Here’s a cool story I hope inspires young people feeling trapped by their circumstances. It’s a true tale about how one’s life can change radically in a very short period of time just by a) having a dream and b) being open to the opportunities which always surround us.
In the Fall of 1983 I was living at home and attending university part-time. I was so bored of school. I hated living at home. A year earlier, a friend of mine had gone on a backpacking sojourn through Europe and upon his recent return, regaled me with stories of beautiful and aggressive Spanish women and getting punched by policemen wearing dark sunglasses. After hearing about his adventures I wanted so badly to quit school and live a life of international intrigue , meeting beautiful and aggressive Spanish women who would help me to defend myself against sunglass wearing policemen who enjoyed punching foreign backpackers for no discernible reason.
There was only one small problem. I had no money. I did have a part-time job in the Naval Reserve but it paid me a grand total of $100 a month. So it was with an overarching sense of frustration that one fine November morning I went to a local bookstore, leafed through a copy of Let’s Go Spain and Morrocco and dreamed of far away lands which seemed forever out of my reach. Little did I know that almost exactly a year later I would walk into the travel agency across the street from the bookstore, flush with cash and excitement and plunk down a few thousand dollars for American Express traveller’s cheques and an open return ticket from Toronto to London.
So how did that come about? In the spring I found out I could apply for a summer posting with the Navy on the West Coast. So I did and was informed in April that I would be heading to BC for the summer! While I was in BC, it was brought to our attention that there was an opportunity for 20 naval reservists to work at a top-secret military base in the far north, doing construction of all things. Because one needed a top-secret security clearance to even be on site and since I had one as it was a prerequisite for my job as a Radio Operator, I was a candidate. However, I knew nothing about construction so I initially didn’t consider applying but then I thought that’s exactly the way to make sure I donn’t get the position, so I applied. I was hired! It would start in September and last 9 weeks. We would work 6 days a week, 12 hours a day. That’s right, 72 hours a week! For that effort, all of our expenses were paid and I walked out of that frozen wasteland with a cheque for $4000. I immediately visited the travel agency just down the street from where I had been leafing through the Let’s Go Europe book a year earlier, purchased a one year open return ticket from Toronto to London with a return from Amsterdam and a week later I was flying to Europe!