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Snowbirds Part II

Posted at: 02/27/2013 10:03 AM

We continue to catch up with Northland families who travel south for the winter, including a one who is not your traditional snowbird. Mark and Blaire Brandt are a young family with two girls ages one and three. They used to spend the entire year in Duluth. Now, they spend their winter days on a warm beach near Tampa, Florida. It was last October when they made the decision of a lifetime.

"Neither one of us are winter people," says Mark. "We just don't get any enjoyment out of it."

They sold their house, brought the kids down to Florida, and are trying the snowbird thing out until the girls get into school. However, they plan on spending summers back in the Northland. This dubs them "The Hybrid Snowbirds" as Mark and Blaire are not yet retired. It's not as crazy as it sounds. As it turns out, Mark has work lined up for both Florida and Duluth.

Lori Jo Paulson, a Travel Consultant in Duluth, understands the need for a change in season. After all, it's her job to set people up with their dream vacation.

"People like to get away from this cold in the winter," says Paulson. "They like to get out of town, enjoy the sunshine, and relaxation."

To some, a week or two away from winter is all they need. For others, like the Brandt's seven days is not nearly enough. no matter the duration or destination, the mindset is the same.

"We decided 'why wait until we were retired to enjoy life for the weather?'" says Blaire. "We can do it now."

Many do wait until kids and careers are out of the picture before they make the leap down south. We catch up with more traditional snowbirds.

Jim, from Duluth, is your typical snowbird spending winters in Fountain Hills, Arizona. Jim loves golfing and just enjoyed his 78th birthday on the course. Aside from the golfing weather, Fountain Hills is known for a gigantic fountain that shoots water over 550 feet in the air. That's nearly two-an-a-half times the height of the Aerial Lift Bridge in Duluth. The weather down there this winter has been spotty so far with a few frost delays and rain-outs. But, a bad day on the golf course beats a good day in the office.

Next, at the southern end of Interstate 35, you'll find Afton from Cloquet enjoying her winters in Mission, Texas. "Winter Texans" is what they're known as. There is plenty to do in her park including learning how to line dance and enjoying water aerobics. Afton says southern Texas was perfect because it's a straight shot down I-35, and there is no shoveling in winter.

Back to Florida, the Brandt family reminds us you don't have to wait until you're retired to be a snowbird.

"I got caught up in what you're supposed to do with the American dream, as far as owning a house, a couple cars, being structured," explains Mark. "We found that didn't give us a lot of satisfaction."

When asked what he would say to any non-retired person who's thinking of flocking south for the winter, Mark simply replied, "Try it."

When the snow melts, this unique family will travel back to the Northland and move into a 30 foot camper on Island Lake.

"This is a pretty random experiment, but we're loving it," says Mark. "We see it working well for us."

For now, they're just enjoying the sun and the sand. All of these snowbirds may not share the same age group, but they do share a common title. Leaving the Northland when the first snowflakes fly, not to return until the last pile of snow melts.