This is an intriguing question posed by a new reader. I have addressed something similar in a past post, but from the perspective of the kids who are left behind when parents or grandparents spend part of the year somewhere else. This time let's turn our focus on those who leave for the summer or winter.
The ability to follow the sun, live part of the year in a place you love, or spend extended time visiting family and friends is one of the true blessings of retirement. If the budget, spirit, and obligations permit, there is nothing preventing you from jumping in the RV, a plane, or car and hitting the road.
Living in Arizona, I am exposed to this concept every year. Folks from colder or rainier places stream into the state from October until April. Then, they head back to the places that are much more pleasant than the desert during our blistering summers. Those of us who live here fulltime do our best to find places to hide for at least part of those super-hot months. Flagstaff is two hours away and 30 degrees cooler. San Diego beckons with its moderate temperatures and foggy coastline. Portland or Seattle are a 4 hour flight north (or 7 day RV trip!).
If someone has family scattered across the country, being a seasonal traveller can solve two problems: allowing you to satisfy your wanderlust and renew family ties. With no offspring or a family setup that doesn't invite much contact, living part of the year in another location is simply a question of affordability and desire.
But, what about the situations where some or all of your close family and good friends live where you call home? How do you feel when you move away for part of the year? How do you maintain contact with loved ones when you are away?
One common response is that the the reason for an empty nest is to feel free to get up and go when the urge is there. E-mail, video services like Skype, text messaging, even a private Facebook page or blog meant just for family members can keep everyone up to date. In the case of an emergency or major family event, driving or flying home are options.
Another reaction might be that your kids have their own family, and the grandkid are of the age (think teenage) when contact with the grandparents is less frequent anyway. Being gone for a season would not as big an obstacle as it was when they were younger.
Some folks have told me that the chance to travel and live in places that make them happy, while still healthy enough, is a key factor in deciding to be away from family. Missing loved ones is not easy, but giving up lifestyle dreams would be harder.
I know a few couples who love the fact they now have two places that feel like home. Friends, belongings, and activities exist in both their summer and winter locations that make them feel settled and comfortable. They have built important relationships in both locations.
Betty and I have had to find our personal limits and what mix of family closeness and road trips work for us. For a few years we had given serious thought to spending several months of our summers in Portland, Oregon. We love the area and have some great friends we enjoy tremendously. We would escape the heat that has been our companion for over 30 years in Arizona.
Being honest with ourselves, though, we realized that being gone all summer in Oregon would not work. Neither of us wants to be away from other family members that long. We love our new home and being close to those we care about.
We do like RV travel. Some of our trips are just a few days or a week, but some of them have lasted for almost two months. Much like the Oregon decision, we have determined that two months away from family and our home is our limit.
Even with all the ways to stay in touch, our thoughts begin to turn toward home somewhere around the 6 week mark. Like a horse heading for the barn, the RV starts to point that way.
The reader who submitted the question, and I too, am interested in your thoughts. Living for part of the year somewhere other than your primary home - is it difficult, create problems, or have you adjusted to the separation well?