LEISURE LETTER 41: THE ART OF SNOWBIRDING
Before the winter months come to a close, ushering in the rain and blossoms of spring, we thought it best to shed light on the timeless art of snowbirding. It’s likely to capture the interest of anyone looking for a taste of the sun – especially so at times when the weather at home has grown relatively cold, dark and gray. An available metaphor, taken from nature itself, is that of the migratory bird heading south as soon as the days begin to shorten and the thermometer makes its slow, steady descent. Perhaps it’s when we lose our own reason that nature provides us with a reason of its own. Maybe the birds were trying to tell us something all along.
Traditionally snowbirding has been the twilight pursuit of the retired demographic, mostly older folks from the colder northern states, who have the good sense to seek out the Florida’s and Arizona’s of the world as soon as things get ugly at home. They own fully furnished timeshares. They make plans months and months in advance. And that’s great – we love it. They paved the way after all. But as quaint as all that sounds, we have some alternate plans for the southern flying bird. It can be much simpler, much more . . . refined. While we can’t do anything for you, we can certainly point you in the right direction.
First things first . . . Find yourself at least one week to get away. That’s all it takes to warm up, reset and revitalize. Then book a cheap flight. Book a flight that lands somewhere with a minimum average temp of 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure you have a bnb lined up, a hotel, or even a hostel. If you have the means, rent something indefinitely. Pack light. You’ll want a bathing suit, of course. Glasses for the sun. One outfit for dinner, a reliable pair of shoes for dancing and whatever else. A few hundred in cash for impromptu purchases from street vendors and food carts – passport, toothbrush, toiletries . . . you get it. Everything should fit snug in a carry-on. I prefer a duffle bag. Nothing more, nothing less.
Now there’s a thousand places we’d probably like to go, and a thousand more after that, though for the sake of brevity we’ll only speak of a few. There’s even a fair chance you’ve already been to these places. Well so what? Go again!
Everyone needs to spend a little time on Oahu, Hawaii’s most powerful island. Getting there shouldn’t be much of a hassle either, despite it being a volcanic rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. They’re running flights all day, from every corner of the country. You take one straight to Honolulu, waltz off the plane with your duffle bag in hand and hail a cab. “To the Royal Hawaiian, please.” Yes, the Royal Hawaiian . . . It’s the big pink castle on the sand right in downtown Waikiki. Sinatra used to stay there. Joan Didion did a stint. Elivs too. And it’s where the Duke brought surfing to the world stage. A lot going on. But forget about all that. You go straight to the Mai Tai Bar and order a . . . you guessed it – Mai Tai. Enjoy that Mai Tai. Enjoy that view. Then order another one. Two should be enough. At some point you’ll notice the sweet Hawaiian breeze – the tradewinds – shimmering off the waves, green hills rising sharp and abrupt from the sea. That breeze has come a long way and so have you. The sun is now setting out by the South China Sea, a golden flood on the horizon, now orange, now purple. This is where we’ll leave you.
It should come as no surprise that Costa Rica has in its possession some of the finest beach destinations in the world, most of which we’ve never even heard of. Visiting them all would require a substantial vacation, indeed. Forced to pick one with what little experience I have in this matter, it would have to be Santa Teresa – a secluded one-street village in the southwest region of the Nicoya Peninsula, where the rainforest vies with the sand for a dip in the sea, and every sunset is accompanied by a beach party here, another one there. As far as accommodations go, there are many dreamy spots to stay, shared or private, cheap or steep. Same goes for dining. A few dollars buys you a plate of fresh fish with seasoned rice and beans, plantains, a small salad – Casado – a plate I could enjoy for the rest of my natural life. Sprinkled throughout the hills are countless villas that rent for short or long term, all of them hidden beneath the trees where the birds are always singing. Santa Teresa is but one small slice of the great big pie of paradise. Whether you’re seeking self care, libations and socializations, or an extensive beach lounge, consider making the trip.
Next stop, Nayarit – the Mexican riviera. You’ll get there by way of Puerto Vallarta, a fine destination in its own right, but that’s something for next time. Once again I’m hailing a cab at the airport. “Sayulita, Por Favor.” The cabman smiles, nods his head and bids me to get in. We head north, only stopping at a tienda where I grab us some cold water and a Pacifico for the road. It’s hot down here, humid and nearly tropical. We traverse miles of lush forest, laughing and telling each other stories along the way. “You’re going to have a good time in Sayulita amigo.” He was right. Delicious meals every night, music all around, cobblestone roads, coffee and a walk in the morning. A few miles down the road lies San Pancho – it’s smaller, a little more quiet, with a lovely beach of its own and outdoor dining on the sand. Recline with a frozen drink underneath the oversize palapa, order some shrimp as well. Something feels right about all this.
As far as snowbirding goes, sometimes less is more. Less planning, less luggage, less stress. The main thing is to make it happen, even on a whim, and see where things go. Chances are you’ll end up somewhere beautiful, and feel quite at ease about your decision to go there. Just always remember to consider the locals as you would like to be considered. With this in mind, be sure to clean up after yourself, be aware, and treat others with kindness and respect. Good times will be the result. And who knows? . . . maybe you end up staying and begin to refer to one of these beautiful places as home.