The women who NEVER see winter! Despite having average incomes, they spend Britain’s gloomiest months in the sun (and yes, they will make you boil with envy!)
- Some 4.5 million Britons will flee to warmer climates in the coming weeks
- Janis Hough, 52, is a therapist and lives in Hereford, but spends winter in Antigua
- While Jan Krir, 66, lives in Hampshire and has spent past four winters in Florida
January and February are the miserable months when we all feel weighed down by grey skies, dark mornings, coughs and colds.
Small wonder that 4.5 million Britons will flee to warmer climes in the coming weeks — and some won’t even think of returning until spring. Known as ‘snowbirds’ because they fly south when it gets cold, these escapees haven’t braved a British winter in years. SADIE NICHOLAS meets four lucky women who live in perpetual summer…
THE ONLY THING I MISS IS M&S
Janis Hough, 52, is a therapist and life coach. She’s divorced with one daughter, aged 24, and lives in Hereford but spends winter in Antigua. She says:
On a typical day in Antigua, I wake when the sun rises at 6am, then go for walk on the beach or a swim in the sea.
Janis Hough (pictured), 52, is a therapist and life coach. She’s divorced with one daughter, aged 24, and lives in Hereford but spends winter in Antigua
This is my sixth winter here and for the past four years I’ve rented the same two-bedroom apartment in a village on a nature reserve. The beach is a 30-second walk away, and in the distance I can see the neighbouring island of Montserrat.
If I was back home in Hereford, I’d be forcing myself to go out in the rain and the cold. Here I love being outdoors, hiking in the hills with friends or exploring in my VW camper van.
Being divorced, single and my own boss means I can live where I want. And who wouldn’t want to be in the sunshine now, if they could? I know I’m very lucky.
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I first came here for three weeks with a client in 2011 and fell in love with it. After that I came back two or three times a year, including over Christmas 2013, which is when I decided I needed to find a better way to spend the winters.
I wasn’t stuck in a nine-to-five job and my daughter was at university, so I didn’t need to spend winter in the cold. Plus, if I’ve got Wi-Fi I can work anywhere.
In 2014 I returned to Antigua for three months as a test. I haven’t spent a winter in Hereford since.
I arrived last October and won’t go back to the UK again till March. The Caribbean summers are very hot so I always spend June to September at home with my parents and daughter, and speak to them every day when I’m away.
Janis Hough spends time at the Sugar Ridge Resort in Antigua (pictured) where she practices yoga and goes swimming
It would be easy to treat the winters in Antigua as one long holiday but I am very busy. I still need to earn a living to cover my £500-a-month rent plus living expenses, which are much less here than in Britain.
As an avid yoga practitioner, I run Yoga Antigua and take classes at a gorgeous hotel near by. I also host cultural and wellness events, all against a backdrop of vibrant flowers and the Caribbean Sea, and I have many coaching clients here too.
The only things I ever miss about Britain are Waitrose, M&S and the cinema! Although I enjoy coming home in the summer.
One day last week when a meeting was cancelled at the last minute, I went to the beach, read a book for two hours, had a swim, then watched the sun setting over the mango trees.
I wouldn’t get moments like that in Britain in January.
I DITCHED ALL MY BLACK CLOTHES
Jan Krir, 66, is a retired chiropractor and lives in Hampshire with her husband Alan, 73, a retired art gallery owner. Alan has one grown-up son and three grandchildren. They have spent the past four winters at their villa in Florida. She says:
The promise of a long winter filled with warmth, sunshine and outdoor living at our villa near Orlando elicits the most wonderful feelings of joy.
Although we bought the four-bedroom, four-bathroom villa 12 years ago for $460,000 (£356,000), I was a workaholic and only ever took two weeks’ holiday a year.
Jan Krir (pictured), 66, is a retired chiropractor and lives in Hampshire with her husband Alan, 73, a retired art gallery owner – but travels to Florida for winter
As a chiropractor, I’d tell my patients that they must get outdoors in all weathers to walk, cycle or swim. But in reality, who on earth wants to leave the house when it’s dismal outside?
I would spend hours huddled over my laptop feeling utterly miserable in winter. On the days when I did force myself outdoors, my joints felt wooden.
So when I retired four years ago, Alan and I beat a hasty retreat to our villa, which has a pool, gym, games room and spa, and stayed there from late October until April, which is what we have done every year since.
Although I still sit in front of my laptop, learning Spanish and writing articles for the website of my Hampshire clinic, a typical day starts with me getting up late —because I can — and catching up with events in the UK before heading out for a walk or a swim.
Sometimes I’ll meet friends who have villas in our community and come and go as we do.
We might drive to visit a new beach, or jump on a cruise from one of the various ports in Florida. Last year we went to Cuba and this year we’re planning a trip to the South Pacific.
Ms Krir has owned a four bed, four bath villa with pool and gym near Orlando for 12 years. Since retiring four years ago she has spent five months every winter there to avoid the cold and gloom in Britain
We love being able to potter at leisure, which the warm climate allows us to do.
We feel so much perkier because we get oodles of vitamin D from the sunshine every day. And I’ve become a sunnier person too, even getting rid of all the black clothes I used to live in. I can’t remember the last time I had to wear thick socks and thermals.
When we watch English football matches on TV in Florida and you can see the players’ breath on the cold air and the horizontal rain or driving snow, it’s a reminder of how fortunate we are.
Still, when the temperatures start to rise in April, Alan and I will rent out our villa to holidaymakers and fly back to Britain — by which time the clocks will have gone forward and spring will be well under way.
I SWAPPED MY SOFA FOR A SUN LOUNGER
Rachel Rigby, 47, is a financial writer. She is divorced and lives in London in summer and Key West, in Florida, in winter. She says:
Three years ago I cleared out all my winter jumpers, coats and boots, leaving just four ‘emergency’ sweaters in my wardrobe alongside my flip-flops and summery clothes.
By then I’d decided that I wasn’t doing winter any more.
I always loathed the English winters, so when I got divorced and left my corporate finance job in 2012, I went travelling and spent that December in Colombia.
Rachel Rigby (pictured), 47, is a financial writer. She is divorced and lives in London in summer and Key West, in Florida, in winter
It was a revelation to bypass the winter. Since then, fleeing abroad for four months a year has transformed everything, from my wellbeing to my vigour for life — and even my appreciation of Britain.
I’m fortunate that the American financial company I work for don’t mind where I am so long as the job gets done.
I left London in mid-December for Key West, Florida’s southernmost and warmest point, where I’m renting a studio apartment in an old converted church. Beyond its stained glass windows are palm trees, blue skies and the ocean, which lies just a couple of minutes away.
With daytime temperatures in the mid-20s Celsius (mid-70s Fahrenheit), I walk and cycle everywhere and eat more healthily. This means I don’t have to spend spring on a miserable diet after getting through a winter eating on the sofa in England.
On a typical morning I work until midday, then head to the beach or one of the various five-star hotels for lunch and a few hours by the pool. You’ll often find me doing emails while sitting on a lounger with a cocktail.
While I’m away, I rent out my two-bedroom, two-bathroom house back in England and make about £1,000 profit a month from it.
Ms Rigby rents a studio apartment in an old converted church (pictured) in Florida during the winter
That goes towards my air fares and U.S. accommodation, about £3,000 this winter, plus monthly living expenses, which are the equivalent of around £1,500 — the same as if I were at home.
There have been a couple of times when I’ve been dating someone in London and it has fizzled out when I leave for the winter, and friends complain that I’m away for ages.
People often come out and visit, though. This year I ate Christmas lunch on the beach with my parents, my brother and his family.
Since ditching winter in 2012, I’ve not had any of the colds, flus or coughs that used to plague me in London.
When I head back home in mid-March, I’ll do so with a golden tan and a sense of renewed appreciation for my life there. I spend spring to autumn falling back in love with London, before it’s time to escape the winter once more.
THE EFFECT ON MY MOOD IS MAGICAL
Denise Wynne, 64, a retired office manager, and her partner David, 63, a retired finance director, live in West Sussex and have four children and six grandchildren. They winter at their second home in Mojacar, southern Spain. She says:
For the past six years, Andalusia has become our sunny sanctuary away from the British weather — and two years ago we bought a three-bedroom townhouse here, which means we never need to see winter again.
Swapping the cold weather and drab landscape of wintry Sussex for the spectacular blue skies and sunshine of southern Spain has had a magical effect on our wellbeing and happiness.
Denise Wynne (pictured), 64, a retired office manager, and her partner David, 63, a retired finance director, live in West Sussex and have four children and six grandchildren. They winter at their second home in Mojacar, southern Spain
We pack our cases and head to Spain in November and, bar a flying visit back to see family at Christmas, we stay there until the end of March.
Britain compared with Spain at this time of year is like the difference between watching TV in black and white and watching it in colour.
Even during winter, the landscape in Andalusia is awash with vibrant bougainvillea and orange and lemon trees laden with fruit. Come February, there will be almond blossom for miles around.
I wear brighter clothing than I do in Britain — which lifts my mood — and we eat healthier food, with lots of delicious salads and seafood dishes alfresco at restaurants.
We often have breakfast in the sunshine on the balcony of our whitewashed townhouse, which looks out over immaculate lawns, flowerbeds and palm trees.
Ms Wynne often has breakfast in the sunshine on the balcony of her whitewashed townhouse in Mojacar, southern Spain
The balcony is also a lovely spot to sit and read, or to watch the fishing boats return to the nearby port in the evening while enjoying a glass of wine.
We have Spanish lessons and I’ve taken up jogging by the sea, which is something I’d never be tempted to do in the cold at home.
Meanwhile, David trains for ironman triathlons, swimming in the sea in his wetsuit and taking long-distance cycle rides in the picturesque Andalusian hills.
We both feel happier, healthier and more alive when we’re in the Spanish sunshine in the winter.
I honestly don’t miss anything about winter in Britain, not even walking in the woods on a crisp morning or sitting by a log fire. In fact, the minute I feel the first chill of winter, I’m desperate to fly south again.
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