The Art of Running Away to have an Adventure!
By Bex Tatham
1. Avoid your problem.
I was never at home, finding any excuse not to be there. “I won’t be back till late, I’m riding with a few guys in Ambleside” or “I’m going to stay at Farinas’s tonight, we’re having a girls night with pizza and bad films.”
The excuses occurred at least 4 or 5 times a week as all these adventures were a million times better than being sat at home with your significant other whilst you both browsed social media. I felt alone, bored, restless and lacking excitement from my job in retail which made going home after working a 9-5 a nightmare. It took me a ludicrous amount of time to decide, but on one of my days off I began packing my bags and didn’t stop. With my van loaded to the roof, and a plan of staying at the best friend’s house, I went to his work and finished off that chapter of the story. I hadn’t felt freedom like it in a long time. Sadness was an obvious reaction but also joy and optimism for the future accompanied it.
2. Face your problem
In the lead up to this piece of drama, I’d also applied for my Canadian working holiday visa with another good friend, Ben.
On the day the visa pool opened I remember pressing send at the same time and as the screen reloaded. Both of us sat there feeling kind of underwhelmed with the message of accepted. OK we’ll await further instruction soon I guess?
Brew in hand, I thought of all the reasons why I was doing this. Since I was 18 Canada was on the brain and if my parents had allowed me to run away and not attend university it’s the exact place I’d be. I think I’d worked out that I wasn’t ready to be settled and that my life required change at fairly regular intervals. The Lakes had to let me go and ride bikes in far away places.
3. Save money and book a plane ticket
So now living on my best friend’s sofa in Ambleside I faced the dreaded “I’m homeless” phone conversation with my mother and the “by the way I’m going to Canada.” She was shocked and horrified mostly but I’d already booked my flights… they were so cheap!
The next 6 months was dedicated to saving up for dollars, as I needed $5000 to enter Canada as part of my visa requirement. This was tough. Not only was I used to spending my Assistant manager wage, I was now also having to pay rent for the first time in four and a half years. Having lived rent free with my now ex boyfriend I’d had too many opportunities, but it wasn’t worth the detriment to my happiness. I just knew I had to get out of England and fulfil a life long ambition to be somewhere that no one else expected me to be. I don’t know whether you would call this a burden but I’d been feeling like it was an expectation from my friends and family that I’d always be around for them. I was making a bold decision for my craving of adventure. I was running away for me.
4. Have a basic plan
I love planning, although there’s only so much you can do before hand.
I managed to calm my mother’s worry by organising for Ben to meet me at Vancouver airport and also had accommodation pre-arranged. (Not many people even have this covered when they arrive in Canada).
I was going to be living in Whistler, British Columbia, home to some of the most world renowned Mountain biking trails, Crankworx and epic amounts of skiing and snowboarding in the winter. It was hard to contain my excitement. My house was a cute chalet up on blueberry hill. It had a deck which looked out on the surrounding mountains which I could eat breakfast on every morning in the sunshine. Indoors, there was a wood burning stove which gave me comfort I’d be warm come the winter and no Television! The dream! I was sharing this house with Ben, a very charismatic Canadian and what turned out to be a forever changing amount of people in the shared room in the basement.
5. Adventure and Learn
Over the next few weeks I embarked on a program of exploring the local area by bike. What I didn’t realise was how intense the hill climbs would be and reluctantly on my $13/hour salary had to purchase a 28 tooth chain ring. This definitely made life easier and I was able to clear way more ascents than I’d ever been able to do. I met a lot of good riders and by good I mean they’d be in the top 20 at most races in the UK. They pushed me, taught me new skills and bullied me to make it to the bottom when I had incurred injuries as a result of being ejected out the front door.
In the down time, Ben was always there, accompanying me to hospital to get stitches, providing hugs for when I was so frustrated at not being able to keep up with the guys, listened when I felt super unfit, unskilled, not progressing.
Looking back on summer I came out of it as a very accomplished rider in some respects. Friends who visited from the UK could not believe the leaps and bounds I’d made simply by moving to a mountain bike paradise. I’d placed 5th in senior women for a race in Squamish where the majority of entrants were long time locals. Terrain I’d found terrifying at the start of the season no longer phased me (that much) and to be honest I’d no idea why I’d been such a harsh critic of myself.
My goal since leaving that troubled relationship behind has and always will be to keep improving on the bike however, I also learnt that it’s OK to just ride for fun. Mountain biking is about having a laugh with your mates, playing and learning to do new stuff. It’s not always about fitness and going faster, it’s about knowing when to just enjoy the process and forget strava exists.
As fall turned to winter, I was beginning to resent my job. A familiar feeling that felt uncomfortable. I wanted to go home.
I wasn’t riding bikes as much. It was very easy for me to look back on the life I had with rose tinted spectacles. I actually loved everything I had in the UK apart from my job. Why did I have to move to Canada to quit my job?
It seems irrational but I guess a big shake up makes you think about what it is you need in life and that was to run away to make myself move on. Many tears later and phone calls to friends and family I decided to stay and discover what a real winter was like.
UK winters had been rough, I hated the dark, washing and drying kit after every ride, going to work in the dark, leaving work to come home in the dark, rain, wind, it ground me down every year. Ben was a big influence in my decision to stay too and made me see how winter was going to be sick! If I went home he was convinced that I was going to miss out on something magical. He wasn’t wrong.
Winter opened with a bang and Whistler was treated to 40 cm of powder on opening day, followed by a further 30 the next day. It was epic and my skill level certainly did not match up to this madness falling around me.
Earlier I spoke about becoming a bad ass snowboarder and the prospect of doing just this excited me. I can’t really say I’m amazing on a board yet but my learning curve has been steep for sure. Also it’s been amazing to meet so many new friends that I never would have run into had I kept riding bikes all winter. I’ve spent a lot of time hanging around Ben’s co-workers as they’re all super keen to get out and after it, especially on powder days.
Still winter in Canada presented me with different hardships compared to the UK.
Being in a resort you can only go so far before you meet a boundary line. So many people are jammed into a tiny space and there’s competition on every powder day to get to the lifts and in the line up to claim those fresh tracks. It’s nothing like I’d ever experienced riding bikes and it certainly felt hostile.
Again I decided to make improvements to my happiness, so very early on in the winter I’d made it a goal of mine to get in to split boarding. It was the perfect solution to find peace in the hills like I had with riding bikes.
Now as many people are aware Whistler is expensive to live. My rent went up as I had to move rooms in my house and I was often in to my overdraft trying to afford food and the odd social outing here and there. I honestly didn’t know how some of the village dwellers could manage so much spending on après ski and still have money left for food. I guess this was the balancing act of mountain town living. As luck would have it my employer had a contest running in conjunction with Smith Optics to win a level 1 avalanche safety training course, so I went for it, and then won it.
Photo: Rob Perry
Completing this weekend course opened a whole host of learning and adventure opportunities for me. I met some awesome people, increasing my network of adventurers once again. My friends who already went out of bounds are happier to take me out to play as I have the fundamentals to be safe in the backcountry, an apprentice you might call it.
Taking the steps to be away from the hustle and bustle of resort life gave me inner peace. I’d always be learning which is something I set out to do when I decided to run away in the first place. Now that the season is coming to a close I’m excited to put this new knowledge into practise in the future.
Ultimately leaving the UK has been an invaluable learning experience about what I want for my life now and in the future.
Quite simply, I’ve worked out that I need my life to keep being an adventure and that means learning, playing and never letting it become routine. If things are becoming stagnant, pack your bags either physically or metaphorically and run away.
Bikes will always be at my core, but it’s ok to have those moments learning a new activity or even heading out for a wild camp with your friends, just for a social.
I’m never going to own a television ever again.
I’ve figured out that you shouldn’t always go with what your most loved ones say, they’ll trap you, even if they have your best intentions at heart.
You should feel free to walk your path, whatever that is. Follow what your head tells you to do and if its bad go back to the drawing board. Change your mind, adapt to change again and again.
When life goes a little pear shaped it’s not failing, it’s an opportunity to grow and get after those sweet moments spent in the mountains.
I feel like life pushes you down a serious path and expectations on what a lady’s life should be past 25 years old are far too heavy. My mind is made up.
Canada has enlightened me to the fact that life will be far from conventional. I will keep running. Riding. Adventure is too sweet.