Leaving it all behind for life in Africa

A lone Wildebeest on the African Savannah in Maasai Mara, one of Kenyan's National Parks.

A year into my first job after university, I left on a three-week vacation to Morocco and Spain. I had time to explore, read and reflect which had been absent in a fully scheduled lifestyle.

University had been full of new courses, new people and new activities. A year had passed and I had learned a lot. But I had entered a comfortable cycle. 3 weeks after returning from my vacation I had a meeting with my boss, I told him that I had outgrown my position in the small company and would be looking elsewhere.

He thanked me for my input and said he’d be happy to keep me on for a few months while I finished a project and searched the job market. After experiences in the start up and small business markets I felt I was going to have to take the corporate plunge and enter a company's sales training program looking for experience that would help me one day lead to running my own company. Or should I form a team and take another stab at the start up world?

All hours outside work were devoted to trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, talking to people inside corporations, writing business plans and coffee meetings. A few events changed my path, my roommate Scott was moving out May 1 to conduct research in Uganda.

I had a few months to find a new job and a new roommate. Then I went to hear Kyle MacDonald, my boss’s son speak about his “One Red Paperclip” adventure which involved him trading up from a paperclip to a house in Saskatchewan.

After we chatted about how I was looking for something new and always loved traveling, he encouraged me to follow my dreams and figure life out upon my return. A week later I was in a Starbucks overlooking Kits beach pitching a business model which involved customizable daily deal aggregator to friends that were running their own companies.

They asked: are you passionate about the industry; will you wake up at 5 a.m. knowing that you need to solve several problems to keep the business going forward? My answer was no.

So what was I passionate about? Travel, sustainable business and emerging markets but could I really quit my job to travel? A week later I developed the concept of 1YearEntrepreneur, traveling the world while learning about renewable energy first hand in emerging markets. I decided at least I would return with new experiences and it might lead me to my dream job, it was worth leaving my ‘safe’ lifestyle.

Days later Scott and I sat down, pulled out two cold beers and our laptops to purchase our tickets to Uganda, my first ‘one-way’ ticket. My trip would focus around three words ‘Business Travel Innovation’.

While my friends were entering their last years in Med school, and graduating law school, I was leaving my ‘adult’ life behind. I would learn more from the world while vagabonding at my own pace. My teachers have been the works of Easterly and Machieavelli reading in four-dollar-a-night ‘hotel’ rooms in remote areas and villagers speaking different languages but communicating with our eyes. Was it scary to go from a ‘normal’ life, to not knowing when I’d see my next paycheck? Yes.

For the first couple months I was overwhelmed by the endless possibilities. Was I traveling the ‘right’ part of the world? I could board a flight and be anywhere. It took me almost two months to slow down, and realize I have my whole life to see the world.

There is no point in rushing from continent to continent, visiting countries for a day or two like they are part of a checklist. I wanted to experience my travels and learn the different cultures of each country.

Vagabonding has been a unique experience, setting my itinerary days in advance and spending as much or as little time as I feel like in a new destination has been liberating. Since leaving Canada in early May, I have volunteered for 1 month teaching business plan writing in Nairobi’s biggest slum, Kibera and am in the process of wrapping up a two month internship with a solar company in Northern Tanzania. Interesting projects have allowed me to escape the travel circuit, slow down, and meet new people. Living out of a backpack for 6 months has taught me how little you need to enjoy life both physically and financially.

Over the next few months, I plan on writing about the African business landscape, social entrepreneurship and renewable energy. I don’t know where my adventure will take me but I’m sure I’ll make the most of it and share a few stories, interviews and articles with my readers.

More in World

Japanese teen girls with superpowers

Unlike the bagel head "trend" awhile back, this one's the real deal: Japanese high school girls (and guys) have an online trend of performing "Makankousappou" ( often tweeted as...

Finger pointing in Richmond Chinese signage debate not constructive

Language rules on signage would not resolve the tensions that underlined the petition presented to Richmond City Council last week.

Two years after Japan's tsunami, time stands still

"Two years after the tsunami: families lost, time stands still," reads the headline on Japan's Asahi newspaper this morning, as the country marks the anniversary of the 9.0 magnitude...
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.