it was on a cold snowy morning that not for the first time, but in a long time I practiced yoga before breakfast. As part of the Whistler Club Shred programme free yoga classes are provided twice a week at 18 Below Base II. Tuesday’s @5:30-6:30 pm and on Thursday morning’s @6:00-7:00 am. This was the first time I had gotten up so early (5:15 am) to do a yoga class, it was still dark outside, gently snowing and cold!
Upon arrival I was warmly greeted by our yoga teacher Laura. As we started our practice I became fully focussed in the present. There must be something about doing yoga just after waking up that helps the mind focus. Now I come to think about it it makes sense right, the mind is fresh, there is no junk in there from the days activities, it’s a blank canvas ready to begin, new again. As we neared the end of the practice I remember feeling surprised at how focussed I had remained throughout. The feeling was lightening.
Coming to the end posture Savasana my mind always tends to wonder off into a hazy dream. This time I drifted back to my time in Portugal 2017, a different place that was warm and full of light, a place where the sun shone and every practice was accompanied by the gentle sound of the ocean. During namaste I gave thanks to the person who gave me this special memory @Cecilie Ragnhildstveit.
After a couple days in Vancouver I joined up with my group and headed north, up the sea to sky highway, route 99 to Whistler. Looking out of the bus window and gazing up onto snow crested mountains it all started to come together. Taking it all in I found myself drifting into to thoughts of my mothers time here. The fact that she had travelled along the exact same road 43 years ago. I felt a connection, that fuzzy skin tingling kind of sensation you often get with a good movie. I felt content and full of anticipation about my arrival in what was going to be my new home. I knew then I had 100% made the right decision.
Whistler Blackcomb (WB) aka the mountain have 3 staff housing sites. Glacier, Brio and Westside. Most units are set up pretty much the same, 4 people per unit, 2 people sharing a room (bunkbeds – yey!). The units are compact and functional. It works. It’s actually ok. Key for me was to have engaging flatmates that were fun, clean, respecting and tidy. I got lucky and we all live together quite easily, happily and stress free. Sure it could be bigger, better, blah blah etc. etc., but it’s not forever, for a short time it works! Rent is $12.65 a day and is billed bi-weekly at $177.10. There is a wax room, small gym and yoga studio all on site. At 18 Below Base II (5 min walk) staff meals are also provided for $7 for a pretty decent sized feed. Combined with various planned activities WB do a great job here.
Some first impressions of Whistler & Blackcomb
anyone for golf?
top of 7th heaven
first run around Lost Lake
Christmas in Whistler
Blackcomb Glacier ice cave
playing around on Lakeside bowl
views for days 🙂
Epic views from the Peak2Peak
shredding it under Peak2Peak
First time down down Spanky’s Ladder
Glacier staff housing is ski-in skit-out right onto Blackcomb mountain. For me it’s a 10 minute walk to work. To get into town there is the option of the free number 7 bus (operates 5:45 am – 2:40 am). A walk/run down the village run/staff hill ski slope (5 min) or the option to take the Excalibur Gondola (operates 8:00 am – 6:30 pm).
Best things about staff housing
Your roomies (if you get good ones)
The rent at only $354.20 a month (all bills included)
100% reliable hot showers with gusto…sooo good!
The rooms are always warm!!
Worst things about staff housing
Your roomies (if you get bad ones)
No oven to cook with (makes cooking options somewhat limitted)
Bunk beds (several factors here!)
Will need a good deep clean when you move in
Internet speed maybe slow to begin with (invest in a new router and/or call the operator)
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 the economy and public opinion. 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 she made frequent trips to Whistler and actually met my Biological father, an American at a pig spit roast at the Roundhouse. In 1978 they were married. 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.
T-bar up whistler glacier
line up at the Creekside Gondola
mum at a bbq
the roundhouse as it used to be
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 anew.
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.
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.
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. Out of all the trips, this trip and the people I met inspired me the most that work and travel could be a thing for me.
But could something long term work? 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 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 ‘tester’ trips were always on my own, mixed in with other trips in the year with friends.
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.
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 alone and with others to think about what most brings you joy, identify your core beliefs, hone them, then action them.
The more I touch with people on this subject the more inspired I become. Stories of escaping the day to day, stories in search of change, a new life, a new direction or simply new experiences and adventure.
The question “why”
When I made the decision to finally commit and announce my decision to quit it all and leave Europe I was actually quite taken aback by the amount of surprised reactions I got. For me I had mentally prepared for that decision in some way or another for a long time, for me the concept felt natural, I was ready. However, I quickly got the feeling that for many the concept seemed very align.
A few reactions I got and I quote:
“Why would you leave your job, are you crazy?”
“Are you having a midlife crisis?”
“Is this a spontaneous decision, or have you planned it?”
Others would include
“I would love to do that, but I could never make the final step”
“I wish I could go traveling too”
My most memorable was from my pharmacist just before he injected me in the arm with jab 1 of 3 of my Rabies vaccinations.
“what gave you the idea to go travelling?”
…I was rather taken aback by the use of the word ‘idea’ like it was some singular moment of clarity. The fact of the matter is that it was never just one idea, it was many, combined together, with structure, ideas, emotions…it was an evolved process.
How it all began
When it came to big travel trips I was always one of those people, always talking, never doing. For me world travel was always something in the back of my mind. A lot of my friends did the gap year thing after university, I however went straight into work. I had £20,000 in student loan debts to pay off, I had a career I wanted to build and most of all I wanted to start putting my 5 years at university to good use. I had something to prove to my myself, I had ideas I wanted to develop and to see how far I could take them. But in the most part, like most of us in the cold light of day, I just needed the money to start coming in.
I worked hard and climbed the ladder fast. I spent 8 years working @metabo UK, it was not always easy, I was lucky to survive several redundancy culls, I took on extra roles of those past, survived the crisis of 2008 and then got offered the break I was perhaps always looking for. In 2012 I packed my bags and headed off to Germany. I accepted a role offered by my parent company to work at the headquarters @metabo DE as the European Promotions Manager. A varied role which incoperated aspects of Product Management, Product Design, Sales and Marketing. This was perfect for me, challenging and interesting work in a company I knew, had great respect for and already 8 years experience. The new role established itself quickly, we grew, standardised and set up measurable, repeatable processes. We had some great product and sales successes! I was lucky enough to be given enough freedom to develop my own ideas as well as those of my fellow colleagues, our customers and the demands of the market. One of the most fun projects was:
I was never sure how long I would stay, perhaps only 2-3 years, perhaps forever, it was never fixed in stone and left always open. As one of the few ‘foreign’ workers in the headquarters I was grateful to Metabo for that contractual freedom. 5 years later and my German pension was secured and all my career ambitions had largely been met. I was not the type who wanted to continually climb the corporate ladder. I had done enough of that over the years, pushing for promotion after promotion, bonus after bonus. I had also seen in others and experienced for myself the side effects of taking on too much, I did not want my job to erode into my private life more than it already had. I had struck a good balance in Germany, they know what they are doing there and they put special emphasis on their feierabend, but I was still aware of the dangers of taking on more and more, I had done that back in the UK in my early carrier days, I had got the hat and the t-shirt, the doctor was not impressed!
The more I grew, the more I really began to understand what the buzz term ‘work life balance’ really meant. It is one thing to say it, but to really start to begin to feel it, that is what is important, not just on the odd day, but regularly. Another life saying; ‘work to live, not live to work’ however I most certainly do not wish to work so I can just live. Existence is not the key. Stuck in one place, continuously working to earn the right for a few short holidays, retire at 65, maybe get 10 years of good quality retirement with questionable health and then kick the bucket, is that what it is really all about?
The more thought I put into it, the more I thought about where next. Stay with the same company, push for another promotion, change companies, same industry, different industry, same old story, go back to the UK, settle down and put up with a country split in two over the consequences and chaos of Brexit. Was this all about career decisions or was there something more? What is with this saying “you only live once”. What did that mean to me? What next? #thiswayorthat