar Key since the early 80's - and really like it. Have returned here after a few stints in Tallahassee now and then. I moved here because it was warm and cheap. Well, housing prices are not what they were in the late 70's - that is for sure.
You have received some good advice in the posts above. Unless you are very familiar with, and comfortable during the brutally hot summers, be sure and come down here during August sometime for a few weeks. Also the hurricane thing, and the culture thing are something to really, really pay attention to.
Rather than the Pensacola area, I would really recommend taking a look at Tallahassee. Two universities and state government make this a rather nice and interesting town.

Where are people happy? My daughter was telling me Holland, according to a documentary. Seriously, I'd put community over weather, even though when we took our one and only vacation to Hawaii it felt like two weeks of absolute heaven. In fact, that's where you should move. Find a little hut on the dry side of the big island and walk around in flip flops, making blog posts while a gentle, perfect humidity breeze tickles your toes and you sip on a cup from those fresh Kona beans you bought at the farmer's market. You wouldn't even have to tell us. How would we know?

I find that people, including me, really love where they spend their vacation. It's always interesting, full of nice people, hardly any dishes to wash, etc. My advice, go on vacation all the time, never stay longer than 2-3 weeks in one spot.

Mike, I live in Ashland, Virginia, about 20 minutes from Richmond, which has all the amenities one could want. Ashland is more like Mayberry, so it's a nice retreat from Richmond city life. We are 2 hours from D.C., 2 hours from the ocean, and 2 hours from the mountains and Shenandoah valley. We have temperate winters, pleasant summers save for a couple of weeks, and marked changes of seasons. My wife and I talk about moving after our retirement but can't think of any place that meets all these criteria, so we'll stay put. I'd love to show you around.

Checking in late because I've been out of town...
I like Florida, but forget it. I've just spent a week in Arizona. Much better scenery and an interesting mix of cultures.

Dear John Krumm,

Unfortunately, Paula and I are like you. We've seriously considered moving to Hawai'i. At its tourist-center worst, it's no more expensive than the SF Bay Area. Most of it is a LOT cheaper (20 minutes outside of Hilo, you're looking at Midwest prices). We love the climate at the higher elevations, the scenery, the geology. We could buy a house there and RETIRE there, right now, on our savings and equity.

One small problem. We don't know a blessed soul. We don't make friends that easily (I have tons, but I've had 45 years to acquire them). It's people, damn them, that keep us tied to North America. And even there seriously restrict where we could consider moving.

pax / Ctein

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007