“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer”. – Albert Camus

Here in Minnesota we are in the midst of winter. The days are short and cold and in January it rarely gets above freezing. Winter can last anywhere from 4-5 months depending on the year. This year, we have been fortunate as we had an incredibly mild November and December, and despite a sub-zero week it has been mostly in the 20s and 30s. For me, that is almost tropical after last week’s -20.

“So how do you do it” many people ask me in bewilderment and shock when I tell them where I’m from. Simple. I embrace it, and I take a break.

I have lived in the Midwest my entire life except for a stint abroad in Paris, and over the years I’ve developed some essential skills for surviving a Minnesota winter. Most of all, I do my best to embrace winter. I get out there almost every day by either walking or running around one of several urban lakes. I also snowshoe, ice skate, sled and downhill ski every weekend with my family. I am an outdoor person so if I can’t get outside each day, I’m miserable. I’ve found as long as you have the right gear and enough layers, you can even take a walk at a mere -10 F. What it does for my body and soul is amazing. It keeps me inspired and optimistic even in the deep, dark depths of winter.

My other trick to winter survival is I always take a break and head south. Even if it is only for a few days, it is worth it and does wonders to the soul. I wasn’t always able to escape when the kids were little and it was grueling. However, for the last few years I’ve had some wonderful winter escapes that have rejuvenated me and made winter in Minnesota bearable.

Here are some of my favorite winter escapes.


You may be utterly confused to hear that Haiti is on my list. In most people’s eyes, Haiti is not safe, not clean and the last place they would chose to go on a tropical vacation. Instead, they dream of Haiti’s neighbor the Dominican Republic or some other luxurious Caribbean Island. However, if you have read my blog you know that I am incredibly adventurous, love to explore off the beaten path places, and am passionate about giving back and doing good.

I had the opportunity to go to Haiti for five days last year as part of #Bloggers4Haiti, a program of social good bloggers who share the amazing art and entrepreneurship of Haitian artisans who work with Macy’s Heart of Haiti program. While enjoying the tremendous art and culture of Haiti was fantastic, I also found that Haiti is truly a beautiful country with gorgeous beaches. It offers plenty of opportunities for the adventurous traveler to visit a place that not many have seen, especially in a positive light.

The highlights my trip included meeting with several creative Haitian artisans, enjoying the beautiful colonial town of Jacmel and its pristine beaches, and watching Carnival in Port-au-Prince.





I have always wanted to go to Cuba and fearing that it would open up soon to American travelers, I decided to take the plunge and go before it changed. There are only two ways to go to Cuba as an American. Illegally, by sneaking in through another country (Canada and Mexico are most popular) or legally on one of many “cultural” , “missionary” or “educational” tours. I paid the hefty fee to go for a week on a cultural tour with Insight Cuba and it was worth every single penny.

I learned more in that week than I ever have traveling anywhere. I met and talked with locals, got rare opportunities to hear about Cuba’s culture, education, health care, music and arts, and enjoyed visiting Havana, Trinidad and the countryside. It is a beautiful place and only a short flight from Miami.


Three years ago I spent a week volunteering and learning Spanish at a home stay in La Ceiba, Honduras. It was a difficult place to be due to the high level of poverty and drug trade yet I rewarded myself with a weekend stay at the island of Roatan, known for its scuba diving, snorkeling and sunsets.

Since there are still at least two more months of winter, I am happy to already have a plan to head south in about a month. I will be spending a week at a “learn to surf” camp in Nicaragua where I’m sure to find some sun for the soul. In the meantime, it is time to bundle up and get out there. Before I know it winter will be over and I’ll be missing that cold, fresh air.

This post was inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge: Optimistic. 


    1. Yes the escape route is great! I decided that since I am going to live in one of the coldest climates in the US that the only way to remain sane is to embrace it. If it is really cold I put in snow pants, a
      Face mask and many layers so I can get out and walk around the frozen lake!

    1. How much snow have you received? I’m so glad we had my in laws 50th wedding anniversary last weekend as they live outside of DC and we never would have made it. Stay warm. Great photo opportunities for you too Sally!

      1. Well, the sun is casting much energy across the snow-covered landscape. We got almost 20 inches and much drifting to make some areas even higher. This storm was one to remember. At times it was calm and then it moved to furious. Great timing on your part to visit the East Coast earlier.

      2. Wow, 20 inches! I read that somewhere in W. VA got over 40 inches. That is unimaginable. Although we live in MN and have snow year round, it is rare that we ever get more than 6-8 inches at a time. The last time we got two feet was five years ago and it was in November. I will never forget it because my daughter was little and lost her snow boot in a big pile of snow she was playing in. We didn’t find it until April!!!! That is how long it took that snow to melt. I can imagine there will be some terrible flooding out there.

      3. Fortunately, we were able to borrow a snow blower. It would have been hours and hours of shoveling without it. There will be piles for weeks and weeks. At least the sun was present. today.

  1. Heading south is a necessary part of winter in Chicago, too! It’s never quite long enough (I have to head home from Nicaragua tomorrow – boohoo), but it does warm the bones enough to push through the worst of it. I don’t mind (I actually enjoy) being outdoors in the cold and snow if I have something fun to do, but I can’t squeeze fun into my work week, so I’m much less patient with it than you!

    1. I can’t wait to hear all about your trip Lexi! If you have a chance can you email me any tips? I will have a day and a half free in Managua and want to figure some things out.

  2. Terrific post Nicole – I enjoyed your comments on surviving the cold as I always felt the same way when we lived in the Northeast. Now I’ve gotten spoiled by the South Carolina version of winter (which isn’t!) but agree wholeheartedly that a short break works wonders when you’re in a cold climate. You’ve had quite a set of adventures! Thanks for sharing

    1. Yes I’m excited! It is actually a blogging trip so I’m going alone with some other women writers I don’t know. It is a women’s empowerment place that also gives back to the local women. Should be interesting.

  3. We’re definitely feeling the cold here in Wales too, although it’s a little milder this weekend. The worst day was last Tuesday, I was 30 minutes late for work because my car completely froze shut. And the anti-freeze was locked inside the car!

      1. Yes, and annoying. When I eventually did get it open I thought I’d broken the lock and had to leave the car unlocked all day. It seems alright now though. At least we only get the really cold weather for a couple of days at a time, I can’t imagine how you guys cope with it for months on end.

      2. Ha Ha. Annoying but a great story Sas. Yes, we get cold weather a lot but our winter this year has been pretty tame and pleasant. Only one week of crazy cold weather but at least we didn’t get the massive snow storm out east. 🙂

  4. What a wonderful way of escaping winter by going down south. I have always been impressed by the simple living. This is exactly what your pictures speak, lives of ordinary people who makes others lives extra ordinary. Thank you for sharing. Wonderful post.

    1. Thank you! Yes Cuba is really a special place. I am really glad I went and I hope to go again. The music, culture, food, and architecture. It is great but life there is hard for most Cubans.

  5. I escaped Minnesota winters by moving west (Oregon), and just don’t go back to visit in the winter months. I think your trick of spending time outside every day is the key to acclimation – I stopped doing it so much, the inner antifreeze evaporated, and I had to bail out.

    1. Thanks for sharing! Yes, we live here now and will for awhile so I’ve got to make the best of it. This winter has been extremely mild though so it has been nice.

  6. What an inspiring post!

    After living in Nicaragua for six years where we created a social and environmental impact business, we have been living in Chicago since April 2015 to spend time with family. I have to admit absolute fear when the first days of cold came our way. And even more scary, two days of no sunshine! Nada! After living in tropical hear, not owning a sweater and only wearing sandals for years and years, it was quite humbling.

    I really respect and applaud your approach of not only embracing winter but actually making the most of it! Impressive stuff!

    Wonderful photos from Cuba. We were there a few years ago, and as well in Haiti to bring bamboo seedlings and try to help. Hopefully things on the ground have improved…it looks like it! Such a very tough tough situation there. But yes, as you say, beautiful country.

    Feel free to contact me for tips for your upcoming trip to Nicaragua. Happy to share.

    Thanks for your inspiring post on making the most of wherever you are. Stay warm!!

    1. Thank you so much for the response! I bet adjusting back to Chicago winter is hard. I spent five years there before moving here. It is even colder here but the benefit is we have snow as I’m an avid skier and we have a lot of good places here and in Wisconsin to ski at.

      As for Nicaragua, I’d love any recommendations on books to read. I love to read book on the place I’m going to, as it helps me gain a better understanding of the culture and life. Any recs?

  7. Good luck with the learning to surf…it’s not difficult, if you have balance and no fear of falling, and can swim well. And there are no sharks. Or coral near the surface. Nice winter post. I’ve never been to Haiti…or Cuba….or Jamaica, and I have always wanted to go to all three. Nicaragua is cool, and there is good surf (on sand beaches with no coral) but they do have sand sharks (they won’t bite…they say).

    1. Thanks! I will need it! 🙂 I am very fearful of sharks so I hope there are none!!!! But I am sure to embrace this trip and will have lots to share on my blog about it! 🙂

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.