August 24 – September 30, 2018 Vol. 20, No. 12

Snowbirds On the Loose

by Rod Johnson

Are we talking about actual flying birds that stay in snow country all year long — or those that leave for warmer climates during the winter months? Actually neither, we are speaking of the exodus of humans, usually retired older folks, that leave their beloved abodes in north country and head for somewhere warm. Yup, that's who we are speaking of all right. Being one of them, I have been silently studying this phenomenon that has been going on in my family and thousands of others for many decades. Let's examine their modus operandi and see what subcategories might be developed.

A large portion of the snowbirds we know, fall into the "6 and 6" category. This means you leave the north more or less after foliage toward the end of October, stay in warm climates (usually Florida or Arizona, but not always) for six months, leave and come back to north around the early part of May. Some of these folks purposely stay in Florida for six months and a day to satisfy the IRS tax rules concerning state citizenship, no income tax, etc. Others feel the weather is generally conducive at those times — so they never see or deal with ice and snow. It's often seen as the best of both worlds while minimizing the negatives in both places (a rather large mouthful).

Having said all the above, let's face it, there are many variations. I would guess a second major category includes those who want to spend the holidays in the north, then head south. These folks are known in the snowbird vocabulary as snowflakes. These are quite a large segment that have children and grandchildren that they want to spend either Thanksgiving or Christmas with, sometimes both. These folks fall into a couple of subcategories, those who stay in the north until the first of January and thereby spend four months in the south, or those who go south in early November, fly home for the holidays, then return. Of course there are many variations of snowflakes as well.

I must comment on the short timers, a group who have one foot in retirement and one still working. These folks are not able to completely cut loose from the north for any great amount of time, but come and go back and forth as their schedule and budget allows. It is only fair that we mention the naysayers as well. These are the folks who not only love the cold and snow, perhaps winter in general, and would never consider spending any more time in the warm states than it takes to go to Disney with the grandkids. Each to their own, and maybe they deserve a name too, like ice cubes!

We might think that snowbirding is a new idea since the advent of automobiles and roads. After pondering the issue, one realizes that people as far back as Cro-Magnon man did annual migrations. Theirs was a more mandatory wandering to get where plants could survive and they could forage for food. The concept that warmer areas were easier to survive in than cold was not lost on them — nor is it lost on millions of North Americans who flood into warmer climates and return north in the spring. After all, who would want to miss the buds sprouting and the real birds returning to enjoy the cooler, more comfortable temperatures right here in good old New England.

May the continuous comings and goings continue and may many of you who would like to give this lifestyle a try, be able to do so in your future. Cheers from TLB.

Rod Johnson was born and raised in the Belgrade Lakes in the 1950s and '60s.