As I graduated from grade 12 in 2008, the prospect of engaging in further study straight after I had just freed myself from ever having to do another High School exam or assignment again, seemed completely daft and unnecessary to me. While getting a good O.P. made me feel all giddy inside and provided me with welcome accolades from my parents, the truth was I didn’t really need it. I hadn’t applied to any universities and I wasn’t hell-bent on getting into any particular course. I just filed my little piece of academic paper away in a folder with all my other school report cards, and focused on doing something completely unscholarly. I cringed at the thought of my friends delving back into the text books for another 4 years or so, and felt sorry that they hadn’t chosen to do what I thought the obvious thing to do after being released from the educational system – take a gap year. What better way to expand your horizons, gain a broader view of the world and put things into perspective. Having a break from study and just seeing and experiencing what else was out there seemed like a totally liberating idea, one that could give me a taste of my own independence.
I only really had one thought in mind for my gap year destination – Canada. For some strange reason, I have had a slight obsession with the country ever since I was 15, and upon visiting it one year after the beginning of this obsession, I fell in love.
So I decided to organise myself a working holiday. Going through the organisation Overseas Working Holidays, I was provided with everything I needed to work, live and play in Canada. I was set up with an interview, and upon passing this I secured a job in Whistler, a ski resort village about 2 hours from Vancouver, and pretty much the most awesome place I have ever been to.
Walking to work in the morning was always peaceful, with the still snow-capped mountains, despite the summary weather, surrounding me, and numerous little yellow wild flowers littering the grass along my path. Contrast that with the vast array of night life and I pretty much had the best of both worlds. Relaxing by the lake or dancing like a crazy person in one of the many night clubs, summer in Whistler is pretty unforgettable. Add to that the surprise bear sightings (one in particular of a mother and her two cubs had me squealing like a little girl and nearly falling out of a chair lift), and the downhill mountain biking, both watching it during the massive Crankworx festival and trying it out for myself (with surprising success, despite not even riding a regular push bike since I was 12), I had myself an amazing 6 months away from home. But as it turned out, the 6 months I had originally planned to stay for left me wanting more, so I decided to stick around for the winter season as well. I mean what was I doing in one of the largest ski resorts in North America and leaving before the snow began to fall? Oh, and the fact that the Winter Olympics were being held in Whistler made it the easiest decision I had ever made. There was even time in between seasons to do a quick trip around the west coast of America. L.A, San Diego, San Fransisco, Las Vegas and The Grand Canyon, were all visited in a fleeting 2 week period by me and my brother, whom had flown over from Aus to L.A for the tour.
Coming from the States back to Whistler, felt like coming home again, and before I knew it, the snow started to fall from the sky, and my anxiousness to try out my newly acquired ski gear, grew and grew. Winter in Whistler, skiing that vast and epic terrain of Whistler and Blackcomb mountain combined, is pretty much indescribable. Being on top of the world on a clear blue bird day, with only you and those little planks beneath your feet and sticks in your hands, is incredibly humbling. Sometimes the view was so spectacular, I had to stop, soak it in, and, admittedly, try not to cry. Those singular, personal moments are pretty damn wonderful, but then again so are the ones you share with friends. To name such an occasion, need I say more than Australia day. A truly unforgettable mix of skiing and drinking and clubbing and more drinking and perhaps some shenanigans wandering around the village in Ugg boots, a singlet and an Aussie flag draped around your shoulders. Good times with friends, awesome powder days, apres, beer, beer and more beer – pretty cool alternative to being at back home and studying, don’t you think?
Well, I’m sure I would still be in Whistler now, if I hadn’t spent all my money changing my flight so many damn times…but the reality is I’m home, and I don’t mind so much, because I will always have those 10 months to look back on and remind myself of how lucky I was to have them.
So, wherever you go, whatever the experience, I’m certain any young person’s life will be richer after having that precious year off to travel, see the world and make a whole bunch of international friends, of whom you can always hit up for a spare bed upon your next adventure…All hail the gap year!