The Plague-Ground – Two Places to Spend Your Winter

Were you like us last month in thinking you could head someplace warm in January or February for even a week’s relief from winter?

Are you like us now thinking that’s not going to happen?

Forget Florida and Arizona. In fact, forget anywhere warm like Colombia or New Zealand where you have to quarantine for two weeks when you get there, then two weeks when you come home. And hey, we may all be locked down anyway.

But I came across two ways out of this.

The first talks about the rise of the ‘half-tourist’, which during COVID combines ‘digital nomads’ with ‘remote workers’. As we know, “a whole new cohort of people, who had spent their entire careers in an office, realized that working from different locations, was a real possibility.”

They then list the hot spots that will let you in this winter and let you work as well.

Among them is Barbados where you can get a “Remote Visa” for up to 12 months provided you’re making $50,000+ a year or can prove you can support yourself. Oh, and you do need to pay a US$2,000 visa fee (US$3,000 for a family). As Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley says on the Remote Visa website: “Rather than coming for the usual week, or three weeks or a month, why not plan out your business? We have a mechanism that allows people who want to take advantage of being in a different part of the world, of the sun, sea and sand, and a stable society; one that functions well.” Air Canada and WestJet both fly there directly.

Anguilla and Bermuda also offer similar programs, as do Croatia, Estonia and Georgia (brrrrr).

But what if this Just Can’t Happen?

Let’s go to the second way out of winter.

It doesn’t actually involve leaving home in Canada. It’s all about how we think of winter and is based on the old theory that a problem re-defined is a problem half-solved.

Tromso, Norway is 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle. It sees no sun from mid-November through mid-January. Yet its people feel virtually the same in winter as they do in June when the sun shines 24 hours a day.

It’s all about how they frame their thinking about freezing in the dark.

Stanford psychologist Kari Leibowitz created the “wintertime mindset scale” which asked Norwegians to rate how much they agreed with statements such as:….

  • There are many things to enjoy about the winter
  • I love the coziness of the winter months
  • Winter brings on many wonderful seasonal changes


  • Winter is boring
  • Winter is a limiting time of year
  • There are many things to dislike about winter

No surprise, she found that the more exciting the participants viewed winter, the happier they were and the better their mental health was.

But big surprise, she found that the farther north you lived in Norway, and the colder and darker it became, the happier Norwegians were to live there.

Leibowitz spent a year living in Tromso and “learned to love long walks with a headlamp to guide her path.”

I’m not sure I’ll ever be that happy in the frozen darkness. But maybe that’s because winter in southern Ontario is no longer filled with snow and cold. It’s more winter-ish than winter, making long walks treacherous and cross-country skiing impossible.

Give me Tromso – or Barbados – any day.

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4 thoughts on “The Plague-Ground – Two Places to Spend Your Winter”

  1. I love the idea of Barbados where I spent a week with my family during the winter school break. And I also love the idea of the relentless dark and (damp) chill of (Toronto) winter seen in the light of cozy, warm fireside nesting and rich, flavorful stews bubbling on my stove (maybe I should put a spit and a hob in to our fireplace). We could have both – it is nice to dream…

    1. May I just disagree with you a teeny bit, Louise? Relentless dark and damp Toronto winter? It doesn’t really start getting wintery before around January and is usually over by end March; lots of days with sunshine too. I think it has become a habit to talk about how tough the winters are here – they used to be but really not any longer. Slushy, yes but bone freezing cold and dark? Not so much. Although since 2020 has been that kind of year maybe this winter will be that kind too!

      1. Susanne, i appreciate every aspect of Toronto’s weather and having lived 60+ years here, know it doesn’t usually become winter until after the new year. I just liked the idea of sitting in front of my fireplace and cooking dinner there.

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