Don is a Writer and a Storyteller. He has published over 9 books on varied subjects along with many articles and commentary on his blogs.
Palm Trees, Rainbows and Tropical Storms
What are the Tropics anyway?
Just where are the Tropics, anyway?
Well, the official definition is that "the Tropics" is the area on Earth that is between the meridians; Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer. The area of the globe that is between the North and South latitudes of 23.5 is all considered to be in the Tropics.
This part of the planet is primarily characterized as having above normal temperatures and heavier levels of precipitation than other areas of the Earth.
So seeing as I actually live in Florida, why did I say that I live in the Tropics? OK, by definition I don't actually live in the Tropics.
But I do live south of Tampa Florida, and this area is so close to the official Tropics that the climate, and the resultant lifestyle here are so fantastic, that I and the many other residents call it a Tropical Area anyway.
A Personal Decision - I like Warm Weather!
In order to understand my choice of location, you need to first understand a little bit of my personal history.
I was born in Central Virginia, specifically the city of Lynchburg, Virginia.
Lynchburg, it turns out is considered a preferred retirement area for many people. This is according to so many of the non-locals that I have met there over the years.
Many of them tell me that one of the main things they like about Lynchburg is the fact that it is located, geographically, where you get four equal seasons and typically none of these seasons are very harsh or longer than the others.
As to the Winters and the amount of snow you will see in the Lynchburg area; it's actually a pretty tame place to live.
Looking back at my memories from my childhood, we always seemed to have two to three light snows a year. But usual, the snow was gone within 1-3 days. It was rare to get a very heavy snow during the winter in Lynchburg.
So, this was what I was used to; mild seasons and rare weather extremes. But, I do remember that even then, I never actually enjoyed being out in the cold or participating in winter activities.
For Me Warm was the Key word and having this kind of weather year round was my preference.
A look at Florida from a Hammock
My first Harsh Winter - The shock of real Cold Weather.
Being originally from the South, when I joined the Navy and was stationed at the Great Lakes Naval Base, north of Chicago, in 1966-1967, I soon realized that I "wasn't in Kansas anymore".
You see this very large Naval Base is positioned directly on the shore of Lake Michigan in what was called North Chicago. I tell you this just for a physical reference.
If you dig out your old reference books or search on the web, you will find out that particular winter, when I lived there, was called the "coldest winter in the past 25-years" at that time.
Was it Cold there? Brother, it was so Cold that .........
No, I won't do that old routine on you, but it was really cold. And it was Cold for the whole darned Winter, too.
Winter Entertainment, A Car Lottery
I remember that one of the fun things the locals really enjoyed back then was holding lotteries. Not just football lotteries, you understand, but almost every bar that I went to had a "car lottery" going on.
What's a car lottery, you ask?
Well, the locals were such fun people, and there was so much going on (sic), that most bars would have someone haul a " junked car" onto one of the hundreds of frozen lakes in the area.
Then, the patrons would pick a date and time, in the Springtime, when they thought the car would finally fall through the ice.
Yep, this was a grand game for the locals.
You see, they got to drink beer and talk about that old car, just sitting on that cold and icy lake, patiently waiting for spring, so it could fall through the ice to it's watery grave.
They would all drink their beers and start arguing over why their date was better than those picked by their fellow drinkers.
They would estimate what the cars weight was, how thick the ice was, what the Spring weather was going to be like, and other such silly things.
And they continued to drink their beers and wait for the day that they would walk back into their favorite bar and see that someone had written the day of the car's sinking to the depths of the lake onto the wall.
What a fun game, Huh?
Don't get me wrong as this was just one example of the FUN and exciting things that I discovered people doing up North in the Cold of the Winter.
OK, they had Ice Skating, Ski-Doo riding, Ice Fishing, and other grand cold weather sports, but the one that stuck in my mind was the great "car lotteries"
The dreamland tropical Island everyone desires.
The Harsh Reality of a REAL Winter!
I should mention that over that time, living in North Chicago, I learned a number of things about surviving a Real Winter, as I would walk half frozen, around North Chicago, that year.
I learned such things as;
1- In the Windy City, you can walk around a building and the wind will actually hit you directly in the face as you turn each corner.
2- Your Snot will freeze in your nose and it really hurts when you eventually try to blow the resultant chunk of ice out, so you can breath again.
3- There are not enough socks in the world that you can put on to keep you from losing the feeling in your feet when you are outside in sub-zero temperatures.
4- When your teardrops freeze, do not just knock them off, they will pull your eyelashes out with them.
5- When your cheeks or fingers or toes, or whatever other body part freezes, or if they have just lost all feeling from the cold, they will actually begin to feel as if they are burning when you get inside and start to warm up.
My list of Winters lessons is very long, and I won't bore you with any more of these FUN facts that I learned that Winter. But I will tell you that I learned one true and tested fact about me, above all others.
I, Don Bobbitt, am genetically designed for the warmer climes of the lands of the South. This is a fact that was etched into my soul that cold and miserable winter in North Chicago.
To me, Hell is spelled C-O-L-D !
I am a man who must have the Sun and Breezes of more Tropical lands to be truly comfortable.
Beautiful Birds Wintering in Florida
Movin' South one state at a time.
Well, I served my stint in the Navy and eventually returned to my hometown of Lynchburg to start a family and a career.
I put up with the Winters there, enjoyed the summers and then, one day, when I was in my fifties, I accepted a job offer to relocate to Raleigh, North Carolina.
It was a great move for me. I loved the challenges of my new job, but I found that I was now also enjoying the warmer weather in Raleigh.
It was a little funny that the very thought of snow would shut Raleigh down and on the rare occasions that it did snow, people would just stay home. Everyone knew that it was going to get better in no more than a day or two. So, why worry.
I really enjoyed that difference in cold weather attitude as well as the fact that Raleigh had an average year round temperature which was around three degrees warmer than in my old hometown of Lynchburg.
This move confirmed my suspicions, I really did feel better and I was happier in this warmer climate of Raleigh North Carolina.
Spanish Moss and Palm Trees
If North Carolina is Good, then South Carolina must be Better, Right?
That was my theory as I put in the last nine years of my career in Raleigh. While living there we began visiting the Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina.
It was only a 2-1/2 hour drive away, so we began to visit this large tourist area regularly.So, it was almost a natural thing for us to retire there.
And we did! We bought a nice house just outside of Myrtle Beach, and when we retired, we settled into a great lifestyle.
And, yes, Myrtle Beach was even warmer, year-round than Raleigh. We were turning into a pair of those people you see walking around in the South that have dark tans, wear shorts most of the time and seem to be smiling all of the time.
We lived there for over six years until we began spending more and more time in Florida in our motorhome. We eventually realized that, mostly due to our love of warm weather, we were living our Summers in South Carolina and our Winters in Florida.
Then it hit us! We were hiding from the Winters of South Carolina. As slight as they were, we were getting away from these cold temperatures and enjoying the Tropical temperatures of Florida.
It was soon obvious, even to us that we loved the heat and hated the cold.
Finally, We found our ideal climate. We moved to Florida.
What a move!
We had finally found that mythical place. We had discovered our Bali Hai!
We were living in our own personal Paradise!
You see, after spending the majority of our lives accepting what we considered second best, we finally ended up, by a very circuitous route I grant you, living in the perfect climate for us.
We lived where it was HOT!
What's so great about living in the Tropics?
Yeah, that's the first thing we get asked by others when they learn that we decided to live in Florida.
But, as I explain my reasoning to others, I can see in their eyes that they still have serious doubts about our decision.
So, Let me list my TOP reasons for living in the Tropics for you:
Seagulls, Beaches, and Sunshine
Reason #1 to live in the TROPICS
OK, Here goes! The number one reason that I live in the Tropics?
The Temperatures are Warm
The average temperature is ALWAYS (or mostly) WARM. And I mean in the Summer as well as the Winter, the temperature is always Hot or at least Warm.
In the Summer, the temperature is in the 60's and 70's at night and it is in the upper 90's or often in the lower 100's during the day.
To me this kind of Heat is not intimidating. It's a good thing, because, again, I love it Hot. Secondly, even at these temperatures, if you live near the coast (as I do) you invariably have a wonderful breeze off of the Ocean or Gulf, to help cool you down.
In the Winter, you will typically still have very nice weather almost every day.
You may not agree with me, but I call average daytime temperatures of 70's and 80's, and an average temperature at night in the 50's and 60's a pretty nice state of affairs, for the winter months.
OK, at times one of those weird Jet-Stream anomolies occurs and we get a few days of near freezing temperatures to suffer through.
You notice I said near freezing, and when this happens, it is a barely freezing situation, not something like you get in Michigan, or Minnesota, or up-state New York, or, God forbid, Canada.
You always know when Florida gets hit with below freezing temperatures.
When this happens, it's going to be on the national news as everyone in the all of the other states watch while the whole darn state of Florida mobilizes to save the orange or strawberry crops, etc.
Everyone loves their fresh orange juice and other fruits that Florida provides!
And jut as a reminder to the rest of you people living north of Florida.
Invariably, if we have a cold snap with tempertures in the low-40's down here, for instance, you people up north are really getting some horrible weather, relatively speaking.
I prefer our Tropical temperatures!
Sunsets on a Grand scale, everywhere
Reason #2, Why I live in the TROPICS
The number two reason I live in the Trpoics is the accepted wardrobe for residents.
A Tropical Wardrobe is necessary
Because of the very warm and comfortable temperatures, I and pretty much everyone I know, wears Shorts and T-Shirts as their daily wardrobe. And, we wear these clothes becaue they are cool and comfortable.
I recently drove to my hometown in Virginia to visit my family for a couple of weeks. And, as it turned out, this was the first time I had worn long pants or a jacket in over eight months.
It was an odd feeling having to take these clothes that I used to wear every day; heavy pants, and shirts and thick socks, and wrap them around my body in order to offset the cold Virginia weather. The strange thing to me was that I used to wear these same uncomfortable clothing items every day, but now they were so constraining!
You see, I have three basic wardrobes, now that I live in the Tropics, each of which include Shorts and T-Shirts, and they are;
1- I have what I call my Casual or Work clothes that include; old faded cut-off jeans and worn shorts along with stained and faded T-shirts. I also have a couple of pair of worn out flip-flops to finish out this daily wardrobe of mine.
2- I have Going Out in Public clothes which include upgraded items such as; nice, functional shorts, often cargo shorts, and my favorite Logo T-Shirts. These are good for visits to Tiki Bars, Beaches and casual restaurants
I also have a couple of pait of nice flip-flops that look good on my feet, along with a casual pair of canvas shoes.
3- For those very nice occasions, I have my Upscale clothes which consists of; nice dressy designer shorts, polo shirts, tropical shirts (often embroidered), and a couple of pair of light-weight dress slacks made of some type of blended material that is light and breathes well.
To complement these clothes, I have a nice pair of leather lfip-flops as well as a nice pair of light-weight leather loafers.
Oh,and a couple of lightweight Sport Coats and even a rain jacket for those rainy days on the golf course.
I really like it in the Tropics!
Tiki Bars often contain their own humor.
Reason #3 to live in the Tropics
The number three reason to live in the Tropics is the abundant existence of my favorite form of relaxation which is simply a combination of several things which together are near and dear to my heart.
Those things are;
1-a nice Tiki Bar sitting on the water with a view,
2-a nice imminent Sunset visible from the choice seats at the Tiki Bar,
3- a Guy with a Guitar sitting in a corner singing Jimmy Buffett songs, and
4- a Bartender who knows how to serve a cold glass of your favorite wine to sip on as you stare at these great Sunsets in the Tropics.
This my favorite evening occupation at least once every week or so.
My wife and I, and often several of our friends will get together at one of our favorite Tiki Bars and spend the afternoon or evening there, listening to the music, feeling the cool evening breeze blowing through our hair, and watching as yet another great Tropical day winds down and the Sun sinks below the horizon.
Man, I love the Tropics!
Magnolia Buds, waiting to bloom
Reason #4, why I live in the Tropics
The fourth reason I live here, in the Tropics,is the people.
The friendly natives as well as the other Retirees that I have met and their adjusted attitude makes the Tropics a great place to live.
First off, I really can't think of a true Floridian that I know, who isn't friendly and courteous. They might be well off, or they may be hard core working class, but regardless, they will always turn to you with a smile and a handshake, if you do the same for them.
I have traveled extensively around the world and over a lot of the US in my life, and I can honestly say that the retirees I have met, are typically friendly and more relaxed than many younger people I have met from the North, and they tend to evolve quickly after they retire.
By evolve, I mean that as they acclimate themselves to the tropical weather and lifestyle, they invariably tend to lose the hard edge in their voices that is so prevalent when they first arrive, as a retiree.
What is noticeable to me, as well as to others, is the way so many of those same people who lived and competed in their northern climates will, after a while, start to slow down and enjoy their new life style and environment.
They will react to others more courteously. They will smile quicker, and, they will eventually become just another retiree; sipping on a cold drink at your favorite Tiki Bar, or playing a round of Golf, or just sitting under an umbrella in a Beach chair.
Yeah! i like the people in the Tropics.
The Native Wildlife can be dangerous
Reason #5, why I live in the Tropics
The fifth reason I live in the Tropics is the natural beauty that you see everywhere.
Tropical Landscapes and Wildlife
Tropical landscapes are so different from those up North, and so beautiful, that you are actually distracted by it when you first arrive here.
The lazy Palm trees, the ponderous Live Oaks,covered with Spanish Moss, the uncountable Ponds, Swamps, Bayous and Waterways all tend to draw your eye to them. and when you slow down and stare, you can feel your heartbeat slowing down also as you feel the ocean and Gulf breezes blow through your hair.
In case you didn't know it, many of the brightly blooming plants down here in the tropics, were originally from the more harsh climates of the North. Because of this and the longer warm season, we get to enjoy so many of them as they blossom in their colored glory often twice in the same year.
Going outside and taking a walk is often an exercise for your eyes, just to take in the natural beauty at every turn.
And the wildlife?
You just have to love it when you can play Golf almost everywhere in the Florida and find an Alligator lying in the Sun along the course, somewhere.
Then there are the Birds. Watching the wide variety and number of birds that are literally everywhere in the Tropics is a form of entertainment in itself.
Eagles, Cranes, Egrets, Hawks, Herons, Seagulls, and Pelicans, to name a few, are everywhere and eventually become an accepted part of your daily life.
I love the natural beauty of the Tropics!
Five Reasons is enough for me to be living in the Tropics
As I read back over this article of mine, I think I have given you five great reasons for my new retiree lifestyle, that will stand up under even the most harsh scrutiny.
And, enough is enough!
So, come on down! The Tropics are waiting for you!
Jimmy Bufett -Volcano
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on June 17, 2014:
thuthfornow - Thanks for the read and the comment. Yeah, I agree with you, it is definitely something in our blood that makes us prefer staying in the south.
Marie Hurt from New Orleans, LA on June 14, 2014:
I have always lived in the South. While I like to visit other places up North, I would never want to stay. I wouldn't last 5 seconds trying to drive through snow. I am spoiled and just not accustomed to the cold temperatures. The cold seems to get into your bones and stay there. Whereas, if you get too hot, you can go into the AC and cold right down. Anywhere in Florida is nice. I lived in Gainesville and have been to Tampa several times.
Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on January 06, 2014:
Snow Hater- Ft.Myers is a great location. I happen to live about 22 miles of the city of Tampa, and we love it. We live rural but we only need to drive for 15-minutes or so to be in the middle of so much activity.
I camped in Florida for the winter for a number of years, and I found that if you draw an imaginary line acros Florida from Tampa, and you have freezing north of the line, and very rare freezes south of the line.
We wanted to be warm year round and also minimize our driving to visit family that lives in VA, so we settled here.
I hope you head on down soon,
Snow Hater on January 06, 2014:
Sounds good to me. Can't get there soon enough. I'm thinking of the Ft. Myers area and looking for feedback. What do you think of the area in general? Is it a nice place to live?
Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on June 24, 2013:
melpor- Thanks for the read and the comment.
All I can say is; COME ON DOWN!
One thing that you will find that is funny about Florida, is the fact that everyone else is like you; OLDER, Gray-haired, if there is any hair, and just as lame and sore as yourself. You tend to fall into a feeling that you are finally home.
I Love it!
Melvin Porter from New Jersey, USA on June 24, 2013:
Bobbitt, I fell in love with Florida during my honeymoon in Orlando many years ago. I am now semi-retired and have been trying to convince my wife for several years that Florida is were we need to move for me to fully retire. I am originally from Richmond, Virginia and currently living in central New Jersey. I been living here for 34 years now and I am ready to leave this place. Like you I have had enough of the cold winters here and now I want to move where the scenery is completely different compare to here, i.e. palm trees. Your reason number five and reason number one are the two main reasons I want to move to Florida. By the way, I enjoyed reading this hub. Very good hub and voted up.
Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on May 03, 2013:
PegCole17- It really is tough, once you have lived for a while in a tropical climate like Florida, to go back and experience the radical difference of the more "average" climates further north.
But, I see that you didn't go too far north, being in Texas now!
Have a great day,
Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on May 02, 2013:
Oh, how I miss my home state of Florida and your hub has reminded me of all the reasons I loved it. We spent years in Key West, South Miami and Tampa, each with its own distinct charms. Thanks for the memories.
Bill Russo from Cape Cod on April 26, 2013:
Nice job Don. I have wintered in Aroostook County in Northern Maine where it was so cold that I was unable to walk the bridge over the St. John River from Madawaska to Edmondston New Brunswick. I couldn't even get a quarter of the way across in wind chills that were probably 25 below zero and actual temps that were about ten below. I loved Maine though. ........... I have also wintered near Tampa on Treasure Island where Babe Ruth had a home. I have to say that between the two, winter was more pleasant in Florida - but I would never trade the three or four years I spent in the most Northern town of the U.S., Madawaska, Maine....... (not counting the new state, Alaska)
Paul Richard Kuehn from Udorn City, Thailand on April 26, 2013:
This is a very interesting hub because I, too, live in the tropical climate of Thailand now. I grew up in southeastern Wisconsin where the winters were snowy, icy, and very cold at sometimes -20 to -30 during the winter. After going through Great Lakes like you too in the summer of 1967, I was sent to Monterey, California, for Chinese language school. I loved the Monterey climate because it never got cold and was usually warm every month of the year. Later, the Navy sent me to Taiwan for a year where the weather was subtropical. It never really got cold or snowed there, but the winters in the north were too cool and damp. After living in Maryland before I retired, I came to the Bangkok area of central Thailand where the weather is hot, hotter, and hottest. Winter lasts for about one week in December when temperatures will fall to maybe 65 at night and the high 70s during the day. I love the heat and can stand the humidity during the rainy season. At my age, I just can't take the cold anymore. I second all of the reasons you have listed for living in the tropics. Ice and snow is great if all you have to do is play in it. But, if you have to struggle driving in snow, shovelling it, and being out in the cold weather for a long time, colder norther climates can really be a bitch. Voted up and sharing with followers and on Facebook. Also Pinning and Tweeting.
Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on December 23, 2012:
pstraubie48- great comment. And, I can see that you really went through several different climes before you realized how great the Tropics are as a climate and a lifestyle .
Thanks for your response.
Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on December 23, 2012:
This was a great read. I enjoyed it so much as I could identify with much of what you wrote. I grew up on the coast of Virginia and we had snow enough to keep us out of school a couple of times a year but not bitter winters. Then I went to high school my senior year in Pennsylvania where we had a lot of snow that year and it was cold but still pretty much like VA except it seemed to last longer.
After high school I went away to college to Bristol Va/TN and it snowed there but again not bitter/then to Pikeville KY/cold, snow, but not horrible.
Florida was by this time my home base and I loved the warm. Then I married and traveled to Japan where the weather is pretty much like DC (at the time) and it snowed enough to keep us out of school a couple of times a winter.
Then we left Japan and went to South Dakota. That's where I learned about C O L D weather. when it was 32 I wore no coat; it was a heat wave. 52 below was not uncommon at some times of the winter. Blizzards and piles and piles of snow greeted us often.
I knew then that Florida was where my heart would be. Love it here. I actually do not mind having to cool off rahter than having to warm up.
Thanks for sharing this with us. :) ps
Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on December 15, 2012:
dude, I am going to write that down as a future title, perhaps a Poem?
Anyway, I read a couple of your writings, and it looks like you already have enough articles to fold into a book?
Also, Did I see Brazil? I spent several years on my job traveling in/out of São Paulo, Sao Jose de Campos, Manaus and a few other cities. What a great outcry and wonderful people.
Dr Mark from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on December 15, 2012:
That sounds like another great tropical hub "Zen and the Art of Selecting Flip Flops".
I used to live in Chicago too, so I love the flip flop lifestyle. Even the cheap ones are acceptable down here.
Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on December 15, 2012:
Thanks for the comment DrMark1961, but it is a Hoot about what is an acceptable wardrobe down here!
I found out quickly that the art of selecting the right Flip-Flops is something I had to learn quickly.
I mean, to show up at a party in a common pair of $1.00 Flip Flops is more qauche here tha wearing the wrong jacketto a party in colder climes. LOL!
Dr Mark from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on December 15, 2012:
I got a good laugh out of your tropical wardrobe. I went to a funeral the other day (yes, people do die in the tropics, just never from cold) and everyone was dressed in shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops. I bet no one even owns a black suit. I love the tropics!
Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on December 15, 2012:
carol7777- Thanks for your comment and BTW, we spent several months Rving in Arizona from the Grand Canyon area to Apache Falls. What a fantastic state. We truly considered settling down there (Mesa area) but the drive to see out Kids and GrandKids in Virginia was a little long.
carol stanley from Arizona on December 15, 2012:
It is cold here in Arizona and the warm ocean breezes in Florida sound good. We lived in Bonita Springs for a few years...Stay warm and happy.
Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on December 14, 2012:
billybuc, Great to hear from you, old Son!
And, I do understand that the Tropics is not for everyone. Lol!
But, for me, I have been here long enough, (only 2-years, sic), that a winter trip to the north just reinforces my love of the Heat! I actually dread the weather part of my planned Christmas trip. Oh, Well!
Georgie Lowery from North Florida on December 14, 2012:
I'm from Central Virginia - Nottoway County. I've lived in Florida, about an hour west of Jacksonville and spent some time in Tampa. I thought it was beautiful there, and I liked not having to wear a coat in the winter. We went mullet fishing in the gulf and that's an experience I'll carry with me forever. I live in Western NY, now, and shiver from October till April!
Great Hub! I miss the "tropical" parts of the country and hope to get back there soon! :)
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 14, 2012:
I do love the seasons, Don, and I have lived in Alaska and Vermont, but right about now, 38 degrees and raining, your Florida is sounding pretty darn good. Thanks for making me jealous my friend. LOL