Alyssa, Baguette, France
It all started with a baguette…

The Post

I used to have a Livejournal blog, which I deleted sometime in university. It was pretty emo and only a few people could read it. I did save a Word copy of  the old posts and a few weeks ago I was browsing them and found something I wrote three years ago today:

July 17th, 2010 at 3:05 PM

I have a plan. It’s done. I’m not just wandering around aimlessly at university. I have a plan.

  • Graduate in June 2011
    • I didn’t drop my summer courses even when I really wanted to. I am taking the courses I need with one buffer course that gives me the option of dropping one.
  • Save money for plans (see below)
    • I opened a tax-free savings account and deposited my bursary into it. I got a scholarship, which will also be deposited. I took H.’s old job and will be taking care of the kiddies starting in September…
    • I will work full-time next summer
  • Get laser eye surgery
    • I have to get a consult for pricing, but I imagine that it will be feasible and I will do it.
  • Take a year off
    • It’s messed that I’ve been in school for 18 years straight with no break.
    • I have decided to do a rather lucrative (note: lucrative was ‘rather’ hyperbolic, but 1100€/month for 12 hours a week was a lot for me then) teaching assistantship in Martinique for 7 months. Assuming I get in. Which I will. It’s through the French Embassy. Then, I will do an 80-day tour of South America.
  • Do the MCAT and GRE
  • Apply to Med School and Grad School

Hopefully when I get back from my year off I will have some acceptances waiting for me. If not…then I will move home and apply for a job at CSIS.

Upon calculation, I realize that this is going to cost me a down payment on a sizeable house….

Can’t put a price on experience!

The Travel

I had never really been that interested in long-term travel. My family was more of the ‘have fun when you’re retired’ types and we had, for the most part, gone on trips that involved staying on resorts or in hotels, so backpacking or going anywhere longer than two weeks had never really occurred to me.

Then I did a summer abroad course in Tours, France in 2009. I didn’t backpack, but I spent a lot of time not in Tours, staying up late, running for trains, walking around Paris with drug dealers all night  on Bastille day because my friend and I didn’t have a hostel (story for another time)…

The Friend

I love languages, culture and learning new things so it’s silly I had never really thought ‘travel as a lifestyle’ was for me. That really good friend I was with that night in Paris was also the one who convinced me to do the summer abroad. She had spent every school year working her ass off so she could spend every summer travelling.

Thanks to her, I saw I could be adventurous. I always thought backpacking and long-term travelling was more for the privileged, which $46,000 of student loan debt shows that I am not. She also showed me how false that was – you can afford anything if you make it a priority.  She also helped me realize my plan by giving me advice, recommending me for her old job, and sending me off with a plane letter. Now that I think about it, I owe her a lot!

The Aftermath

I worked two jobs and saved around $8000 while in school full-time (I was actually actually taking a 140% course load at one point so that I could graduate on time), volunteering, holding a leadership position in my sorority, and wrestling Varsity.

I graduated with distinction from one of the best universities in Canada and earned a bronze medal at the Ontario University Athletics wrestling championships. Sadly, I dislocated my shoulder in training right before the national competition.

I did get laser eye surgery, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I used to think that all of those commercials being like “It’s so liberating!” was just clever marketing. As someone who had always worn glasses and got contacts at age 12, I realized it was clever marketing because it was true! It’s hard to remember that 3 years ago I wouldn’t have been able to see my computer screen right now without glasses or contacts.

I didn’t find a full-time job until July of 2011 and rather than move home, I spent two months unemployed and living in downtown Toronto dipping into my savings. Looking back, that was a mistake and my stubbornness cost me that trip to South America.

I was doing research in a hospital and had spent a lot of time with medical students, surgeons, and psychiatrists. I decided that it wasn’t the path for me so neither was medical school. I also had no idea what I wanted to study in graduate school, so I didn’t apply in the end.

It is said that as you advance in academia, you learn more and more about less and less. That never appealed to me. I studied an interdisciplinary program and learned a lot about a lot. I loved that.

I always enjoyed writing essays, choosing my topics, doing the research, applying my knowledge…all of it. I wish I had starting considering a career in writing sooner.

But I’m not too concerned about finding my lifelong career, I just want to do something I love.

I truly believe that if you enjoy something, are passionate, and work hard at something, anything, that good opportunities will come to you.

Well, I have to believe that, because now that I’ve told everyone I want to work for CSIS, I’m even more unemployable…

There really aren’t any excuses for not travelling if it’s what you really want. If you think have an original excuse, Brenna from This Battered Suitcase will show you that you probably don’t.

Two years after my first trip to Martinique, my wanderlust continues…

Next stop: London, UK!


4 thoughts on “Wanderlust: Day One”

  1. The Alchemist is an awesome book! I have read it far too much as well. Isn’t it amazing to go back and read old lists of “where I will be in 5 years” or whatever? I recently found mine and I hit most of the spots, in addition to discovering you could major in Classics at uni and a year later I ended up in a field study program to Greece and Turkey and getting the travel bug from there. But then lately, money has been a stopping point. I’m near broke after two degrees but have to keep reminding myself I worked my butt off in order to come out without any loans and really, if you want something bad enough, there is always a way. 🙂

  2. First of all, thanks for the shout-out!

    Secondly, I, too, had a Livejournal account…and it is still out there, floating around the internet in all of its emo glory. I’ve been writing about my thoughts and dreams online for TEN YEARS. I have so many lists like yours, and it’s so cool to see how your goals have changed and which ones you’ve accomplished.

    I completely agree with your line: “I truly believe that if you enjoy something, are passionate, and work hard at something, anything, that good opportunities will come to you.” I’ve been slogging away at writing online and in the past few months things have finally started to fall into place for me. What started as a hobby has morphed into something I can see as a career (or at least part of a career). If you love something, don’t give up.

    I will end this by saying, one more time…I can’t wait for London hang-outs.

    1. Thanks for the comment, girl!

      Yay for Livejournal. I have word documents, e-mails and saved MSN Messenger conversations that date back to, like, 2000. Jeez. Kids these days don’t even know!

      I read the Alchemist. It changed my life. I probably should have mentioned that. It’s a huge cliché, but that was literally when I was like “I have to live for me

      And for me, one more time…I am SO pumped! Ha.

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