20something profile: Michelle
At 29, I’ve had numerous careers in my 20s and travelled to 30 countries. It hasn’t always been easy, and it’s definitely not a vacation, but it’s the life I choose to lead at the moment.
I got bitten by the travel bug during the last semester of my bachelor’s degree: I travelled to Glasgow, Scotland for an exchange semester and loved it so much I knew I had to do it again one day. In the meantime, though, I needed to make some money, so it was off to work I went! I was lucky enough to be good with numbers and accounting, even though I had no background in finance.
A family friend offered me a job book keeping for their construction/development company, and I happily made spreadsheets for a couple of years while completing my post-baccalaureate diploma, until I realized that spending hours in an office by myself was a soul-sucking way to make a living.
To finish off my diploma, I headed to Kefalonia, Greece for a semester to dig up an ancient cemetery. While I was abroad, I travelled to Egypt for ten days on an organized tour, where I was in awe of my tour director. A former accountant, he ditched everything for a life on the road, and I envied his seemingly endless supply of amazing stories. I could do this, I thought, I could live this life.
Returning to my home in North Vancouver, Canada, I once again needed to make some money. I was fortunate enough to use the skills I’d learned in my previous career as a bookkeeper to land a job at a local credit union. I really loved working at the bank; I was able to interact with people constantly (which I thrive on), as well as gather up some decent savings. I worked and saved for another two years until I was ready to go.
Over three years ago I set off with my backpack and passport. I had a plan which changed every few weeks, and just let the wind and a car crash (that’s another story!) take me wherever I went. I learned to scuba dive and spent a year working and living in Australia before I figured out how to make a living out of two of my greatest passions: traveling and diving.
Fifteen months ago I became a PADI Divemaster, the first professional level of recreational scuba diving. Since then, I have travelled from the Caribbean, through Canada and Greece to Oman, working at doing what I love: showing people from around the world what exists underneath the waters that surround us.
Throughout my 20s, I’ve never really feared the unknown. I always had a feeling that I would land on my feet, which I credit in part the amazing support of my parents (who made me get a job at the age of 15) and in part to my university education.
Every job you have helps you somehow along the way, and I would always encourage up and coming twenty-somethings to make sure they get an education, at least to the end of high school. There really are some things that you can learn in school that you can’t learn anywhere else.
That said, make sure you get out in the world and travel as much as possible. Even if your parents insist on taking you on a ‘family vacation’ to Mexico, the Caribbean…get out of the resort, ask the taxi/bus driver where the best local food is — chances are, they will take you to one of their friends’ homes for the best culinary experience you’ve ever had.
As I get nearer to 30, I feel as though another change might be in the works…it could be time to return to a more sedentary existence where I have a chance to put pictures on walls, where my luggage has wheels instead of straps. I’m still not sure where my choices will take me next, but I will likely have a good time getting there.
If you’re interested in where I end up, and my journey along the way, feel free to read, comment and share my blog: The Travelling Twin.