Sandra Cohen, R.N. & Roger Cormier, M.A.

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  Although most Americans and Canadians stay put after retiring, many spend up to half of each year in a distant second home or roaming in an RV. For example, many live in Mexico, Florida and other destinations a good part of each year. Many add travel jaunts and end up living in their first home less than half the year. What can we learn from such a seemingly divided life that can contribute to our happiness whether we choose a bifurcated or stationary lifestyle? If we prefer the latter, how can we better understand and support family or friends who split their time between two worlds?


  Many motivational, practical and social factors can challenge retirees who want to enjoy the best of two worlds. Where do you want to live and travel, and why? More moderate weather, a different and more relaxed culture, fun outdoors activities and new regions to explore can be enticing. After one or more extended visits and some research, retirees settle on a region or city and arrange their lodging.

  Then practical decisions and arrangements need to be made. How will you handle your mail and bills from afar? How will you prepare your primary home for a long absence and how will it be maintained? Do you want to consider renting it while you are away? How will you handle any health care needs in your second location? What will you do for a social life where you start out with maybe one or two acquaintances?

  Will you have access to the kinds of food that you like? How much of what do you need to take with you, and how can you assure that you will not run out of something necessary or highly prized? What will you do for entertainment? When preparing for your first long stay in a distant place, the question pops up, “What will I do if I change my mind after investing much time, money and other resources in a plan that has no precedent?”

  How do retirees thrive living lives based in two far flung residences? While there is no universal formula for a successful and satisfying transition, here are a few potentially helpful approaches:

  ● Relish what drew you to your new living environment and patiently adjust to differences that make you uncomfortable. For example, bask in glorious winter weather in a chosen Mexican location, and find ways around some inefficiencies and the difficulty of accessing some desired products and foods.

  ● Look into interest and networking groups focused on your favorite activities. Get together with others who show potential for forming casual or deeper friendships. Visit local markets and celebrations. If locals speak a language different than yours, learn some, practical, every day words and phrases and use them as much as possible.

  ●Stay in touch with family and friends from afar. The adage “out of sight, out of mind”  can apply to normally communicative compadres in your home community. Email or Skype them; sign up for an online site that allows you to send them electronic greeting cards for important occasions. Let them know how much you value hearing from them.

  ● If after one or more long stays at your new second home you are less than happy, reflect on what may be missing for you. Explore with someone who is sympathetic to your aspirations and disappointments, and brainstorm together what options might contribute to greater satisfaction. Like all life situations, you may work out some kinks, make some adjustments and over the long haul, enjoy life in two locations.

  In some cases, it becomes clear that it is time for a game change. But give it all you have and welcome all it has to give to you before making a definitive change. It’s similar to exploring a career, a long-term intimate relationship or a change of values either where you were born or somewhere else. Meanwhile, happy trails, happy landings and happy life in one or more places!