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Snowbirds don’t have to limit themselves to predictable places and pastimes, and instead focus on interests, hobbies and obsessions that range from intense physical activity to history to art and music to simple seclusion and quiet.

Tim Fraser/The Globe and Mail

For the Elliotts of Huntsville, Ont., standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona, is not only a fine sight to see, it's a stepping stone to adventure.

"We spent three weeks in Arizona a few winters ago, in 2013. Our family joined us and we did a lot of hiking, went to caves, to the O.K. Corral, to Sedona," says Jim Elliott, a recently retired radiologist.

"There are vortexes in Sedona and you're supposed to feel some New Age energy. We didn't feel it – but it was quite beautiful," says his wife, Janice Elliott.

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"And yes, we did stand on the corner in Winslow," adds Jim, referencing the lyrics from Eagles' Take It Easy. No one in a flatbed Ford was turning round to look, though.

The Elliotts have made the snowbird trek to Florida from Ontario several times. But as seasoned travellers for 40 years, they now look for new ways to take it easy pursuing different winter interests.

Their Arizona trip, heavy on outdoor activity, is just one choice for Jim and his wife, a speech pathologist who also recently retired. Their other snowbird activities have included organized cycling trips and volunteer work in Central America.

They took more conventional winter trips while their four daughters, now adults, were growing. They also tried a Caribbean cruise, which they enjoyed. But ever since they spent 10 months going around the world after they were married in the early 1970s, they have been interested in wider experiences.

Like many Canadians, they find that while piling in the minivan or SUV to reach warmth is always an alternative, there are lots of sunny yet esoteric choices to suit different lifestyles. Snowbirds can focus on interests, hobbies and obsessions that range from intense physical activity to history to art and music to simple seclusion and quiet.

For the past several years, the Elliotts have been choosing cycling after taking up road biking in Southwestern Ontario, where they lived before moving to Huntsville.

"We've cycled through Tuscany, Sicily and Croatia and we've also taken a bike trip through the Napa Valley [in California]," says Janice. For winter cycling they prefer to go on organized trips, in their case, run by a Vermont company called VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations.

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"It's not only beautiful, you also learn so much," says Janice.

"They offer lectures, we learn about the culture and sometimes even a bit of the local language. In Italy they not only taught us some Italian but also what some of the hand gestures mean from people on the road."

"One time we went into a volcano with an expert – a volcanologist," Jim says.

The trips they choose are usually for 15 or 16 people, with local guides who ride at the front or back of the pack. "They're reasonably priced, with good accommodation and food," Jim adds. The organizers move the cyclists' luggage each day by truck and they have a quick-change flat-tire service for those who run over nails.

The couple has also taken three winter trips to Nicaragua to volunteer with an organization called Companeros Inc., which they found through their church.

Similar to the well-known Habitat for Humanity, which works around the world to build homes, Companeros draws individual volunteers, and faith-based and academic groups to work on community projects in Nicaragua.

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The organization, with offices in Toronto and Managua, has worked on 179 projects since 2001. This year Companeros has focused on education projects, constructing 11 houses, a mural and a well-being centre.

"What I like is the relationships we've developed with the staff, the other volunteers and the Nicaraguans. We stay with Nicaraguan families, share their meals, get a complete picture of how other people live," Janice says.

Average daily temperatures in Nicaragua range from 21 at night to 31 in the day.

It's also possible for snowbirds to pursue more than one warm-weather interest in wintertime. Dale and Mary Mathis, retired chemical engineers from Tennessee, moved to Hilton Head, S.C., known for its warm ocean waters and world-class golf.

Hilton Head is also close to Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C., two cities known for their rich cultural heritage, storybook architecture and a vibrant arts scene.

The area's attractions haven't stopped the couple from travelling abroad in the winter, for example, on a river cruise through France.

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"We like putting our luggage in one place and then seeing several different towns or even countries," says Dale. "I've learned a lot about wines and find that I enjoy the Pomerols [a tiny area of Bordeaux that produces superior reds] a lot."

Yoga retreats are also a popular winter pursuit for older snowbirds who are more active than ever. Retreats to the U.S. southwest, the Caribbean, Central America and farther afield in places such as Bali or India can be found easily, just by checking with a local yoga studio.

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