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 ten 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 calledPop. When I'm working here [in LA]… I keep up with work via Skype. Other than my two brothers that live here, I could easily go a week without talking to another human face to face.
As far as being disruptive to my life—on the one hand you've got a lot more freedom to do whatever you want whenever. I'll take a laptop and sit poolside in Hawaii doing work, it's great. But you don't get the same grounding of a normal life and having a specific place to be.
Do you ever feel lonely? It's a very solo existence.
I grew up snowboarding and traveling a lot for that. People in that world are very seasonal. One of my best friends from school is sailing around the world. I'll spend a couple of weeks with him, or down in Mexico when he's there, you can tack onto other people's adventures.
I've just got to remember to be going in a direction and not just ambling about, if you're just working to pay for the next plane trip that's a little different. I'm programming and designing for pretty creative projects, so I can justify it a little easier.
Is this eternal summer a reaction to snowboarding and spending so much time in endless winter?
It is funny. I remember looking through my visa applications and noticing every Australian summer I spent snowboarding. A lot of people who come from that world end up loving the beach and surf, especially as you get older. You must miss snow.
I miss it more and more every day.
Comparing ten years 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's sunny every day, but the city's filthy now. 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 just had a cold?
Right now! I'm genetically susceptible to the flu, I get it every year. When it's 35 degrees [95 degrees fahrenheit] 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's clean and you're outdoors. It's not like you're not soaked-to-the-bone wet, it doesn't rain in the mountains like it does in Australia, it's very dry. It's probably actually better for you.
What about emotionally? Are you happier or sadder depending on the endless season?
Actually I went to Oregon a few times and Portland's sort of famous for its foggy weather and it's amazing when it's raining and you see the seasons change, I love 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?
Actually the worst is when you're working on computers all day. It'll be brilliant sunshine and 35 degree, 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.
Honestly it sounds like you enjoy winter more, but parts of it must suck or you wouldn't be on this summer bender, right?
Anybody from Australia or New Zealand that's grown up in the snow industry knows that you end up spending a lot of Christmases away from your friends and family, because that's when North American winters kick in. That does get tired when you're saying goodbye to your mum at the airport every Christmas day because that's when flights are cheaper.
OK, so after spending so much time with each extreme, what's been the biggest takeaway?
All the traveling 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-five days in Melbourne. They were brutal.
This article is presented in partnership with Captain Morgan