Making Peace with Winter

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When I jump-started my full-time traveling, the timing could not have been more fortuitous.

Not surprisingly, it was in the middle of an endless New England winter when I decided that I would leave home and head for the heat and humidity of Southeast Asia.

Little did I know that the upcoming winter, the one that I would spend in tropical climates, would be one of the worst that the Boston area has had in recent years.  In the winter of 2010-2011, blizzard after blizzard hit Massachusetts.  Snow reached higher than my backyard swingset.

While I was jumping off boats into the Andaman Sea, the Gulf of Thailand, and the South China Sea, my parents were sending me pictures of their backyards under snow.

While I was doing this:

They were going through this:

And while I empathized with their predicament, I was SO happy to be far away from all of this.  For the first time in my life, I didn’t have to endure a New England winter.

How It Happened

Despite my lifelong aversion to winter, I decided to live in Boston after graduating from college.  It was partly out of genuine love for the city, partly out of loyalty to my family, and, I’m ashamed to say, partly out of laziness.

Could I have enjoyed living in San Francisco or Austin?  Sure, but they were SO far away, and the thought of finding a job, finding an apartment, and moving all my stuff to a place I wasn’t sure I’d like seemed just exhausting.

In lots of ways, life as a young professional in Boston was fantastic.  I loved my friends and I loved how social my workplaces were.  Summer in Boston is wonderful.  But the long winters, lasting from November through late March, filled with snowstorms, sleet, and freezing temperatures, depressed me more than ever before.

I wasn’t happy here.

And the worst part was that I was ridden with a sickening guilt – how could I feel this way if I was so fortunate to have my health, a burgeoning career in a smart field, and a loving and supportive circle of family and friends?

I was fortunate, and for that reason, I was afraid to admit I was unhappy.

You’ve heard the story about January 2010 before.  I lost my job, I lost a lucrative freelance job, my relationship ended, and a certain election did not go my way.  And I realized that if I didn’t take this as a sign to change my life, I never would.

I prioritized what was most important to me: travel.  I spent seven months saving enough money to travel through Southeast Asia for several months.

And that’s what brought me to the endless summer of 2010-2011, getting a foot massage on the beach and eating sweet dragonfruit as my Bostonian friends and families cursed yet another two feet of snowfall.

The New Winter

And yet this year, I’ve found my way back to cold climates — like Cappadocia, shivering through sub-zero temperatures in a hot air balloon; and Shetland, where it was impossible to stand in the wind for more than a few minutes without needed to take shelter.

The strange thing was that once I began experiencing cold climates again, I realized that my contempt for winter was largely exaggerated.

What I actually hate is:

  1. Dealing with heavy snow, from shoveling to digging out my car to transportation shutdowns.
  2. Very cold winters, where the temperatures are below freezing for weeks on end.
  3. Long winters lasting more than four months, only punctuated by a brief summer.

And that’s it, really.  Cold days in the 30s and 40s, mostly confined to a two-to-three-month period?  I don’t mind them.  Which is one reason why living in England is working out so well.

From now on, I am wherever I am because I choose to be there.  And sometimes, that means winter destinations.  The benefits of me being wherever I am outweigh winter weather by quite a large margin.  Shetland may have been freezing, but Up Helly Aa was awesome.

When I lived in Boston, I was trapped by my job, my freelance jobs, my lease, and plenty more responsibilities.  While I can’t stay in most countries as long as I’d like, I don’t have to stay anywhere longer than I have to.  Whether I book a Dubai cruise with Virgin Holidays Cruises, go lie on the beach in the Caribbean, or just head to a warmer city like Lisbon, where I am now, it’s up to me.

From now on, if winter is REALLY bothering me, there’s always a way out.  But it’s not so bad anymore.

23 thoughts on “Making Peace with Winter”

  1. Being from Philadelphia, I understand the endless North East winters (although they’re not as bad as the ones in Boston). I agree wholeheartedly with your post, which is part of the reason why I moved to Puerto Rico. I feel this quote sums it up nicely: “If you don’t like where you are, then change it. You’re not a tree.”

  2. If you want to experience cold without the snow, come to the UK! Recently it’s been below freezing with pockets of snow but the majority of the country is just locked in a freezer!

  3. I LOVE winter and snow. for about two and a half hours per year. the other 4 months of miserable weather are just too much to pay for a little bit of joy.

  4. The best decision I ever made in my life was quitting a “successful” life in Boston to move to Florida and be a waitress… since then I’ve lived in and traveled to a zillion parts of the country I never thought I’d set foot in. My life is lightyears from being as exciting as yours, but I couldn’t be happier! Though I miss Boston and my family & friends, I’d never go back to my old life there! I completely understand.

  5. I love winter !!! I do hope that we have snow here in Bali :p
    But maybe it won’t be so fun to have freezing weather for more than 3 months.
    Btw it’s my first visit here, and I really like your blog 🙂

  6. Ha, I apparently brought the South to Boston this year. Since moving here in early January, it’s snowed maybe three times? I can get used to *this* kind of winter.

  7. I think being in Chicago I’ve gotten used to the cold weather. Which is actually bad, because I can get complacent and stay inside for a month without actually living life to the fullest. I do agree with the idea that you should go wherever your heart calls, regardless of the weather!

  8. Living in montreal and being a snowboarder, i used to like winter. But this year, we don’t have a lot of snow, it rains whenever and the humidity is off the charts. I never thought i’d say this but living in a sunny place sounds good right about now…

  9. I like this post, and actually completely agree with you – I think the real reason I hate winter has a lot to do with how long it lasts, how cold it gets, and the not-so-great aspects of snow – the driving (I get so stressed!), scraping frost off my windshield, and digging myself out after a snowstorm lol. I am definitely loving Southern California, it’s so beautiful here and I don’t have to worry about snow (but can certainly visit it if I want to!)

    1. I didn’t mention in this post that one of my friends, who lived in Brighton (or maybe Brookline) at the time, fell in a snowstorm and broke her ankle. Traffic was at a standstill, so she couldn’t get a taxi. She had to CRAWL home with a broken ankle!

  10. I feel like I could have written this post! I’m from Mass and remember cursing life itself walking against the wind going class to class at Umass. I was miserable due to the cold and snow. I moved to sunny Andalusia in 2009 and loved the change in climate. Now I’m in Madrid, a bit colder, and I find myself loving the crisp cold sunny days. It makes a huge difference without snow and knowing it only lasts three months!

  11. I always thought I hated the winter and the way I travelled meant I managed to escape the winter for 3 whole years. I thought I was the luckiest person ever at first but you know what, I really started to miss it! I missed wearing cosy clothes and going to country pubs with roaring fires. I’m not sure if I could handle a Boston winter but I’ve realised that UK winters aren’t all that bad.

  12. Kate,
    I grew up in northern Ohio on Lake Erie with 6 months of winter. I thought warm sunny places were only in the movies. One day as I was about to dig my car out of the driveway for the 1000th time, I said “enough”! I sold my house and drove west until I found the Pacific Ocean and that’s where I lived for 8 glorious years. We are free to move around this planet and enjoy all it has to offer.

  13. I’ve had two winters in a row, which is why I’m now determined to have two summers in a row–although, granted, California and Australia winter aren’t quiiiiite as bad as the East Coast! I still logged plenty of days in flip flops and a sweater. After so much summer though, I’m actually pretty keen to buy some boots and a cute jacket and live in a winter city–or a ski chalet!

  14. I really liked this post, especially since I’ve always lived in warm climates so I’ve never really had to experience the downsides of winter. In Houston, every year we prayed that it would snow so we could get out of school and go play in it…and that happened exactly once! Glad to hear that this winter has been a lot better for you (especially since Europe didn’t get snowed under for the entire month of December like in 2010)!

  15. Ugh, winter. I’ve frequently proposed the moving of New York City several thousand miles South, but unfortunately no one is listening. For now I’ll have to keep spending those brutal stretches of cold somewhere far far away!

  16. I’ve always said I hate winter, but I’ve realized what I really hate is day after day of grey. Last winter in Santiago it was pretty cold but relatively sunny, and I was fine. I’ve never dealt with snow though – considering how annoying I find it to end up with slush all over the entryway when I’ve been skiing, I don’t think I would enjoy it!

  17. I never liked winter even though the coldest was in Sydney, Australia where there’s no snow. I miss the sun too easily. However, being a girl from the tropics, I’ve always wanted to see snow fall. I’m not sure how I’m going to do pull of a journey in winter but seeing snow fall might be worth it… maybe… ?
    Brrr… it gives me the chill just thinking about it.

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