Burrard Toastmasters
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Club Speeches

A Risk Worth Taking

By Lesa Sharp

Good evening, fellow toastmasters and guests.

On April 2, 1997 I took a risk that changed my life forever. I handed in my formal resignation to Grosvenor. I had decided to put this promising career on hold to backpack in Europe. I had never travelled outside of North America, I had no idea what I would come back to, but I was willing to take the risk.

Taking this risk changed my life in three valuable ways.

   It gave me memories that will be with me forever.
   It taught me a priceless lesson about the word "content".
   And it advanced my career.

In May 1997, I boarded a British Airways plane destined for Heathrow Airport. I was petrified. I had packed my life for the next five months into this little backpack that I would haul around Europe on my back for five months. Well, that little backpack gave me memories.

Almost every day, I am reminded about something from my backpacking days and I am taken back to a specific time and place. One of my most potent memories is taking a night train, or should I say "cattle" train, from France to Italy. We were sharing an economy cabin of six bunks with two other couples. The middle aged French couple was dressed all in white. They were so chic compared to us grungy backpackers. We used charades to overcome the language barrier.

It was nearing midnight and the "cattle" train was chugging along the French Riviera into Italy. The sweltering heat was so intense and suffocating that we were hanging out of the windows to get relief from the outside air. On the horizon, the full moon was an explosion of red and orange in the dark black night. It was then that I found out that Versace had been shot to death just a few days earlier.

We arrived in Rome and a few days later, we bumped into that same French couple at the Coliseum. Well, my backpack has moved on but my memories will be with me forever.

My backpacking days taught me a valuable lesson that keeps me grounded in this crazy society that we live in. It made me realize that to be "content" is not a bad thing.

Our North American culture is driven by marketing and competition. We are brainwashed into believing that we always need more than what we have and we must be more than who we already are. We are driven to consume and to be better than everyone else.

During my five months of backpacking, my primary focus every single day was to ensure that I was safe, I had a place to sleep that night, and I was eating healthy. I wasn't worried about what I was going to wear the next day and I wasn't daydreaming about the latest designer purse. I have a plaque in my home that says "Live Love Laugh, the most important things in life aren't things".

Yes, I enjoy the finer things in life like most people but rarely do I wish I had more. Life is good just the way it is. I am content with what I have right now.

The day I handed in my resignation at Grosvenor, the CFO walked into my office, which was unheard of back then, shook my hand, and congratulated me on my decision to backpack. I didn't understand what he meant but I felt honored.

Within two days of returning home from Europe, I visited my former boss at Grosvenor to obtain a letter of reference. I had to get a job.

Well, I received more than a letter of reference. The CFO of the parent company wanted to see me. The thoughts started racing in my head....what on earth had I done? Why does he want to see me?

I knocked lightly on the door of his intimidating office, I nervously smiled, I sat down in one of the majestic chairs in a very prim and proper fashion. I folded my hands in my lap, they were sweating. I was so scared I could barely speak.

It was then that he asked if I would be interested in working for him. I was stunned! At that moment, I understood his congratulatory handshake. The Executives valued my backpacking travels because it provided lessons about life and survival skills that could not be obtained by going to university. I accepted the position, and have travelled down a career path that would not have existed if I had not resigned from Grosvenor to backpack.

April 2 1997. For most people, this was just another day. For me, it was life changing. I had taken one of the biggest risks of my life. Today, I have vivid memories and feelings that no one can ever take from me. I have learned that it is okay to be content with my simple little life. I have an amazing career. Yes, it was a risk worth taking.

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