So, some may have heard, I spent most of August in Australia.
When we got off of our 16 hour flight from LAX to Melbourne, Australia, the upside-down jokes immediately began in full force. We were dizzy and drowsy because the blood was rushing to our heads. We felt lighter because gravity was backwards. Something about toilets flushing the other direction (which I actually completely forgot to test, now that I think about it). The jokes, though hopelessly unoriginal, fueled the humor of our jet-lagged minds as we embarked into what would be many weeks of shifting and turning to embrace winter in August. To live the life upside down, as it were.
Then, as we waited for our bags and continued on our witless rants, one of my teammates asked us, with striking insight and clarity: “You guys, what if, for the first time in our lives, we’re actually right side up?”
Consecutive mind-blowing commenced.
I suppose it happens every time you enter a new micro or macro culture–a grand shift in perspective for which travelers so yearn–but nothing made that shift quite so stark as a change in hemisphere, training environment, culture and season. That shift can either be jarring, or enlightening, and you’re pretty much the only person who can choose which.
For me, traveling to Australia to train for the month of August was an exercise in open mindedness, in eliminating the routine voice in your head that whispers what it thinks you should be doing in order to pursue the one that shouts what you can. I’m not talking numbers of intervals, or reps or sundry ski minutia here, but rather how those might be effected when you approach a situation with a blank slate, a lack of comparison, where instead of constantly thinking about the fact that you’re upside down, you gain something extra in imagining what it were like if you knew any new environment as right side up.
For example, what if trees always had leaves on them in the middle of winter?
And it weren’t notable to drive on the left side of the road?
Or if winter meant equal parts rain forest as it does snow?
What if everything changed, and winter were summer and summer were white, and the foods, accents, animals and trails wound to a slightly different tune? About all that shifting and tumbling, what might we say about the things that remain unchanged?
Because for me, as transient landscapes become normal, and this duffle bag dream more a reality, it strikes me how, in a life of movement, what massive motivations remain the same. Because in a month down under, against the threat of shock of culture, season, environment, what have you, it was the very thing that brought me there that gave me stability. The routine–those intervals, reps, sundry ski minutia–the pursuit of skiing that situated me in a space of comfort and allowed me to embrace every new and foreign experience I could.
Skiing, in any capacity or pursuit, gives us a kind of steadiness in new situations. It does so whether you find yourself on a new team, at a new school, in a new town or continent, so that whether you’re a freshman, new coach, rookie or foreigner, you maintain a particular sense of self. A particular sense of always being right side up.
P.S. Holla at SVSEF and the Aussie ski world for making our mid summer ski trip a possibility. My understanding of marsupials and abbreviated street slang will forever be enhanced thanks to you.