Why should YOU ditch the city for the mountains?
Because the purpose of life is to be happy! That’s right.
According to the Dalai Lama and other spiritual leaders of our time, being happy is what being here is all about. Many renowned authors will tell you that the key to true happiness is to meditate daily, to banish your “ego” and to always practice gratitude and forgiveness. They are absolutely right! I am here to share with you how you can get an instant dose of happiness without the disciplined daily work!
My friend recently told me that her husband is filming a new Canadian reality show. On this new reality show, one of the participants believes that he is living the “Canadian dream”. He is a 20-year old snowboarder who moved across the country to live in Nelson, British Columbia — a small town famous for its awesome skiing. For this young guy, snowboarding during the day and delivering pizzas at night is the “Canadian dream”.
When I heard this story, I laughed. Delivering pizzas certainly plays no part in my version of the “Canadian dream”. But I quickly realized that this dude actually has life figured out! Possibly against his parents’ wishes, he is living his life based on what makes him happy.
Contrary to what many people believe, making lots of money and owning a massive house and an expensive car do not create lasting happiness. A study at the University of Illinois showed that super rich Americans (those who annually earn $10 million or more) report being only slightly happier than their employees and people on their payroll. So what does make us happy?
NATURE = HAPPINESS
Dr. Kenford Nedd, a Vancouver medical doctor and health author, recommends “giving yourself to nature as often as you can” as a prescription for happiness.
Dr. Nedd writes that if you spend too much time in a man-made environment (for example, excessive hours on your computer, in your office or in a concrete city), you “run the grave risk of becoming dry, empty and soulless”. Not exactly the description of a deeply happy person!
A fabulous book called “Your Brain On Nature” by Dr. Eva M. Selhub (Harvard physician) and Dr. Alan C. Logan (Naturopathic Doctor) highlights a plethora of scientific studies that show that spending time in nature creates massive psychological and physical health benefits. Studies in this book prove that exercising in nature for as little as 20 minutes improves your mental outlook and increases your vitality! Dr. Selhub and Dr. Logan use MRI studies to illustrate that when we are in a man-made environment, the parts of our brain that are stimulated are those areas that are connected with stress.
MRI studies also show that when a person is in nature, the parts of the brain that are activated are those areas associated with emotional balance. In other words, when we spend time in nature, we are happier and feel great, but when we are in a concrete city or sitting indoors at our computer, we are more prone to being stressed. Back to the pizza delivery dude. I am not suggesting that you quit your career and move from the city to the mountains so that you can ski by day and deliver pizzas by night (unless that’s what you want to do). However, I am encouraging you to play in the mountains as often as you possibly can!
Feng Shui practitioners claim that the earth’s energy (a.k.a. ch’i or spirit) reaches its highest point in mountains. This enhanced energy can have a profound affect on our emotional and physical well-being! Angel Thompson, a Feng Shui author, writes that when you’re on a mountain top with a view of at least 180 degrees, ch’i floods this space and gives you a rush of uplifting and rejuvenating energy. It’s a natural high without the crappy side effects!
For many of us, myself included, being in the mountains allows us to remember what it feels like to be truly alive. The mountains gift us with a feeling of freedom and a deep sense of joy. They instil a sense of child-like awe — a feeling that is so powerful that it can potentially be addictive. Have you ever noticed that when you’re on the summit of a mountain, high above the rest of the world, your everyday stress and responsibilities suddenly seem small and insignificant? Instead, we feel inspired, tranquil and strong. Still not convinced that you should ditch the city and escape to the mountains?
MEET MIKE, THE EPITOME OF HAPPINESS
Mike Liverton is one of the most inspiring people I have ever met. Yes, he has achieved society’s financial measures of success. But it is not for this reason that he is so inspiring. After growing and selling a large business in London, England, Mike courageously listened to his heart, which urged him to move across the Atlantic to a small Canadian mountain town.
He traded his fast-paced life in England for a relaxing and happy life in a small town in the Canadian Rockies. Mike has an incredible ability to make you feel like there are no real problems in life, there is only joy. He is by far the happiest person I know. It is for this reason that I find him deeply inspiring. As you will see, living in the mountains has a lot to do with his endless enthusiasm! Below is my interview with this happy and inspiring entrepreneur:
Why did you choose to move to Canada, specifically Canmore?
Mike: I moved to Canmore for the mountains! Canmore is a clean, inspiring and grounding place with lots of fun, exciting and dynamic people. I was inspired to find a place that had a great lifestyle balance. In Canmore, you have access to all kinds of fun outdoor activities right outside your door. It’s also easy to love Canmore because the sun shines an average of 330 days per year! This is the sunniest place in Canada and definitely a lot sunnier than England. The dry, crisp air is fresh and invigorating and certainly encourages you to be active outside whatever the temperature.
How did you know that moving to Canada was the right decision?
Mike: Something inside me told me to move to Canmore. It was the right time for me to make this move too. We had just sold our business and I was free to start the next chapter of my life. After the busy life I had in England, I really felt I needed to connect back to earth. I find it very grounding to be surrounded by nature. I first fell in love with Western Canada and its majestic wilderness in 1998 when I visited Nelson, BC for a float plane flying course.
What was your life like in London, England?
Mike: My life was nearly completely absorbed in business with very little time to enjoy the outdoors. London is very much a work-driven culture. It’s all about commerce — making money and spending money. It’s wasn’t a fulfilling lifestyle for me. I wasn’t happy. There was certainly plenty of stress growing a business in the fast-paced technology sector. I was working 70 to 80 hours per week for many years. You get used to the constant adrenaline rush from all the stress! It wasn’t a healthy lifestyle and I certainly felt burnt out by the end. Knowing that I would eventually move to Canada was a great incentive to work hard during such a busy and challenging time.
How did moving to Canmore breathe new life into you?
Mike: The people who live in Canmore are warm and inviting. You meet so many new people fast and everyone is really friendly. People take you in as part of their community. They want to share with you what they love about this area so they’re always inviting you to go out hiking, skiing and biking. The people who live here are amazing!
What about living in Canmore makes you happy?
Mike: The ease of being able to get outside for a ski, hike or bike. You don’t need to drive far to get into nature. It’s right outside your door. The mountains and lakes are always inviting you out to play. The abundance of sunshine really makes me happy too!
Was there anything about Canmore residents that you found quirky when you first moved here?
Mike: In Canmore and other Canadian mountain towns, there is no such thing as a sick day, just a fresh powder day or any excuse to go biking with good friends. I even know people in Canmore who put their professional careers on hold in the summer in order to be a hiking or biking guide. People’s priority here is spending time outside!
What hike in the Rockies do you find the most inspiring?
Mike: The Tea House Hike at Lake Louise is an incredibly inspiring hike. It truly showcases the majestic backdrop of the Rockies. This is one of the most beautiful places in the world. You hike along the side of Lake Louise and then continue up the trail at the back of the lake to the original Swiss guide’s hut. The higher you hike, the more tantalizing the scenery becomes. You leave the busy, touristy part of Lake Louise behind and enter into pristine nature. During the early summer months (June and July), you can also see huge chunks of snow and ice falling down the front of the glaciers, making a tremendous thundering sound! This hike is a steady climb, but it’s not daunting, which makes it enjoyable for families too.
The people who work at the tea house bring flour up to the hut and bake bread. You can enjoy a cup of tea and a sandwich on the top of the mountain! Swiss mountaineering guides came to the Canadian Rockies as early as 1899 to work for the Canadian Pacific Railway hotels. This specific Swiss tea house is the oldest building in the entire area.
What bike ride makes you happiest?
Mike: I love biking Lake Minewanka Trail! It’s a relaxing ride with inspiring views. This 15-km trail is open for biking only before and after the main summer season. During peak summer season, it is closed for hiking only, as it is extremely popular for both day and overnight hikes. Normally what takes you one or two days to hike, can be biked in a four-hour round trip. This ride takes you along the beautiful lake, past untouched pebble and sandy beaches as well as through the quiet forest. It’s also located only a 15-minute drive from Canmore!
What winter activity makes you feel the most alive?
Mike: Cross country skiing is awesome! During the week it’s not busy so you don’t see anyone out there. It’s just you alone surrounded by snow, forest and the mountains. I also love downhill skiing with friends. Lake Louise is my favourite ski resort. The scenery is amazing! We’re so lucky as our ski season runs from November to May so that’s 6 months of fun on the snow!
What is your favourite place to eat in Canmore?
Mike: For fine dining, The Trough is great! The food is exquisite and the wine list is fantastic. For a healthy lunch, Communitea Cafe is my favourite. We eat there all the time. They also have great live music in the evening. If we’re hiking or skiing near Banff, we like to eat at Nourish, which is an award-winning vegetarian restaurant. Communitea Cafe and Nourish are two places that make healthy food taste delicious!
How did you get involved in the vacation rental business?
Mike: When I moved to Canada in 2006, there were several new, beautiful Canmore resorts being built. I jumped on the opportunity to acquire a number of these stunning Canmore accommodations. Many of my friends and family from England came to visit the magnificent Rockies and stayed in these Canmore rentals. At the same time, I invested in properties at Kimberley Alpine Resort, BC as well as in Mont Tremblant region, Quebec.
This is how our vacation rental business got started. I turned my love for the Canadian outdoors into a business! Since 2007, our company, Leavetown.com (previously called MWL Luxury Rentals), has been sharing our Canmore accommodations with guests from around the world. Websites such as VRBO Canmore, Flipkey and others played a big role in helping us to grow our business. Today, we rent out hundreds of beautiful properties in Canadian mountain resorts as well as in the Okanagan (BC’s wine country), Quebec and on Vancouver Island. It’s a lot of fun to help people create memorable vacations!