For many, December is a month where at least a few of one's thoughts stray in the direction of home, wherever that may be.
This will be the first December I won't be in my hometown of Winnipeg, though I did recently return from a Christmas, of sorts, in November.
It had been nearly a year since my last whirlwind prairie tour. I could wax poetic about the cool new coffee shops and watering holes that have sprung up as old friends have changed and yet stayed the same.
But change a cuckolded landmark here, a lighthearted anecdote there, a refreshing local brewski of choice someplace else and everything can start to read as wistfully, piningly formulaic.
The two-week trip was wonderful — I saw nearly all the friends I wanted to, got to a couple pro hockey games, spent some quality time with the family — but I was ready to get back to the West Coast, my new residence, by the end of it.
That's not to disparage the 'Peg in the slightest, but the last time I visited, I was still finding my way out here. I wasn't fully settled. And, unlike many of you who pack up and move across the country, the continent or even the planet, trekking to Whistler had never crossed my mind until about a month before I decided to do it.
When I visited Winnipeg last December, I still had a thought in the back of my mind that I'd aim to return one day. Now I'm not so sure.
I was given added opportunity to reflect during the Whistler Film Festival, when I met one film's director. He hailed from Fort Frances, Ont., my first attempted home-away-from-home where I landed my first gig as a sportswriter six years ago.
The paper, the Fort Frances Times, was a strong one, regularly earning awards at the provincial and national levels and I'm grateful for the opportunity they gave me.
To state the obvious, Fort Frances doesn't have a whole lot in common with Whistler. It's an isolated blue-collar town, currently in rougher shape than I left it with the Resolute paper mill idled. The bulk of the twenty-somethings in town had work life and, even at that age a pretty committed family life, too. Not many were up for cavorting with a single 22-year-old from the city. I had a chance to do one stand-up comedy set out there and played a little guitar at an open mic or two but I spent most Saturday nights wiling away on Netflix.
The director I talked to had few qualms with growing up in northwestern Ontario — if you're happy, healthy and safe, one locale is as good as the next. But he realized at 17 he'd need to leave to pursue his filmmaking dream.
At 27, I discovered I, too, would need to move on to further my own ambitions.
Having not grown up as a skier or snowboarder, I was a bit apprehensive at first about my move to Whistler, but after talking with my Pique predecessor and fellow flatlander Eric MacKenzie, who first tipped me off about the position, I realized the move was a no-brainer.
The change of pace to mountain life had its ups and downs (har har) but for packing up my life and moving three provinces over in about two weeks, especially at the height of suite-seeking pandemonium, it couldn't have gone much better.
With the help of my colleagues, I found some communities that welcomed me in, including the stand-up and music scenes for things I had done before, and the theatre folks, for those I had not.
Perhaps it's the nomadic nature of Whistler — few in town are far removed from being the new guy or gal themselves — so if you're willing to put yourself out there, you'll more than likely find what you seek.
Just over a year into this adventure, thanks for welcoming me to the Sea to Sky. I'm happy to be here as long as you'll have me.