Our 2018 Travels – From one end to the other.
We’re not done wandering yet. Not by a long shot. But, for a number of reasons (which I may get to eventually in another post), it’s time for us to select a winter quarters. Having spent the past few years wintering in the desert southwest, this year we headed to Florida to see what that was all about.
I was somewhat familiar with Florida, having spent several months in pilot training near Miami, flew multiple times in the big air show at Lakeland, and visited numerous times for spring break as a kid, not to mention many vacations at the beach as an adult. One of my favorite areas is Destin, in the panhandle, with it’s amazing white sand beaches.
But much of Florida is overwhelmed by traffic and people in the winter. Where could we find a quiet haven, near the ocean, that we could afford? Oh, I know. Let’s look in one of the wealthiest cities in the United States. What?
Is this Florida, or Italy?
Our exploration took us south along the west coast of Florida. We considered Clearwater, Sarasota, Venice, Fort Myers, Estero …… And when the road ended, we found ourselves in Naples.
This city of 20,000 is a place you have to aim at to get to. It’s not on the way to anywhere. This is the end of the road, unless you want to turn east on I-75 and spend a couple hours crossing Alligator Alley to Miami. If you go any further west or south of Naples you’ll get your feet wet in the Gulf of Mexico.
Naples, because of it’s unique location, is a quiet place. There is zero road noise at our little cottage. It is abundant with nature, and we’re close enough to the ocean that we’ll get a sea breeze most days.
So how can two homeless paupers such as us afford to buy property in Naples, one of the wealthiest cities on the planet? Well, first, let me be clear. As with most things in our marriage, I come up with the strategic plan, the big picture. But Wendy does the real work – all the tactical analysis and research.
Wendy is amazing and relentless. She found this place. Basically, I told her, “Yea, sure, if you can find a place that costs next to nothing and can decrease our living expenses, that is by the ocean — I’m in. Just make sure it has palm trees.”
Don’t ever give Wendy an impossible challenge unless you’re ready to commit. The greater the challenge, the happier she’ll be. Here’s what she found:
(Here’s the website: Naples Land Yacht Harbor)
So let me skip to the important part, and then we can fill in the other non-essentials. Here’s the amazing thing. Because we live in (and are shareholders of) Naples Land Yacht Harbor, for $30/month we can have a boat slip a short walk from our cottage that gives us access to the intercostal waterway and the Gulf of Mexico. Endless exploration! $30/month? Uh oh. Looks like there’s going to be another boat in our future.
You have to understand. I don’t think like normal people. I don’t see a home as an investment. I see it as a necessary expense. So long as it places me where I want to be, is safe, and doesn’t require much time or money in maintenance, that’s all I require.
Story time! Thirty years ago, when Wendy and I moved to Indiana so she could attend medical school, I looked for a house near my new employer, USA Group. I told the realtor to give me a printout of the home listings in the area (Noblesville, IN). Then I started at the very bottom of the listing from the cheapest houses with the intention of working my way up the list. And what did I find at the very bottom? The listing said,
$59,000 Three bedroom one bathroom, blah, blah, blah …. next to a grass runway.
Bingo! Perfect. The cheapest house … ON A GRASS RUNWAY! I drove by and all I could see was that beautiful runway with airplanes parked here and there. Shangri-La! I also noticed that the roof looked okay on the little house. Good enough.
Aerial View – 14810 Promise Road at Bottom Left next to green runway!
Living in that house was one of the happiest times of our life. Wendy was able to pursue her goal, I got my pilots license and started building an airplane, and the kids had acres and acres of lawn to play in — just keep an eye out for airplanes landing.
That’s how I look for property. Find the cheapest thing available that meets the need. And pay with cash if you can. Any extra money spent on the house is money that can’t be used to explore the world and have interesting experiences.
Okay, back to the here and now: our little cottage by the sea. Nothing fancy. It is a 50 year old mobile home, one of 352 located in Naples Land Yacht Harbor (NLYH). It’s an antique. Who buys this stuff?!?! We do!
This particular unit has an updated kitchen and bathrooms, and new roof, plywood flooring covered in tile, A/C, and windows.
Although it is tiny at 820 square feet, consider that for the past 4 years of full-time travel in our RV we’ve been living happily in 400 square feet. For us, this summer cottage is spacious with more than twice our usual living space.
It comes fully furnished, including dishes, linens, washer/dryer and a workshop loaded with tools.
So what do we plan to do if a hurricane wipes it out? Actually, the eye of Hurricane Irma came right through Naples Land Yacht Harbor September 10, 2017.
Of the 352 units in NLYH, 13 had to be condemned. Many others needed one type of repair or another. But these old mobile homes did amazingly well. They’re all anchored to the ground with special straps. Damage typically comes from flying debris. But if another hurricane comes barreling through and you’re not so lucky, you just scrape off what’s left and put a new, 1300 square foot Jacobsen manufactured home on the site. As you drive through NLYH, you see a sprinkling of the 13 new homes that replaced those that did not survive Irma.
But why an old mobile home? Aren’t there better options? After all, Florida is loaded with retirement condos, apartments, houses and newer park model/manufactured home options.
We want a permanent place here in Southern Florida. We’ve looked at and considered purchasing:
- RV pads. Each RV community we looked at had a great social atmosphere with pickle ball and all kinds of gatherings. However, the cost would be twice as much for a bare cement pad as we paid for our 2 bedroon, 2 bath cottage (plus we would pay $1,000/yr property tax). We don’t pay property tax on our mobile home because the property is permanently leased to us.
- Condos. These cost 3-4 times as much as our home with the same HOA fee/month that we are paying at the cottage, plus $1,500/yr property tax. And although these have a community pool, they have no social gathering programs. And you actually have less privacy with shared walls and the possibility of noisy, smoking neighbors. No ambiance.
- Other mobile home parks. The typical park with 30-40 yr old mobile homes has smaller lots and less green space and costs twice what we paid. If they have water access to the Gulf of Mexico with boat slips, they cost 3-4 times more.
Naples Land Yacht Harbor is a high quality 55+ community that we think we will greatly enjoy for six months each winter. It feels like a throwback to old Florida, where 1 mile from the cottage, we can bike by the fancy Naples shops and restaurants on our way to a free day at the beach.
You just can’t live any cheaper than this. And did I mention that you can have a boat slip for $30/month? Yea, I think I did.
We have a whole new world to explore — this time in a boat. Something to look forward to in the next several winters.
But first a summer mission this year and then 6 months in Europe next year. But we’ll get to that later. Isn’t life grand?