The day after we lost the Mockingbird home, we made appointments for a few more houses. (If you’re lost you can catch part one here). We met our realtor at a house super close to our AirBnb, which was great because we loved that area, and it was also really, really close to our friends, the Levinski’s. Before I talk about this house, I have to take us back a couple years when we first came to Tampa Bay to visit these friends in May of 2019 — our first introduction to the area. They were living in Downtown Clearwater at the time and took us to Clearwater Beach. This is where we stepped on the sand and freaked out because it was pretty much identical to the sand in Cabo Frio (I talk a little bit about Cabo Frio here). This was different than the Florida beaches I’ve been to on the East Coast and definitely different than the Jersey shore. “Wait, what?” I didn’t know sand like this existed in the US.
At this point in time, we’re technically homeless. We had been traveling for a couple of months trying to figure out where we wanted to live in the world after leaving to Brazil on a one-way ticket back in December 2018. We had decided to stick around Jersey because that’s where our friends and family were after all, but this moment on the sand sparked something new. “Can you imagine living near the beach? A beach with sand like Praia do Forte in Cabo Frio?”
If it wasn’t for us photographing the Levinski wedding back in November 2018, we wouldn’t have developed a relationship with the Levinski’s and likely would’ve never even known about the Tampa Bay area. Let me walk you through the timeline real quick.
For a short period of time, I included an additional portrait session (post wedding) in one of my wedding collections. The engagement session was also included but I wanted to be able to give my clients even more. I loved the idea of catching up with my couples during their first year of marriage and photographing their new season of life. This wasn’t necessarily a smart offer since it’s hard to plan the logistics for this, but it was something included in the Levinski Wedding proposal & contract. And while it’s not something I offer in my collections today, I am SO happy I did then. Here are some of the photos from that very session.
It’s amazing to think that we probably would not have visited the Levinski’s were it not for this additional portrait session because, at the time, we weren’t necessarily that close. We had bonded at their engagement session and of course on their wedding, but it was still the beginning of something new. Gabi’s mom and my mom have been close friends for years, but up until her engagement session in 2018, I hadn’t seen Gabi since she was a kid! I still owe the blog their beautiful wedding photos (coming soon!)
So a couple of months after their wedding (May 2019), I had photographed an epic proposal in Puerto Rico, then Emerson and I visited our friends the Olives while they were living in Miami Beach. From there, we headed to Clearwater to photograph the Levinski’s and also to hang out with them. We had SUCH a great time. These were my clients, who turned into our dear, dear friends. So we step on the sand, have our whole “wow” moment and spend the next couple of days hanging out, exploring a bit of the area, and also seeing their new house. They were under contract in a beautiful neighborhood and since they needed to meet with the inspector, we tagged along to check it out. We met their realtor (spoiler: she became our realtor, too!) and fell in love with their house and neighborhood. Emerson sort of threw the idea of us considering moving down one day and the sweet realtor gave him her card. It was really just an * idea .* Like a small, tiny seed that was sort of loosely planted.
ALMOST TWO YEARS GO BY. A lot happens in these two years. It’s March of 2021 and we give the Levinski’s a call. “We think we’re ready to move to Florida.” As I mentioned in part one, we go back to Tampa Bay in May 2021, then again in September of 2021 on the week of our anniversary. On September 6th 2021, the day after we got our Mockingbird “no,” we met up with our realtor at a house three minutes away from Levinski’s. We pulled up and didn’t think much of it. It was a bright blue color and definitely needed some work, but it was pretty cute and had SO MUCH natural light. We walked in, toured the space, made fun of the lazy flip (it was an obvious fast flip), but shrugged and thought “we could make this work.” We knew the work that was done on the house would have to be re-done eventually, but the bones were good and it was livable. The best part was that it was in a neighborhood we really liked. A neighborhood we admired two years prior when visiting our friends. You can change a lot about a house, but you can’t change the location.
So we put an offer! After a little back and forth we went under contract on September 7th 2021. We flew back to NJ on the 8th and closed on the home (virtually!) the following month. Our house was empty for a little over two months and we ended up making the 1100 mile road trip on Christmas Day! Our first week was already full of homeowner problems lol but we’re so grateful to be here. A lot of the time it feels like we’re still settling in, but it definitely feels like home.
Even though we miss our family and friends, we decided that we needed to do what was best for our immediate family, which at the moment is just me and Emerson. We knew that we both wanted to pursue a slower pace of life, a more active lifestyle, and have more access to sunshine and salt water (for longer than two months). We would never know what life would be like here if we didn’t just try. And so far, it has been the best decision yet!