I read something interesting around the holidays when I was contemplating taking my van on a winter trip to escape the Wisconsin cold and snow. It was a post on Facebook written by a full-time RVer that was describing the difference between wintering in Florida and Texas.
As we all know, northerners who travel south to get out of the cold are commonly referred to as 'snowbirds'. But the writer of this post explained that, in Texas, they are called 'winter Texans'. I have nothing against Florida or the people who live or travel there, but you have to admit - just going by these labels (and I truly believe in the power of words), Texas seems a lot more welcoming.
The word 'snowbird' is not derogatory in and of itself but I (rightly or wrongly) had conjured up an image in my mind of a sun-tanned, silver-haired old person playing golf. Although I am constantly working on not judging people, I am not totally there yet. I think the only thing that makes it seem derogatory is fear... of getting old and one day being that person. But all that said, doesn't 'winter Texan' sound a lot more friendly and age neutral?
Age-related perceptions aside, the two states do offer very different experiences and this needed to be taken into account when making a decision.
First is the climate. I had originally planned on traveling late-February through mid-April to avoid having to de-winterize and then re-winterize my van but a change in plan left me with only the month of January to be gone. It is kind of hard to find truly warm places in the US in January but I am fine with 50's so that opened it up. South Florida is probably more consistently warm during this month but Texas south of Houston is also usually pretty reliable.
Second is sights and activities. Since I am a nature photographer, physical beauty and wildlife are always a consideration. Florida has the beautiful beaches and birds galore but Texas seemed to offer more variety in landscape and type of animals. I am not a golfer so that did not attract me to Florida and, as the expansiveness of Alaska had done, the wide open spaces of Texas were calling me.
Finally, my sister and her family live in Houston so I could work in a visit if I went to Texas so the decision was made. For a short while, I would become a 'winter Texan'.
I have traveled in both states and I honestly can't say there has been a noticeable difference in the way I felt I was treated. But now going as a 'retiree' in the 'escape the cold' mode, my thoughts of how I would be accepted and judged were suddenly more heightened.
In some ways, entering into my golden years is exciting. I feel like I have a better handle on what is important and now have the time to devote to those things. But it is a constant battle to continue to feel useful and to fill the hours that I used to never have enough of. I also struggle (as do many women in my age group) to feel 'seen'. In our society, a woman who is no longer of child-bearing age and who has lost the beauty of her youth doesn't seem to have a place. But it is hard to keep good women down and I increasingly run across ladies my age (and older) traveling solo and defying the stereotype of the typical grandmother.
As I embark on another solo adventure - this time to many places I had been years ago - I am looking forward to experiencing the new, the old, the exciting, the quiet and all of the space in-between.