Work or play, play or work, work and play.  Photos: Rutledge

Stubborn Tan Lines
By Alex Graydon

It’s safe to say that travel agents have fallen upon hard times. Leaving your home country for some sightseeing has become such an easy goal to obtain: Your flights, rental cars, GPS, restaurant reviews, suggestions on what to see, and alternative routes to get there are all at your fingertips. That is, if you managed to keep your phone charged… Instagram’s just as addicting when you’re on vacation… But how often do you leave your safety bubble for more than a week or two? I know running through Paris taking selfies is all good and fun — #travelmore #cultured #airport — but travel should be about way more than just inserting yourself briefly in front of some iconic place for a social media post.

Many of us, myself included, have to work to travel and can’t change our international profile pics on the Bank of Dad’s dime. For those who can’t hop across an ocean on a whim, the idea of traveling around the world and doing cool things can seem impossible for a number of reasons. For some it is as simple as cost – it’s not always easy to find the funds or justify spending them. For others maybe the thought of traveling alone is too frightening. Or possibly it’s because they’ve been told how they should live and to travel or move elsewhere means you’re “off track”. For some people, going to college, finding a spouse, and “settling down” may be the ultimate dream, but when did that become the social standard? What’s there to be said for the ones who would rather spend their best years traveling around and experiencing new things? Some may consider that lifestyle directionless or lacking forethought. But maybe they’re just in search of something their hometown can’t offer, and some of those discouraging labels have actually gotten to them and prevented their crusade. Whatever the reason one might come up with, they’re all just excuses.

This past winter I made the decision to move to the other side of the world to experience an Australian summer. Having saved up enough funds to make the trip, I acquired a job at Bli Bli Wake Park as an operator and coach. Not knowing what to expect, I tried to picture life on the Sunshine Coast as something similar to living in Florida or Cali. But I was way off. The very first day I stepped foot in my new residence I knew I was hooked. I had the river, the surf, the skateparks and wake park all within minutes of each other. Everyday I woke up early because there was so much out there to do – I would actually be angry with myself for letting an opportunity to be active pass by. If I wasn’t wakeboarding I was at one of the neighboring skateparks. If you couldn’t find me at the skatepark than I was in the surf. And if I wasn’t in the surf I was probably wakeskating behind a tinny in the Maroochy River or hiking through one of the national parks. Each day was just as fun and fulfilling as the previous, and all along I was making friends with some of the best people I’ve ever met. It seemed to be the Aussie mantra to want to go out and do things and help others along the way. Everyone was so giving and selfless, many of whom were immigrants themselves. Having experienced the greatness of this place, they found themselves attached to the point of no return – a vacation like mine had become a permanent life change. Eager to take me around and show me their way of living, it wasn’t very long until I felt at home myself. Of course, working at the park didn’t feel like work either because I was constantly surrounded with friends that quickly became more like family. With the sun rising at 5:00 AM there were several hours to do something even if you had a full day of work scheduled. Lunch breaks meant you go ride or skate for an hour or two. Evenings were always a social gathering for BBQ, a beach fire, or a night out. Everyone seemed less concerned with his or her bank statements, but focused more on enjoying their lives and the people around them.

Ski bumming and snow-riders of all varieties chasing the endless winter working as lift operators have been part of the snow culture for decades. Riders who just want to be in the heart of it all and are more than happy to put in the man hours to run the mountain for a chance to do what they love all year long. Although I have seen a glimpse of this in wakeboarding, it’s not as understood or accepted. Maybe we’re just at the surface of it all. I for one would love to see more of my friends travel the world to work at, live around, and shred awesome parks in foreign places. It seems that having that change in the mixture becomes a catalyst for something great for everyone involved. The traveler gets to immerse him or herself in a new culture and actually gets to live the way the locals live, something that they will carry with them the rest of their lives. For the locals, new perspectives and ideas are brought in. This is where motivation and progression really starts to thrive. All it really takes is the will to do it and a plane ticket. Line up a job or make yourself available to work, at the very least. Sure there will be uncertainties and fears along the way, but these are the things that make you a good travelers and a stronger person in the end. If you take care of what’s important everything else will fall in place. Whether it’s chasing the endless summer or just wanting to see what else the world has to offer, if you want it enough you will find a way to make it happen. You may end up with stubborn tan lines, but the experiences you have will be unforgettable.