Many contend you can’t go home again.
Darren Madley is proof that you can.
The serious-minded, 26 year old spent the past 18 months selling cars for Eagle Ridge Pontiac in Coquitlam, BC.
In April, he returned home to Haines Junction.
“But this is where I belong,” he says. “I have roots here — deep roots.”
The musical and athletic Madley spent most of his boyhood in Haines Junction, where he became passionate about the outdoors (especially skiing).
And, when talking with him, it soon becomes apparent that he soaked up the quietness of the landscape and the closeness of small-town friends.
(He also spent many hours helping in his father’s business, Madley’s General Store; he admits he was not very interested in it then.)
Madley recalls how his Boy Scout excursions with leader Dan Drummond, ignited his passion for the outdoors — climbing Paint Mountain, building fires, surviving minus 30 Celsius in a sleeping bag — all sorts of survival skills.
“And peer counselling with Glen Hurlburt made me aware of myself in relation to others — the closeness of friendships,” Madley says, “like you find here in the Yukon.”
He also loved playing guitar and saxophone in Richard Godson’s school bands.
After graduating from high school in 1998, Madley spent a few months in music school and a few more in the business administration program at Yukon College’s Ayamdigut Campus.
He later worked at various jobs in Whitehorse with Trans North helicopters, A-1 Deliveries, and others.
“Then, in 2004, I went to Vancouver to pursue my dream of doing car sales,” says Madley.
(The seedling of that dream germinated from Madley’s passion for cars and a three-day job shadowing experience at Klondike Motors in 1997.)
“I figured it was now or never, but it was a big risk for me,” says Madley. “I didn’t know if I could do that whole city scene.
“But I loved it,” he says. “I was good at it. The whole lifestyle was a real wow when I first went down to Vancouver. I thought — yes, this is what I am meant to do.
“I met a really good bunch of people down there, plus I re-acquainted with old friends from the Yukon.”
So what changed Madley’s heart?
He explains how he assumed the unofficial role of a Yukon ambassador, spending a lot of time telling people about his home. Then he realized he was missing out on it all.
“I spent a year and a half telling my friends how great the Yukon and Haines Junction were, and then realized, hey, I’m not there. And that’s where I wanted to be.”
“I’d tell them about snowmobiling and camping, and being 200 feet from a grizzly mom and cubs. Then I’d think about being out there doing it rather than just telling about it.
“When I came back for Rendezvous this past February, the contrast really hit me.”
Madley went back to Vancouver musing about the chance to be out in nature, to experience the peacefulness, and to feel again the closeness of family and friends at home.
“My spirit declined. My sales declined,” he says. “My life in the city was hectic, working almost seven days a week. I had to keep going just to pay the bills. The guys called me ‘Mad Man’ because I worked so hard.
“That lifestyle seemed completely backwards to me. And I missed the closeness you get with people here in the Yukon. You don’t get that in the big city.”
However, Madley figures the whole Vancouver experience was “worth its weight in gold.”
“It certainly was a pivotal point in my life,” he says. “It showed me what I didn’t want — the fast-paced, big city and working seven days a week.
“I was going nowhere, where I was, in a personal, spiritual sense. Being in Vancouver opened a whole different perspective for me. I saw life at a different angle. Things that seemed significant are not so significant now.
“And,” he adds, “it gave me confidence to know I can be successful.”
So far, Madley has no regrets.
“Young people have to figure it out for themselves. A lot of them want to leave Haines Junction right after graduation. That’s a good thing, to see where they fit in.”
“You learn from everything you do,” he adds. “I’m using what I have experienced through my short life to do what I’m doing now — coming home and supporting my family’s business.
“I’ve also learned that you need to take time to relax and see life on the way through. It’s not all about getting to retirement.”
He says he learned a lot of that from his mother and stepfather.
“They made sure we got out and did things, like sports, together.”
Madley grew up with entrepreneurs, both his father and his grandfather (the latter who started with horse-and-carriage tours around Stanley Park many years ago.)
“I’ve been interested in business for a while,” says young Madley, and the Yukon College program gave me skills in marketing, managing, accounting. I want to support the store’s employees and keep giving to the community that has been giving to us for 20 years.
“I really feel happy that I’m at peace at coming home — I’m ready to take on some challenges to do what I need to do to succeed,” he says.
And, oh yes, Madley still loves cars.
He drove home in his sporty, royal blue Mazda Protégé 5.
“Sporty but practical,” he says.