Returning to Slovenia

2006 was an important year in my life. Professionally, it represents the pivotal year in my transition from ski instructor to ski guide.  It was the first year I worked as a heli-ski guide - in Portillo, Chile. I took my first guide's course - in Jackson, Wyoming. I went on my first true ski expedition - in the Coast Range of British Columbia.  I started a website called Alpine Ambitions, which evolved into a guide service as well. It ultimately failed, but is very much the foundation of what I do today.  More importantly, it is the year I began to explore a world I did not know - physically, mentally and emotionally.  

In July of 2006, while working as a guide and ski instructor in Portillo, Chile, I met a beautiful, Slovenian ski racer who had come to teach skiing for the summer season. From the first time I saw her I could not take my eyes off her.  She skied like the wind. She was charming in the hotel (where our social life was based) and her experience as a ski racer gave her an air of maturity beyond her years. I was enchanted. We ended up dating and in October I followed her to Slovenia. This seemingly whimsical action has had a profound impact on my life. 

My relationship with this young woman was ill-fated. The difference in culture, her immaturity and my lack of patience created a tumultuous relationship. (This is putting it kindly.) At the same time, my life was full of adventure and there was no curiosity that I didn't explore. I followed this girl, and my heart, to the ends of the Earth. I lived in Slovenia for two-years, and Spain for nine-months. I made significant trips to Morocco, China and Canada. I felt if I had no limits in life. And while I struggle to find peace and forgiveness regarding our relationship, I understand the importance of this period of my life. It was the most difficult, yet inspiring, stage of life I have ever experienced. I still carry with me the stories, the lessons, the joy and the scars of a time when, on a daily basis, I was faced with something I didn't understand.

In January 2010, I left Slovenia with no intention of returning. I was shattered emotionally and ruined financially. I had isolated myself from my support network at home and had to start over in every aspect of my life. Putting the pieces back together was tough. And even though I feel I am a much better person and in a great place now, I have to admit that I have forgotten much more than I have forgiven. 

I am writing this post while en route to Europe. A group of friends have invited me to join them on a trip to ski in the Julian Alps of Slovenia. They wanted me to share my experience and knowledge of the area with them. I said,"yes" without thinking - much like I did so many years ago. On the surface, it's a ski trip. We will have the opportunity to ski some things that were beyond my ability when I was here last. It will be a great opportunity to measure how I have improved as a skier; yet, truthfully, I'm not too concerned about the skiing. 

Five-years after my biggest adventure left me at the lowest point in my life, I am returning to the place and the culture that exposed my every weakness and insecurity. I feel like I have found peace in my life. I am confident in my abilities. More importantly, I accept my shortcomings. My return to Slovenia will certainly stir emotions I have pushed deep into my being. How I react as they come to the surface is the biggest question I have about the trip. This will tell me how I have grown as a person, which is obviously much more important. 

Donny Roth