This is a guest submission by Dalene from

It was becoming a routine.

Our frequent emails for updates: “What are you doing this weekend?  Did you watch The Office last night?” were divulging into tirades about my boss, my work piling up, or about any number of people that were pushing my buttons in the office.

It was also entirely one-sided.  While she happily reported about the foreign students she was helping to get monetary aid for their Canadian education, I was worried about working my ass off to save one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies a few extra bucks.

While she excitedly rattled off the list of extra-curricular activities on her calendar, I was lamenting about the hours I would have to put in at the office on the weekend.

And while there was an aspect of enjoyable challenge to my job, I could feel it nibbling away at my soul.

Not to mention my social life, my relationships, and my health as I could continually feel the stress forming into tight knots in my shoulders and neck. Years of my life were undoubtedly being taken away with each step up the corporate ladder.

“I don’t understand why you and Pete work this way, why you don’t go and travel or something?”  My sister wrote in response to each tirade.

“It pays really well, I can’t give that up,” was the only logical answer that I ever had.  And I would go back to my ten-hour workday, pounding the keyboard and taking flak from whoever decided to give it.

It wouldn’t be long before the same discussion would begin again. Thankfully for me, my sister always had a willing eye or ear, and would patiently just repeat the same advice, undoubtedly wondering when it would finally stick.

And Then She Was Gone

My older sister, purveyor of all advice wise and of much beauty in my world, passed away suddenly.

I was devastated. I sank to the bottom of a very dark hole, and for the next six months I worked to crawl my way out of it, while my company waited on the sidelines for me to do so. They sent me to grief counselors, psychiatrists, and back-to-work specialists.

I went from spending continuous days in bed, to finally breathing fresh air again, to easing into my old job.  A few hours working from home soon became a few days in the office.

And as the threat of my return to full time work loomed, I found myself desperately searching for an alternative.

Any enjoyment for my work and any ambition I had to succeed in the corporate world had been sucked out of me.  I could not help but stare at my gray cubicle walls with the utmost disdain and disgust.

Was this really how I was to live out my days?

What if I didn’t have many days left? I had to escape, as my sister’s unending question as to “Why” rang in my head, and I could no longer justify the answer.

What on earth did I need all this money for?  To continue to pay for my house that was too big?  To chase the next available upgrade of my car? How could I satisfy my intense desire for travel with only a few weeks a year?

So, I Escaped


Soon my husband Pete and I were living the life we had only dared to dream about previously. Ditching the big house, the car, and all other belongings, we stuffed our lives into 130 liters of backpack space and were on our way.

And even though we are coming up on our two year vagabondaversary, we have no desire to slow down.

My sister’s death taught me to live. I went from barely existing in the depths of depression to often repeating a phrase I had never said before: I love my life.

One question, however, continues to haunt me:  If it hadn’t been for the devastating loss of my sister and the lessons that it taught me, would I have had the courage to end my corporate career and live the life of my dreams?

Or would I still be plugging away in my cubicle corner, strained and unhappy?

I really don’t know.

But I hope that in my lifetime I can help others learn to live the life they love, without first enduring such a difficult lesson.

Dalene and her husband Peter sold all of their belongings and have been traveling since May 2009.  They are currently house sitting in Roatán, Honduras and plotting their next adventure.

You can follow them at or find them on Twitter or Facebook.

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