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Member Spotlight – Sharon

It started innocently enough…. I made the decision to move on from my job.  Somehow that became a major life change that saw me quitting my corporate finance job, selling my house and hitting the road to travel for 2 years!

female travel

It all started in April 2017.  I felt like I needed a job change.  So I started looking around for another one.  But everything that was coming my way just felt like the same – because it was.  I was in a rut and I didn’t fully realize it then. Don’t misunderstand me, I had a good life and was happy.  I have a small but loving family, lots of friends, a challenging and fulfilling career in Finance and a lovely home that I had poured my blood, sweat and tears into for 12 years to make it my own.  Because I have always considered myself lucky and privileged to have such a good life, I have always believed in helping and supporting others who don’t, so for almost two decades had volunteered at sexual assault centres supporting survivors of sexual violence.  Yes, life was good but when I was unable to find another position that excited me I realized that maybe I needed to make a greater change to make it better.

Okay, full disclosure… I didn’t come to this realization on my own.  One night in June 2017 I was talking to a close friend about my frustrations regarding finding another job and he asked me what I really wanted to do, saying I wasn’t the corporate type… I was a traveller and adventurer.  I have been friends with “D” for over 15 years. I would trust him with my life. He’s a fellow accountant who I met at work, so naturally I scoffed when he said I wasn’t the corporate type!

And to be called a traveller and adventurer… no way!  Sure I have always enjoyed travelling and wasn’t drawn to vacations like all inclusives on a Caribbean island. But some years I didn’t travel anywhere. With only 3 or 4 weeks vacation it was hard sometimes if I needed the vacation time for other things like family visits or to do renovations on my home.  True, I have always been a bit of a thrill seeker, having gone skydiving, taken flying lessons (was working on getting my private pilot’s license) and had even hung off the outside of the CN Tower in Toronto. But that didn’t make me a traveller and adventurer.

Doing the CN Tower Edgewalk in 2013 – 356m/1,168 ft above the ground

For a couple of years “D” had been talking about doing a round the world trip and I had always said I would join him at some time for my 3 or 4 weeks vacation.  So on this June night, “D” said to me ‘why don’t you come with me’. The thought of travelling around the world never crossed my mind before. Most people think I am living some sort of long held dream but the truth is I never dreamed of travelling the world like this.  I guess I always figured I would do it one small piece at a time. When “D” suggested I travel with him, I immediately thought ‘‘no way, I can’t’. How could I give up my well paying job that was providing for my financial future? And what would I do about my home? I couldn’t imagine just selling it.

“D” and I in Grand Cayman, 2016.  He lived there at the time

But the seed had been planted and the more I thought about it, the more it appealed.  I could actually picture myself visiting all the cities and countries I had always had on my ‘someday I will get there’ list.  Once that happened, I knew I had to at least pursue the possibility and determine whether I could really do it.

So here’s where my Finance background comes into play.  I am a designated accountant (CMA, CPA) but for the past 10-15 years, I have moved away from the bookkeeping side of accounting and into strategic planning and analysis.  Essentially what I did was help companies put together a 3-5 year plan and then monitor and analyze the results vs. the plan to make changes as necessary. Now who thinks a woman who plans and analyzes for a living wouldn’t plan and analyze the heck out of a life changing decision like this?!  Didn’t think so ? I looked at the financial aspect of this from every angle – how could I afford this and what would this do to my financial future (I’m all for living for today but not at the expense of tomorrow!). I talked to a few trusted friends and colleagues about what a career break like this could do to my career.  I considered whether I wanted to leave my parents in Canada without any other family for support or help should they need it as they got older. I thought about how I would manage travelling by myself for such an extended period of time – as I tend to skew towards the introvert side of the scale I am comfortable being by myself but that might make it harder to meet people.  

Once I thought I would be okay with all the non financial aspects of this decision it became a numbers game, and I worked through the numbers in a very large spreadsheet, with multiple scenarios.  The bottom line was that it did not make financial sense to do this and keep my house. And despite the fact that I loved my house, once I saw the numbers I was remarkably okay with the idea of selling it to be able to embark on this journey.  Maybe I was ready to let it go – it was a large house for one person and was a lot of work maintaining it – but more likely it was a sign that this journey is what I was meant to do at this time.

My house – looked a lot better in the summer!  It’s not as big as it seems – it’s only the left side

I made the decision to travel in the fall of 2017.  At least that’s when I admitted to myself that I had made the decision – I quite possibly made it not long after that pivotal conversation in June.  A family health crisis in November made me pause and rethink, but ultimately I decided to forge ahead. Being the fiscally focused person I am, I didn’t want to leave my job until year end bonuses were paid out and that was end of March.  I set a target date of end of June 2018 to leave Canada for my new life.

I handed in my resignation in April, providing more than 2 months notice.  The reception at work was amazing, and so heartwarming. Possibly because I wasn’t leaving to take another job, but everyone was thrilled for me and I received so much support.  Words like “inspiring” and “bold” were repeatedly said to me. In fact, that has been a theme. Once I had handed in my resignation, I made it public knowledge by posting on Facebook to tell the people I had not told earlier.  That post was probably my most liked and most commented on ever! And so many comments were along the lines of me being inspiring. While I appreciate why people think that, that is a heavy badge to carry sometimes.

Once it was official, I moved full steam ahead – sold my house and started the long and arduous task of sorting through all of my things to determine what was to be kept, sold, donated or trashed.  It was hard at times but also liberating. I was fortunate that my house had seen significant appreciation over the years I had owned it. The net proceeds not only funded the 2 year trip but also enabled me to purchase a condo apartment that I am renting out while I travel and will move into when I return (that was the scenario that made the most financial sense). Since I do plan on returning – at least at the moment – I was hesitant to completely exit the property market.  Although quite a bit smaller than my house, the condo will feel palatial after travelling for 2 years and staying in small studio apartments or single rooms. Plus it will be much easier to maintain (no snow shoveling!!) and more affordable to carry, which will mean I won’t have to feel pressure to earn as much as I did to afford the life I had (my spreadsheet was so comprehensive I even planned the post RTW journey).

After an emotional few weeks where I said – temporarily – goodbye to family and friends, I boarded a plane for Brussels on August 7th, 2018.  So far my journey has taken me to 17, soon to be 18, new countries. Except for a few days in the Asia part of Turkey, all that time has been in Europe.  But that will soon change and I expect to head to Africa late April to spend 4 months or so doing volunteer work. It was a big part of my life before and I wanted it to be a part of this journey.

Walking into the airport – can’t believe I will be living with what’s in that backpack for 2 years

Has it been easy?  Of course not! The stress of travelling by yourself in countries where you don’t speak the language is challenging.  Not to mention the stress of just figuring out the logistics of everything. Seventeen countries in about 6 months means a lot of travel logistics.  But has it been worth it? Absolutely! I have been to places I never expected I would go. For a women who planned for a living I am letting the journey just flow at times, going where it feels right.  I have made a few friends along the way, which I am extremely happy about. The ‘globalness’ of my life now continues to astound me!

And as for my friend “D” – the one who started it all – he decided he couldn’t do a multi year RTW journey at this time but he did join me for a month in November and we traveled in Turkey and Romania together.  So now instead of me joining him on his RTW journey, he will join me on mine!

Standing on a frozen lake in Romania – Saint Anne Lake – during my time with “D”

Born in England, Sharon has lived most of her life in Canada (with a year in the US). Follow her on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, on her Blog or Email her directly

Check out her featured article on our site: Resignation 101: How to Gracefully Quit You Job

Member Spotlight highlights stories of inspiring women from our She Hit Refresh community. We hope that by sharing their stories of change and travel we can expose the unconventional paths that thousands of women 30 years and older have chosen.  There is no one way to live a life, just your way.

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