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30
Dec

istock_000010053914xsmallI grew up in the cold and snow, but now I have decided I never wanted to experience another winter. This is my story.

In Quebec, the famous French poet Gilles Vignault wrote “My country is not a country, it’s winter” (Mon pays c’est pas un pays, c’est l’hiver). Although it doesn’t translate that well from the original French, I think it still summarizes well the love/hate relationship many Northerners have with the winter.

On the one hand, the winter defines who we are. On the other hand, we despise the hardships of the cold season.

Other satirical comments have been made about the winter in Canada or the Northern states, such as

“We have two seasons in Canada, cold and not as cold”

I was told that the best way to go through the winter is to embrace it. So instead of cursing the weather, make the best of it. Go out and enjoy some winter sports! Ski! Put on some warm clothes and go take a walk when it’s sunny outside, even if it’s below freezing. That all sounded good, but in spite of this advice I still hated the winter.

I do not care for skiing or other winter sports. I much prefer feeling the wind on my skin as I ride my bike or run outside, with sunshine on my face, rather than feeling myself uncomfortably sweating inside of a giant isolated winter coat, while risking getting every unexposed part of my body getting injured by frostbite.

The winter made everything more difficult

Getting in and out of the house became a big endeavor requiring a lot of preparation, rather than something simple and enjoyable.

Even with good intentions such as taking a 45-minute walk every morning, the power of the elements can discourage the most committed ones.

There were times when the weather was so cold that I remained literally locked in my house for almost a week at a time. Even going out to the gym was something I was not even willing to do.

Some other random winter annoyances included:

  • Being cold in the morning when getting out of bed.
  • Salt on the streets corroding everything
  • Shoveling snow
  • Snow melting into slush and brown from the dirt, staining and wetting everything
  • Scarf smell! The nasty phenomenon that happens when you breathe your own snot smell from having to wear the scar over your nose and mouth.
  • Having to get into a cold freezing car that never actually starts to warm up until you’re about to reach your destination
  • Cold feet and toes!
  • Snow and how it gets in the way of everything!
  • Sunrise at 8:30 and sun set at 4:00 p.m.
  • Chapped lips because of dry heating
  • The time it takes to get dressed just to go outside for any reason!
  • Ice and the dangers in brings
  • Christmas songs playing in early November with no respite until late in December

Health Aspects of Living in the North

I found that although it was possible to stay healthy in the North and even eat a mostly raw food diet, the winter made it much more difficult to stay healthy and in shape.

First, there’s the problem of temperature. Setting the thermostat between 65 and 68 degrees (18-20 Celsius) is supposed to be healthy, but it feels too cold. Try boosting the temperature above that and you start feeling the negative effects of artificial heating: dry skin, respiratory problems and discomfort.

So my sad solution was to keep temperature low, but wear extra layers in the house. I always kept the bathroom steaming hot, as I hated to enter a cold bathroom on a Monday morning to take a shower.

The problems of the cold weather were reinforced by eating cold foods, such as fresh fruit. I had to be particularly careful to avoid all cold drinks and fruits, otherwise I would get shivers.

Sometimes after eating a big smoothie with fruits coming out of the fridge that I didn’t have time to warm up, I would feel so cold that I had to take a hot bath to feel better.

The average body temperature of a healthy fit person eating raw is a few degrees lower than the average body 98.6 (37 celsius) most people consider “normal”. A lower body temperature is a great advantage when it comes to all sorts of athletic endeavors, and also to handle hot weather, but can take some time adapting to when you live in a cold climate.

As soon as the weather started getting cold, I would lose my motivation to exercise outside, which is my favorite type of exercise. So I had to find other types of exercises that could be done inside, such as rebounding or going to the gym.

The shorter days with less sunshine meant little vitamin D for the entire winter, which could be hard for the body to bear without supplementation.

I did find however that despite the difficulties of eating raw in the North, the health advantages of eating this way far outweighed the negatives. Most of my friends and relative got seriously sick at least once every winter, and would often complain of stuffed noses or colds, while I remained healthy and cold-free the entire winter. My mood was dramatically improved by the natural “sunshine” I got from the fruits and vegetables I was eating, and the exercise routine I tried to maintain.

Over the years I spent eating raw in Canada, I even came up with a series of recipes and tips for following a raw food diet in the North, called the Raw Winter Recipe Guide.

However, there is no doubt that staying fit and healthy was dramatically easier in a warmer climate.

The Winter Amnesia

Every winter, I tried to spend at least a few weeks in a warmer climate. In 2004, I spent one month in Brazil. In 2005, I spent three months in Costa Rica. In 2006, I went to Bali and French Polynesia. In 2007, I spent five months in Costa Rica. Every year, I was avoiding more and more of the winter… but part of me was still attached to living in the North with four seasons. Call it nostalgia?

I have a different name for it. I call it: winter amnesia.

I came up with this concept with a friend of mine back in 2003. At the time, I had noticed something strange. I would go through an entire winter of hardship, coldness and snow, and when springtime and summertime came, I started thinking that living in Canada wasn’t so bad after all.

I would think to myself: “Maybe I don’t have to move anywhere warm after all. It’s not so bad.”

I would completely forget how horrible the winter was… and that’s why I realized I had winter amnesia, a common psychological affliction most Northerners suffer from, when their minds purposely forget how bad winters are, in order to stay in their comfort zone and avoid any radical move!

So I would set myself up for another cold winter again, without making the necessary move to move to a warmer climate.

It got to the point that I actually asked my friend to send me an email in November of next year. The email I asked him to send me read something like this:

Dear Frederic,

I know that by now you’ve come out of a very enjoyable summer in Canada, and you have completely forgotten how bad last winter was. This letter is to remind you: get out of there before it’s too late! The winter sucks! Your friend,

Yourself

Frederic

Of course, this “winter amnesia” concept was just a joke, but there was some truth behind it. Unless I planned in advance, there was no way I was going to fulfill my dream of living in a warmer climate.

Fastforward to present day: I’m now spending my winters in Costa Rica, and I have no intention of experiencing another winter again for any reason!

img_0789Last year, I waited until January 10th to go on my annual winter trip, and later I regretted it terrible. The months of November and December in Montreal were truly horrible, so I swore to myself that I would never stay for another winter again.

Call me a winter wussy, but I came to the conclusion that the months of November until late April were completely out of the question. I HAD to be in a warm climate during that time. May isn’t so bad, because there’s the promise of summer. June is okay. July and August are the only great months. September is also good because of the sunny weather, harvest time and beautiful trees falling. October is already off-limit. It’s tolerable but not enjoyable. I’d rather be somewhere else!

For many years, I used to keep my apartment year-round in Canada, and spend several months in the tropics. Now I have decided to get rid of most of our possessions in Canada to establish a more permanent base in Costa Rica.

There’s a lot more to say about this topic… in my next article I will tell you how I ended up living in Costa Rica and how I made my dream of living in a tropical paradise a reality, after years and years of thinking about it. There were many difficulties, but when I look outside my window and take a look at my jungle and mountains… and breathe the warm tropical air, perfumed by the scent of beautiful flowers, I think to myself, it was worth it!

What do you think about living in the North? Do you dream of living in a warmer climate? Did you actually make the move? I’d like to know more in the comments!


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Category : Costa Rica / Tropical Paradises

16 Responses to “Things I Hate About the Winter… and How to Move to the Tropics!”


Kathleen Keene December 30, 2009

*sobbing* (not literally, but you know)
I can relate to every single aspect of this blog entry. Living in Minnesota (Just south of Manitoba) all my life, I know this winter amnesia phenomenon all too well. I wax poetic about winter in the hot summer, grieve in the autumn, and dream about spring and summer in the winter.

We simply just cannot afford to move, and with family nearby, it would be so hard on everyone. If we had more expendable income, living someplace warmer and taking plane trips to see family would be awesome.

I know that I just need to take a risk and do the “Ready, Fire, Aim” thing…

Joan December 30, 2009

The worst part of winter is the shorter days and lack of sunshine! I don’t mind the cold so much and actually like snow. But the lack of sunshine and dreariness is depressing…spring come soon!

Rose Vasile December 30, 2009

Hi Frederic. Thanks for your great articles! Ten years ago I moved from Ontario to Vancouver to get away from long snowy winters and humid summers. I now live in Courtenay, on Vancouver Island where we hardly have snow, and I enjoy looking out at the green vegetation, including bamboo trees. However, the dark rainy winters can bring my mood down. This year I decided to go somewhere warm and sunny, so in a few weeks I’m going on a one week Mexican cruise. Besides the sun, I’m hoping I’ll enjoy lots of ripe luscious fruit. Hope you and your fiance enjoy your world travels…sounds exciting. Rose

Joe Faia December 30, 2009

Hey Frederic,

Wow, don’t tell me you’re “The Grinch Who Stole Winter”!

I have a different perspective on the whole thing. Whoever said that “variety is the spice of life” wasn’t too far off the mark. I would simply add, “within reason”.

Sure, who needs winter blizzards blowing snow into your face, under the hood of your car ensuring that it won’t start; ice storms that dangle you within an inch of a broken leg; exorbitant heating bills; locking yourself out of your place, in the middle of the night, at -20 degrees centigrade, with only a t-shirt on (yeah, done that!); the incessant, backbreaking, ordeal of snow shoveling; etc., etc., etc.

However, what can replace the comfort of sleeping in warm covers; the magical crackling of wood in a fireplace; the crisp sound of packed snow as it gives under the weight of your steps; the winter wonderland of whiteness softening the harsh and abrasive ravage of Fall; the Christmas season with its meaning and spirituality; the miracle of a snowflake dancing its way to your world declaring that there’s far more to this Universe than sheer randomness, purposelessness, and error.

Having said that, by the time February comes along, the wonder begins to disappear and I’m ever ready for change. Spring arrives but proves only to be the cruelest time of the year, promising, promising, yet seldom delivering.

June arrives packed with real warmth, signaling that the promise was not empty after all.

July is too hot, and August not a whole lot better. Not sleeping at night makes me crave for colder months.

September dismisses the chaos of summer and brings orderliness once again. Vacation time is over, school starts again, the routine is back.

October signals change. Leaves burst into an explosion of colors, refusing to die unnoticed.

November is gray, dreary and depressing.

Where is winter already?

Big G. December 30, 2009

Fred,

You have become to soft MOntreal isn’t that cold at all.

I had a girl from Montreal in our house and was telling me how much milder MOntreal is in the winter.

Come visit me here in Winterpeg in January :-)

I feel less cold as I live healthier. No need to supplementation here with Vitamin D just go outdoors it is very simple.

People live in Russia cold and are very healthy.

Chris Dove December 30, 2009

Great article Fred! I hate cold weather! Hate it! Hate it! Hate it!. I even hate winter in Florida. The hotter the better and bring on the humidity. I would rather sweat than shiver. Maybe some day I will make it to the equator.

Sylvie December 30, 2009

You are absolutely right! WE are experiencing the same thing than you and we are also from Canada. On top of what you said, try to get the kids ready on time when we have to fight to dress them up to go out in the winter. I am anxious to read your continuation. We want to move South as well.

Karmyn December 30, 2009

WINTER AMNESIA?

That must be a CANADIAN thing because I NEVER forgot how miserable winter makes me! :)

We’re leaving for PANAMA in less than 48 hours and I CAN’T WAIT!!!

Have a Happy New Year! :) See you soon!

Love, Karmyn

Voyages Vacances December 30, 2009

I love the cold weather, but, without humidity.

Winter in Montreal is horrible but I loved living in Iqaluit (Nunavut) for a while because this type of cold is not the same at all.

It is stimulating and you can walk as much as you want and feel WARM. I used to walk to work (25 minutes) with the hood of my parka down most of the time by -20° to -30°.

One of my most invigorating experience was to sort of dance in a beginning blizzard going at 80 miles/hour, walking from my workplace to the Post Office.

On the other hand, to live a simpler life, I would’nt mind moving to a warm place.

But !

I wonder where on earth is a place as nice as Costa Rica, with warm and DRY weather, where you can move around without sweating like a pig and not too many bugs ?

Frederic December 31, 2009

The answer: Costa Rica, in higher elevation! Or Ecuador, or California…

Debra USA January 1, 2010

Well thanks for validating all of us who just can’t get into Winter! I’m just not into the weird depressive, creepy feeling of my body shutting down and feeling like I’m living in a dark coffin, battling slush and snow. And then there was the winter where my muffler kept falling off and I had to lay down on the ice and show and rig it up again. Yuk yuk yuk!

I don’t even use air conditioning in the summer because I want to soak up as much heat as I can – ironically in the USA, the hotter it is outside, the higher they crank the AC indoors, which kind of defeats the whole purpose of waiting all year for it to get warm :)

Mary January 3, 2010

Hi Frederic,

I (as I affectionately call it) have ‘done time’ in Minnesota- in northern Minnesota. And, as much as I did not enjoy it, one learns to live with it and make the best of it – for whatever reason. Anywyay, when I did live there, I took a sailing vacation every Christmas and New Year to some place in the Caribbean. But, when I had to stay in MN, I did learn to tolerate the plugging in the car (so it would start) and do the Minnesota shuffle/walk, so I wouldn’t slip on the frigging ice, and I made it a point to stop after work at the gym – so I could continue to fit into my clothes during the winter. ……
But, ….now, I live in Texas. And life is good. I have been extremely fortunate to find a small Ranch in Texas, where I can spend the rest of my days. I have to admit warmth and sunshine and summer is my favorite time of the year – - but, my animals – goats, llamas, and puppies (OK, dogs) really enjoy the not-so-hot-temps.
Where I’m coming from Frederic, there have been several times in my life that I almost was going to live in a year-round warm climate (i.e. the Caribbean), but I for a number of reasons didn’t go there. BUT, I am so happy that you followed your dream and went for it. As it turned out, Life was extremely good for me and the choices that I made were great for me. I love where I am, and will be for the rest of my days, so, I guess what I’m trying to say to you, and to whoever may be reading this, is – life is definately TOO short – - go for it! Try to do whatever you can to fulfill your dream – within your means. HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!!!

Vicky White January 5, 2010

I’m completely with you about winter. I’m in Vancouver, and I really don’t like being cold, having to wear tons of clothes, worrying about the cold air coming in when I open my front door, havng to stay inside, being Vitamin D deficient.

One of my goals last year was to spend 3 months of this winter somewhere warm – and it hasn’t happened. Every other year I go visiting family for a month in winter – but really I want to be out of here for at least 3 months – so that’s my focus this year – aligning my business so it supports me to do that – I’m happy to work during winter – just somewhere warm!

I love Costa Rica, Mexico, Bali, NZ – now to make it happen! Thanks for the inspiration. Why not be where we want to be!!

Vicky White January 5, 2010

I missed out the bit about it being NZ I go visiting family every other year – I’m not sure I want to spend 3 months there though. I’m working on combining NZ with somewhere more exotic!

N January 26, 2010

It’s really nice to hear somebody speaking upand validating the experiences of living in a country with a cold climate.

I’ve lived in Winnipeg, Canada for most of my life, and I just can’t get into the weather. Even when I am indoors, I’m usually still cold. People have to pay for heating here, so heating a space as little as possible is common. It can be actually really hard to sit down and concentrate on something when you’re cold, as well as frustrated that it may be difficult to leave this location due mainly to finances.

Staying locked up indoors for days is not uncommon, and I find that not only is it isolating, but it perpetuates an isolating attitude even outside the house. Feeling trapped in a place that is cold and dark can make you numb yourself to things like happy thoughts and emotions, nature and community, and people can become extremely bitter and unfulfilled in this setting. And do we really need more people walking around on this planet feeling this way?

Obviously some people choose to live in a colder climate and some people choose a hotter climate. That’s why it is unfair to generalize people or say who should ‘suck it up’ and live here or there. I think the existence of borders and the importance of money contribute to a lot of the problems of mobility freedom, and I would like to see this change in my lifetime. I intend to live and operate in a tropical climate, so I will somehow make it happen. It’s just too bad that ‘privilege’ is only for those who can amass the finances for such a change.

Thanks again (to everybody) and take care!
N

Frederic January 26, 2010

Thanks for your comment! I would agree that it’s a “privilege” to have a mobile lifestyle and be able to live anywhere, but I wouldn’t say that it has much to do with money, but more with commitments. My current lifestyle costs me a lot less than if I stayed put in one place. Anyone can start an Internet business, and live in Panama, Thailand or Costa Rica for a lot less than they would at home. My calculations showed that I could spend the entire winter in Costa Rica WHILE keeping my apartment in Canada, and still save money. Of course, someone with other commitments, such as a day-job they can’t quit, children, etc. — won’t be able to do this as easily — but it’s not all about money. You can live the lifestyle you dream of, for much less than you think! (PS: I’m writing this in an apartment in Panama City on the 11th floor, with a view overlooking the city, just had an “all-you-can eat” delicious vegan dinner for $3.5, and staying at a hotel that would probably be four times the price in New York City).