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Trained as a journalist, Dominic Arpin is a television host and producer. A lover of nature and the great outdoors, in recent years, he has discovered a new way to regain his balance, one step at a time. Here is a summary of an inspiring and authentic interview in the heart of a boreal nature setting, at Strøm Nordic Spa — Mont-Saint-Hilaire.

Strøm spa nordique

Hello, Dominic. We’ve known you in Vlog as a tech enthusiast since 2007, but recently, your love of the outdoors has also shone through, particularly in Van aventure, a show where you criss-crossed Quebec in a van. Where did this interest in the great outdoors come from?

Dominic Arpin

“I was born in a lane in the village of Saint-Ours, near Sorel-Tracy, 45 minutes from Montreal. Since my father was a farmer, I grew up on a dairy farm, surrounded by fields as far as the eye can see and a forest where I could go and have fun whenever I wanted, however I wanted. So, nature has always been part of me in some way.

“Then, turning 40 shook me up; I realized I was getting older. I was letting myself go, and I didn’t like what I was seeing. I was inactive, I was putting on weight, I was smoking, I wasn’t eating well, I was drinking way, way too often, I was partying… Turning 40 forced me to look myself in the eyes and ask myself where I was going with all this excess. Slowly, I started training, running, doing CrossFit, moving outside. I really liked the effect that this had on my body, and especially on my mind. I’m a very anxious person who suffers from panic attacks, and I understood that I needed nature and sports to regain my balance.”

Strøm spa nordique

Did you have a role model, an inspiration in taking control of your health?

Dominic Arpin

“Yes, and she’s been right there in front of me this whole time: my girlfriend. My partner Annie is a big-time athlete; she was hiking and running marathons when I met her. At the time, none of that interested me. I was buried in my work; I wanted to establish myself, have a career. One day, a little before my 40th birthday, Annie took part in the Montreal Marathon, and I went out to support her. An hour before she finished the race, I was already at the finish line waiting for her, and that hour completely shook me up. I was crying watching people finish because I could see the satis- faction, accomplishment, pride, and pain in their faces. That’s when I said to myself, ‘OK, I want to experience that, too.’ When my girlfriend finally crossed the line, I found it so impressive; she was a superwoman in my eyes. Just like that, I started running, and I’m lucky to have had her support and encouragement. She had always pushed me to take that path, but this was the first time that the message really got through to me.”

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Strøm spa nordique

Does pushing your limits, which is inherent to running, contribute to your well-being?

Dominic Arpin

“Yes and no. I’ve long been ‘competitive.’ I was looking to improve my running speed, to keep getting faster. Now, I’m working on my endurance; I’m trying to improve on the distance covered. What I like about this challenge, which materializes in ultramarathons or trail running, is precisely the fact that it’s long. I spend a lot of time with myself, and running in nature, I don’t feel guilty about stopping. Unlike road running, I take breaks, I drink, I eat, I can even change my shoes. There’s a more laid-back side to this kind of running that suits me much more, since I do sports to get rid of the stress in my life. When I realized that by wanting to perform at all costs in my sport, I was adding to my stress, I completely changed my way of doing things.” 

Strøm spa nordique

What did you take away from the immersion in nature that you experienced during Van aventure?

Dominic Arpin

“It was a form of balance for me. When I’m at home, the couch attracts me; it’s like a magnet. It’s very comfort- able, and I could easily sit in it and watch absolutely everything on Netflix. I naturally like comfort, idleness.

“What the van brought me was the polar opposite. I got rid of all the accessories from my everyday life, and I spent the night in a van with my dog on the edge of a lake with mosquitoes that prevented me from sleeping. Getting a taste of that completely changed my life. When I came back home after the first summer of shooting, I found my house ridiculously big. I set about doing an incredible cleaning, I gave a bunch of stuff to friends and organizations, and I’m still in that process today. I wouldn’t call it minimalism, because paradoxically, there’s a part of me that really likes to consume, but nevertheless, this experience in the van allowed me to return to the essentials. Not knowing where I woke up in the morning because it was dark when I parked the night before, getting up at the same time as the sun and the birds, opening the door of the van and letting my dog go run around as he pleased while I made a cup of coffee, not having a cellular network or an internet connection… Before, I didn’t really understand the ‘trip’ behind van life, but now I do, and I can’t go back. It requires adapting to your environment like never before, blending into the background, and that’s what I find fantastic.”

Strøm spa nordique

Have you taken any van trips in the winter?

Dominic Arpin

“Yes, I took one last winter, and I really loved it. It definitely requires more logistics, having no running water or toilets, with the cold quickly seeping into the vehicle when you get in or out of it. Also, you don’t think of it, but in the winter, it gets dark really early! Since it’s hard to be outside very long when it’s -30°C, I got back into my van at 4 pm, and I didn’t come out again until the next morning. You have to like reading or have series downloaded in advance! It’s a different lifestyle in the winter. Honestly, I use it more to get closer to certain ski centres; I arrive the day before, and I leave again after my day of skiing. But to go out for several days in a van in the winter, you have to like misery a little.”

Strøm spa nordique

You mentioned skiing…what is your relation- ship with winter sports?

Dominic Arpin

“Personally, I count the sleeps before it snows. Winter is my favourite season by far. Ten years ago, I never would have said that, because I only saw the downsides of the season, like most people. But that changed when I started taking advantage of the joys of winter and realizing how lucky we are in Quebec. I go downhill skiing, snowshoeing, alpine hiking, cross-country ski- ing, fat biking, skating, and even snow tubing. And just going for a walk in the snow with my dog brings me such happiness… The silence that prevails, the purity of the air… Ever since I started practising photography a bit more seriously, I also find that winter is photogenic. It makes beautiful colours; the reflections of the sun at the start of the day or at sunset create exceptional panoramas. And I adjust the sports I do according to the level of snow: when there’s a big snow- fall, I go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing to take advantage of the powder in the morning.”

0I5A3604 2 - Second nature

Strøm spa nordique

It’s true that fans of winter judge whether the season has been good according to the amount of snow that has fallen!

Dominic Arpin

“Absolutely! Before, I never looked at that, the weather reports and the expected precipitation. Now, with my group of friends, since we don’t all live in the same area, we each take a look at our local forecasts, and we decide where to go skiing according to the number of centimetres announced.

In the city, when there’s snow in the forecast, the first thing that comes to our minds is the car that will be covered in it the next morning. I was the first to think like that for years. I cursed winter; there was nothing I hated more than a snowfall, while today, I realize it makes me happy. But even if you don’t like winter, I think it’s possible to see the positive through the irritants and find your happiness by focusing on the pleasant things that can come out of it.”