This article originally appeared on VICE Australia / New Zealand
This week, the southern hemisphere will emerge from a bleak, seemingly bottomless winter. Well at least according to the calendar – if you're in the southern states of Australia, you'll still be considering peeing yourself for warmth for the next week or so. But for Australian expat Rick Baker, the past five years have been a chilblain-free fantasy of endless summer days. Splitting his time between Australia and Los Angeles, with the occasional Hawaiian break to mix it up, he hasn't had a winter since 2010.
But before he became a perma-tanned member of the sunshine cult, Rick spent the better part of a decade without it. Growing up snowboarding he regularly skipped town as soon as it was warming up and endured almost 10 years of cold.
I called Rick because I'm in Melbourne, which is about to transition into a magical few months of beers and shark attacks. Given this change is pretty much the only thing people are talking about right now, I wanted to ask him what life is like when seasons don't change at all. I also wondered if there was a downside to his sunbaked existence – then maybe I could stop feeling like my whole life was a pile of waterlogged garbage.
VICE: Hey Rick, how have you avoided winter for five years?
Rick Baker: I'm in Los Angeles for most of the year, back to Australia in December, I'll stay in Australia until it starts getting cold again, then get back to the US. Also, for the last three years, a good friend of mine has done a paddle-board race in Hawaii in August. So I ended up there for three to four weeks as well.
Isn't that crazy expensive?
Yeah, but I'd rather be putting my money into experiences. That's what I've been telling myself.
Is it disruptive to work and the ability to have relationships?
I work for myself – I'm a designer. I build websites and run a little snowboard magazine in Australia called Pop. Everyone in LA makes phone calls so I keep up with work via Skype. Other than my two brothers who live here, I could easily go a week without talking to another human face-to-face.
As far as it being disruptive to my life goes – on the one hand you've got a lot more freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want. I'll take a laptop and sit poolside in Hawaii doing work if I feel like it – it's great. But you don't get the kind of grounding that a normal life offers.
Do you ever feel lonely?
I grew up snowboarding, which meant I travelled a lot. People in that world are very seasonal. One of my best friends from school spends his time sailing around the world. I'll spend a couple of weeks with him, or down in Mexico when he's there. The great thing about my lifestyle if that you can tack onto other people's adventures.
I've just got to remember that I need to be moving in a direction and not just ambling about. If you're just working to pay for the next trip, that's a little different. I also travel for work, so I can justify it a little easier.
Is this eternal summer a reaction to spending so much time in winter because of snowboarding?
It is funny. I remember looking through my visa applications and noticing that I spent every Australian summer snowboarding. A lot of people who come from that world end up loving the beach and the surf, especially as you get older.
You must miss snow.
I miss it more and more everyday.
Comparing 10 years of skipping summer to five without a winter, what kind of impact have those experiences had on your body?
Honestly, the smog in California has had more of an effect on my health than anything. I don't think it being sunny all the time is good for you. LA is in such a drought – it might be sunny every day, but the city's filthy. Everyone in LA wants it to rain because you've got dog shit smeared on every pavement and it smells like piss everywhere you go. You need some rain to wash it all away.
When was the last time you had a cold?
Right now. I'm genetically susceptible to the flu, I get it every year. When it's 35 degrees outside and you have the flu, it's the worst.
If you get sick a lot, weren't you screwed in the cold for so long?
I don't think it's related to be honest. When you're in the mountains that much, the air is clean and you're outdoors. It's not like you're soaked to the bone wet. In the mountains it doesn't really rain.
What about your emotions – are you happier or sadder because of the endless seasons?
Actually, I went to Oregon a few times and I found it amazing to see the seasons change – I loved it. I think seeing things like that are better for you. Part of me does miss Melbourne winters. I find I relate more to people from places like Portland and New York than the sunbaked weirdos in California. I don't know if it's my mental health, but I miss interacting with people like that. I think the cold weather is good for us.
That's the opposite of what I thought you'd say.
People from New York or Melbourne are harder and more snobby – but I like that.
Does sunshine get monotonous?
The worst is when you're working on computers all day. It'll be brilliant sunshine and 35 degrees, but you're just like, "Fuck, I want to be outside so bad." Crappy weather is a good motivator to stay indoors and get stuff done.
Is that the shittiest part of having an endless summer? Because frankly it doesn't sound so bad.
I think waking up every morning to sunshine when you're in an office job is why you end up taking time off a lot. You're looking for an excuse to get outside and enjoy it. I don't know if that really sucks, but it's tough when you've got a deadline. Also, it can get suffocating, always being in heat or air conditioning.
OK, so after spending so much time in each season, what's been the biggest takeaway?
All the travelling has really opened my eyes to how great of a place Melbourne is; growing up on the Mornington Peninsula you can walk down to a beach with no one on it and very little trash. That's fantastic – I miss that. But I don't know if I can go back to those soggy, freezing cold, somehow-14-degrees-but-it-feels-like-5 days in Melbourne. These are brutal.
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