My husband and I were both high school teachers in Pennsylvania. We retired and moved down here 10 years ago. We decided we wanted to get warm! They say everybody is running away from something; well, we ran from the cold!
In 2003, my husband, a wrestling coach, was “summoned” to Key West to help them with a wrestling tournament they were having. For some reason, one of the coaches wasn’t able to complete the tournament. (My husband is in the national high school wrestling hall of fame for coaching.) The assistant superintendent of schools knew us, so she asked him to come down and bail them out. It was our first time in the Keys, and both of us fell in love with Key West. It was January, and I remember saying, “You mean people live in this warm weather, this time of year?” I really had no concept, being from Pennsylvania. We had snow and ice in January. As a matter of fact, I had missed my flight due to an ice storm hitting right before we left home.
The next summer we brought our daughter down and we all vacationed in Key West. Then, a friend of ours from Pennsylvania who is now a boat captain in Islamorada, suggested that my husband come down and go fishing with him. So, we all came down and we just absolutely fell in love with Islamorada. My husband came down again in the fall and bought a house! He came home and said, “Honey, I bought a house.” I said, “That’s it then, I’m retiring!” I had planned to teach another four years, but as soon as he said he bought a house in Islamorada, I knew that was it.
We started out as snow birds. We had a five year plan. The first year we stayed a few months, the next year a little longer, until finally by the third year we looked at each other and said, “What are we doing? Let’s make up our minds. Where do we want to live?” We decided this was where we wanted to live.
We are very social and it was important to us to have a sense of community. Being school teachers, we had that back home, but we weren’t sure we would have that down here because it’s a vacation destination. It was great to vacation, but we weren’t sure about living here. But, I absolutely loved it! We both got involved with the fitness center at Mariners and met some great people. I volunteer for Marvelous Pet Rescues. I got involved with all kinds of activities and met a lot of wonderful people and we decided we were staying. It is a wonderful small town. We are in our forever home! If we eventually have to put in an elevator to get upstairs, then so be it.
I have three children and 5 grandchildren. They are all within 10 miles of each other up in PA. The grand-kids are all involved in athletics, so we go up 3 or 4 times a year to watch them do their sports. And, they come down to visit at least once a year. Our kids had a hard time adjusting to our move at first. They were not happy, and said we were “running away.” We have convinced them that we spent all our time and energy raising them, making sure that all of our attention went to them, and now it’s our time. They have come around and seem to understand now. I think maybe they were just jealous!
When I first came down here, being newly retired, I wasn’t sure how I would accept that because I’m a doer, I’m always moving. For the first couple of years I worked a few different part time jobs. I’m a photographer, so I also did some wedding photography. Then I walked into the Rain Barrel one day and I saw this artist (Stephanie Martin) making glass jewelry at Seaside Glassworks. I was fascinated and I told her I wanted to work for her. She hired me and I worked with her for 4 ½ years. I just stopped working about six months ago. I had foot surgery and needed some time off. Now I’m not sure if I’m going back to work. I’m not bored yet! She has asked me to come back and I love making the fused glass. I was a high school art teacher and had worked with stained glass, but never fused glass. It’s fun. But, I have enjoyed having more free time, and getting to play. We’ll see what happens.
I believe in staying active. Keep moving. Use it or lose it. You just have to keep moving. Every morning I wake up and watch the sunrise. It’s magical. I post a photo of a flower every morning on Facebook, and say good morning to my friends and family. Everyone seems to enjoy it. The ones up north say it helps get them through a day of nasty weather. I bought a t-shirt at the nautical flea market that says “My life is better than your vacation,” and it’s true! We have found our place here. There is a spiritual connection here to the water, to the light. Light is so important to a photographer, and the light quality down here is so clear.
For anyone wanting to move down here, I would say save your money, you’re going to need it. It’s expensive to live here. But, just do it. You’ll find your way. You have to take a chance to be happy sometimes. We love it here, and we are staying. It’s a good place to be.