I Left Society for the Winter. Here's What I Learned.
What changing it up for a season can teach you
In October, I left my life of working 60-70 hours a week, living in a high-rise apartment in a 575 square foot one bedroom, spending up to 1.5 hours a day in my car commuting, and living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world; Vancouver, British Columbia.
What did I leave this for? A winter living quite literally in the middle of nowhere. 140 KM from the nearest stoplight, in a lodge that still had every amenity you could ever want, surrounded by no more than 60 people at a time. My job was my life, and that was OK, because I loved my job. It is not so much a job, but a lifestyle. And now it is over (for now).
As I sit here and reflect on the winter, there are several things that I can’t help but take away from this experience:
1. Do crazy things whenever you can
I should probably preface these points with the fact that I spent this winter interacting with a very wide variety of people from all faces of the earth. Many of them were the most successful leaders in their field, whether they were wall street bankers, doctors, lawyers, mountain guides, or pilots. The number of times that I discussed the fact that I had left my “corporate america” life to spend the winter in the mountains and received the response of “I wish I would have done that when I could” was astounding. Once you start piling on every day responsibilities such as car payments, mortgages, children, and so many other responsibilities in life, it becomes nearly impossible to escape and do something crazy. Maybe not even crazy. But just something for yourself… Not conforming to the pressures of society, and doing something that you truly enjoy.
2. There are many different outlooks on life
Every single person who walked in the doors of the lodge that I was working at was there for the same reason: To have an unbelievable mountain ski experience. It actually didn’t matter if it was a guest or staff, we were all there for the same reason. We had a love for the mountains and skiing, and knew that this was the ultimate way to experience them.
There were those who were using their week in the lodge to escape from everyday life. There were those who used their week to add to their overall happiness in life. There were those who came to the lodge to connect with friends or family away from the distractions of everyday life. And yes, there were those who came to the lodge and brought all of the misery of life with them. As my wise mother once told me (from a stolen quote from somewhere else) “happiness isn’t a state, it’s an attitude”. It is amazing to see that effect on different people. Of course, even I am not immune to it, but I really appreciate this new insight I gained this year that will hopefully pull me out of situations in the future.
My biggest takeaway? Be thankful for the amazing opportunities you get in life. And if you aren’t happy with what life gives you? Use that unhappiness to motivate you towards greater things.
3. Nature is a powerful thing
It doesn’t matter who you are. When you are standing in nature and are able to appreciate the sheer expanse and power that comes with it, you tend to forget all of the little things that really don’t matter in life. This year, I really tried to focus on being in the moment while in nature. Taking a moment to appreciate my surroundings, taking a deep breath, and just soaking it all in. I will never forget those little moments in nature.
4. It’s important to have goals, but not having them is OK too
I have been driven by goals my entire life. I went from kindergarten, through grade school, directly into University, and then directly in to my first two jobs/ careers. When I stopped that progression to take a step out of the race and put myself in the mountains for a winter, it was a very scary feeling. I felt like I didn’t know what was next, and honestly I still don’t. I keep reminding myself that it is ok to not have a 100% clear path in life. Things have a weird way of sorting themselves out, and I know I will get to where I want to be.
5. Find your passion and live it
Remember how I said I left my 60-70 hour a week job to move to the mountains? Well while in the lodge, I was working 80-90 hours a week. The difference? It was a lifestyle, not a job. Sure, shoveling 25cm of new snow at 7 in the morning is a “job” but it was work that I thoroughly enjoyed. I was on my feet all day, not sitting at a desk. I was helping people get out into the mountains and experience the best skiing of their lives. I lost 20 pounds from what I will call my “desk job high” of 208 lbs, I was generally a lot happier, and I was saving significantly more money than when I lived under the pressures of society. That’s right. I took a 66% pay cut, but was actually putting 50% more money in the bank every month. Sure, it helped that I didn’t pay a dollar of rent all winter, I had food cooked for my by professional chefs all 5 meals/ day, and I had discounted liquor at the bar. But it is amazing how fast money leaves your bank account when you are constantly distracted by the newest gadgets, restaurants, bars. It is pretty easy to blow through a $2500 pay cheque living in a city.
What does the future hold for me? As of today, I still have no clue. The ironic part is that I may end up back in exactly the life that I left 6 months ago, but the difference is that I will have the experiences and outlooks that I have gained to help me along the way. I have found a new energy, a new outlook, and am ready to go at it again. Regardless, I will probably still have my camera by my side, and I will never be far from the mountains! And who knows! Maybe I will just have to do it all over again!
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.