“I didn’t feel brave at all. I was terrified. But not of moving overseas alone and not of what would happen once I got there. I was terrified of the alternative – of staying in one place.”
I said those words aloud roughly a year ago while sitting in Vancouver Airport. I’d spent no more than four days on holiday in Canada and hadn’t stopped to think about how much it had all ‘just clicked’ until that moment.
As soon as I said it, I knew it was true. As soon as I said it, my life changed.
The following months were a whirlwind of applying for visas, giving up my apartment, moving my stuff into my mum’s garage, and saying goodbye. As each day passed, I heard the same words over and over from family, friends, and strangers.
It went something like this: “You’re moving to Canada alone? You don’t have a house lined up? You don’t know anyone over there? Well, you’re awfully brave.”
The more I heard it, the more I felt it wasn’t true. I didn’t feel brave at all. I was terrified. But not of moving overseas alone and not of what would happen once I got there. I was terrified of the alternative.
Up until that moment in Vancouver Airport, the plan had been to return from my Canadian holiday, land a good job, save up to buy property, and essentially start being a grown up. While there is nothing wrong with any of those things (and while they are certainly still somewhere in the haze of my future plans), I realised I didn’t want anything to do with it.
For me, being brave enough to move overseas was as much about the adventure of moving away as it was about being scared of the alternative. As my Facebook feed filled up with major promotions, engagements, weddings, and babies in the usual hallmarks of 20-something life, I couldn’t help but be afraid that I would get caught up in the milestone box-ticking frenzy that can suck people up and spit them out by age 30 with nothing left to tick and no more road map of what to do next.
So I ran. I ran to the best place I could imagine. Its name is Whistler and it’s a small ski town that once helped host the Winter Olympics and is home to more Australians than New South Wales.
I came to a place full of people like me – those who have clocked up a few years in the real world with real jobs, but have thrown it all in to live the life of minimum-wage-working 30-year-old ski bums who drink on Tuesday afternoons, work doubles on Saturdays and snowboard every Monday.
The Whistler life is a magical bubble where snow is worshipped like the omnipresent god it is, making new friends is even easier than it was in pre-school, and the local pubs offer prizes to the last person at the bar still wearing their ski gear. Many people (myself included) work multiple jobs to pay the bills and still live paycheck to paycheck, but are the happiest people I have ever known.
Of course I’m still afraid of things. I’m afraid I’ll injure myself badly enough to have to go home (a fairly regular occurrence). I’m afraid I’ll run out of money, that I’ll work so much that I’ll miss out on the lifestyle, and that I’ll have to eventually leave when my visa runs out.
And yet, as my own Facebook feed fills up with photos from days on the mountain, statuses about my first White Christmas, and pictures of bears, I still unquestionably prefer these fears to the alternative – the thought of not travelling is the scariest one of all.
Hayley Clark is a Kiwi with a to-do list that reads like a list of countries with trees. A copywriter by night, her days are spent chasing empty powder runs and decent coffees with equal fervour and success in Whistler, Canada.