What do you do when you realize you are not happy? You have emptied your life from the things you love and filled it with stress and worries. You don’t even know why and how you ended up there but you did and it’s time to change. That’s what happened to Nick van Egmond and he took extreme measures.
Young Nick wasn’t so worried. Like a lot of kids, he really enjoyed biking and started shredding on trails after his family moved to British Columbia. He thoroughly enjoyed it and tried to keep with it when a couple years later they came back to Ontario. Although he wasn’t able to get expensive bikes or a coach, he kept racing cross country for few years during high school but a combination of factors drew him away from it.
“I was a super social outcast in high school. I was super tall and skinny. No one mountain biked. If I went on training rides and had to put on lycra, I was getting hazed at. You are super young and you don’t have the neighbourhood of kids riding bikes, you switch to what they are doing.”
After a participation in the 1999 Canadian Junior Championship where he ended up with heat stroke, he decided it would be the end of racing for him. He got his first tattoo out of it, a sun and an old five bolt chain ring around it, with a map of Canada coloured in with the flag. He didn’t see how cycling could take him any further, so he stopped.
“I would do provincial in XC but there was no hopes I would really go to Canada Cup and there was no way I would convince my folks to lend me their car or drive me 6-7 hours away to races. When you’re 16-17 and you don’t have a coach or anybody to ride with, it’s a really big gap to thing you’re gonna do Canada Cup or go out West to ride.”
The following years were somewhat uneventful. Nick finished high school, went to University, got a Business degree and a job. A good one. One that was in direct line with what he studied for, where he had opportunities to have a long term career and that paid well. What more to ask? Well, happiness maybe.
Although Nick wasn’t completely aware of his unhapiness, his tattoos were speaking for him. Over the years, he had gotten his skin inked with images that you wouldn’t expect from a business executive.
“One of my first anti-establishment tattoo is a pirate dagger stabbing through a briefcase full of jewels and money and things that I didn’t really need and around that dagger is a business tie just representing that suit and that daily grind. It somehow helped me to know that once I took that suit off, I was that person I wanted to be.”
Spending your days being stressed and working 70 hours a week doesn’t do anyone any good and after years of it, you might want to start doing something about it. Fortunately for Nick, he came to that realization.
“I got to a point in my business career where it was so intense and full on every single day that I needed to find an escape. I had started to think about getting back into mountain biking. I was at a point where it was really attainable. I could afford a bike, I was debt free and I was searching for some kind of hobby. There was that thought that the happiest moments in my life were on a bike, even better on a mountain bike.”
One night over beers, Nick and his friend decided it was time for them to find an outlet. They showed up a couple of days later at a bike shop to buy new bikes. That new bike was a catalyst. Even if the summer was almost over when he bought it, he could see how much it was going to change his life and over the winter, the bike siiting by the fireplace mantel was a constant reminder of what next summer would bring.
“I was still working that corporate job, but knowing I had that escape was helpful even over the winter. The following season, I would take full advantage of my free rental car and free gas to drive to bike parks. I spent 2013 either flying or driving to every bike park I could in North-America.”
Nick enjoyed biking again. It was both an outlet for his daily frustrations and something that brought him joy. Getting back into it, he also discovered this new thing called Enduro. All the people he knew from racing back in the day were now racing Enduro even if they were well in their 30’s.
“That was huge for me. I saw all these dudes racing at a super high level in Enduro. Cross-country was not that appealing because it was such a grind and downhilling is just crazy. It was a bit of a PipeDream but I thought to myself, I’m gonna make a 5 year plan and I’m gonna race against the world’s best. I thought it was attainable.”
With this new goal in mind, Nick went from riding to training and racing. He took his new objective very seriously, got in touch with potential sponsors and set goals for himself. As more efforts were put towards his racing carreer, he found out he had less time and energy to dedicate to his corporate life.
“Now I realize how I operate is I see the end goal and take the steps to get there. I didn’t do that in my former corporate job because I didn’t have an end goal. The end goal was to just make it through he day and not freak out. There were way too many pressures. I didn’t like where I was living, who I was working with or what I was doing. I wasn’t helping the public or helping myself or in an industry that I liked. There were too many negative factors and escaping to cycling helped but it wasn’t enough. I just got to the point where I needed to leave and pursue this mountain bike thing.”
Nick left. He took a six month leave of absence only two months after getting his first Enduro bike. None of it was planned but he had gotten to the point where he was so burnt out from work that there didn’t seem to be any other option. Two years after, he doesn’t regret any of his choices. He traded his three piece suit for bike clothes and found a stimulating and challenging new carreer that accomodates his racing schedule.
Nick’s story shows it’s never to late to make the changes you need in your life and make time for the things that make you happy.
“I don’t regret leaving all that money behind at all. I’m so much more rich now. Now the only fear is days off the bike or massive injury or something like that. That’s a lot less stress.”
And a lot more hapiness!
Filmer – Chris Chiteroni from Skywardkick.com