I grew up in a small town in the geographical centre of Canada, and my first travel memory goes back to when I was 5 years old. We took a family road trip to Disneyworld in Florida, and what stands out in mind more than Mickey Mouse is the first time I saw the ocean; the smell of the salt water, the unending crash of the surf, and the sheer vastness of it. That may or may not have been a precursor of what was to come 20 years later.
During my adolescence I always wanted to be somewhere other than I was, even though I had no specific destination in mind. Occasionally in the summer months, people either hitchhiking or cycling across the country would pass through town and the idea of being on a long, continuous journey, stopping to spend the night wherever you happened to be, was intriguing to me. During these pre-internet times, while I couldn’t visualize where these transient individuals were coming from, nor where they were going, I could conceptualize that they were traveling, and I knew this was what I wanted to do.
After finishing high school I moved to the provincial capital where I studied tourism and tried to figure out where I wanted to go next. There was still no one place that was calling me, but I was yearning for experiences that would give some direction. I gravitated towards the country’s largest city – the idea behind it being that it would offer the greatest number of options and possibilities to someone who really had no idea what he wanted to do or where he wanted to go.
With a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management, I worked my way through a handful of roles in hotels of varying size and stature. Even though I was working in travel and tourism, I was doing anything but travelling. Through some strange twist of fate, a colleague of mine was determined to find me a job working onboard cruise ships. I reluctantly appeased her. What started out as a 6-month contract sailing up and down the Pacific coast of Canada, the US and Mexico, turned into a career that covered 5 years that spanned half the globe.
The travel bug had bitten me hard, and while I was ready to hand in my stripes and return to life on land, I still didn’t know where I wanted to settle. Canada just didn’t seem interesting to me and I was gravitating towards Europe. The metaphorical highway that had run through my town had been replaced by the oceans that connected the continents.
I had travelled to Spain while working on ships and, since it was a country that had intrigued me I decided to go back for vacation. 5 weeks turned into 5 years in the blink of an eye. While Madrid felt like home to me more than anywhere else I’ve been up until then, after 10 years of sailing the oceans and living abroad, my feet were itching to take me someplace else again so I decided to head back to Canada to see what I had been missing.
Which brings me to now – back in Canada for 5 years. Working in travel and still wanting to get out and explore the world. Still crossing countries off my list (I’m somewhere over 50, and my TripAdvisor map says I’ve covered 26% of the world). However, I’m still not tied to Toronto, and I’m still looking for more engaging travel experiences than what a 1 or 2 week vacation can offer me. I’m still looking for the best way to balance my career and quench my thirst for travel, which leads me to my current venture with Remote Year.