As one travels down the east coast there are plenty of beaches to select from when looking for a place to retire to. Mountains living selections though draw from a much smaller list. The Smokey Mountains are located in both Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina. Other than that, everything else on the east coast are just hills unless you head back north to New England. Therefore, I will concentrate on living either on the Coastal Carolina Beaches or in the Smokey Mountains.
Now it might alarm you that spending my entire youth in Bergen County, NJ that I made my way south to Knoxville to secure my degree in Marketing from the University of Tennessee. My Dad’s best friend and our next door neighbor was a UT grad and two of his three kids attended UT and all three of the kids in my family attended UTK.
One of the attractions to Knoxville was the short 50 minute drive over to the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area. Once there we loved to go tubing down The Little River, play Hillbilly miniature golf, walk around downtown Gatlinburg and go hiking in Cades Cove. So, this Jersey Boy has a special place in his heart for the Smokey Mountains.
The idea though of living in the mountains possesses several obstacles for many people. Here are a few:
- Weather – not only do the Smokey’s get snow, but the constant foggy mist (aka Smokey) hovering over the trees can block the much sought after sunlight quite often
- Roads – ever attempt to get from Point A to Point B in the mountains quickly? Just can’t be done as the winding, twisting, turning, hilly roads prevent efficient driving times
- Sports – if you love to hunt and fish, the mountains can be a paradise. If however you like to play golf, walk or jog you are in for one heckuva workout!! OMG, 18 holes can feel like 100 holes if your course has a decent rolling topography, and I am talking WITH a cart!!
- Proximity to Other Cities – Asheville and Knoxville are pretty much it. I lived in one and traveled to the other a whole bunch of times, and while both are nice small towns, they certainly are not Charleston, Charlotte or Raleigh. On a personal note, my first job out of UT was working for Duracell batteries and was based out of Greenville, SC. Back in 1979 I remember vividly that my first 9 trips to Asheville required an umbrella.
- Building costs – several years ago I was up in the NC mountains visiting a few developments that buddies of mine worked at. I was alarmed/shocked when I learned that the cost per square foot to build in the mountains can often reach $300’. The undulating terrain can really add to your building expense and in most cases mountain living is cost prohibitive.
The #1 alternative to mountain living is living at the beach. From the VA border to the GA border, the Carolinas have hundreds and hundreds of miles of white soft sandy beach fronts. Along with the relaxed atmosphere you will almost always find at the beach, don’t be surprised if there’s a little Jimmy Buffett in all of us! Spending a day with soft white sand between your toes and your favorite adult beverage in your hand sounds a little like paradise, doesn’t? Here’s how the beach compares:
- Weather – the thermal layer here protects us in the summer and in the winter, so we are considerably less extreme than our inland counterparts.
- Roads – we have flat, straight roads where getting from Point A to Point B is easy and quick
- Sports – surf casting, saltwater fishing, hundreds of (flat) golf courses, kayaking, tennis, windsurfing, walking…..
- Proximity to Other Cities – Wilmington, Charleston, Savannah, Raleigh and even Charlotte are never far from you if you live on the coast
- Building Costs – Customized homes run $110- $130’ while custom homes are $140 – $200’
One of the wild cards in all this is GRANDCHILDREN. Back about 12 years ago I was working with a nice couple from CT and I will never forget what the husband said after I gave him a thorough tour of the area. He said “Doug, this area is the honey for the bees”, and I knew right away he was referring to their grandchildren. Let’s face it; a week in Disney will cost your kids $5,000+ however, a FREE week at Grandma & Grandpa’s home at the beach…..Priceless!
Like we say to all of the great people we are fortunate to work with, you will never know if there is an area for you that matches your lifestyle requirements until you get out of the house and explore, so Happy Exploring!