why Whistler?

Some honest words. Lets face it, it’s probably fair to say a large proportion of the working population that come to Whistler for the Winter season are not really here to work. Work is just a way to be able facilitate spending as much time on and off the  mountain as their wallets will allow.

For me I had a slightly different angle.

My mother emigrated to Vancouver in 1974 with her girlfriend to further progress her career as a Physiotherapist and to escape the failing British economy. Post WWII Great Britain had developed into a Welfare state that was loosing its grip on common sense. During the early 70’s the trade unions and the miners strikes were holding the country to ransom. Combined with high unemployment and double digit inflation peaking at 20% times were tough for many – I can perfectly understand her decision and respect her courage to leave the UK and seek a better life.

During my childhood my mother would sometimes talk of her life in Canada. Mostly of her long weekend trips out of Vancouver to the ski slopes of Whistler. In that day Whistler hadn’t even been developed. The resort if you could even call it that was operating out of Creekside, it wasn’t until 1978 that the start of the construction of Whistler village even began. During her 4 years in Vancouver my mother made frequent trips to Whistler and actually met my Biological father (Larry Edward Cunningham if you’re out there), an American at a pig spit roast at the Roundhouse. In 1980 I was born, not in Canada but in Bend, Oregon. It is thanks to this time that I became an American and a Canadian citizen.

I think these stories must have built up in me over the years. I came to Whistler to go back to where it all began. To seek my routes. My intentions were to work, to integrate, to live a mountain life, to let it be the place where I would start a new life. Sure to party and play, but they were not my primary objectives. After all Whistler is where it all began so it would also be the place where I would start my new beginning, a new life.

Fact: Whistler Blackcomb is the largest ski resort in North America and the 12th largest in the world with 8,171 acres, 37 lifts and more than 200 trails across a variety of glade skiing, open bowls and 3 glaciers.


working on a horse ranch

Before I made my way up into the mountains I wanted to experience a different side of Canadian life. I was informed about workaway.info on a surf trip in Spain in 2016 from a fellow workaway who was looking after the hostel there. It works a little something like this: After you’ve payed your $34 USD a year you get access to a global community of people who are looking for workers. The agreement is they offer you food and board and they get the benefit of whatever skills you have to offer – done deal. You can do this pretty much anywhere in the world. This could range from building work on someones house, looking after their kids to working on a farm, a hostel, a yoga camp, a dog rescue centre or in my case a Horse Ranch.

I was lucky enough through my cousins to have grown up spending many of my summers at riding schools in the UK. Mucking out stables, grooming horses and playing around in the hay in exchange for the odd free riding lesson.

That stayed with me into my teens, but drifted away the older I got. However through my adult years and whenever I got the chance (usually holidays) I took the chance to go riding.

Before I left the UK in 2017 I went back to one of my local riding stables and volunteered as a children’s riding assistant for a couple months to brush up on my very rusty horse handling & riding skills.

Working on a horse ranch combined many of the key elements which I identify as my ‘personal key success factors’ (not sure how to word that articulately without sounding too weird, ok now it already sounds weird, but I guess I could just say ‘happy’). Namely being outdoors in nature, being with animals and working with my hands. In this case not only was I working with the horses, I was also landscape gardening and helping build new horse stables with a team of other workaways/paid staff/contractors.

Normally hosts are after workers who will stay for a month or longer. I got lucky and was accepted for 2 weeks @bark2ranch. For me a perfect length of time to get a different angle on Canada and get back to some childhood roots before starting work up in the mountains.


have you used workaway.info before. Do you have any tips or advice for others?

A quick taste of Vancouver

31.10.17

If you fly from Europe to Vancouver make sure you get a day flight, the landscapes you will pass over are immense. Flying over the white meets black rocky landscape of Iceland to the pristine white tundra of Greenland and the Northern Canadian Territories is a sight to be seen. Sod paying for the Westjet inflight entertainment, just book a window seat!

Where to get your Social Insurance Number (SIN) in Vancouver

This is essentially the first thing you should do when you arrive if you are new to Canada or travelling on a Work Visa. Without a SIN you can do pretty much nada work wise. If you are a Canadian Citizen arriving for the first time make sure you bring your Citizen Certificate. They will not accept your Canadian Passport as ID. These guys follow the rule book by the letter and won’t budge!

Top Tip:  Arrive early at 8:30 am to avoid a long wait, it gets busy here!

http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/tbsc-fsco/sc-dsp.jsp?rc=5908&lang=eng

Option 1.

Option 2.

Location

For a quick few days Downtown has everything at your finger tips, possibly also including a Walt Disney movie production going on right outside your front door #granvillestreet .

Somewhere to stay

This hostel has a bit of a funky smell to it, but its cheap, it has its own bar, kitchen, the breakfast is ok and is essentially perfectly fine for a few nights. Location is A1!

https://samesun.com/backpackers-hostels/vancouver/

Somewhere to drink

This place is about as standard as a typical North American Sports bar diner can get. A decent beer will set you back around $6. Check out the Chestnut Ale, it’s the doozy!

http://www.roxyburger.com

Somewhere to eat

This Japanese restaurant is just awesome!! Open front kitchen, super fresh food together with excellent speedy service.

http://www.suika-snackbar.com

Friends have also recommend Gastown as an excellent place to go.

You need some TLC after a long flight?

Head here. Steam room and full body soap scrub included in the pre massage ritual!

http://www.mirajhammam.com

Something cheaper for a quick massage? Expect to pay $80-120 for 60 minutes. On West Broadway there are many massage therapy places to choose from. Most are by appointment only, but if like me you walk around enough you’ll find one that will take you in at short notice.

https://sites.google.com/assuredbroadway.com/123/home

A walk to the beach

Vancouver has many beaches and if you are staying in Downtown this one is only a stones throw away, well worth a visit!

Instagram nuggets

You’ll see posters for this place everywhere

https://www.capbridge.com

Bike ride

Head over in the direction of the Harbour Flight Centre and pick up the coastal path that heads to Stanley Park. There are numerous bike hire companies there so you can easily pick up a day ride.

https://vhfc.ca

In quick summery Vancouver is an open liberal bustle of city meets nature. Surrounded by jaw dropping mountains that will inspire you out, but with plenty of beach and park life to keep you in.

“what inspired you to leave it all?”

It was in September 2014 while planning a trip to Malta that my sister convinced me that it was not at all dorky and totally ok to be billy no-mates and to travel alone. Previously, ‘travel holidays’ for me had always been in big groups or as a twosome. It didn’t take long for my concerns to evaporate as I experienced hostel life, not for the first time, but for the first time on my own. I played safe and went for a hostel which could have just as well have been an upmarket B&B. It had a chique boutique style about it, comfortable beds and monsoon shower wet rooms along with a superb kitchen and dinning area which soon became our shared communal hang out. At 22 Euros a night I was more than happy. It didn’t take long to make friends, we cooked, drank, danced and explored the island mostly together. Never did I feel like I was alone and the best bit, I met some great people who I am still in regular contact with to this day.

Malta September 2014: www.twopillowsmalta.com

The next year in May 2015 I made a longer trip with my good friend Matt to Peru. 3 weeks following the Inca trails and learning about the accent Inca cultures in an old overland truck filled with 18 people. Complete strangers from all over the world in a spectrum of different age groups, life stages and financial backgrounds. This trip and the people I met most of all out of all trips inspired me the most that world travel could be a thing for me.

Peru May 2015 Dragoman Overland Tours: www.dragoman.com

But was long term travel really for me? It was something I had always thought about, I talked about it many times, but was it something I could really do? Did I have the courage to jack it all in, change my career and lifestyle and say farewell to all my comfort zones. At this time I was 35, I wasn’t yet totally convinced and besides I had moved to Germany in 2012 and I was loving my new life there.

However world travel stayed forever on my mind. With each following trip I was reawoken with that sudden eyes wide open feeling one gets as soon as they step off an airplane. In 2016 I put myself out there in different countries from Turkey to Spain, these little trips were always on my own, mixed in with other trips in the year with friends.

Antalya Turkey May 2016: www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Role-Street/Antalya/100342

El Palmar Spain October 2016: http://mambobeachhousecom.ipage.com

After spending 5 years living in Germany and building my career to a level where I wasn’t quite sure where to take it next I booked one last trip. A surf and yoga retreat on the temperate West coast of Portugal. In part it is thanks to my two inspirational hosts and yoga teachers @Cecilie and @Carmen who I hold in dearest regard that I was able to make my final and last decision. Here life was simple.  It was focussed on health, on wellbeing, understanding and togetherness. We went surfing and practiced yoga every day. Sometimes we’d just sit and talk, other days we’d run along the beaches, through the forests and along the cliffs, we’d swim, sunbathe, eat, drink, sing at the top of our lungs and dance into the next day. We spoke of our pasts, of heartaches gone and of our dreams of the future. Stories of travel were always there, but more importantly for me stories of a more simple life began to dominate.

The theme soon started to draw its own conclusion, with each trip I was awakened, meeting inspiring people with their own stories to tell. I became like a sponge, soaking up energy from experiences, my surroundings, taking note of the emotions those experiences generated and the respect for the people I met along the way. These people, these places and the energy it created were my inspiration to trigger change.

Baleal Portugal April 2017: www.balilihouse.com

After my time in Baleal I returned to Germany and handed in my 3 months notice the next day. That part wasn’t easy, it was an emotional day, both for myself and my boss who I respected highly. It had taken many experiences and many encounters to come this far, however my decision was now made, I was committed to see it through despite persuasions of reconsideration. I was ready, it was time to take the next step, to walk the walk and start a new story, not just another trip, but to make a life change. A new journey was about to begin…

Top Tip: spend some time to think about what brings you joy into your life and then action it!


Have you had a trigger to create change?