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A Rewarding Life

* This post is more personal and introspective than most on this blog. I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.

Ten years ago, I was $60,000 in credit card debt, fired from my job, and felt completely apathetic about life. The future seemed hopeless.

Fast forward to today, and I’ve visited 56 countries to date, and am loving life. How the heck did that happen?


A rewarding life isn’t just handed to you. A rewarding life is one that you choose, and it’s unique to each of us. While putting all energy and efforts toward career is like a death sentence for me, there are some who truly love the world of work. It feeds and fulfils them, as much as it’s soul crushing to me.

Of course, I wasn’t born knowing this, and like many others, I followed the usual path of university, first job, next job and so on. I did a lot of different things. I worked in television as a news editor, I worked for an educational publishing company, I wrote, I headhunted, I worked for the Government of Ontario, and I even had my own production company for a time. There were moments of success, and moments of achievement, but there was never much unmitigated joy.

I couldn’t help but feel that I was walking on a never-ending wheel to nowhere. I just couldn’t shake the belief that it was all pointless. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, what difference did it make if my report was handed in on time, or if I triumphed over another in the game of office politics. I guess you could call it an existential crisis of sorts. One that I’d been in for as long as I could remember.

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Despite these inner urgings, it still took me a long time to give myself permission to create something new. When most of society and mainstream media feed you the constant message that only 1 kind of lifestyle is acceptable – marriage, family, career, 2 week vacation, mortgage, STUFF – it’s kinda scary to choose otherwise.

I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. In fact, my family immigrated to Canada with just $600 – that my parents worked as hard as they did and sacrificed as much as they did, to give us the opportunities we have now is indisputable and something I’ll be eternally grateful for.

Life is an open road. Are you creating the path it takes?

Life is an open road. Are you creating the path it takes?

Finally, after years of soul-sucking disappointments, failures and stresses, I realized that my parents had worked that hard to provide a foundation for me to choose. And I was wasting it in a terrible way.

And so I chose. I quit working. Despite the fear. Despite the debt. Despite society’s messages to tow the line. I found another way. I found a way to be free.

For me, a rewarding life meant the freedom to work if I chose to, not because I had to. The space to think, write, do yoga, and drink coffee. TO BREATHE. To cuddle with my love. To spend the bulk of our days WITH each other, and not just in brief moments, between a never-ending set of obligations. It meant the ability and time to travel, and the opportunity to experience as much of the world as possible.

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It seems almost trite to write about it in a few sentences like that, when in reality, I had to transform almost everything about myself, external and internal. It wasn’t easy, and a lot of the time, it was downright scary.

I’d do it all again in a heartbeat though, because today, I have a life that’s as rich and rewarding as I dreamed it could be.

*If you’re curious, you can check out my old blog, which details more of the process I went through then, to get here, now.

You only have 1 life. What’s your idea of a rewarding life? Are you doing what you love?

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52 Comments Post a comment
  1. Happy to hear you found your path.

    March 1, 2015
  2. This is such a great and inspiring post! Thanks for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚

    March 1, 2015
    • I’m glad you enjoyed it. I always feel a bit nervous about putting such personal stuff on a blog. Don’t want to bore my readers with my life story! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      March 2, 2015
      • The funny thing is that when you put yourself out there, you realize how similar the things you struggle with are to the things that everyone struggles with. ๐Ÿ™‚

        March 3, 2015
        • Truth! That’s definitely one thing I’ve learned from traveling – that there is much more that connects us, than divides us. ๐Ÿ™‚

          March 5, 2015
  3. It’s an inspiring post.. thanks for sharing.. !!

    March 1, 2015
  4. I like hearing a little bit of your personal journey. It’s always inspirational to hear that people have the courage to follow their heart instead of adhering to the status quo. It’s not an easy decision to make and I know a lot of people who never have the courage to live their life in a way that makes them truly happy. I’m happy that you found your way ๐Ÿ™‚

    March 1, 2015
    • I’m always a bit hesitant to put my “life story” on my blog, so I’m glad to hear that you liked hearing about it. ๐Ÿ™‚ Ten years ago, when I was starting that whole process, it was difficult to find others who were choosing to live their lives “differently,” but now these kinds of people are everywhere. Lol…but then again, I guess the expat community is full of them…

      March 2, 2015
  5. I would really love to hear more about the transition period you allude to here. In retrospect, it’s easy to say that you need to “follow your dreams,” and I’m often tempted to say that about my move to New Zealand. In reality, though, a lot of time, concentration, and resources went into the decision. Basically what I mean is that I’d like to know more about how the “before” and the “after” are connected.

    March 1, 2015
    • For sure, a huge amount of energy and resources go into any kind of big change. I wasn’t sure if anyone would be interested in hearing all the gory details – and honestly, I’m sitting here now trying to think of how I could explain what happened. Yes, there are the external actions that I took (like quitting my job etc…etc…), but the most important parts of what got me from “there” to “here,” were internal. I really had to go into myself, and take apart all the things I’d been mindlessly believing. I’m not sure if I have the writing chops to do it justice, but many seem interested, so I’ll give it a shot! ๐Ÿ™‚

      March 2, 2015
  6. Great courage, can’t wait to hear more of your adventures. Safe travels.

    March 1, 2015
  7. This is beautiful, and so inspiring. I’m not in quite the same position as you were, years ago… but I AM poised to make a change, and terrified about doing it. Thanks for these words, they were just what I needed to read!

    March 1, 2015
    • To be on the cusp of a big change is so terrifying and so exciting at the same time. Looking back now, I wish I wouldn’t have waited so long to listen to my inner voice, and lol, come to think of it, all the external messages that life as it was, just wasn’t working for me. Wish you lots of courage and good luck! and can’t wait to read about it too. ๐Ÿ™‚

      March 2, 2015
  8. Absolutely agree with Alina – I’m intrigued to know more about this transition and I think it would serve as more inspiration for others who might want to make a change but just don’t know how.

    March 2, 2015
    • Hey Rosanna, I wasn’t sure how much detail people would be interested in, but since there DOES seem to be some interest, I’ll try to put together something. Lol I’m shaking in my boots trying to think of how to explain it properly. So much of what changed was internal and happened over many years, so it’s kind of difficult to put into a post. Feels like it should be a novella or something. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      March 2, 2015
      • You should take your time and do justice to this important experience, so if it takes a novella then maybe that’s what it should be! Plus then you could post little excerpts every so often to keep us hanging on… ๐Ÿ˜‰

        March 2, 2015
        • Lol…I’ll keep you all hostage. :p I only hope that the story is interesting enough. ๐Ÿ™‚

          March 3, 2015
  9. Beautiful post!!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    March 2, 2015
  10. I needed to read this today! Thank you!

    March 2, 2015
  11. Like the other commenters, I’m interested to hear more about your transition. I, too, have a non-traditional life and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have been working seasonal jobs my whole and life, save as much money as possible while working, and then travel when I’m not working. There are many paths forward in this one life we are given.

    March 2, 2015
    • Hi Jeff…yeah, there certainly are many paths forward in life. Kudos to you, for finding yours! ๐Ÿ˜€ Coming from an Asian family, the job prospects are: doctor, lawyer, professor – it’s stereotypical, but unfortunately true, and my family is not even very traditional! Ultimately, I just had to give myself permission to seek the path that would work for me…and I’m so glad I did. I’ll try to write something about how it happened, but the most important parts of it were internal, so it’ll be interesting to try, for sure. ๐Ÿ™‚

      March 2, 2015
  12. What a life experience you have been through! Kudos to you!
    I had my own fight as well. Rather glad that I accomplish it and still happy with my choice. What I learned: believe in yourself, never give up and keep working to make it happens ๐Ÿ™‚

    March 2, 2015
    • It’s seems so cliche to say that we should just believe in ourselves and never give up, but the reality is, that it’s the real truth! I’m so happy to hear that you fought for and accomplished your choices, and I would love to hear about your “fight” too. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m sure it would be inspiring to many people.

      March 3, 2015
  13. Hello Agri,

    I totally agree with your views here and firmly believe that, all the education we had and the parenting was to make us “Choose” the right path, the one we love.

    Let me tell you, this is really an inspiring story to me and came at a time, when I need it so badly.

    Being at the cross roads of my career, I have to choose the ‘road not taken’ or continue with the ‘one taken by all’ …

    Hope, I would make up my mid soon and live my life to the max. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thank you so much for sharing your story and have a great time ๐Ÿ™‚

    March 3, 2015
    • Hi Sreejith, actually it’s my post. Agri is my husband. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m so happy that the post found you at the right time. Life has a way of making that happen – the right things come to us, at the right time. I hope you find the courage to choose the road that will make you the happiest. It might be tough at times, but overall, the tough times are nothing compared to a life lived halfway, wouldn’t you say? ๐Ÿ™‚

      March 3, 2015
      • Frankly, I was confused ๐Ÿ™‚

        I even re-read your about section to confirm…

        Anyways… it reached where it matters ๐Ÿ™‚

        I totally agree with your views and at this point of time, I need to be courageous and single minded to reach where I really wished to…

        I am sure, your stories will keep motivating me ๐Ÿ™‚

        Have a beautiful day ahead ๐Ÿ™‚

        March 3, 2015
        • Well, I can’t wait to read about how everything turns out for you, as you walk your path forward! ๐Ÿ˜€

          March 3, 2015
  14. Thanks for sharing your story!! Impressing article:))

    March 3, 2015
  15. Sha #

    You go girl! Or woman…hahaha…nothing that I cannot agree with less. I struggle the same way especially since there is so much more expectations from my family with the Asian upbringing and all. I feel that I’m still working my way there but I’ve had to think carefully, this last few months especially because I’ve been struggling so much with work and everything else….I have an idea in mind for end of the year but am slowly working out the details if I want to make it happen next year. Hopefully….haha…:)

    March 6, 2015
    • Yes, I think the Asian upbringing can make it difficult to choose a path like this. Typically, Asian parents want you to follow a “safe” route. It took me a long time to realize that, because I didn’t want to disappoint them, but it turned out that those ideas were mostly just in my own head. I’m lucky to have parents that are very supportive of my choices. They might wish that I would have a more traditional “job,” but mostly I think that comes from their fear that I won’t have a secure life. Ultimately, they just want me to be happy. ๐Ÿ™‚ Can’t wait to hear about what you’ve got planned for the future!! ๐Ÿ˜€

      March 6, 2015
      • Sha #

        Yes! That pressure to have stability…to have a secure life…hopefully things will get better. …๐Ÿ˜‰

        March 7, 2015
  16. Your decision to transform your life and actually making the change happen are admirable, Shelley. I find myself with similar contemplation at times and I can imagine the kind of courage it takes to quit the ‘regular’ or ‘safe’ life and go with your gut. Like you said, it’s probably not for everyone and some of us stay satisfied with the ‘safe’ option for now. ๐Ÿ™‚

    March 6, 2015
    • Thank you very much. ๐Ÿ™‚ I wish I could say that it was just courage that got me to change things, but by the time, I found the guts to make the changes, it felt like it wasn’t really a choice. There’s that whole idea of hitting bottom, and while things weren’t really dire for me (I wasn’t starving or homeless or anything), things did feel pretty desperate. Things kind of HAD to change, and I think that ultimately, I realized that even though I was staying with the “safe” option, it wasn’t getting me anywhere. ๐Ÿ™‚

      March 7, 2015
      • I’m glad you decided to share your story. Sometimes, we all get caught up in only projecting the sunny side of things. But it isn’t all that there is to life most of the time. ๐Ÿ™‚

        March 8, 2015
  17. Very inspiring post ! The most difficult thing sometimes is to take the very first step.

    March 9, 2015
    • It’s true! The first step was definitely the hardest, but after that, even though things were challenging, I was happy to do them because I was choosing the life I wanted for myself. ๐Ÿ™‚

      March 10, 2015
  18. That is tremendously encouraging. I took a long break from work to ‘figure out stuff’ but I feel like I still haven’t gotten anywhere on the figuring-out scale, and sometimes it really exasperates the heck of out of me. I suppose it’s not just the first step that’s the hardest – you have to stick to your convictions and make things work for you every single day till the time you’re finally at peace with yourself and your decision…

    March 13, 2015
    • Hi Ami, I think everyone has a different process. For me, taking the first step was the hardest, but once I decided – the rest was, well, not easy, but “felt” easy because I was working towards what I really wanted for my life… but you’re right that I have to make things work for me every single day. Now, it’s easy because I shifted my entire lifestyle, but in early days, it was definitely more of a challenge. Was it worth it? COMPLETELY! ๐Ÿ˜€

      Regarding that “stuck” feeling – someone reminded me that STUCK is a place too, and even though it feels like nothing is happening, it’s a valuable place to be, and inevitably things will shift. It was a great piece of advice that really helped me a lot along the way. ๐Ÿ™‚

      March 13, 2015
      • “STUCK is a place too, and even though it feels like nothing is happening, itโ€™s a valuable place to be, and inevitably things will shift.” Thank you for those words! I feel them deeply. I’m really glad I came across your blog. I’ll hang around more often. ๐Ÿ™‚ Wish you many more lovely travels!

        March 13, 2015
        • I’m so glad it resonated for you. It really did for me too, and I reminded myself of this thought often during my transition. Sending you good vibes as you walk your way forward (in whatever form that takes). ๐Ÿ™‚

          March 14, 2015
  19. I do hope you continue and get to the meat of your stories. This stuff smells good. ๐Ÿ˜€
    Your situation is different than mine. I don’t necessarily love my job… work-wise. But my job is sending me to cool places. It gives me ample enough time to travel. It isn’t really …. choking me. ๐Ÿ˜€ … And it pays the bills… so there are sacrifices to feed my “simple” desires. ๐Ÿ™‚

    March 14, 2015
    • Maybe if I’d had a job like yours, I would’ve been able to stomach it. You have huge positives along with your work. ๐Ÿ˜€

      I think everyone is different. My hubby for example would go crazy if he wasn’t working some. But for me, I literally could not live with myself. It just felt so completely WRONG. Nowadays, I think I could do some work, but it would still have to be on my own terms – freelance writing or something like that, maybe…

      March 14, 2015

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