I used to fall asleep with my Blackberry in my hand. I would stay up late editing a speech or grinding my teeth as I read an inaccurate or simply unflattering article of my boss. Before dozing off I might phone a reporter who's finally available to take my call. This time last year, I was working for the Canadian Minister of Employment and Social Development to execute a cross country communications blitz about a child care program that would be delivering annual statements and monthly cheques to parents across Canada in just a few days. We were legitimately in search of approximately 200, 000 families who were missing from our registry and owed child care money. Somewhat less legitimately, some might contend, I was working to remind Canadians that it was the government of the day that had developed and instituted the cash-to-parents program. In just a few short weeks, then Prime Minister Stephen Harper would call the 42nd general election and the country would be thrust into the longest federal campaign in Canadian history. I would head to the Conservative National Headquarters to assist the communication and issues management efforts for the next three months. Despite our best efforts, Canadians decided on October 19th that it was time for change.
While I knew this was a blessing in disguise (on so many different levels), I was initially devastated. I had always found the fast-paced, adrenaline-charged environment incredibly addictive. For almost a decade, politics had been my life. Just ask my ex-boyfriends. I spent my time working my way up the food chain, eventually becoming one of the more experienced Director of Communications in the government. I was fortunate to work for some of the most senior Ministers and officials across five different departments. By the time I was 30 years old, I had developed a deep understanding of the way government worked and the many policy files under its jurisdiction. I had honed my interpersonal skills and was still learning something new each day. Had we been given another opportunity to lead the government and continue making the policy changes that I believed in, I would have found it incredibly difficult to walk away. Fortunately, Canadians made the decision for me. It also helped that I had pre-purchased a one-way ticket to Asia on a whim six months earlier. Although I'll never know what I would have done had we won government back, I know for certain that I would have considered cancelling or shortening my trip.
Instead, I went into the office to say goodbye to colleagues, trade war stories, and clean out my desk. Within just a few days, all my paperwork was done and my security passes were returned. While liberating, those first few days and weeks were disorienting. I steadfastly avoided reading or watching the news. The cuts and bruises still too new to take any further impact. Thankfully, I had my Masters and three weeks of classroom work in Victoria, B.C. to focus on. By the time I returned to Ottawa in early December, my head was squarely focused on putting my stuff in storage, finishing my final courses, and planning my first few weeks of travel.
One year later, I'm sitting at a beach bar in Panglao, Philippines drinking a glass of wine. A week ago, I finished my Divemaster program - a six-week course that qualifies me to work as a dive guide. Just five months ago, I took my first breaths underwater in Cambodia. Did I plan to be here? Definitely not. However, I know I was in pursuit of something different. Now with ninety dives, seven scuba diving certifications including Nitrox (allows me use a different kind of air that lets me stay at deeper depths longer) and a Deep Dive Specialty (allows me to go to 40 metres), I find myself searching for the next challenge. I want to go somewhere and do something that's completely different than what I'm used to. I want to find something that pushes me out of my comfort zone, teaches me something new, and ultimately, changes me. Diving was that, at least for a little while. I find myself still searching for something.
So tomorrow I leave the Philippines and begin what I'm calling the second half of my trip. While I’m sad to be leaving the Philippines - a country I've spent over two months in and where I made so many friends - I'm excited to get back on the trail, explore new places and find new parts of myself. It might sound weird but I've really enjoyed going to new places where nobody knows me. When they can't brand me or classify me, they are more likely to just be who they are and let me into their world. If they are travellers, we chat about shared locations. If they are parents, I relate to them through stories of my own family. If they are in business, I ask them about how they got there and about their next plan. It's nice to be able to decide with each new person whether I want to be the carefree backpacker, professional communicator, reserved Conservative, dedicated student or just a girl at the bar who likes to chat. They know none of my faults or my insecurities. They don't know that I'm still not really sure who I am. They don't know, at least at first, that I could probably use a few good therapy sessions. Instead, they get Meagan (or Mee-gan depending on how they pronounce it) - a fearless woman with a backpack simply in pursuit of something different.
If you've got a bucket list idea or a challenge you think I should take on, leave me a comment below!