So why bother with a post? Well… you see… it seems a good point to pause and share the journey… insight into ‘travel tales’ which help explain how I got from there (Winnipeg) to here (Mumbai).
And warning! This is a long post, so go grab a cup of chai, coffee or other liquid libation and come join me in a trip down memory lane…
North American road trips (1969 – 1982)
If you have ever spent time in North America, you know that cars reign supreme! Which means one of the best ways to explore is to just hit the highway and drive…
- It all started innocently enough… I grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba interspersed for a few years in Hamilton, Ontario while my father did his PhD at McMaster’s University
- Most summers we would hop in the car and just go! Ostensibly with the excuse of a conference for my father in some far-flung location or a music camp for my sister and I…
- This meant we thought nothing of days on the road. People often ask “How far is Winnipeg from X?” to which my response is “About three days drive… of course you CAN do it in two days practically non-stop however you really should take time to enjoy Y…” Even today, my first thought is road trip travel time and not flying time.
- I know we were super fortunate to be introduced to various parts of Canada and the US in this way. We realised that even within North America, there is tremendous variation in landscape, culture, perspectives and more!
Student exchanges (1982 – 1987)
Another way to discover the world while growing up is through student exchanges. Often well-structured and supposedly well-supervised, they give an opportunity to live in someone else’s home and be introduced to a different way of life, food, language and more.
- Quebec – I was only 12 years old when I went on my first student exchange program to Alma Lac St Jean, Quebec… which incidentally was the 1st time I went clubbing but let’s not get into that bit of trivia, shall we?
- Germany – My high school had a summer student exchange program to Germany, and I somehow got it into my head that I simply HAD to go! My folks supported my interest with a challenge that… really… if I wanted to do something that cost money, I should get a job. So at 15, I became a waitress at a Cantonese Canadian restaurant and applied for my 1st passport! That summer in Trier, Germany had me hooked!
- Hosting – We also hosted international students… notably the International Youth for Peace & Justice Tour brought to our home a young man from Israel. He went from having never seen snow to surviving a full-on Winnipeg blizzard! I will never forget his cursing in four languages as we lugged his bags on a sled from our house to the highway where a truck was arranged to take him to the airport for the 1st flight out.. As far as I know he never did return to Canada!
- France – As for me, I was on a roll and applied for a Rotary Student Exchange. I was accepted on a summer program as the Canadian ‘Ambassador’ and was back in France with students from all over Europe and North America! I even skipped out of my high school graduation to go on that fabulous adventure.
Study abroad (1988 – 1991)
University opened up a whole new set of opportunities to study abroad. These tend to be for a term with student accommodations and a bit more ‘freedom’ to explore outside of the structured programs. After all, post 18 years you are supposedly an ‘adult’ and can take care of yourself!
- So sunny south of France beckoned, with an opportunity to both get a few credits studying at College International de Cannes and, more importantly, gorge on films at the Cannes Film Festival!
- Naturally I didn’t restrict myself to the course alone… with all the friendships built from previous trips, I found myself flat flopping around France, driving a truck through Italy and Switzerland, got up to mischief in Greece, and camped in Wales… each of these experiences brought a plethora of amusing tales and life lessons
- I also went to Israel during the 1st intifada with a window into two worlds – staying on a kibbutz and a home near the Knesset in Jerusalem vs traveling to the West Bank and attempting to track down in jail an Arab friend arrested in front of me!
- Next up in 1990 before the Berlin wall fell, changes were already brewing in Eastern Europe… a course in Yugoslavia brought me to that part of the world at a remarkable juncture. I spent the spring session in Ohrid, Macedonia and Ljubljana, Slovenia against the backdrop of a county about to tear apart and disintegrate into war.
- It just so happened in 1990, the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute also had a summer program with activities all over India. I’ve shared before how that experience introduced India and changed the course of my life forever.
Grad studies to career (1991 – 2003)
Enter the academic phase of ‘serious’ study…. as in graduate work. Thanks to some terrific scholarships, I decided to continue at the University of Manitoba for my MA however supplemented these studies with both a year as a visiting graduate at the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University and more than a year as a Shastri fellow in India.
- After completing the requisite graduate studies courses at my ‘home’ University, the Quebec phase began with a crash course in Quebecois French in Trois-Rivières, then living in Montreal with a quick trip to Cuba.
- My first real LIVING abroad came in January 1995 when I moved to Delhi… there I learned Hindi and did research until moving back to Canada in 1996.
- Still a student, with an Indian husband in tow (that’s a different story!), it took a bit of time to get on our feet back in Winnipeg.
- Academics remained my primary focus with jobs at the University, Asia Pacific Foundation and the Hong Kong Canada Business Association. However once my thesis was finished, it was blindingly obvious that jobs in the Canadian prairies for someone with a degree in South Asian History was… er… challenging?!
- Enter a ‘temporary’ job which welcomed me to the world of financial services. Which over the years laid the foundation for what I continue to do today. Yeah… I know… I’m still surprised!
Embracing Asia (2003 – current)
One of the reasons for returning to Canada was back in 1995, spouses could gain permission to live in India but not work. All that changed in 2002 when the government decided to make it easier to live, work and travel in India – both those of Indian origin and their spouses.
- In October 2003, I moved back to Delhi and was lucky to land a corporate training job through a friend within a week.
- I also went armed with introductions from my former Canadian employer which eventually lead to a job with Birla Sun Life Insurance.
- And with that, India became my base with work ‘reward’ trips to Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka and pleasure trips to Canada and Europe
- A career shift took place in 2010, as I accepted a Singapore based job yet arranged to continue to unpack my bags in Mumbai, while traveling for work extensively to China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan… and for fun to Vietnam, Dubai and more.
- Today, I’m self-employed, based in India with a company in Singapore, continuing to explore Asia through work trips to China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and fun trips to anywhere that strikes our fancy!
And what does the future hold? Let the adventure continue to unfold…
If you are living in a place different than the land of your birth, tell me more about your journey from ‘there’ to ‘here’!