“This winter is a write-off” Snowbirds’ wings clipped in the face of coronavirus

By Gordon Lambie

Next Tuesday is the first day of fall, and the start of season that would normally be something of a countdown for those Canadians in the habit of heading south for the winter.
In the endless season of COVID-19, however, several local winter travellers are instead making plans to hunker down and brave the cold for the first time in years.
“We’ve gone away for maybe 17 years now,” said Kristen McKercher, who said that the closure of the border and the spread of the virus has had an impact on everything from the trips she and her husband usually make to Florida and Georgia to visits with her daughter in British Columbia. “We probably won’t go back until there’s a vaccine.”
McKercher said that as soon as they found themselves coming back home early last spring, the idea that the coming winter would be spent at home started to take hold. Although the decision means that the couple will not be able to meet up with the large collection of winter friends and acquaintances that they have gathered over the years, she said that phone calls and Facetime will help soften the blow.
“We’ll miss these people, but they’re all in the same situation,” McKercher said “I don’t know if it will ever be the same.”
Claire Bureau and her husband are also facing big changes to the routine.
“If something happens and we can go, great, but we’re not counting on it,” she said, sharing that their winter home has been West Palm Beach, Florida, for the last eight years.
Like McKercher, Bureau said that she could see the warning signs early that this would be a different sort of winter and became firmer in the decision not to go back as the months went on.
“We watch American news and when we see the situation there and how they are handling it, it is clear that things are not going well,” she said. “It’s just a mess.”
Both McKercher and Bureau harboured no delusions about the fact that wintering in Quebec will be very different, although they looked ahead to it with different concerns. Where McKercher said she is counting on the closeness of neighbours in town to help counter feelings of isolation, Bureau shared a worry that life in the country will be rough.
“We’ve managed to avoid the big colds for many years,” she said, explaining that departure usually comes around Christmas, with a return in mid-April. “We’ve forgotten what it’s like.”
Although not a snowbird in the sense of owning or renting property in the south for the winter, Graham Moodie shared that he normally considers midwinter the perfect time to go on a cruise. With outbreaks on cruise ships having been one of the earliest warning signs of the seriousness of the pandemic, however, that perspective has shifted.
“I’m not going anywhere this winter, and I wouldn’t take a cruise if you paid me,” he said, adding that he’s not even sure if he will do so again after there is a vaccine. “This winter is a write-off as far as I’m concerned.”
Moodie said that he cancelled all upcoming cruise plans as early as possible this spring but added that he is baffled and amazed by the number of offers and promotions he has been receiving from cruise lines.
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