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Is there anything more predictable than a septuagenarian New Yorker decamping to Florida for the winter? Just picture it: They bear a striking resemblance to Helen Roper sashaying around in her signature caftan and partake in activities like water aerobics, gossiping about the neighbors and discussing weather patterns. Now take everything you think you know about snowbirds and toss it out the window. 

There’s a new flock flying south; perhaps we’ll call them baby snowbirds. Often in their thirties or forties, these baby birds are seeking respite from the winter in warm-weather locales like Miami, New Orleans and Palm Springs. The breed consists mainly of young and mid-career professionals in search of more meaning and excitement after enduring the life shift brought on by a global pandemic. 

I’m part of this demographic, and I get it. In fact, I became a baby snowbird before it was all the rage, marking the first time I’ve ever been ahead of a trend (even if it was accidental). 

While slugging away at a magazine internship in 2013, I learned about the term New-New, used to describe someone who lives in both New York City and New Orleans (my two favorite cities, coincidentally). I knew at that moment that instead of aspiring to own a sprawling house in the suburbs, I wanted to spend retirement in two places with opposing climates. My husband and I, both in our early forties, tested out this lifestyle pre-pandemic and recently became full-on baby snowbirds — or, more specifically, New-News. Last year, we even dipped our toes into international territory, escaping to the peaceful waterfront commune of Ospedaletti, Italy.

Artful Living | New Snowbird Trend

Illustration by Michael Iver Jacobsen

For us, the pandemic presented a new way of thinking: Life is short — why wait until retirement to live the most meaningful life? (Or in millennial speak, YOLO.) This global event was also the catalyst for redefining the working world, nearly doubling the number of people who work from home. And honestly, if you can do your job without the commute and the water cooler chitchat, why should it matter if you’re logging onto a Zoom call from Portland or Portugal? Hence this burgeoning travel trend that’s no longer exclusive to seniors with big bank accounts.

Chalk it up to generational differences — or similarities, depending how you look at it. University of Texas, Austin Psychology Professor Art Markman boils it down to this: Young and middle-aged adults are finding a way to live a full life while still being able to put in a full workday. And these days, that’s easier than ever to achieve. As he explains, “This generation is waiting to get married and delaying (or entirely opting out of) starting a family. As a result, there’s a generation of people with more disposable income and fewer major commitments. Add in the ease of finding rentals thanks to companies like Airbnb, and you have the perfect recipe for skipping town when the weather gets bad.”

But for baby birds, it’s about more than just escaping the cold to pass the month of December in resortwear. This is a demographic that prioritizes experiences over objects, opting to spend their money on Coachella instead of a car. It’s this live-in-the-moment sensibility and not the supposed stability of the onetime American dream that makes them happy. Chasing those ideals is so 2000s.

So is a permanent address a thing of the past — or is this new snowbird phenomenon a fleeting fad? We’re calling it now: Unless we’re somehow transplanted back into a traditional working environment (which seems pretty much impossible at this point), the baby snowbird is going nowhere anytime soon. That is, until it’s time to head south for the winter. 

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.

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