Our Florida Plunge Story by Amy Mulder
1307 days…3 years, 6 months and 30 days…that’s how long it took from the moment we made the conscious decision to relocate to the actual date we moved into our home in Florida. I remember that epiphany very vividly. We were vacationing at Walt Disney World on February 2, 2011 and we were swinging in the hammocks at the Coronado Springs
Resort. The rest of the country was dealing with the Blizzard of 2011 and Florida made the wise decision not to participate in that weather madness. As we gazed into the blue sky beneath the swaying palms, my husband and I looked at each other and we both exclaimed, “Why can’t we have this weather every day as we live our everyday lives?” We’ve had that romantic notion before, I mean, come on, you’re on vacation and it’s warm and the breeze convolutes every shred of rationality in your head. This time was different. Although we’ve talked about it before, many, many, many times, this ended up starting a very serious string of conversations between the two of us. Before we left Florida and headed back to our home in Michigan, we decided we were now at a point in our lives that we could seriously investigate uprooting our family and head to the Sunshine State to realize our dream.
Word to the faint of heart-relocating to Florida (or anywhere) is not easy. I am used to moving, as my family moved across the country a lot (even to Canada) with job relocations or promotions as I was growing up. However, my husband never had an interstate move and this was a big deal. We had to sit down with our children and extended family and explain why we wanted to move over a thousand miles away. Everyone was very supportive, but in the back of our minds (and theirs) was the realization that we won’t get to see some of these people every week/month like we normally did. Life would definitely change in that regard. The next step for us was finding employment. I know some people are willing to take their savings and move on a whim and trust that they will find a job once they move. With children in the picture, it just wasn’t feasible for us to do that. I admire those that take that risk and just move, though! Our risks were a little more calculated, but that’s what worked out best for us.
My husband has a Business degree and has been in Sales and Marketing most of his life. I worked in the financial sector, but he was the primary breadwinner, so we focused on his job hunt. He polished his resume, updated his LinkedIn account, reached out to business contacts he had around the country, applied to what seemed like hundreds of positions, and then we waited. I can’t explain how long the waiting felt, but it seemed like an eternity. Our focus was a little different as far as employment goes. We decided that if we were really going to make this huge move and leave the life we knew behind, it had to be for something “better”. My husband is very focused on his career and there were certain goals he set for himself and our family. Due to that, we knew this process was going to be much longer because we were trying to move and allow him to climb the proverbial ladder concurrently. We were trying to kill two birds with one stone. He was offered interviews for lateral positions in Florida, but for us, it didn’t make sense at the time.
We kept the dream alive by vacationing in Florida, kept snow blowing during our brutal Michigan winters and kept persevering. It was really hard to be patient. Just when it seemed like we were destined to be Michiganders forever, my husband was offered and took an amazing job opportunity in…Dallas, Texas. Wait, what?!?
I call our Dallas move in 2013 the Texas two-step. We decided to take on that adventure for two reasons: 1) we couldn’t do another winter in the North as neither of us like cold weather and 2) it would get us in the position to be able to relocate to Florida within a year or two based on my husband’s job and new connections. The resume was updated, the web was lit on fire, phone calls were made and we waited…again. During that time, we were much more focused in our efforts. We finally settled on an area we wanted to be in (from Tampa to Orlando) and in August of 2014, my husband was flown in for an interview for a company just west of Orlando. Within a week, he had a job offer and we had to move by the end of that month. It was a whirlwind, but an exciting one!
I spent 18 hours a day online trying to research areas to live in (for us, we wanted to be west of I-4 because of my husband’s job location). I reached out to several internet message boards and Facebook groups, including “Taking the Florida Plunge” for advice. We opted to rent for a year because we had no idea what to expect from any community we chose. Working with a broker associated with a property management company, we rented a home, sight unseen, in Ocoee. Fortunately, we were able to see many pictures of the home online and Google Earth was a huge help to see the surrounding neighborhood/area. I also had to research schools as we have a son who was to start Kindergarten.
Packing was slightly easier for the Florida move because we purged a lot (and learned a lot) as we left Michigan. We also kept our moving boxes, knowing we would probably be moving again soon from Texas. The Texas move was covered by a relocation package so we had the ability to hire a moving company. The Florida move was structured differently with my husband’s employer and we had to cover everything upfront and he would be compensated 3 months later. We decided to rent a U-Haul for this move because the immediate financial hit of another moving company would not have been a wise choice. Moving long distance is very expensive whether you go with U-Haul or Pods or a moving company. There is just no inexpensive way around it. We rented the largest U-Haul truck and crammed our entire 4 bedroom home and life belongings into it. Well, our cars were fully loaded also. My husband drove the U-Haul, I drove my Jeep and my father in law graciously flew down from Michigan to drive my husband’s car. We hired people on both ends of the move to help load and unload. It was about $200-$250 each leg, but so worth it.
We arrived in Florida on Monday, September 1, 2014 and the dreams and goals were realized. I know we were both smiling (maybe crying?) as we crossed over the state’s border even though we weren’t even in the same vehicle. We unpacked the truck and cars that day, got some rest and woke up to sunshine and palm trees swaying in the breeze (it sounds cliché, but it’s the truth!) We were on a mission to truly be Floridians and we headed to the nearest DMV office. We made our appointments online to do the title/plate transfers and get our drivers licenses. I am very glad we did or we would have waited a long time. It cost us over $630 to transfer plates on our two vehicles and walk out with those plates and drivers licenses in hand. It was a similar cost in Texas, so that didn’t catch us off guard, but I know many states charge much less to do the same things and it can be a huge financial hit if you weren’t expecting it! After doing all of the research on my son’s new school, I printed all of the registration forms from the school’s website before we moved. The one thing we had to do was have his health/immunization records certified by a licensed medical professional in Florida. Your local health department can do this. However, I’m told there can be long waits associated with that method. We went to a local urgent care clinic who certified our records for $5 and we were in and out in 5 minutes. We took our registration forms and the certified records to my son’s school and he was registered immediately. We chose to start him two days after that so he could acclimate to the new environment first. The last business of that first full day was driving to Downtown Disney to get our Florida annual passes from Disney’s Guest Relations. I know I was crying as they were processing our information for the passes because this was the culmination of that conscious decision we made more than 3 ½ years earlier on Disney property.
Everyone has their own reasons for wanting to “take the plunge” to Florida. Not every move will be the same. Some dreams will be realized sooner than others. There are people that are nomadic in nature and can easily just go and find their way as life happens. Others might move when an element or two falls into place. There are also those who wait until most of the puzzle pieces are put together, like us. We could have moved sooner, but it just wasn’t right at that time. I’m convinced it’s all about timing and we all operate on different clocks. If it feels right to you in your heart and soul, DO IT! I won’t sugar coat it and say that any part of moving to Florida or moving in general is easy. It’s not. Jobs are hard to find in certain sectors, deciding where you want to establish roots is tough, and then there’s other things like establishing new friends, finding certain items in grocery stores (silly, but true), traffic issues (depending on the area you live in), and getting used to having it rain every day at 3pm for 40 days straight between September and October. There’s always adjustments to be made when you move. However, trust me, it’s worth it, especially when you can call your family up north and remind them that you are basking in the sun by the pool while they are cooped up indoors. If your dream is to live in the Sunshine State, I look forward to being Floridians together! Until then, keep your dream alive with research and visit “Taking the Florida Plunge” on Facebook and at right here on the blog for advice, questions and great information about our state!