The Expeditionist

Updated: Jun 25, 2020


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| This is the 404th story of Our Life Logs |

I was born in the small fishing town of Kitimat in British Columbia, Canada, in the late 80s. My mother at the time was working at the local fish hatchery, and my father was an amateur photographer and garden landscaper. One could say that I had creative parents, another could say they were nature-loving hippies, and both would be correct. Though my parents weren’t together long—a good thing as their personalities were not compatible—they always showered me with love.

An only child, I was blessed that my parents didn’t instill in me the necessity to get a ‘respectable job’ or demanded I ‘make something of myself’ regardless of my feelings on the subject. Their main concern was that I was happy and had the basics to live comfortably. They never forced any kind of post-secondary studies on me, and instead, they hoped I would find my own way and figure things out as I went.

Some people wake up one day instinctively knowing what they want to do with their lives. For others, it takes more time. Thankfully, I think my parents knew this well, as they’d both gone through trial and error in their own youth. Similarly, I didn’t grow up having a strong purpose in life. I would go about my days and coast through school, work, doing chores, and running errands.

Me in my childhood.
Me in my childhood.
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While in high school, one of my first jobs was a part-time position in a preteen girls’ clothing store, working the fitting rooms and ringing customers through the cash register. Nothing overly exciting, but it got me the pocket money I wanted to go to the movies with my friends and also gain a meager amount of independence from my parents, who were, in fact, proud to see me putting effort into something for myself.

I kept this job all through high school and moved up the retail “corporate ladder” to a third key holder, then assistant, then store manager, and lastly, district manager—a position I held for the next 10 years.

There was not one morning that I woke up and thought to myself, “Yes! This is my passion! My dream! This is what I’ve always wanted to do!’ My retail evolution was the natural sequence of events that led me to the senior level position. D​id I enjoy my work? Marginally—in fact, I much preferred the people I worked with to the job itself—but it paid the bills with minimal cognitive effort required, so I couldn’t complain. I was doing fine going through the motions, but I always felt that there should be more to life. More than managing teams of people to sell products in unique ways. I felt that the world was passing me by.

As the years went on, I grew increasingly anxious about my situation to the point where I couldn’t stomach going to work every day at the same place, doing the same job, and having no personal growth whatsoever. I started to see a decline in my work ethic, something I knew to be a red flag. All that coaching and encouragement I had received from my mother in my younger years had molded me into someone who always gave their best effort, no matter how important or inconsequential the task. When this slipped, I knew I was headed to a bad place.

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After a decade in the same industry, at 28, I decided to look into post-secondary education for the first time. I found a program in Marketing & Merchandising that I thought could be my next step to take in life. Whether I thought this would scratch that restless itch, I wasn’t sure, but I was prepared to try. I had to do something, anything to feel like I was in motion rather than standing still.

I enrolled in the program that fall and proceeded to work full time while taking evening and weekend classes; something bigger than my day-to-day grind to focus on. My life held more purpose now, at least for a little while. I dived into the material with a fierce determination of someone who had long been denied sustenance. I excelled in my courses and won awards. Studying re-ignited my passion for life.

Then, something funny started to happen.

W​hen I first started the program, you could label me as someone who loved to shop. Working in fashion retail for so many years had instilled in me an urge to constantly buy more “stuff.” I was the ideal consumer by any company’s standards, getting excited about weekend sales and jumping at the chance to get my hands on the latest and greatest items on the market. I bought what I didn’t need for the sake of it being “better” and “newer” than what I had. But the further I went through this program, the less I would buy. I began to question why I wanted a particular item. What value would it bring to my life? What purpose did it serve that I couldn’t fulfill with something I already owned?

I began to realize that I was filling my restless void with junk. Unnecessary junk was occupying that place in my soul that I needed to fill with something meaningful. The more I recognized this, the more I was able to check in with myself and analyze what I truly wanted.

The answer: to see the world.

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I wanted to explore different landscapes and have the kind of adventures I had read about but never experienced myself. T​his revelation came to me in the middle of one of my classes. The premise of the class was to create a magazine from scratch, coming up with original content under a chosen topic, “publishing” an entire volume, as well as setting up all the corresponding social media channels, in the same way a startup publication would do. I decided to make mine a digital magazine discussing sustainable tourism and the business of social enterprise.

Making my “magazine” into a blog to have a creative outlet for my travel adventures, I thought, why not turn my fictional publication into a potential career path?

I had lofty ambitions to go from idea to action plan before I left for my trip, having countless ideas swirl around my head about how I would monetize the blog and sustain myself. I started as a freelance writer, and I told myself I would work my way up to bigger and better means of income from there. It was a struggle to attract the attention of larger publications I wanted to sell my stories to, but I wasn’t necessarily concerned about making lots of money at once. All I wanted was to see the world and share my experiences with others.

I felt a major shift in my consciousness, like someone had come along and turned on a vibrant light above my head. This! This is what I had been missing all this time. The sensation was so powerful that it consumed nearly every thought of mine for the rest of the year.

By the time I reached my graduation day, two months before my 30th birthday, I decided I would quit my thankless job, sell my apartment and my belongings, and travel the world. All my friends were supportive of my decision. Again, my parents were thrilled that I was going to be doing something that would make me happy and fulfilled. Their one request: I stay safe and make smart choices while on the road.

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After I quit my job, I took another seven months to down-size, re-organize, and pack my whole life into storage containers before I set out on my adventure. When the day came for me to leave, I was terrified but excited all the same. I had a moment of unrest and a queasy feeling in my stomach. I began to question myself and all the decisions I’d made since that fateful day in class.

W​hat was I doing? How had I left such a stable situation in exchange for chaos and uncertainty? Why did I rush such a major life-changing decision? How was I going to say goodbye to my friends and family? I sat on the couch and couldn’t calm down for ages. Thoughts and fears were swirling in a toxic melting pot about to burst. I started crying, thinking of everything I had given up and the likelihood I’d ever get back to the comfort and security my life had held.