Meet Tim King, Bringing EdVenture to Niseko
EdVenture Niseko's Tim King took a moment out of a busy morning making rafts to sail down the Shiribetsu River to catch up with us this past week.
Growing up in Hong Kong and having spent the last seven years there as a teacher of physical education, Australian native Tim King knows all about life in a busy and bustling metropolis. While growing up, Tim found role models in his parents and past teachers, many with whom he still remains in touch with to this day. Given his childhood, it probably didn't come as much of a surprise to his friends and family when he chose to pursue teaching as a career.
Just one year after it's inception, Tim joined the EdVenture team and now, four years later (five since it first began), he finds himself leading the charge. Today, while the parents and kids in week three of this summer's EdVenture built their homemade rafts, Tim has taken a moment out of his busy schedule to sit down with us and talk a bit about himself, his experiences and his role in Edventure.
Experience Niseko: Where are you from, Tim?
Tim: The short answer is that I am from Newcastle, Australia. The long answer is that I left Newcastle when I was eight and spent the last twenty-two years growing up in Hong Kong—which I would consider home.
EN: What is it that you do for a living?
Tim: I run EdVenture, which is a summer and winter program for kids and families. Before EdVenture, I was a full-time primary and secondary school teacher of physical education in Hong Kong.
EN: We've heard that recently you have made a full switch between what you had been doing in Hong Kong and what you are doing now. Could you tell us a little about that?
Tim: I have been coming up to Niseko to run the summer program for a number of years and the program has been growing so much that it really required full-time attention. It was February of last year that I handed in my letter of resignation, and two weeks ago last year was my last day as a teacher in Hong Kong.
EN: How many years have you been coming here to run the EdVenture program?
Tim: This is my fourth year. The initial year was with a couple of other ladies and was a small one-week program. Then it grew from one, to two, to three, and now it is four weeks.
EN: What initially drew you to EdVenture and Niseko?
Tim: The ladies I mentioned before were all based in Hong Kong and they had been up here with their families and were putting together a summer program. I was introduced to them and I have a love for the mountains and teaching. As a teacher you have a long summer break and I said that rather than going away and spending six weeks on a beach in South-East Asia, I would prefer to be up here putting my time and energy into something like this.
EN: What would you say are the challenges of living between Hong Kong and Niseko?
Tim: There are two big challenges. One would be a personal challenge; I'm married and doing long-distance with your wife is a big challenge. We have a great relationship and when we were younger we did long-distance for a number of years before we got married. So we know what that takes, but it doesn't make it any easier!
Two, from a business perspective of running a program like this, you really need to be on the ground. Meeting people, having conversations with people. You can't find this stuff online; you can't just do a Google search. You have to be going up knocking on the door or driving past it. Being in Hong Kong it can be really tough to find new leads and explore new opportunities.
EN: Have you ever thought about making the move from Hong Kong to Niseko?
Tim: That's definitely a thought that goes through my head. I'm getting to an age where I'm starting to think about having kids, and what better environment to raise kids than somewhere like here! Saying that, I grew up in Hong Kong which gave me a wicked perspective of the world. To be able to move between the two would be absolutely ideal, as there are huge benefits from both of those [locations]. It's definitely in the pipes and if that opportunity said "hey do you want to move up here?", it would probably be hard to turn it down.
EN: Having grown up in Hong Kong and spending so much time between HK and Niseko, what would you say is the biggest difference in lifestyle between the two?
Tim: The most attractive [answer] is the change of scenery; concrete jungle versus the real jungle put simply. I live in the heart of Tsim Sha Tsui which is one of the busiest areas in Hong Kong. I walk outside and I'm stepping out of the way of suitcases, taxis and tour buses. Here, I step outside and I'm deafened by the silence or the sound of birds and engulfed in the natural beauty of the area.
EN: How do the differences in environment affect the children you teach here with the EdVenture program?
Tim: Just last night at a parents dinner, we were talking about exactly this. Those first few days, the kids just don't know what to do with this open space. They see these huge grass fields and part of their minds go "wow, that's amazing!", but physically, they are used to taking five steps and changing direction, or getting out of the way of someone, or having to go up a set of stairs. Here, they can just run as far as they can before they fall over exhausted or throw a ball as far as they can. The difference is in their ability to confidently interact and move through the environment. In the beginning, these kids just don't get it and it is amazing to watch that change, that shift, from day one to day three or even week two [some will stay two full weeks]—they are just completely different kids.
EN: How much are parents involved in the program?
Tim: I would say about fifty percent, maybe more, and I love that element of it. Work-life balance in cities in Asia is crazy! A lot of parents, both mum and dad work every day don't get to spend a lot of time with their kids.
There are a couple of issues that I have noticed that come with that. There is a bit of a disconnect that comes up between parents and children. Some parents don't even have the tools to know how to interact with their own kids.
What I love about bringing them together up here for a week is that you create this environment and these scenarios for mum and dad to reconnect with their kids. You just watch them change—kids reconnect with mum and dad and mum and dad reconnect with their kids. Along the way they are making these memories and taking photos—just good stuff.
There's a constant debate that families have with me when they first come and say, "I just want a camp where I can drop my kids off." There is a time and a place for that and I get it—independence and doing things on your own. At this age in particular, that bond between families is incredibly important and that bond being established now can lead on to that independence being a healthy independence. Watching the shift as the week goes on and seeing that change in the bond they have with their family is really cool.
EN: A tough one, but an important Niseko question. Summer or Winter?
Tim: That's a real tough one... I'm a huge mountain biker! I think right now at this point in time, until mountain biking can step up to what it is in North America. I'm probably going to have to say winter. You know summer has everything, but once it gets that nailed down it will make it a closer race for me.
EN: Do you have any favourite Niseko location?
Tim: It's not technically Niseko, but Lake Toya. I guess it's the Niseko area. I like camping at Lake Toya.
EN: What do you feel is the quintessential Niseko activity?
Tim: I think you've got to do Mt. Yotei. I think you have to do it. Actually, one of the dad's did it yesterday at lunch time. It took him a little bit longer than he expected, but he made it up! He said he got up and by the 9th stage he took his camera out to take a photo and the battery died!