Work, play, and self-care intertwined. You can find the ultimate balance.

Written by Julie K

HomeTravel BlogGiulia & JulieWork, play, and self-care intertwined. You can find the ultimate balance.

Can you have it all?

I stepped off the gondola and inhaled the high alpine air.

Peak-to-Peak Tram at Whistler Blackcomb

The air was a mix of young fir growth and trail dust. A chilled breeze blew off the glacier above. While the air was slightly thinner, the panorama was greatly expanded.


I inhaled again and felt a release course through every muscle in my body. I looked at the infrastructure of chairlifts and gondolas. My eyes swept past the mountain day lodge and into the valley below, the village just a cluster of speckles. A distant glacial green lake glistened.


One more deep breath. The mountains wrapped around me and welcomed me home to my spiritual happy place.


Back to humanity, I trudged into the day lodge to find a bathroom and some lunch. A different kind of nature was calling at the moment.


Christine’s on Blackcomb is known for fine dining with a panoramic view and it does not disappoint. Feeling celebratory, I promptly ordered an heirloom tomato and burrata salad and a glass of bubbles.


This trip was about a carefully curated balance: professional education, travel, play, friendship, and self-care. “Is it really possible to marry them all together?” I wondered as I enjoyed my lunch with a view.

Glass of wine and Mt Hood

Planning for work, play, and self-care

I had been eager to launch the first Giulia road trip of the season. Always keen to get into beautiful mountains, I was excited to combine a road trip, hiking, and high-quality professional continuing education to beautiful Whistler, British Columbia.


I read up on the scientific courses. Next, I checked on the hiking trails and gondola schedules. Then I researched food blogs to find the best dining experiences. I couldn’t wait to combine high-level learning with mountain meditation and exercise, capped off with excellent sustenance. Work, play, and self-care all intertwined.

Giulia with lake and mountains in BC

So how do you pull off the delicate combination of work, play, and self-care while managing both quality alone time and time with friends?


The key was telling my colleagues attending the conference that I wouldn’t be attending any of the organized social functions. Now, I know this sounds a bit snobbish, but I do not enjoy hotel dinners, conversations with lots of background noise, and having the entire day scheduled. Feeling locked in by a sense of obligation and financial investment is not a healthy place for the quiet, driven professional to indulge in play and self-care.


Set the expectation early. Then your colleagues won’t be surprised and off-put by your personal priorities. For me, it’s important to have alone time to recharge my social batteries during a conference as well as allow my mind to digest the new information I am learning. And I wanted to prioritize the afternoons for enjoying the majestic mountains and exercising on the well-developed trail systems, followed by a pleasant dining experience in the village.


I planned my drive to Whistler in Giulia over two days so I could stop for a leisurely visit with a dear friend and colleague along the way and rest overnight in the Bavarian-esque mountain village of Leavenworth, WA.


The following day, I enjoyed a mid-morning drive over Steven’s Pass (WA Hwy-2) pausing to enjoy the summer view of the ski area and photograph the beautiful flowers. Then I picked up my dear friend and mentor at the Vancouver airport so we could both enjoy conversation time together along with the incredible scenic coastal drive to Whistler along the Sea-to-Sky Highway.


In planning my drive in this way, I afforded myself quality friendship time, quiet driving time alone, and adequate rest after two busy work days.


Work and Play

When I stepped off the gondola after the first morning of learning, I felt both a deep sense of gratitude and celebration, and I affirmed my intention to explore that gratitude and celebration through my activities.


After a leisurely and delightful lunch overlooking the valley, I walked over to the Peak-to-Peak gondola. This is a record-setting feat of engineering and mountain transportation and has been on my bucket list for several years. With my love of all things related to alpine skiing, I was super excited.


The Peak-to-Peak gondola has three world records: longest unsupported (free) span for a lift of its kind, highest lift of its kind, and longest continuous lift system. The total distance of the gondola is 4.4 km or 2.73 miles with only 4 ginormous towers. The crossing time is 11 minutes to go between Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain.


My heart skipped a beat as the gondola cabin crested over the ridge on Blackcomb as the valley between the mountains becomes visible far below and I began to descend down the cables. The Fitzsimmons Creek Hydroelectric Project, visible at the lowest portion of the gondola trip is a run-of-river power generating facility that powers all the infrastructure on the mountain resorts with surplus. And then we climbed up towards the Roundhouse on Whistler Mountain with an excellent view of the Peak sky bridge above.


A bucket list item checked and what fun!


For the next three days, I immersed myself in scientific sessions in the morning venturing out during the mid-morning break for gourmet smoothies or pastries in the village. Then in the afternoon, I rushed to catch the gondola up the mountain for as much afternoon hiking as my legs and the clock would allow.

Julie hiking with view of Blackcomb BCJulie and Giulia with snow skis in parking lot


As you know from previous blogs, I revel in the spectacular vistas. After the professional micro world of dentistry, I find relief and renewal in the expansive majestic mountains. On these days, I breathed in gratitude that I am able to travel to such incredible locations, that I am healthy enough to hike to the viewpoints and alpine lakes, and I have wonderful family and friendships. I exhaled a celebration that such beauty exists in our world and that I have the capacity to learn, love, and enjoy.


On the last day in Whistler, as I hiked over a ridge and started descending, I spotted a black bear foraging in the slopeside meadow. He was calmly doing what bears do in summer, that is gorging on all the luscious goodness of the short high alpine growing season. In the distance, a mountain marmot was sharply whistling a warning.

Black bear at Blackcomb

As I watched, I marveled at how the survival instincts and the cycles of the seasons all continue to prevail in harmony for both the flora and fauna of the mountain forest world—all while we humans worry about the trending hashtag on the social channel of the interconnected electronic devices in each of our pockets.


As the bear moved on, I turned and hiked back towards the gondola. Before I descended to the human-structured world below, I paused to take in the panorama view once more. I started to form tears in my eyes because the mountains are such a deeply spiritual place for me and because of the profound sense of renewal I had experienced in the last few days.


Learning, quality time with people I care about, exercise, delightful experiences, and rejuvenation are all part of curating a high quality of life for me. I do not take this lightly. Planning and choices are made with intention and priority. Life should be celebrated and enjoyed; I believe.


Then I turned and stepped onto the gondola and rode quietly down to a five-star Italian dinner below with delectable fresh ingredients, and rich wine, finished with a melt-in-my mouth panna cotta dessert.


Ultimate Balance

The next day Giulia and I drove north out of Whistler to Pemberton and on to Lillooet, where the sign says, “guaranteed rugged.” It was just Giulia’s wheels on the steep twisty road, my hands on her steering wheel and my reflections on science and beauty. In the early morning light and stillness, it is one of the most spectacular drives I have ever made.


Every once in a while, I thought, we really can have it all—work + play + self-care.

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