Over three million Canadians migrate south of the border every winter, with the sunshine state being the #1 destination in the United States. We’ve seen how snowbirds live once they’re down there with their daily activities, all day sunshine and cars replaced by golf carts, but we haven’t seen the road trip down itself, which is what this photo essay documents.
For the last 18 years, Debbi Garrett has been going to Florida for the winters. By her side are her sister-in-law, Margaret Garrett, who has been travelling to Florida for 50 years, and Max, Debbi’s cat. Born in the U.S, “Max is a Florida boy; he comes back to Florida every winter because he hates the snow,” she says. “And of course, where I go, Max goes.”
Driving to Florida is long and unforgiving, but after you’ve done it many times, it becomes routine, almost something to look forward to. The budget hotels are for kicking back, watching American TV and taking advantage of free WiFi. The chain restaurants along the highway are for ordering giant bowls of pasta and deep-fried cheese and the pit stops are for shopping at quirky stores and buying souvenirs for family.
After one province, seven states, two snowstorms, buckets of rain and tornado warnings, on her first sunny day in Florida, Debbi says to me over a glass of bottomless mimosas and 18-cent soup, “the key ingredients for snowbirds are good food, cheap prices, early bird specials, cheap liquor, and half decent weather.”