What Does A Snowbird Do?

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 A snowbird’s routine

My husband and I have now completed our first month as “snowbirds”. When I first told people about our plans to spend four months of the cold Canadian winter in Mesa, Arizona, I was sometimes asked what would we do with our time. It turns out that a lot of what we do is not that different than what we would be doing if we were home in Manitoba, but there are some differences.

What is the same as “back home”:
    • Household chores still need to be done – the laundry and the cleaning. I’ve noticed more dust here than back home.
  • Unless we have an early morning appointment or outing planned, my mornings start leisurely lingering over coffee, the newspaper and the crossword, after I’ve checked my email and other social media networks for updates. This is very similar to my routine at home, except that I am reading the Arizona Republic instead of the Winnipeg Free Press.


    • As was the case back home, we still have meal planning, grocery shopping, and meal preparations to do. It’s been an adventure investigating the variety of grocery stores and determining best choices for us. Look for a post in the future dedicated to this topic.
  • My husband and I practice Taoist Tai Chi. We’ve been attending a couple classes a week at the Phoenix-Scottsdale branch, a 25 minute drive away, mostly freeway driving. Because instruction is consistent internationally across all branches, it feels very much like home. In fact, one of the instructors from our local Winnipeg branch is teaching a class here while she also spends four months of the winter in Arizona. We’ve met a number of other snowbirds at the classes. My husband is one of several volunteers handling email for the Winnipeg club. He continues to do this from Arizona, thanks to the wonders of the Internet.

tai chi

    • I’ve started attending a drop-in restorative yoga class at Red Mountain Multi-generational Center. Drop-in fees are very reasonable.
    • My husband spends time researching music on the Internet. I practice piano, although I have no lessons or teacher here to motivate me into a regular schedule. I’ve been doing some writing, although not as much as I think I should be. (Maybe that isn’t so different from back home.) And we read and watch television.
  • I registered for Weight Watchers and attended a meeting. I have doubts about how well that will work. Although we’re doing a number of ordinary everyday things, it still feels like a vacation.
What is different:
  • We not shoveling snow, scraping frost off windshields, or bundling up in parkas, boots and mitts. However, we are in the midst of a cold spell in Mesa, the coldest in 24 years. Five nights in a row of below freezing temperatures, daytime highs 9 to 10 Celsius (48 to 50 Fahrenheit). I’ve worn thin gloves in the evenings. The owner of the house asked us to cover the outside water outlets so they wouldn’t freeze. We would not have thought to do this. Back home, part of the fall clean-up includes turning off the water to any outside tap. The January 14th edition of the Arizona Republic had an article about freezing temperatures threatening water pipes. There is also concern about the impact on citrus trees and predictions of increased fruit prices. The weather is expected to warm up by the weekend.
covered water pipes
Protecting outside water outlets from frost
  • Our dogs are getting two walks a day, two more than they would be back home.


    • I’m getting regular walking exercise. Back home, I’d be staying inside where it’s warm, and using the exercise bike instead.
    • We’ve used the community hot tub a few times. Although the community pool is heated, we haven’t used that yet, but expect to when the weather warms up.
    • We aren’t visiting in person with the friends and family we have in Manitoba, although email, phone, and social media allow us to stay somewhat connected. We are visiting with family in Mesa. This past weekend friends from Manitoba, who have a winter home near Sedona, stopped by. We have a Skype visit planned on February 2 with our dinner club friends.
    • My husband volunteered to help out at a local food bank.
    • We’re obviously not attending our regular church. I’ve visited a couple of different churches here, encountering delightful unexpected special services both times, but haven’t settled into any one on a regular basis yet.
    • At home, our day usually ends with watching the CBC National news. We read the newspaper here and often watch the dinner time local news, but get no Canadian news and very little international news. I’ve started watching the replays of the National on the Internet to stay connected with Canada and get more depth on international events.
  • There is plenty to see and do in the area. I am planning more outings and tourist type activities than I might be doing back home.

The house we’ve rented for the winter is in a small non-age-restricted community. Unlike the many 55+ retirement communities in the area, there aren’t organized social and recreational activities. If we were staying in one of those communities, it is possible our time might be spent differently, but I’m quite content with how we’re spending it now.

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