Sports and outdoor lives are so rooted in passion for many people, that if the dreaded spectre of injury strikes then it can paralyse your mind. What do you do if you can’t do the active thing you love?
That’s what happened to Wes when his multiple injuries took away his NHL career, and that’s what Jenn Coleman faced when her fierce love of skiing was taken away by career ending injuries.
We met up with Jenn to find out how when one door closed, her will to win opened another.
Name: Jenn Coleman
IG handle: @coleman_concierge
Location: Orlando Florida
What’s your story?
Ever since I can remember I have been both fiercely independent, innately curious and a chronic non-repeater. My mom said my very first sentence was “Do by self mommy!” and my favorite thing to say was “why?”. While these qualities have served me well over the years, I am sure that they have annoyed those around me too.
I remember, clear as day, being terrible in sports, awful actually from an early age! Countless soccer balls, softballs, footballs, frisbees, and such have been tossed at me only to be missed… and don’t get me started with the innocent bystanders who were wounded by my lack of prowess. I was the girl who passed out on the track in middle school while trying to run the mile.
However, the gods of athleticism bestowed upon me one gift – the ability to ski…and to ski well!
I can still remember the feeling of skiing down my very first ski run, and going up on a little side-hill, turning at the top and hopping down…I was hooked! Every time I was bullied for being the fat girl I remembered that my meaty thighs helped me to rip down most anything I pointed my skis at.
After graduating high school, I worked at the ski resort as a reward for getting straight A’s my senior year. That year off was pivotal in my life for three reasons.
The first was that I realized how deeply I love skiing and made it my number one priority to make a life of it by becoming a helicopter skiing guide.
Secondly, I discovered Jack Kerouac along with many other fantastic authors who craved travel and new adventures. I want to see it all!
Thirdly, I developed a deep love for the outdoors. This was the first year I hiked, camped, mountain biked and did all of the outdoor things I didn’t do growing up. You’ll hear more about this later, but I still see myself as that hippy ski chick, even if I can no longer ski.
Choose and title 5 photos from your phone that best sum up your current life.
What is the toughest adversity you’ve faced on your journey to living your best life, and how did you overcome this?
Well, one year ski-bumming turned into 20. By the time I was 26, I was well on my way to achieving my heli-ski guide dream when I blew yet another knee. It was probably my fourth or fifth knee surgery at this point. I was told I had very little cartilage left. My doctors advised me to quit skiing and get a desk job. They basically wanted me to wait it out until I was over 60 and then they would do the surgery.
This prognosis devastated me, and I knew I would have to say goodbye to my heli-ski guiding dream. In stubborn denial, I plunged myself head first into all things health and fitness getting certified as a personal trainer, fitness instructor, yoga instructor, and massage therapist. I did this all while moving to a new state and ski mountain every 2-4 years so I could satisfy my travel bug on a minimal budget.
Through my expertise on the human body, I managed to continue to ski and teach skiing for ten more years then the doctors thought would be possible. Once the knees gave up completely, I knew I needed a corporate job with benefits so I could afford to get two new ones. These would be knee surgeries 9 and 10.
I also knew I needed to move somewhere hot and sunny to get skiing out of my reality. I had fallen into a deep depression. I would even go so far as to say a dark night of the soul. Here I was, 36 years old faced with the absolute reality that not only would I never achieve my life dream. My entire identity was tied up as the ski chick, so without skiing, who was I? What will drive me now? Will I ever find anything I love as much as skiing?
I did what scrappy people do. I focused on the day and faked it until I made it. I moved to Tucson, Arizona and got my first cooperate job at the age of 36, two new knees and even a new husband. What I lacked was passion, purpose, and a source of my identity.
We moved to San Diego to try out the beach lifestyle. Surf bums are just ski bums with a tan, right? I thought maybe surfing would be my new skiing, but a traumatic stingray incident put an end to that. The new body and knees were not having SUP yoga. Hawaiian Outrigger canoe racing was fun for a few years, but it still did not ignite passion.
And then it all changed. I stumbled upon travel blogging.
Could I really travel all over the world, photograph and write about it, and make a liveable wage? The Women in Travel blogging conference was being held nearby, so I had to check it out to get my questions answered. Boy were they answered! My mind was blown. You can be a professional travel blogger and earn a liveable wage to six figures!
I took my new info home to my husband, and after tireless hours of research, we sequestered ourselves into a cabin in Durango Colorado for a week and launched our website. The rest, as they say, is history.
What’s your goal for the next chapter?
We have spent the last almost 3 years growing and learning our craft and getting better at wearing all of the different hats that being a travel blogger entails. It is tough work, and we are on track to break free in the next 3-5 years.
I have found a new passion and identity. If you would’ve told me 10 years ago that today I would be a full-time travel blogger, I would tell you, you are nuts! Though I still miss skiing desperately, my soul is stepping into the light. I am living a life of non-repeating and sharing my love of the outdoors and adventure with the world. Most of all, that fire has once again begun to burn.