I took one last look at the information on the screen with eyes that felt like they were bleeding after a day of working away in front of dual monitors under artificial light. It looked right: departure date, travel time, connections, arrival date, travel insurance. Hell, even the price looked pretty good considering it was halfway around the world. So why was I hesitating while my mouse pointer hovered with a tremor of anxiety over the ‘Book Now’ button? In my heart I knew that this was what I wanted. It was time to ditch this office and dress shirt for sunsets over the Mongolian steppes in a hoodie that hadn’t seen a washing machine in far too long. So what was stopping me?
And then it hit me: it was a one way flight. And I’m not just talking about a trip over thousands of kilometers. I’m referring to the one way ticket out of a secure, predictable, relatively comfortable life. What my mind knew the entire time my heart only realized after dwelling on the intangibles and fears that are part and parcel of momentous, life-altering decisions. Logically, I knew that this would spell the end of my career, but what did that mean for an identity that had become completely intertwined with a loveless job and the financial benefits reaped from it? It meant that I would no longer have a financial safety net to catch me when I stumbled. It meant that time would take on a new meaning and that I would have more of that all too precious commodity than I knew what to do with. But most importantly of all it meant that I would be able to create a new identity on my own terms.
I took a deep breath, steadied my hand and clicked.
I grew up in Calgary, a major city in Canada best-known for its love of hockey and giant cowboy fest aptly named the Calgary Stampede. I have a double-major undergrad in History and International Relations, as well as a Master’s in Strategic Studies. I worked for the defence industry doing business development for a brief period before becoming disillusioned and selling out for a higher paycheck to oil and gas as a contracts specialist. With fitness being a passion of mine I also recently completed my Canfitpro Personal Trainer Specialist certification.
Writing this in June 2017 it’s now been just over 5 years since I started my oil patch career. I don’t regret those 5 years. On the contrary, that career enabled me to invest and save enough to comfortably embark on this adventure without worrying too much about what I’m limited to spending on my next meal, and it gave me the chance to meet an amazing group of people. But working away without ever popping my head up to look around created unhealthy habits and a sedentary work life that was focused primarily on setting myself up financially.
What does it say about me if my happiness is punctuated by pay days and dictated by the spikes and falls of the stock market? Is maintaining an ever-increasing level of happiness even the point? I fell into this life and for the longest time didn’t realize that I wasn’t living a life with intention. It was merely a series of events that led me to this point and the only barometer for success I had was the size of my bank account. Money is a great tool, but if I didn’t have the same responsibilities and needs that my friends and colleagues had then how much of it did I truly require?
I had to ask myself: what do I truly value? Do I install Tinder, go on endless awkward first dates and chase the family life, which would also be extremely fulfilling? Or do I pack my bags and do something selfish on my own that nourishes my soul? I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with working hard and being successful, and just to be clear I’m certainly not saying that everyone should drop everything and do what I’m doing right now. In fact, I envy people that are able to do it and complain about it less than I do. Sometimes I think there’s a part of me missing that invariably makes me unable to accept society’s definition of a ‘normal life’. For me it’s usually been a poor fit, like a tight fitting shirt that looked good when you were 7 years younger (it’s time to throw that shirt out, by the way).
I’m a seasoned solo traveler with stints in Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Traveling might not be new to me, but it’s also been 14 years since I’ve taken a lengthy ‘sabbatical’ that didn’t fit into the nice little 3 week vacation window I had become accustomed to. Dropping everything 14 years ago was an easy call; today it’s a little bit tougher, although some factors sway heavily in my favor. I’m fortunate to not be married or have kids, which can also be unfortunate depending on how you look at it, and I have the financial means to take off for a while. This is my attempt at throwing caution to the wind, and by caution I mean my own spiritual well-being, carried away to wherever the wind might take me. Well…okay, maybe I had a little bit of a plan. It’s always half-formed and dynamic like…well like the wind I guess.
This is my a collection of thoughts on the road given form in story and photo. I hope you’ll come with me and enjoy the ride.