Frankie Flower, 31, was firmly entrenched in the London rat race last year, when she suddenly decided she needed a change of scene. Having lived in the capital for nearly a decade, she decided to quit her corporate job and instead pursue a passion for skiing in the Canadian Rockies. Now six weeks into her adventure, life is happier – and simpler – than she could ever have imagined. Here’s her story:
The moment of truth
About a year ago after a ski holiday in France, I had a wake-up call. I returned to my well-paid job in a corporate firm in London to realise that, as much as the job was helping me live my life, I wasn’t getting any personal fulfilment. Looking around me, I saw that most of my friends and colleagues were moving on with their lives, settling down and having children. I wasn’t ready for that, but I knew I couldn’t keep going as I was.
So, I decided to take time out and reassess. I’ve always loved skiing and before I knew it, I’d booked to do an 11-week ski instructor course with Nonstop in Fernie, British Columbia, starting at the beginning of this year.
A clean break
I decided to leave my job because I wanted a complete change, and to do that I needed to make a clean break. I knew that I was ready to move up the career ladder, but I also knew that if I didn’t take the break now, I probably never would. I also didn’t want there to be a concrete end date on my adventures.
I am really grateful to my previous employer for all the experience I was able to gain. My confidence sky rocketed in the last couple of years, and it was that confidence that made me take the leap.
When I first dropped the bomb on mum she simply looked at me and said, “make sure you wear sun cream!” When I told my colleagues they were equally excited and jealous; many of them wished they could do something similar.
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I did have days where I thought I was mad. Why would I give up my lucrative career and salary to be a ski bum for a few months? Would I get a job when I got back? Would employers think I was unreliable for taking time out? Would they pay me the same?
These were all pointless questions because the reason I decided to do this was to take back my life and recharge my batteries. That means that, if and when I’m ready to go back, I can do it with gusto.
Raising the cash
Once I’d decided to take a career break, I moved into serious saving mode. I had already been saving to fix up my kitchen and bathroom, so instead I decided that I would use that money to fund my career break. I started shovelling as much of my salary into my savings as I possibly could.
I even started making my own lunches, which for me was a big thing! I was able to save enough to pay for the course, flights insurance etc. and a little extra to make sure I’d be able to survive while away. I then put my flat on the rental market and never looked back.
An adventure begins
After a teary goodbye with mum, a nine-hour flight, waiting stressfully for two hours for my skis to come through and a three-hour transfer from Calgary airport on a bus with paper thin walls and an overheating complex, I finally made it to Fernie. A full 24 hours of travel took it out on me, and as soon as my head hit the pillow I was out for the count.
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I woke up at around 5am totally disorientated, but when I opened the curtain and saw the view of the mountain from my room, I automatically relaxed. I did it! I made it to Canada, and it was really happening! I was deliriously excited. This was my journey and I’d actually made it happen all by myself. I couldn’t wait to get out and about, and start living in Fernie like a real Canadian.
A slower way of being
I had a week in Fernie before I started my course, and I spent it getting familiar with the town, along with some of my new course mates. We skied most days, and got to know where all the best food and drink places were.
Everything was white and covered in at least a foot of snow; it was a winter wonderland. As soon as I tried to cross a road, all cars would automatically stop to let me pass, apparently in no rush to get to their destinations. Ten minutes into exploring, I realised Fernie was a complete 180 on life in London, and I couldn’t wait to get living it.
Connecting with people
People here are so friendly. I was chatting to a ranger on the hill the other day, and he and his wife later invited me to go snow-shoeing with them at the weekend. It’s almost like stepping back in time. It’s such a trusting place that nobody locks their doors, and if you lose something, you’ll get it back in a day or so.
Three weeks in, and I’ve already met many new people, of all ages and from many walks of life, local and foreign. I think I’ve made more connections this year than I have in the past 10.
The road to happiness
My stress levels have evaporated, I no longer flinch at sudden loud noises, and my new commute and office are so beautiful that they completely clear my mind and help me focus on the here and now. I’ve found a new appreciation for time and breathing, too. It’s simple, but apparently I wasn’t really doing it back home!
Going back to ski school is making my brain work in a different way also – it really is like going back to school, only my skis are my desk and my poles, my pen. I didn’t expect to feel so excited to get up in the mornings, or feel so happy quite so soon.
For anyone thinking of doing the same thing, I’d say don’t let money be the reason not to take the leap. If you need to save, think about certain luxuries you can cut back on, e.g. buying coffee every day, or nights out/dinners. You can’t put a price on life experience. And don’t be in such a hurry that you forget to live. Jobs will always be there, but life experience won’t.
Photos: Shutterstock and Frankerooney/Instagram