Gap years for grown ups

Thierry Nardozi traded suits for skis. Photo supplied

WRITTEN BY Louise Hudson

From Singapore to Sun Peaks, Thierry Nardozi has pressed pause on a lofty career in high finance to train as a ski instructor. At 50, he’s realizing a youthful ambition.

“My mum couldn’t afford to pay for it when I was a kid so it is something I have always had in my mind,” he explained.

Having completed the Canadian Ski Instructor Alliance level one and two courses, an Avalanche Safety Training course and first aid here, he took a well-earned week off for heli-skiing before returning for the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing level one program. Initially choosing Sun Peaks on the recommendation of friends he met on another heli trip, he’s even considering more permanent relocation to B.C.

“I’ve always worked in big cities. Paris, London, Mumbai, Singapore, Dublin was the smallest—and in those places I was very much in the corporate world,” he said. “Somehow when I speak to people from Sun Peaks, I know I want something different.”

Nardozi said he marveled at the friendliness of the community, easily finding new friends on chairlifts, hitchhiking rides from Sun Peaks Yoga, and joining courses.

“There are lots of things happening here,” he said. “Even though it’s a small community, it’s a very interesting, active place.”

Like many people nowadays, Nardozi is focused on becoming a digital nomad, working remotely on entrepreneurial projects while following his downhill dream.

“If you offered me a job in New York today, I wouldn’t go,” he said. “Time flies, I want to be able to do the things I really love. And I want to turn some business ideas I have into something I can live on.”

Interestingly, Canadian Immigration is targeting the international digital nomad with a visa program designed especially for self-employed lifestyle migrants, especially those in agricultural, creative or sport related fields.

Tourism professor Dr. Simon Hudson [the author’s husband] is also digital now. He’s researching, writing and teaching online from a condo in Forest Trails rented for the winter.
Spending the whole ski season in Sun Peaks is all part of his grown up gap year, something he said he’s daydreamed about ever since kids and jobs reduced his time on snow.

Hoping that having a spare bedroom would lure the now adult sons back for short visits throughout the season, he was astonished when they actually moved in, found themselves jobs – relatively easy when you already have accommodation – and decided to stay for the winter.

Somehow the hectic household is maintaining homey harmony, despite the practical pressures of two generations of ski bums living together.

With around 57 million freelancers in the world, career and lifestyle are becoming intermingled.

The advantages include flexi-time, more autonomy, and ability to work from anywhere.

Alongside this trend, many pre-retirees are downsizing their work load to spend more time on hobbies, re-education, and self-care. And they are looking outside of city habitats to find the perfect balance. Focusing on healthful, attractive environments with outdoor opportunities, some prefer a ‘sea-change’ – moving to the coast–while others opt for a ‘tree-change’–a rural destination.

Chats on chairlifts will reveal many stories of ski-change relocations to Sun Peaks, whether it’s from Australia, USA, Europe, or other parts of Canada.

Barry and Therese MacDonald enjoy their time skiing in Sun Peaks. Photo supplied

Take Barry and Therese MacDonald, for example, both longtime family counsellors and mental health educators who split their time between Sun Peaks and the Lower Mainland. They bought a townhouse here four years ago and redesigned their working life to incorporate three weeks per month on the slopes.

Equally passionate about the mountain lifestyle, they downhill ski with an ever-widening circle of friends, fit in some time on cross country trails, and also snowshoe. After twenty five years studying yoga and qualifying recently as instructors, the energetic couple also teach at the new Sun Peaks Yoga studio.

Whether it’s a gap year, a gap season, or a gap month, snowy sabbaticals are definitely on the rise. Sun Peaks is likely to continue to be a prime target for this growing trend.