My Story

My Story – the long version

Originally, my fresh-faced and starry-eyed self wanted to be a high school teacher – Chemistry and History, weird combo, I know. Must be the Gemini in me. After a couple years of at Simon Fraser University, I was struck by a load of indecision. Calculus II did not go very well, and French seemed like fun . . . but what about those Geography teaching required courses? EEK! At a crossroads, I decided to scale back the school, and ramp up the fun . . . isn’t that what early twentysomethingyearolds are good at?

The decision to lessen the school load couldn’t have come at a better time musically speaking. I have been an avid choral singer for 20 years, and in the fall of 2003, choir needed a new GM and I was happy to take on the role. My long-time dream of a Christmas/Seasonal CD was finally realized in the fall of 2004, and we hired a new director. All very exciting stuff!

I soon realized, however, that in order to graduate and have some letters behind my name, I would need to pay a bit more attention to my studies. The new choir director was turning out to be a drip, so finally on one fateful day in January 2005, I made a decision that changed my life forever.

As I lay in bed on a Thursday morning (don’t you miss random days off?) I thought to myself: “I think it would be fun to do an exchange semester.”

So I checked it out . . .
-valid passport – check
-two letters of recommendation – check? (I’m sure I’ve sucked up to enough profs this semester to manage that . . )
-a Statement of Interest – check, my entire degree is in making up interesting stuff
-and a bunch of random other documents . . .

The application deadline: TOMORROW AT 10AM — S*&#!

Long story short, I managed to get my application in on time, got accepted, and in the fall of 2006, headed off to Scotland for one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  Castles, loch’s, swimming with Nessie, dinners of haggis, neeps, and tatties, and beer – lots of beer, a bit of scotch and some amazing nights with some amazing friends.  It was during this semster that I met and became friends with ‘The Boys’ (Scott, Sean, Paul, Hanz, Patrick, Peader, Andrew, and John) and Ali, Lisa and Audrey.  I basically spent every day with one of my new-found friends, and created lasting friendships that I still enjoy to this day, despite the ocean’s and kilometers that separate us.

After a truly incredible semester and an absolutely EPIC three day journey home, it was time to head back to work for a couple short months before jetting off again, this time to Europe for 10 weeks.  March to May, Turkey to Ireland, and a lot of other countries in between armed with not much more than a passport, camera and Lonley Planet’s Europe on a Shoestring.  My first true backpacking experience, though not perfect, had me hooked.

Back in Vancouver, I graduated with my long sought after degree in History with a Concentration in British Studies – Michelle Arduini, BA – and endured a brief spell of domestication – boyfriend, apartment, steady job . . . and was miserable.  So I left the guy, quit the job, moved home and started looking for my next adventure.  A good friend was going to Greece for SFU’s summer field school, but since I’ve always enjoyed summers in Vancouver, I wanted an option for fall.  I found it soon enough in SFU’s Dig Greece program, which lets completely unexperienced students play archaeologist for a semester on a Greecian island.

By this time I had started (and lost interest in) my post-bacc diploma in English Literature.  My original goal was to do my MA, and eventually teach at the college or university level in English, but indecision prevailed once more and it was off to Greece.  $8000+  for the 12 upper division credits that would go towards my next degree proved to be absolutely worth it.  Being an archaeologist is fun, you get to go to sleep late, get up early, dig in the dirt, help move a mountain (or at least part of it), learn a new language, learn about ancient burial practices, meet the locals, and get to know 17 fantastic individuals from your own city on the other side of the world.

Someone at SFU generously decided that we might need a week’s break from our already idyllic lifestyle, so I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to get to Egypt for about 10 days in October 2008 to fulfill a lifelong dream.  Some students travelled to Paris, Naples, Milan, Istanbul, Crete, Frankfurt, Dubrovnik, and Corfu ~ I went to Egypt, the only one to fly all the way to the southern shore of the Mediterranean.

I’d always wanted to visit Egypt; had even wanted to be an Egyptologist years earlier.  By early October I knew that excavating wasn’t exactly shaping up to be my new carreer, but travelling was still something I was good at.  The week and a half that I spent in Egypt opened my eyes to a culture and traditions that were the most unlike my own I had ever encountered.

I met some truly amazing people that week, and made memories that I will certainly never forget.  The friendships created in such a short space of time can be powerful, and provide avenues for opportuinity for the future ~ I mean, who would have thought a 13 hour train ride from Cairo to Aswan beside a nice Australian woman named Anne would have lead to the beginnings of my next adventure?

For me, this trip sealed the deal.  Our tour leader, Dave, had left New Zealand four years eariler in search of a life abroad, and had never looked back.  I figured I could do the same, and promised myself that one day I would give it a try. On October 12, 2010 I did just that, and set off with a few one-way tickets to take me around the world for heaven only knows how long.  I packed everything I need, sold everything I don’t and got ready for the next great adventure – the next 18 months would take me through South Africa, Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania (to the top of Kilimanjaro!), Australia and Bali – I had the time of my life!  I learned a lot: about myself, about how I like to travel, about scuba diving; my newest and favourite obsession.

After 6 months in Vancouver – a summer of softball, scuba diving and working back at the credit union – I was ready to take off again.  This time I headed to the island of Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands.  For 12 weeks, I be immersed myself in the culture, language and beauty of the waters there, while working my way through my PADI Divemaster course.  Long hours in the sun, water and waves, logging hours on the bottom of the sea and lots more on land, filling tanks, rinsing and sorting gear, and learning something new every day, but it was worth it!!

In the last 18 months I’ve worked in the Caribbean, British Columbia, Greece and Oman as a divemaster.  This summer, I’ll be going back to Greece again for one last season as a DM.

8 Responses to My Story

  1. molly firus says:

    Am absolutely blown away – how could one sweetheart of a gal accomplish all of the above? Will sure miss you at the teller spot but hey – g0nna love reading your updates. As I mentioned we travelled to 72 countries and is (and will be) so terriff to compare notes. See ya soon.

  2. Brianne says:

    Michelle ,
    I remember when you decided to go to Scotland, who knew it would start the ‘travel bug’ :). I am really excited to see where you go next as for me it is back to Scotland then to China this year. Apparently travel is contagious :)

  3. michelle4439 says:

    Molly – Can’t wait to compare notes! Keep reading and letting me know what you did and where, it’s always helpful to have some ideas of what to see and do!

    Brianne – I remember the postcard you sent me from Glasgow ~ I still have it! I remember being to happy to be able to recognize at least one landmark in my new city. Best of luck with China, I’ve always wanted to go! Keep me updated!

  4. Jed says:

    I’m burning with jealousy one one level Michelle. I’ve always wanted to do something like that, albeit with a different list of countries. I’m considering going back to uni just to take advantage of a specific exchange opportunity, lol.

    Have you ever watched the show Departures? I think you would love it.

    • Michelle says:

      My list of countries is endless . . . I honestly want to go everywhere! School is a great way to travel, that’s how I got to Greece. It was very worth it, but I’m looking forward to not paying tuition this time around.

      Departures is probably in my Top Three shows list . . . I watch it religiously and have managed to connect with a few people who work with the show as well as a ton of other fans through Facebook. I’m hoping to meet up with some of them when I’m in TO at the beginning of September.

      If you go back to school and we end up in the same hemisphere, we should take a trip together! Keep me in the loop!

  5. Emily says:

    Hi Michelle! WOW!!! You have already done so much thus far in your life and I’m glad you’re taking a risk to travel for a while!! I’m sure you’ll go to all sorts of interesting places and meet great new people. Thanks for posting everything on your blog here and I’ll be sure to follow it. Happy Travels!!!

    Take care,

  6. Greg says:

    45 ft Caribbean now…. You really should come back some day… Thanks heaps for your help whilst with us. Take care see ya.. Greg

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