If you had told me even 5 years ago that I would become a snowbird in my 30’s, I would have laughed. I have never particularly been fond of Florida because of the intense summer heat. And yet, here I am in Florida for our 3rd extended winter trip with my entire family of 5.
We didn’t plan to become snowbirds, we stumbled our way into it. The choice was mostly driven by my husband, whose moods were majorly impacted by the characteristically cold and dreary winters of the Northeast. He craved sunshine and warm weather to help him feel better.
With this in mind, we began planning vacations to sunny locales at the peak of winter in an effort to combat some of his melancholy. This would work, but we realized that just one week or even 10 days was not enough time to truly relax and recharge. It took several days to be able to wind down from our busy schedules and lives back home, and before we knew it we were headed back into the cold. Not to mention the incredible expense of taking our whole family on vacation to tropical destinations.
Finally, we realized that because we both held remote work positions, there was nothing stopping us from working from anywhere we pleased. I can still remember the day our discussion led us to this idea, standing in the kitchen discussing the possibilities and saying “why not?”
At first, we researched rentals in the Caribbean, but eliminated them because of the incredible expense to fly there and rent a car, in addition to paying inflated prices for meals and entertainment. We were also concerned about reliable internet connectivity.
That’s how we landed in Florida. It was as far south as we could go on the East Coast and still remain in the US. We could drive our own vehicle and bring some of our own belongings. We would remain in somewhat familiar territory with US based systems and routines.
Identifying ourselves as snowbirds came from our very first trip. The amount of teasing we received was not small. Eyebrows were raised. It was the topic de jour. “So, y’all are snowbirds?” became a familiar line. It was pretty much unheard for a young family to spend an extended period of time in Florida during the winter. The snowbird title typically belonged to retired folks, not newly married folks with toddlers in tow.
I have to admit I was pretty reluctant at first. I was worried about being able to maintain my job remotely (even more remotely, no longer within driving distance of my office) while juggling the children. It was a little harder, but doable because my husband jumped in to help me balance. My husband’s consultancy, while Northeast based, was surprisingly portable. He could easily return home for business meetings or tradeshows, but every other aspect of his business could be handled via phone, email, or fax (forwarded to email).
It turns out that I didn’t need to worry about work for our subsequent trips, as I was part of a mass layoff while pregnant with my son. That year we came down right after I delivered him, and I was able to recover with our newborn in the warmer climate.
The benefits for our family are immeasurable. The sunshine lifted all of our spirits incredibly (even mine, and I hadn’t considered myself affected by the bleak winters). The warm weather helped us get more active, as opposed to being holed up inside due to the cold. Our bodies reset to a more summer styled appetite, allowing us to eat lighter and healthier. More typically seasonal foods were available like avocados and oranges, and being close to the water increased the availability of fish to eat.
The most surprising element of all? We were more productive. We got more done during those periods than we would typically do at home during the winter. We’ve spent some time trying to narrow down the exact cause, but mostly attribute it to an overall increase in health and wellness, with a better balance of work and play. We took time every day to swim or hit the park or find an adventure. When we sat down to work in shorter bursts, we were more focused and successful.
I realize this is not an option for everyone, and yes, we feel very fortunate. It’s expensive, but probably not as much as you might think. Renting a house is often less expensive per night than a hotel, and we don’t have to take the time off from work because we bring our work with us. We’re willing to forego traditional vacations because this kind of hybrid vacation has done more for us in terms of lasting benefits. But we didn’t always think it could be a reality for us, either. We evaluated our scenario, and dared to push past traditional boundaries in order to find a solution that worked for our Sanity Plan.