A few years ago, I would never have guessed the desert would appeal to me; much less enough to call it home. When we left Asheville in the spring of 2013, we took a road trip around the US to visit relatives before leaving for Asia. After traveling through the cold, damp midwest, exploring South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming, we hit Vegas. The dry heat felt so comforting and my skin loved it. It was hot, but not with the sticky humidity of the east coast. Don’t get me wrong – we also welcomed every chance of relief we could get in the cooling AC! After a week in Vegas where it reached 126 on the car thermometer, we stopped in Scottsdale to visit friends. From there, we drove to Austin to meet our new grandson, then back to NC to store the car and depart for SE Asia.
The plan had been to spend a minimum of six months in Asia, but we were ready for a change after three. By the time we had visited Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia, Singapore was a welcome change with its perfect climate, modern architecture, widely spoken English, international cuisine, and every convenience. I fantasized about living there as an expat! Not to jump the gun, we still had places to explore. It was the beginning of Nov, typhoon season officially over in the South Pacific, and the Philippines beckoned. I needed a beach! An older gentleman we had known in Asheville had been in the military during WWII, stationed in the Philippines. To hear him describe the natural beauty and his desire to return was inspiring, not to mention a little brain-washing since the man had alzheimer’s and would repeat the story ad nauseam. Anyhow, this evidently had an effect on me because I wanted to go.
Touted one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, we chose the island of Boracay, and arrived just in time for – you guessed it – a typhoon, and not just a typhoon, Super Typhoon Yolanda! The Philippines was about to be visited by a storm more powerful than any on record. Yup, it hit, and we not only survived, we fell in love with the island enough to endure the inconveniences of limited electricity; cool water showers; and intermittent, patchy wifi. It was simply island paradise with pristine beaches; the incredible spirit, generosity and friendliness of the islanders; widely spoken English; Asian, Spanish and European cuisine; and the most delicious climate. The mixture of breezy salt air and humidity felt pleasant. It must have been a healthy environment because my skin responded and transformed from dry and dull to soft and radiant.
The island girl in me was blissfully at peace. Time seemed insignificant. The harmonic flow within the energy of the atmosphere provided a perfect blend of good vibes and tranquility. That meditative and uplifting combination gave us clarity and influenced the concept of our next move as the expiration of our tourist visa approached. We reached our 21-day visitors limit with a bittersweet, yet eager enthusiasm. What does one do when one has been cast out of paradise and it’s winter in the familiar world? One decides to winter in the temperate desert climate, like many other snowbirds! Scottsdale had the amenities and atmosphere we most enjoyed. In addition to the warmth, it was modern, dynamic and upscale, with all the conveniences, in a region where we could experience growth, enrichment, renewal and more adventure.
Winter passed quickly, and we are enjoying our time here so much, that we’ve decided to call this home and are now officially AZ residents. Officially, monsoon season is in full swing, and has brought a haboob, a few dust storms, and a couple heavy rains. Yes, it’s hot, but I love seeing the sun every day! It’s energizing and uplifting! I love the arid climate and allergy relief! I love that I haven’t needed an umbrella yet and no more teeth-chattering cold, long winters with snow and icy roads. I love the desert flora and that there has been something blooming every day since we arrived in December. You know what else there was in December? Fresh citrus, to pick right from the tree! And oh, how I loved that! I love the mountains, which are beautiful yet different than the Blue Ridge, the unique features of saguaro cacti, and the lavender-mint colors of the prickly pear. I love our small condo, the quiet community, new friends and great location. I love having all the conveniences! Although I have an appreciation for history and antiques, the contemporary architecture is refreshing. It’s a perfect portal to expand our world. For now, at least.
Scottsdale doesn’t have a beach with salt air, but it does have the Salt River and Salt River Fields. The latter is home of the AZ Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies spring training while the San Francisco Giants train in the Scottsdale Stadium. There’s great hiking; golfing; rafting; and horseback riding. The nearby community of Cave Creek has a preserved wild west flavor and spectacular natural beauty. Desert Foothills Scenic Drive identifies more than twenty species of indigenous plants on small redwood signs along a 6 1/2-mile stretch with a small exhibit area. The botanical gardens features the world’s finest collection of plants from deserts around the globe, and offers free garden admission the second Tuesday of every month. The Arabian horse show, Barrett-Jackson car auction and dog shows are popular winter events and Derby Day is festive with private TV monitors and all day buffets. As gourmet lovers, we can enjoy an impressive three course dining experience for less than $20 per person, presented by student prodigies at the Arizona Culinary Institute. We can hop the free trolley to experience the charm, shops and restaurants of Old Town Scottsdale; wind down the afternoon at a great happy hour; and liven up the evening with some comedy or at one of the trendy lounges. There’s even a one mile train ride in a railroad park and an interacting wonderland of butterflies. The Contemporary Art Museum has free admission on Thursdays. Upscale resorts offer great spas for pampering relaxation. Fashion Square has fantastic designer shops with major department stores such as Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. Gaming, entertainment and dining provide hours of fun at the casinos, and the new TopGolf facility offers a driving range, pool tables, and video games.