Choosing Your Own Adventure

July 15, 2015 D'Arcy McLeish

I often read about people who have left their city life behind and moved to the mountains or the ocean to live a simpler life in some off grid cabin on the edge of nowhere. They live in tiny houses or vans and adapt to a nomadic or wilderness existence, spending their days travelling or growing their own food, often in places where they can ski, ride bikes, surf or climb. Whatever form it takes, whether it’s a couple who traded in their jobs to travel the world in a Westfalia or the guy in Oregon who now lives in a tree house, I have noticed that more often than not, those folks seem to have a limitless supply of capital behind their endeavouring to live a ‘simpler’ existence.

What's In Your Wish Box?  Photo - D'arcy Mcleish
What’s in your wish box?
Photo – D’Arcy McLeish

But what about those of us that want to do that and aren’t leaving a six figure job? What about the younger, or older, ski and surf bums who just want to get out of dodge and live their lives somewhere that suits their lifestyle? I’m one of those people. I came to the mountains because I wanted to ski and climb and ride my bike. I wanted to live somewhere that those were options, right on my doorstep. No, I didn’t leave a six figure job at a tech startup or as a financial guy on Wall Street. I was fairly broke when I came to live in the mountains.

Lola Is Glad We Live In The Mountains.  Photo - D'arcy Mcleish
Lola is glad we live in the mountains.
Photo – D’Arcy McLeish

So what do you do? No one wants to move somewhere and live in poverty. But that age old question of dirtbags living in ski towns haunts many of us still. How do you make a living in a place like Whistler or Squaw Valley or Telluride or Maui? Sometimes the barriers are being a foreign worker, other times it’s the fact that the wages paid in a lot of resort areas are, well, terrible.

This Is Why I Came To The Mountains. Photo - Reuben Krabbe
This is why I came to the mountains.
Photo – Reuben Krabbe

The next question I have asked myself and I’m sure others have is this: is it worth it? Is it worth living hand to mouth so you can ski every day or ride waves every morning? The short answer is yes, it’s worth it. I was in the city yesterday and after walking around for a few hours, I thought about what it would be like living there again, even with a well-paying job. No riding out the front door. The ski hill is hours away. The climbing may as well not exist. Where I live now, I can smash a few pow laps in the morning and be home for lunch. I can ride singletrack two minutes from my front door. Climbing is ten minutes from my house. The ocean is a five-minute drive.

If You Can't Make Enough To Do What You Want, They Get Paid To Do What You Love.  Photo - A Percival
If you can’t make enough to do what you want, then get paid to do what you love.
Photo – A Percival

I could never give that up. Ever. The value of having that so close to home is priceless. But at the end of the day, I still have bills to pay, mouths to feed and a dog to take care of. How do I do it? Like most folks, I’m crafty, clever and not afraid to work hard. And I do. I work a lot. But much of my work happens on skis or on a bike. Some of it is in a harness and some of it is just walking around the mountains. The parts that aren’t, well, I’ve managed to make it work. I don’t spend money on flat screen TVs and nice furniture. I don’t spend money on expensive cars or toys. I spend what I need to live, and that’s it.

Boo Ya.  Photo - Grant Baldwin
Boo ya.
Photo – Grant Baldwin

Walking around the city yesterday, I see how much people spend on stuff. Stuff that doesn’t really improve their lives. Stuff that only takes away and doesn’t give. Stuff that stifles, not stuff that opens us up. But it’s still difficult. I was speaking to a lifty the other day and she makes ten dollars an hour. Ten dollars! A slave’s wage, really, that isn’t even close to being enough to make a life somewhere. But somehow, she manages it. She works nights, yes, but still manages to get a hundred days in a year. And she plants trees in the summer. In short, she works the system so she can indulge her passion for riding pow all winter.

Living The Dream.  Photo - D'arcy Mcleish
Living the dream.
Photo – D’Arcy McLeish

Others work in firefighting or construction. Some, like me, bartended for years on my free nights and socked the money away. Some of us write, some of us figure out ways to open a business. The main theme is that if you really want to make a life in the mountains, you can. So many of us do. But it takes hard work, dedication and being clever. So don’t think you can’t move to the mountains. You don’t need lots of money, although if you have, by all means, come and spend it here. But if you don’t, don’t worry. Anyone can come and live the life they dream of. It just means a different life. Where you sacrifice (and yes there is LOTS to sacrifice), you also gain. You gain a freedom and a lifestyle to pursue your passions. You gain the ability and opportunity to spend your free time exploring the world around you. In my case, that’s spending time in the mountains. In your case, it could be anything. So don’t wait for when you make your fortune. If you want to change your life, just change it. Choose your own adventure. It’s scary and difficult and challenging, but boy is it worth it.

Be safe, ski hard.