Forty-five days ago, I placed my feet on Canadian soil, with the goal of changing my life completely. I must say that, for the moment, things are going pretty well!
A gamble, which may seem insane for the majority of people, but in which many others have succeeded before me.
Today, I decided to take a look at those first few weeks in the Yukon.
From the day following my arrival, after a stop in Whitehorse to solve my visa issue, my volunteer dog handler experience began with the first training session of the season.
On paper, in exchange for being fed and housed, I had to assist Marcelle Fressineau, owner of Alayuk Adventures, a dog sled tour operator. in the daily tasks of her work with the team.
In reality, my volunteer experience proved to be quite different. It was a real exchange on a professional and human level.
Certainly, I helped to harness dogs to the quad, to prepare the food bowls twice a day and to clear the dog poo, but the benefits of my position went beyond my expectations.
Marcelle shared with me her experience as a musher, as a tour guide and as a finisher of the two greatest dog sledding races of all time: the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod.
She shared with me her knowledge of hiking, allowing me to discover Yukon trails, explaining the virtues of this or that plant, or the manners of this or that animal… And what better way to travel backcountry than with a local guide?
Was it a way for her to maintain the physical condition necessary for her job, while trying to “reward” me for my efforts? I couldn’t say. All I knew is that I observed her and that, somewhere in my head, I noted all that she had to offer me.
Living in the Yukon also meant learning to live outside my comfort zone, forgetting my urban life and immersing myself in a life in the heart of nature.
Even though the ranch where I lived was beautiful and convenient, even though it agreed with me and even though I thrived there, adapting myself took some time. Far from everything, I had to look for a new balance between work and personal life. So, even though the ranch was comfortable (running water, electricity, TV and even internet), my new daily routine was worlds away from the one I was leading in a Parisian suburb between my job as a fitness instructor, my personal workouts, my weekly cinema outings and my Friday evenings with friends.
Here, it was the dog team around which my days were organized. My free time was divided: one hour in the morning, two in the afternoon, then after 7 p.m., once all the kennel tasks had been completed.
It was up to me to make good use of these moments!
Furthermore, it was also living with strangers, in my hosts’ house. Being generally a solitary person, I had to learn to share my space – even if technically, it wasn’t really mine, but theirs! I also had to learn to find my place in this family without browbeating their routine.
It was a simple life, and I like it.
– too given to preening. A dog handler must put aside his/her manicure and soft hands.
– cold all the time. I do get cold, but not too much. I was prepared to face negative temperatures – I just didn’t think it would have been from mid-September on.
– too manic. A house of mushers is where everyone enters and leaves – continuously – with shoes not always very clean, sometimes even wet. It is a house that we inhabit with clothes that smell of dogs and where their hair invites itself into the living room. But it’s also a place where you meet great people and where you eat well.
It has now been six weeks since I put a big kick in my rowdy suburban existence, to live an experiment and explore new horizons. So far, I am blessed: I’m living a dream and I look forward to the next step.