Becoming a snowbird

I mentioned yesterday that I really can't stay where I'm living now. The question becomes: where do I go? Before answering that, I need to take stock of what criteria to use for this decision. As will likely become a theme in this blog, the question really is "What's important to me?"

  • Warmth. The whole point of this move is to escape the cold, otherwise I wouldn't be moving.

  • Stable government. Much as I love my family in Egypt, there's no way I'm moving there right now.

  • People and a community I can connect with

  • Good infrastructure, including a decent internet connection

That's really about it. Everything else can be figured out.

Before we go too far, let me address the obvious answer. The US is not the right choice for a variety of reasons. They've become increasingly less hospitable to foreigners, even Canadians, just by their policies alone. While some people in the US are wonderful, there's a lot of wilful ignorance. In particular, the parts of the US that would be the best choice are also the ones I'm least likely to want to live: Florida, Arizona, and the Southern States. California is about the only place in the US I would consider, but it's expensive and also the farthest from here.

Where else? Well, there's a variety of places I could consider:

  • New Zealand is lovely and the gliding is amazing, but expensive and very far from family. Also, jobs there are difficult to find.

  • Australia is also nice, if you don't mind snakes that eat crocodiles and basically everything can kill you. Also, very far from here.

  • Europe: the parts that are warm enough don't usually have the right jobs, and expensive

  • South America: lots of turmoil, also far and difficult to find jobs

  • Mexico: possible, but dangerous, unstable

  • Caribbean and Central America: a possibility. Climate can be good. The trick is finding a stable country with good enough infrastructure. Also: somewhere that doesn't get destroyed by hurricanes on a regular basis.

While that's by no means an exhaustive list, you can see where I'm going. A full search would be quite difficult, but I've done some quick surveys followed by some more indepth checking of the more viable options. So far, I'm leaning towards Costa Rica. Conveniently, that's also where I took a "vacation" earlier this year - actually more of a scouting trip. Here's a few of the reasons why I'm liking Costa Rica:

  • Stable democracy, No military = zero chance of a military coup

  • Good infrastructure, including internet connections at a reasonable speed

  • People are friendly and helpful

  • Temperatures in the central valley are exactly in the comfortable range (around the mid 20's ºC) year round. It's hotter on the coasts, but then you can just jump in the ocean if you need to cool down.

  • Year round fresh vegetables

  • Almost the same distance as San Francisco to Toronto, basically the same flight time

  • Within an hour time difference

  • Having a friend who lives in Costa Rica really helps to open doors, and probably biased my decision a little bit.


  • Probably need to find work that I can do remotely, means being limited in what I can take on as roles

  • Occasional earthquakes

  • Have to learn Spanish. No wait, that's kind of a plus. (remember what I said important to me? I'd actually love the chance to learn a new language, particularly Spanish!)

The good part is that I don't necessarily have to move to Costa Rica in one shot. In fact, I'm likely to start with a few trial periods. I'm not sure as yet whether I'm going to move permanently or just become a snowbird over the winters. Here's my current plan:

  1. Establish myself as either a freelance developer

  2. Take a 2-3 month trip to Costa Rica this fall

  3. If that goes well, do another 3 month trip in January 2015

  4. Keep my apartment and everything here until I've decided exactly what I'm doing.

The nice part about this plan is that I always have the option to return here if things don't work out in Costa Rica.

Another good part: I'm hoping to have places for people to stay if anyone wants to come and visit Costa Rica while I'm there. :)

Update: some people have asked why I haven't considered the UK. Simple. It isn't warm enough. I'm also not a huge fan of the UK. Before you all lynch me, the UK is a lovely place. It's just not somewhere I want to live.

People have also pointed out that Australia and New Zealand would be perfect climate wise and have their own tech scene. This is true. Living there would be awesome. The problem is that either place requires a solid commitment and a long time to get there. Working remotely from is going to be much more difficult, and finding a job then becomes the requirement. Immigration to either country is quite the process. Given that I have an option that lets me try this out first and then fall back if needed, leverage the connections I already have, and keep family ties, that seems like a much better plan.


  1. Good plan. I like it. :)

  2. Christine OGrady05 March, 2014 13:23

    What about learning how to enjoy the cold weather by taking up interest in winter sports such as winter frisbee leagues, skiing, snowboarding, skating, ice climbing, louge, snowshoeing, winter camping at Algonquin in a yurt etc. etc.? Canada can be very fun in the winter once you get active outside enjoying the snow and ice.

  3. I love outdoor sports Christine! I used to ski (both downhill and XC) and still go skating every now and again. The problem is that with Raynaud's I really can't do any of them. I end up turning into a hermit - even short trips by car cause my hands to freeze up. :(

  4. Victoria is nice, but still not quite warm enough in the winter.

  5. Have you taken a look at their immigration policies?

  6. Not in great deal, but from what I understand it's quite doable. Not to mention that in theory I can snowbird there without needing permanent residency.


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