I am a 28 year old Australian.
I have just returned home (for now) after 2+ years abroad surfing and snowboarding throughout Canada, the US and Mexico.
In addition to numerous surf trips exploring the Australian coastline growing up, I have been lucky enough to travel extensively abroad. Over the past few years I have surfed and explored; New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa, Indonesia (Bali, Lombok, East Java and the Mentawais), The Maldives, Taiwan, France, Spain, Portugal, and the Marshal Islands.
In my recent travels about North America I also spent 3 and a half months bicycle touring with my surf board down the west coast from Canada, through the US to Mexico.
I have also traveled through much of Europe and Asia and feel very fortunate to have learnt a great deal from these experiences both about myself as well as other cultures and our common home here on planet earth.
Before taking off to live and travel around Canada and the US I had been working as an Environmental Consultant overseeing the compliance of a gas pipeline project aimed at extracting coal seam gas throughout my home state of Queensland and loading boats full of LNG to ship from the east coast of Australia to markets in ASIA and further afield.
I had grown increasingly discontent in realizing that in spite my eternally optimistic intentions, (and perhaps youthfully naivety…?)I had transitioned from my tertiary education into a career that felt as though I was just another cog turning in a broken machine. Having studied Environmental Management motivated to ultimately try and contribute something that is cumulatively positive in my fleeting moments passing through this world… It had become apparent that it was time to keep searching. For new ideas, inspiration and something that was ultimately more meaningful.
I wanted to keep trying to work out what I was going to be when I grew up.
For the past
9 months two years +… that has meant a drastic change of pace and an even greater change of scenery. In December last year 2013 I jumped on a plane to Canada leaving behind the +30 degree days of Summer back home and arrived to the -30 degree chill of a Canadian winter. I also traded the warm waters of the East Pacific Ocean, my usual playground and place of solace, for snow and the humbling immensity of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
I spent my first few weeks in Whistler BC with my family who all decided to temporarily jump on the snow change bandwagon and rendezvous for a white Christmas. I come from a family of 4 boys, which means that yes, I have no less than 3 rad brothers to play with! The sibling rivalry snow boarding together for the first time was dangerously good fun. With each of us having done various trips to Europe, Japan, NZ and down south back home in Oz… hitting the slopes somewhat resembled our usual brotherly banter when surfing, just transposed to the snow.
We rode hard over Christmas all day every day playfully pushing each other, sharing tips and offering suggestions on how to improve and progress and understand the equivalently complex realm of riding strange boards with our feet attached on frozen water. Vaulting ambitions (figuratively and literally) were somewhat thwarted buy the inevitable onset of physical fatigue as the days caught up with us and some quality recovery time in the hot tub was a definite welcome.
After Christmas with the family I headed east from BC and accidently landed a job at a Patagonia Clothing store in passing through a town called Banff and decided to call it home for the winter. This job not only provided me with some sort of a loose structure and forced days of rest amongst otherwise snowboarding my brains out, but also the opportunity to engage in a number of positive conversations with a number of unsuspecting, potential customers around the fantastic and inspiring philosophy that underpins the brand that is Patagonia. It was a bonus that I also derived some form of cash money for my time and efforts working here.
Through winter I used Banff as a base to explore the surrounding ski hills of Alberta and BC in search of sensations of stoke. I attempted to study and understand the mountains as one might a section of coastline trying to wrap my head around the infinitely complex coming together of climatic and geological features that at times align perfectly together to provide opportunities for all sorts of fun sensations and experiences. I then attempted to align being in the right place at the right time and score all of the powder days.
As they say time flies when ur having fun and before I new it, the snow was melting…
With the end of season came both the opportunity to reflect and realize the intentions not embraced but also all of the new found opportunities for the summer ahead. Hailing from a subtropical climate where you could be relatively comfortable in a t shirt and shorts 364… days of the year it was really interesting to observe how such a drastic seasonality influenced Canada’s peoples and their life styles. As 30 Deg+ days started to become a reality and the snow quickly disappeared and what was once a snow covered mountainous playground quickly transformed into a far more inviting camping, hiking, running biking, fishing… etc. Mecca. Motivated by the long winters Canadians sure do seem to make the most of their short summers and the opportunity to get out and about on days that people would balk at back home. I will definitely be doing less balking when I head back home having redefined my perceptions of “cold” and “winter”
And so I spent my days living as a total headon….
There is a saying… if its not broke, don’t fix it.
But what about when things are broken?
What about our recently elected Prime minister back home who doesn’t believe in Climate change? And what about things in Canada…?
I soon learnt that Canada become the first country to pull out of its Kyoto Protocol obligations in focusing on developing the North Alberta Athabasca Tar Sands. This is one of the largest industrial projects on the planet and the countries single largest generator of greenhouse gases….
So what about our planet, our play ground and food bowl?
I did feel some sense of guilt in focusing my entire life around the pursuit of simply having fun? Was I just shoving my head in the snow? Running away from a depressing reality back home that I couldn’t face?
Other than my insatiable yearning for the ocean…. I was having ridiculous amounts of fun and so were all of the equally stoked people around me.
But the bee in my bonnet about trying to evolve my own understanding of how to best spend my time and contribute something cumulatively positive buzzed on…
A simple life lived in pursuit of contentment from the stoke derived from being able to regularly engage in outdoor activities cumulatively stands to have far less of an impact on our planet than perhaps the more common scenario in the modern western world of seeking this contentment in the acquisition of possessions. A life lived measured by the consumption of fashionable new material possessions, things we don’t need and that will soon break or become obsolete keeps the cogs turning tho and this is the life we are sold.
Spending days immersed in and around nature only stands to reconnect people with our planet and keep people fit and healthy. Given the reality of the current environmental crisis and obesity epidemic its plain to see that something here is not right and that these are realy just tell tale systemic signs of this.
Whilst all of the bigger picture can be totally cripplingly overwhelming I have come to realize that we can each only influence things on an individual level in how we live our lives. Ultimately this stands to contribute to evolving things further in a more positive direction and hopefully inspires others around us to do the same. “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives”. – Annie Dillard
It’s hard to know where to start with this given the reality that our society is currently on such a gloomy trajectory with a truly immense force of inertia behind it. The sad reality is that things will surely get far worse before they get any better. I have the unfortunate disposition of having seen and read far to many things to deny this reality. Why we ignore the Obvious
In coming to peace with this rather unfortunate set of circumstance, how then do we do what we can to slowly start to swing things around? To attempt to minimize how much worse things will get?
“If you see that some aspect of your society is bad, and you want to improve it, there is only one way to do so: you have to improve people. And in order to improve people, you begin with only one thing: you can become better yourself.” – Leo Tolstoy
The shear scale of the task as hand is so overwhelming in spite there being a resounding knowledge and awareness of the problem and great intention to change things for the better we don’t even know where to start. On mass our current generation subconsciously just keeps on keeping on like a deer stunned in the headlights unable to move.
So how then do we begin slow this run away freight train?
We have tools like the internet to share and disseminate information around this big blue ball like never before. We can share ideas (perhaps not so much with China at the moment) and connect brains to try and educate people. We can try and inspire each other and share ideas and innovation and continue to try and evolve our philosophies and beliefs in a more positive direction. Additionally through things like wiki leaks emerging it may be easier to keep governments and industry in check…
“Education should teach you how to find out about the things you need to know and give you the opportunity of developing your own particular talents and interests to the full. The trouble is that few people really know how to do this. Those who do know, or at least have some good ideas, are not the people who actually control the education system. The system is controlled by the people who have the money, and directly or indirectly these people decide what you should be taught and how.[…]
The industries and businesses that control our economic system need a relatively small number of highly educated experts to do the brain-work, and a large number of less well educated people to do the donkey-work. Our education system is set up to churn out these two sorts of people in the right proportions — although it doesn’t in fact succeed.
“Leaders remain leaders only as long as you let them” – Hansen and Jensen
The really ridiculously exciting thing to realize is that this change in direction is already evident in so many places… The more you look around things are already starting to happen.
As sure as the sun will set so too will older generations die taking with them their beliefs and philosophies formed understandably as a product of how they were taught to see the world as they passed through in a different time to us and those yet to enter the world.
Dylan stated the obvious reality that the times are indeed a changin’. They of course always will be but. I hope that attempting to act as a catalyst of sorts in spending some of my spare time continuing to share ideas with friends and family and any other unsuspecting victims via the broader internet and in conversation inspired from this might progress things in a more positive direction sooner than later may potentially limit the extent of the negative impacts that our current way of living is having….