There comes a time of year when the novelty of being back in school wears off and midterms weight down like my stack of textbooks piled on my forehead. 

I ask myself: "Why am I here?"

Instagram and Facebook feeds show photos of friends hiking, travelling, climbing, skiing or any awesome combination. I can't help but think "I could be doing that!". The question the decision to spend thousands and thousands of my hard earned dollars every year on an education becomes harder to reason with myself. This is amplified by the difficulty, monetary and otherwise, of fitting in guiding and avalanche courses. 

It isn't always overlap free. Juggling professional avalanche training and mountain guiding courses during a University term isn't always easy.

It isn't always overlap free. Juggling professional avalanche training and mountain guiding courses during a University term isn't always easy.

Friends often ask me why I'm in University here in Prince George when I already have pretty awesome work lined up nearly year-round anyways. It's true I could be pursuing adventures. I could experiencing the world or travelling and photographing or so many other possibilities. It's definitely not an easy decision to make to imprison myself in University after having gotten such a dose of experiences and a rich taste of life for the past few years.

I work hard and my bank account really doesn't show it. I've had to make cuts. I drive a beater of a minivan that I frequently shiver in instead of a hotel room and I'm based out of my parents house for most of the year. Oh the things I could do with all the money I sink into school!

In the spring of 2014 I made the decision to go back to school that following fall. I applied and was accepted to one University, the only in Canada to have the exact field and program of study that matched my interests. Was it as mistake?

Is this the right path?                                                                                                      Photo of abandonned homestead fields in Cape Scott 

Is this the right path?                                                                                                      Photo of abandonned homestead fields in Cape Scott 

Every time I ask myself these questions, a little thinking puts me back on track. Yes I could be doing so many other things but lets think about all the reasons I chose to come back to school:

  • The summer 2012 I broke my ankle and was out for 6 months. It put a real perspective on how one-track guiding was. If my injury ever came back or if subsequent injuries every shut out a guiding career, I wouldn't be left with much to fall back on.
  • I'm only taking on the fall semester each year currently. At this rate it'll take some time to finish the Bachelor of Science but it means finding a happy medium keeping me out of debt and sane. It also means that I don't have to pause my guiding aspirations.
  • Most of the fall semester that I spend in school from September till mid-December is down season anyways. 
  • For 8 months of the year I'm travelling all over taking on big expeditions and physically intensive work. On my days off I train and continue to put strain on my body through personal trips. I'm already noticing the impacts of the huge stress I put on my body. Taking 4 months off a year to rest and re-condition my body will do wonders to my long term endurance.
  • A degree is versatile giving me more job opportunities. 
  • My realm of studies is in Natural Resource Management with a major in Outdoor Recreation and Conservation. What I'm learning combines very well with guiding.
  • With a degree and education, I risk being more capable and informed to have a positive impact on our planet. And this is huge for me.
  • I love learning and sharpening my mind against the University grindstone.


On top of all that I've had the pleasure of even more positive experiences, some of which I didn't expect:

  • I love what I'm learning. The courses often have a lot of overlap with my experience and guiding aspirations.
  • I've gotten to meet a lot of amazing people! Lots of awesome friends.
  • I'm getting to learn from a lot of fantastic minds, the professors are awesome!
  • It's diversifying my life and I'm getting to learn from perspectives I'd never considered.
  • I'm having fun! For this fraction of the year I have a regular rhythm in life where I can go out on a Friday night with friends, play on an intramural soccer team, and spend time with friends on a regular basis.
  • Turns out this University is awesome. Not only is it beautiful but it recently received Canada's #1 small University ranking.

No, school isn't easy. Stress is never too far off. Tests, exams, assignments never end and it's continuously challenging and arduous. I often imagine pouring chainsaw oil on my stack of textbooks and lighting it while packing my backpack and disappearing into the mountains east or west of here. But I'll make it through. 

I still have 8 months each year to work hard and play hard. I'll continue to pursue passions and when my jobs are things such as ski touring, teaching avalanche courses, heli skiing,  hiking around in Alaska, viewing grizzly bears in Bella Coola, etc. it's hard to complain!

When its all said and done, I'll eventually reach a stage in life where I'll never have to take any more university classes. By then I think I'll be pretty grateful for making the choice. For now, four months a year is pretty manageable and what I gain is well worth it. Now back to work!