How do you live that snowbird life?
March 21, 2018 3:41 PM   Subscribe

It's snowing again today, and my partner and I are ready to never spend another winter in NYC. Talk to us MeFi: Are you living that snowbird lifestyle? How do you make it work? *Snowflake details inside*

This isn't just snow-day fever talking here; we've been pondering this question for a year. We want to spend Nov-Mar living somewhere warmer and more affordable, but be able to come home and pick up our lives when we return every April. We're not imagining a vacation so much as a chance to build a life in a second city.

We're both in our 30s, self-employed, child-free, and fairly flexible. However, we both have deep friendships, family, and professional ties where we live now. Also two cats. And a rent-stabilized apartment that would deeply pain me to let go.

Seeking advice from MeFi: is there a way for working folk to put down roots in two cities?

How do you affordably live in another city for multiple months every year?
How do you build your career/professional network in two cities?
How do you maintain friendships at home while making new friends in another?
What other things do you have to consider if you're planning to move twice a year?

Personal stories welcome, MeFi-- I'd love to hear how you make this work!

Previous threads here, here, and here.
posted by juliaem to Work & Money (7 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
There is a reason most snowbirds are retirees.
posted by kestrel251 at 5:14 PM on March 21, 2018 [8 favorites]

My mom is a snowbird. She's retired, but I can speak to some of your questions:

1. You can affordably do it by owning both your homes and/or renting out the home you're not currently living in (easier if one or both of your homes is in a desirable area; no person on earth would rent my mom's house in Cold Town, nice as it is).

3. It's hard! My mom is an extremely friendly, outgoing person who's easy to get along with, and she's worked really hard to build a network in Warm Town. She leveraged old connections (former coworkers and classmates who'd settled in the area), joined/started book and neighborhood clubs, signed up for classes and events, etc.

4. Some stuff, particularly maintenance on the other home, is actually just an enormous pain in the ass. She also misses her friends in Cold Town, though that's improving, since lots of them are also retiring and moving to nearby Warm Towns that she can drive to visit.

My mom's boyfriend, who is not retired, usually comes out and stays with her in Warm Town for a 3-6 weeks each year, depending on his work schedule. That might be something to consider instead of/before going full snowbird. If I can get out to a warm place for ~two weeks in January or February, I'm pretty much good to go.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 5:32 PM on March 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

In theory, your RS landlord cannot unreasonably withhold consent to a sublet. However, if you sublet your RS apartment for five months a year, you run a real risk of having to fight an eviction attempt by your landlord on the grounds that the apartment is no longer your primary residence. You'd probably win as long as you spend at least 183 days/year at the apartment, but landlords are very, very aggressive these days.
posted by praemunire at 5:59 PM on March 21, 2018 [5 favorites]

My parents do this, and are also retired. In addition to the things that goodbyewaffles mentions, I have noticed it’s hard for my parents to keep strong ties to their cold town, because they love being in the warm town better. They also struggle with doctors appointments and other scheduling things - it’s hard to have good follow through with any ongoing commitments because they are always in the “wrong” place.
They have made a ton of friends in the new warm town because they live in a gated community full of people just like them. There are events run by the community leaders that they go to, and there was even a kind of pairing between new members and established members to help welcome them, which was huge. Their community also centers around golf, and they like golf.
They own both places and keep each vacant for half the year. It’s expensive.
You could keep some of these things in mind as you are thinking about where you want to go - it will be easier for friends-making if you Center Your lives around an activity you love where people are welcoming.
I agree with the 3-6 week suggestion of a vacation - you could pick somewhere inexpensive with good WiFi that you might love for a bit but not permanently - Thailand? Columbia? Etc and it wouldn’t be outrageously expensive if you were able to work for part of your vacation.
posted by andreapandrea at 8:22 PM on March 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

I have a 30-something friend who is basically a millennial snowbird. He grew up in the Midwestern town where I live and he returns to for about 5-6 months a year, and the rest of the year he spends in a Southern town.

Things he has going on for him:
-He has tons of contacts in his industry in both cities and an even more extensive social network.
-But from what I can see, much of the time he often strings together a series of service-industry jobs to make ends meet. He is definitely not a trust fund kid, and I strongly suspect he lives on a very shoestring budget.
-He typically lives in sublet/couchsurfing/temporary rental situations. A lot of his friends do similar things, so he has a major network of similarly transient friends from which to form temporary living arrangements.
-He's like that friend where there's only 2 degrees of separation between him and probably 70% of every city he's ever lived in, which no doubt helps him with finding space to crash, or jobs to pay the bills.

It's not that retirees are the only people who are snowbirds. But if you look at the other major population of snowbirds, they tend to be young artsy people with few family commitments, who aren't on a particular career trajectory, and are pretty content to live without a lot of housing stability or discretionary income.
posted by mostly vowels at 9:02 PM on March 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

Well we knew it wouldn't be easy... Thanks ya'll. This is helping us figure out what questions we need to be asking.
posted by juliaem at 8:30 AM on March 23, 2018

As someone who's living your dream (kind of), let me suggest an alternative: two months away, January and February. In my experience, this defangs winter, so the remaining wintry months are more enjoyable. It means you have two short winters separated by summertime. (We had a big blizzard yesterday, with snow a foot deep, and it's really kind of neat, not the tedious slog it would feel like otherwise. The big snowstorm in December didn't feel so bad either, because I knew I was on my way to somewhere warm soon.) It would make it harder to really establish "a life in a second city." My job has lots of remote workers, so they are fine with me working away 2 months out of 12. Give this approach a try, as a dry run for your bigger plans, and maybe you'll find it lifts the psychological weight of long city winters.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 3:21 PM on March 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

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