01/15/2014 12:21 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Escaping the Big Freeze

For U.S. Midwesterners like us, traveling back to the old country for the holiday season is one of the greatest joys of being an expat. We get all the family, friends, and food we can handle. Then we can go back to sunshine and blue skies and leave the deep-freeze of January and February behind.

Unless the flights are delayed.


Ecuador in January... and April... and August... and November...

Photo courtesy of Suzan Haskins,

As we write, the temperature on the ground here in the Great Plains is low enough to freeze exposed flesh in under 10 minutes.Combined with the wind chill, there is a chance -- a small one, but a chance nonetheless -- that it is actually warmer at 30,000 feet than it is outside the airport terminal right now.

This, we tell ourselves, is good for us. It reminds us of our hardy Midwestern upbringing and makes us that much more appreciative that we now live where the weather isn't a threat to human life several months of the year. As one of our relatives who still lives in the Midwest full-time describes winter where she lives, "It keeps the riff-raff out."

But we really wish the plane would arrive soon to take us away.

We're reminded by television weather experts that it hasn't been this cold in this state for 40 years. Which means that if you're a Midwesterner under 40-years-old, you've never experienced weather like this unless you've traveled somewhere else and been caught it in, or -- difficult for us to imagine -- actually sought it out on purpose.

More than 12 years ago, that's what we did. On purpose, we sought out a particular climate. But it was because we never wanted to get caught in cold weather (like we're currently experiencing) ever again. In 2001, we finally realized that the world is a big place and there are lots of spots on it where "frostbite" isn't even in the language. We could move to one of those places and never think about snow shovels or studded tires or thermal underwear ever again.

And so we moved from the frozen north to Ecuador, and we haven't regretted it for a minute. And we suppose we should be thankful for these little hiccups in travel plans that remind us of just how lucky we really are. How fortunate that we really can choose where and how we live, that we can opt for better weather and a far lower cost of living rather than just sitting where we were born, shivering and paying through the nose for heat, simply because we were born there.

But we still wish the plane would show up.

The Worlds Best Retirement Havens 2014 from

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