I was reading an article in a Mountain Biking magazine (can’t remember which), and it was going over ways that you could turn your passion (biking, in this case) into your career. It listed the various options (professional, industry insider, writer, photographer, guide, etc.) and the pros and cons of each choice. None of them seemed particularly appealing. Or, I guess the better way to say it is: the cons seemed to outweigh the pros in every case (with the possible exception of “professional”, which is a very time limited career with a lot of things that can go wrong). I've said before that the problem with working in an industry is an intricate knowledge of its ugly side. Well, another problem with working in an industry with an enormous potential labor pool is the really, really, really crappy pay. Any job that is desirable can afford to pay their employees poorly. But the ski industry is particularly bad. And it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.
With that in mind, I was thinking of the possible ways that one could go about establishing a life in a mountain town. Obviously, one way to do it is to just do it. Now. Sell the house, sell the stuff (besides the skis and mountain bikes – you’ll need those), cash in the 401k, get in your car (containing only gear and clothes), and start driving in October. Find a cheap apartment, a low end job (preferably night hours), get a dog, grow a beard, and live the laid back life of a ski bum. “Laid back” is a relative term here, because this option seems to lend itself to money problems and health insurance difficulties for the rest of your life (or at least until you turn 65 when the dystopian, socialist hell of Medicare kicks in; thank GOD we don’t have that for everybody [/sarcasm]).
The second option is to wait until retirement. Save up a ton of money, pay off your mortgage, and just buy a small little house or condo in Telluride or Park City with that cash. This idea is not entirely unreasonable – many years of diligent saving can get you some good coin, selling a paid off house in 30 years can net you some more cash, and you can piece together a pretty decent retirement income between social security, a pension (if you have one), and a retirement job (ski instructor or hotel work or whatever). Or, do what some people (people that are richer than I) are doing and buy a 2nd home that can double as a ski house while you work, and a retirement house when you get older. The downside of this option is that you miss the best years of your life because you’re working some crappy job all day when you could be skiing. Then, when you finally get some free time after retirement, you’re so old that “getting rad” mostly involves cruising the groomers.
There’s got to be a better option. If only there was some happy medium - some way to work long enough so that you could save enough money to just enjoy life and not have to worry about a soul sucking corporate job or injury related bankruptcy. Some way to own a house in a ski town, but not have to leave it every Sunday night to drive back to suburbia, dreading the following day at the office.
I’m trying to think of ways to accomplish this. So far, I’ve come up with two ideas: going back to school for my Master’s degree (at some place near mountains – Northern Arizona, Montana State, University of Utah, etc.), and hypersaving (plowing tons of money into savings and retirements accounts for the next few years by living on beans & rice, depriving myself of luxuries, and driving my car well after I’m done paying it off). The Master’s degree would probably entail taking out student loans (ugh), but the hypersaving idea could be financially smart. If I can save enough money in the next few years, I could move out west with the money from home equity, some pretty good money in retirement accounts, and enough savings to cover a year or two of living while ski instructing and looking for a job in my field. Unfortunately, hypersaving would involve cutting down my spending on frivolous crap (which I don’t really do), and cutting down my spending on going out, drinking and socializing (which I definitely do). Damn.
I guess it’s one of those times in life when you have to decide what is most important; one of those times in life when you have to identify what you want, and formulate a plan for how you want to get it. When I started this blog almost 4 years ago, I wrote a post about how as people get older, they trade security for freedom (buying a house is the financially responsible, secure thing to do, but you lose the freedom to just up and leave whenever you want, etc.). I mentioned that I wanted the blog to reflect a life well lived, not a boring life where I go to work every day and come home every night and watch TV. Well, after 4 years of going to work every day and coming home every night to watch TV, I’m getting pretty freaking sick of it. Not that I haven’t had some good times and some awesome trips, but this sandbox is getting boring and I need a new playground.
Warren Miller says that if you don’t quit your job and move to ski country this year, you’ll be one year older when you do. Every year, his voice gets louder in my head, and I can’t seem to shake it. The other voice in my head is Morgan Freeman in Shawshank Redemption: “Get busy living, or get busy dying”.
Well, I’m not dying anytime soon. There are many years of getting rad to come.