Faces in the Crowd – The Road Less Travelled

Posted on July 14, 2016 under Faces in the Crowd with no comments yet

Kathleen and Chris


“Through our travels, we redefined the meaning of wealth. It is not about acquiring possessions. It is about collecting experiences.”

Meet Kathleen Moran and Chris Cairns.

Kathleen grew up in Judique, the youngest of three siblings. She loved small town life and became a devotee of Highland dancing. Chris was raised in Charlottetown along with his older brother. He loved the fact that P.E.I.’s capital had all the amenities of a bigger centre, but was safe enough to play outside unattended and build forts as a child.

Kathleen decided to begin her academic journey at Acadia where she knew no one. “I wanted to push myself and extend my boundaries.” She then transferred to Dalhousie to pursue her studies in pharmacy. In her third year, she travelled to Tanzania as part of a multi-disciplinary team of medical people working with AIDS/HIV. She officially contracted the “travel bug.”

According to Chris, his family consisted of a “herd of pharmacists” so it was no surprise that his dad ferried him to Dalhousie in his freshmen year. He took some sage advice from his father who urged him to get 50% of his learning inside the walls of academe and 50% outside. Chris did two educational trips during his university career including a stint in El Salvador, helping a team build an extension on a school for children with special needs.

Even though Kathleen was a year ahead in the pharmacy program, they ended up going on a class trip together to the Dominican in 2011 where they struck up a relationship.

After graduation, Kathleen took a one year contract in Pictou. During this time, the urge to travel bubbled to the surface. She decided that when the contract was completed, she was going to hit the road for a while… destination unknown.  She issued an ultimatum to Chris who was about to graduate: “You can come with me or stay at home.” The challenge came with a sweetener. “You can pick anywhere in the world to travel.”

And so, in early September of 2013, they headed to Bogota, Columbia with a pair of one way tickets. They had been so busy leading up to the trip that they had done almost no planning. Upon arrival, they suffered immediate culture shock and wondered how they would find their hostel with a dearth of English speaking people.

On the second day of their adventure, they returned to the hostel to find the place surrounded with sirens blaring and police wielding AK 47’s. Their place had been ransacked and robbed. Virtually everyone in the hostel had their passports and other valuables stolen, items that were secured in padlocked lockers. Kathleen and Chris were two of the lucky ones and only lost one of two cellphones. A few weeks later, that number was reduced to zero, much to the chagrin of their parents who wouldn’t be getting regular updates (to make sure they were safe!).

They learned a valuable lesson from the experience. “We realized that nothing was insurmountable. It was the best thing that could have happened. We learned to roll with the punches and take things as they come.”

They returned to Halifax and suffered a dose of reverse culture shock.  It took them a couple of months and a ten minute conversation to decide on a year-long trip to Europe, Africa and Asia. Towards the end of the epic journey, they started to look for work and chose Antigonish as their headquarters for the next while.

And what are the future travel plans for these young adventure seekers? “We want to explore our own province and the rest of Canada. Other travellers we met at hostels raved about Canada and we realized that we hadn’t spent much time exploring our own country

And what were the major lessons learned? “Acquiring possessions can be a burden. Travel taught us to be minimalists.”

And I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.”  

The Road Not Taken – Robert Frost

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