Every now and then we just seem to click with certain experiences that consume us, and we then fight tooth and nail to hold onto or stay a part of whatever feeling that situation conjured up.
For myself, it was a trip to Africa that started a love affair with travel and with mountains, this quickly progressed into ‘mum and dad, i’m just taking a gap year before university to do a winter season in the Alps’. That was 15 years ago, and although it’s been a struggle at times, there’s never really been a point where I doubted why I made that decision. As I look back I realise I always felt a little on the outside and found it tough fitting into guidelines or paths that others told me I should be taking, I always felt there was something else out there for me.
Its understandable why people question anything that they are unfamiliar with and being from the UK its sometimes tough to show people that there are other ways to make a life than the normal 9-5….whatever normal is.
A lot of that is down to situational and locational factors, there’s a reason why inner London kids aren’t as represented in the mountain communities, they aren’t as exposed to it as someone from Kendal or Scotland. For example, my main job is repairing skis, which to someone not exposed to the ski world would be forgiven if they didn’t even know that was a job.
My journey has been made up of many mistakes, trial and error and having an understanding family, but I can now safely say, at 35 years old i’m finally getting somewhere (parents out there, close your eyes)
The UK is blessed with an incredible mountain and adventure culture steeped in history of global exploration. We might lack the lofty heights of the Alps but we we make up for it with a hardy attitude that’s been forged by wet weather, howling winds and lacklustler conditions balanced out by a spirit to just ‘go anyway’.
It now takes a little bit more effort for us to immerse into the snow sports culture than other nations purely down to geographical and political stumbling blocks.
Whilst the people that claim to know what’s best may have put an end (hopefully temporarily) for young Brits to live amongst different cultures with ease, there are still ways to go and experience the uniqueness that is the mountain community and their weird and wonderful ways.
There’s a cliche saying that travel broadens the mind. The annoying thing about cliche sayings is that most of the time they are true, but there’s more to this one. Maybe your grandparents spent their holidays climbing in the lake district, or exploring the wilds of Scotland, or maybe you enjoyed the apres ski scene on holiday in the Alps and now that office job doesn’t feel the same. However it comes, If you have picked up a thirst to explore mountains come rain, wind, snow and sun, then id be bold enough to say your mind is not only going to broaden, it’s going to damn near explode by what immersing in mountain communities will do for you.
Anyone in their 20’s who has the slightest interest in mountains should go and get every visa that is available to you. New Zealand and Canada have some of nature’s wildest natural playgrounds and both are a just visa application away. We can either sit and moan at why people thought it was a good idea to take opportunities away from young Brits, or we can stick the proverbial middle finger up at these people and encourage younger generations to experience life in more open cultures further afield where young people can flourish whilst forging a rewarding path into the mountain sports industry.
Lessons learned in the mountains teach so much about real life mainly because the consequences are so high. You learn to be adaptable, to be accountable for your actions, to be in the moment, but you also learn to help others, to plan, to realise that you don’t grow out of having dreams and to above all else enjoy what you’re doing. These are all things that create a fantastic foundation for a person to grow.
So go out and join your local snow sports club, book that backcountry course, get a job in Canada, network with the people you look up to and create your own adventurous life. At the end of the day it’s the memories, the stories and the people you meet that matter. So next time you see that brand CEO with a gnarly scar on his knee, or that photographer whose body audibly creeks every time they get up, or that full time mum who’s still getting after it in the mountains every chance she gets, stop for a moment and ask them how they are doing…..you might get some wild stories out of it.