The Definition of Success

How We Now Define Success


And…this is why we do it.

Last week Pete and I were asked to present at Career Day at the Sandy Bay Alternative School. We thought maybe they would prefer that we speak about our previous careers as an accountant and a purchaser, but instead, the school counsellor liked the idea of us talking about our current venture as “travel bloggers“.

A million thoughts ran through our heads.   Are we qualified?   Can we really say that our career is as travel bloggers, if we don’t have any concrete way to show success (specifically, because we haven’t yet made money off of it)?   Are we committed enough to this venture, this miniscule piece of real estate on the world wide web, to spout proudly about it, and claim it to be the way of our future?

It was kind of intimidating to see our names on the presentation board alongside such impressive professions as a neurologist, a civil engineer and a veternarian, the last of whom came prepared with a small fuzzy dog for the kids to play with. The fire department stopped by, bringing a fire truck parked right in the school yard that blared it’s sirens to the delight of the kids. And here Pete and I were, strolling onto the school yard armed with nothing but a few travel stories and a scroll of pictures across our laptop screen.

On top of that, I have a fear of public speaking. For whatever reason, I can never seem to keep my emotions in check, and it takes very little to set me off. A challenging comment or sideways glance can sometimes cause me to be easily overwhelmed and get choked up, regardless of the context. I’m not a shy person and I do not consider myself self-concious – I really can’t explain it other then to say that I’m easily overwhelmed by this form of self-exposure. In fact, if the Matador crew hadn’t been on hand to get footage of us, I probably would have just let Pete do it alone.

But as we were getting set up, and kids were filtering in the room and choosing seats, they began marveling at our pictures of the penguins in Chile and the mud volcano in Colombia. Our student host handed us our name tags and it instantly made me smile. There it was, under our names, the illustrious titles we had been given:

I felt a little like a modern day Christopher Columbus or David Thompson (can you imagine what their blogs would be like?) And while that is (of course) an insane comparison, it at least gave me the confidence to stand up and speak.

We do have some interesting stories of exploration. We are doing some things that most people will never get to in their lives. Maybe we can even inspire.

The presentation went better then I thought it would (emotions were kept in check!) and most of all, I think we all had a lot of fun. The kids loved to watch our scroll of pictures, hear about our South American adventures, and asked some really great questions.

“Have you ever visited anywhere that you would want to settle down to live?”

“What happens if you run out of money?”

And this one stunned us all…

“When you die, do you want to be buried in Canada or somewhere else that you’ve traveled to?” Hmmm…kid, besides our lawyer, no one has ever asked that question.  Good one.

At the back of the room sat one grade seven girl that was truly captivated. She scribbled notes, asked thoughtful questions, continuously nodded her head, and her face carried a smile the entire time. Her pure excitement was palpable.

And when I caught on to her enthusiasm, I suddenly felt like I was on top of the world, and a thought occurred to me. No, we’re not yet making any money off of our “travel blogging” career, but why I am accepting that as the only definition for success?  If that’s *really* how I felt, then we’d be back in Canada, continuing to work our high-paying jobs and fighting for the next promotion. We wouldn’t have the freedom to live this life that we love, we wouldn’t have these great stories to tell. And we wouldn’t have this exact opportunity to inspire at least that one girl in the back of the room to learn and explore beyond her own borders.

Success does not equal money.  I know that.  Yet it always astounds me that life lessons like this often need repeating.

81 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • March 28 2011

    Of course the kids loved you! Really, things like neuroscience and civil engineering are important jobs — but interesting? Not so much, especially to kids. You guys are the ones with the stories! You guys are the ones living your dreams! That is always inspiring.

    I doubt I’d be a traveler today but for one guy who made a presentation about his life abroad when I was 16 (a long time ago). I begged my parents to be an exchange student and after that, something in me changed. The only thing that might have changed my future would be if someone had brought in a fuzzy puppy that day . . .
    Odysseus recently posted..Touring Jaisalmer Without a Leg to Stand On

    • Dalene
      March 28 2011

      Thanks Odysseus! The fuzzy puppy almost changed my mind now too… 🙂

      I never thought about it that way at the time. I thought it might be hard to impress kids about a life of living out of a backpack, making no money! And some of them didn’t seem too impressed, but I was very happy about the one girl who did!

  • You ‘re right, success is however you define it. What a great opportunity to inspire and share. Did you get a chance to talk to the girl afterwards?
    jill- Jack and Jill Travel The World recently posted..The Best Chicken Noodle in Indonesia and A Tutorial

    • Dalene
      March 28 2011

      Yes! We see her often, as that is the same school we volunteer at. Pete has even taught her when he substitutes. He says she is always interested in what’s going on in other areas of the world (when they talked “current events”), I think she is a voyeur in the making!

  • Patricia
    March 28 2011

    Always inspiring…

    <3 p

    • Dalene
      March 28 2011

      Thanks, love! xo

  • March 28 2011

    Awesome post Dalene! You really never know who or when you are inspiring. That’s my favorite part of blogging…knowing that, secretly, there are people who think I’m the cat’s meow for what I’ve done/am doing and that, maybe, just maybe it helps them realize that they too can do whatever they want. That grade seven girl is going to remember you for a long time! Cheers!
    Gillian @OneGiantStep recently posted..FollowFriday 25Mar2011

    • Dalene
      March 28 2011

      Thanks Gillian! I agree about that bonus of blogging – I especially love it when complete strangers “like” our Facebook group – they’re not friends, family, other bloggers, or anyone I’ve known before! Nice to know that my words might be impacting someone, somewhere! 🙂

  • March 28 2011

    So cool guys! I would like to start a feature in my English classes called “Writing in the Real World” and would love to include this post!
    Teri recently posted..Poetry Renaissance Cross Your Fingers

    • Dalene
      March 28 2011

      That’s awesome Ter! Feel free to use it! xo

  • March 28 2011

    It is nice to see kids can still be inspired by reality and not movie/tv. Way to go guys.
    Andrew recently posted..What do you eat on travel days

    • Dalene
      March 28 2011

      Thanks Andrew! It was a lot of fun, and I am sure it will end up being one of the most memorable times that we’ll have had on this island. Whether or not any of them will become world explorers is yet to be seen, but even if they can just begin to be curious about the world around them, I’d be so happy with that!

  • I really enjoyed reading this post! It was filled with an enthusiasm that is missed in a lot of careers. I especially enjoyed relearning that success isn’t always tied to money. Success is however we decide to define it.

    Thank you for that reminder!
    Debbie – European Travelista recently posted..European Travelista – Month 2

    • Dalene
      March 28 2011

      I kind of had to kick myself afterwards, thinking about it. It’s so driven into us that success is defined by money made, things owned, etc. that it’s hard to get away from that message. I mean, I’d learned it before obviously, but was trying to define our new “career” by that again. We all need these reminders every once in awhile I think!

  • March 28 2011

    What you may not realise is that you don’t need a classroom of kids in front of you to have the same effect. This blog and your readers ARE that classroom. I feel a bit like I am the little girl in the back of the room because your blog and a few others are inspiring me to plan my own perpetual travel, starting with a trip around Europe (that unfortunately this time has an end date). You already inspire every day, you just can’t see us writing notes 🙂
    Penny recently posted..One of the Family

    • Dalene
      March 28 2011

      Penny, that has to be the single most awesomest thing that anyone has ever said to us. Thank you SO much… 🙂

  • March 28 2011

    Y’all inspire me all the time with the success does not equal money outlook!

    Meeting you (and the rest of the crew, to be fair: Karl, Jill, and Boby & Jody) in Ecuador, and hearing that you had walked away from basically what all of society/college has been pressuring me to attain for my whole life… and seeing how much RADDER your life is, and how happy you are… I keep that feeling with me whenever I start to worry about having a real job, or a nicer car, or a house, etc.

    I know I’ve said this stuff to y’all a million times, but just know that even if you can’t see it, the ripples of inspiration continue wherever you’ve been. Y’all are the bomb.

    • Dalene
      March 28 2011

      Aw, shucks Sam! We miss you. I thought you were coming to visit? 🙁

  • March 28 2011

    I love this so much. So easily is success determined by money, but it’s really these moments that you shared with us that matter. I’ve always told myself that if I managed to touch one person by doing something I love, then I’ve managed to succeed.

    You 2 are such an inspiration. Thanks for sharing all of your knowledge with all of us. I learn something new everytime I visit!
    Sheryll recently posted..Wanderlust

    • Dalene
      March 28 2011

      Now it’s just turning into a big ol’ love fest here. GROUP HUG!!! 🙂

      Thanks so much Sheryll. It’s hard to see through the money=success lesson we’ve been taught all our lives, but you’re right, it is about the *moments*!

  • March 28 2011

    Way to go! Personally, I would have MUCH rather listened to a piar of travel bloggers on career day than a police officer or doctor. Like others have mentioned, you guys are the ones with the real stories! Sure, cops fight crime and doctors save lives. But, the reality is that their jobs are not as glamorous as TV and movies make them out to be. But “professional” travelers? Now THEY have interesting careers!

    It’s great to hear that the kids responded positively to it, too!
    Amanda recently posted..Chicago Tower Smackdown- Willis Skydeck vs Hancock Observatory

    • Dalene
      March 28 2011

      Thanks Amanda! I am sure that I would have liked it back in the day too, I mean, I had never even really considered a life of travel until I was much older. It was just something you didn’t do…it was all about the police officers and doctors, etc. I’ll admit that I even took business in school because I knew I could make good money. Not because I even liked it at all!

  • March 28 2011

    I agree with Amanda — it would have been AWESOME if there were travel bloggers at my career day when I was a kid. Great job guys!
    Raymond recently posted..Video — Snake vs Frog- Snake Wins

    • Dalene
      March 28 2011

      Thanks Raymond!! 🙂

  • March 28 2011

    Good timing for this topic. I just finished reading this one too http://onestep4ward.com/are-you-successful-is-it-me-or-do-we-have-it-all-wrong/ perhaps enough showing what’s possible will make a difference for lots of seven year old girls!
    Genevieve recently posted..Viewing Roatan through Rose Coloured Glasses

    • Dalene
      March 29 2011

      Yes, I saw that this morning too! Funny! I guess Johnny got my memo… 😉

  • Mom
    March 29 2011

    Those are MY 2 kids. Am I PROUD? You betcha !!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Dalene
      March 29 2011

      Thanks Mom!! xoxo

      But just to be clear for everyone else – Pete and I are NOT brother and sister! 🙂

  • March 29 2011

    hey guys, wow thanks for dropping by my site – im so glad i got a chance to view your take on success, funny we wrote similar posts with different vibes!

    Anyways, thats great that you got to reach out to these guys – i hope u inspired a few of them to spread their wings (just not for another 10 years or so of course!)
    johnny recently posted..Are You Successful Is it me or do we have it all wrong!

    • Dalene
      March 30 2011

      That is so funny that we actually wrote about the exact same topic on the same day. Perhaps we should exchange ideas for the next few? 🙂

  • March 29 2011

    Planting the seed feels SOOOOOO GOOOOOOOD.
    Erica recently posted..Departure

    • Dalene
      March 30 2011

      Indeed, it DOES! Will turn out to be one of my fave memories from here, I am sure!

  • Great article, and so true, we as travel bloggers can easily get caught up in the stats of our blogs and sometimes the money, but at the end of the day we all love to travel and if we’re doing what we love then of course we’re successful!
    Nicole @ WomanSeeksWorld recently posted..Why I Wouldn’t Recommend Using Pre-paid Credit Cards While Travelling

    • Dalene
      March 30 2011

      Absolutely Nicole. And that is almost a true test if what you’re doing is the right thing…if you’re willing to put in so much work on it, WITHOUT getting paid, right? I love it!

  • March 29 2011

    Trust me, you inspire more than just the kids 😉

    • Peter
      March 30 2011

      Thanks J, it’s great how all the other travel writers, bloggers and photographers inspire us. This is an awesome experience and we are loving it!!

  • March 29 2011

    Beautiful experience, your site is inspiring, certainly you showed all your passion and enthusiasm in your speech 🙂
    Angela recently posted..A photo- a trip – Tower Bridge- London

    • Peter
      March 30 2011

      Thank you Angela. It was a beautiful experience and we really hope that we gave one or two students some drive to get out and see the world. It’s funny how easy it is to present in public when it is something that you are truly passionate about.

  • March 29 2011

    AWESOME post, and you’ve definitely inspired more than one girl! *waves hands*

    • Peter
      March 30 2011

      Thanks, we are overwhelmed with the amount of support we have received here in Roatán and from all of our family (immediate and travel bloggers) and friends. So thank YOU!

  • March 30 2011

    I’m sure the kids loved you! Funny enough, my dad was the neurologist who spoke at the school the same day that you two were there last week! What a small world! He said the kids were bright as all heck as well asking him questions he never would have expected. It’s always so surprising to discover the power of young minds!
    Jackie recently posted..Roatan- Honduras- A Diamond in the Rough

    • Peter
      March 30 2011

      whoa, small world for sure!! The kids were great and seemed excited by all the presentations that day. It was a HUGE success at the school and we are certain that they will do the same event again next year.

  • March 30 2011

    That was a beautiful post and got me tearing up a little bit. I loved every bit of it and I’m sure that you have inspired that little girl in ways you can’t conceive. You just opened her world up, what a wonderful gift.

    • Peter
      March 30 2011

      Thank you so much Kim. Again, the support we have received from this post is amazing. We hope that we have opened up the world to at least 1 student. My favorite memories I have when I was a child was that of traveling with my family, so it is no wonder it is such a passion of mine now.

  • March 30 2011

    Love this. Have to say that I’m somewhat jealous that you were invited to career day! Is that not a definition of success?!

    It’s always interesting to me seeing views of success across other cultures. Success is so subjective. Like you said while it’s not defined by money, or other concrete measures, it’s one thing to say it, and another to truly believe that.
    Spencer Spellman recently posted..There and Back Again- Part 2- Reentry

    • Dalene
      March 30 2011

      I guess the invitation itself does say something – never really thought of that! I think my nerves just kicked in as soon as we were asked! 🙂

  • This is so great – I can’t imagine a cooler job for career day! 😛

    Seriously, though, it’s a neat thing for kids to be exposed to this kind of life path at a young age. Exposure to new things at a young age is so powerful, so props to you two for opening up the world for these kids.
    Christy @ Technosyncratic recently posted..5 Quirky Reasons We’ve Fallen in Love with Austin

  • March 30 2011

    Really awesome guys and totally deserved. Success can be defined in many ways, not just monetary. And its the non-monetary stuff that gives us the greatest satisfaction.. What a treat from the children to hear a career that is so different to what they are used to, very achieveable and exotic.
    Caz Makepeace recently posted..When Dinner Goes Horribly Wrong

    • Dalene
      March 30 2011

      Achievable – I hope so! The truth is that some of these kids may never even make it off the island, it’s hard for them to be able to afford anything like that, living here where $7 a day is the minimum wage. That being said, anything is possible, especially with the great education these kids are getting at this school.

  • March 30 2011

    I love the question about when you die. Kids say the darndest things! Keep up the traveling and the blgging. We will all be making money soon!

    • Dalene
      March 30 2011

      Haha, yeah, that one really stunned us! It was pretty hilarious.

      • April 5 2011

        I’m really curious about your answer to the “where will you be buried” question – both what you told the kid and the real answer. This isn’t something we’ve figured out yet either (and statistically we’re much closer to death than you guys).
        Diane H. recently posted..Talking Turkey about Toilets- A Parenting Experience

        • Peter
          April 6 2011

          Well, we told the kid Canada. But the truth is, we both chose in our wills to be cremated. Ashes to be scattered somewhere we love. Simple really, that was the easy part of the will….

  • March 30 2011

    I think it is great that they even let you go under the title of “travel blogger”.
    A lot more inspiring for the kids and I bet they won’t forget it quickly.
    Rob W.
    South America ME recently posted..Chilean Travel Photography

    • Dalene
      March 30 2011

      Thanks for the comment Rob! I hope we did truly inspire…

  • March 31 2011

    Congratulations on a successful career day. So where do you want to be buried?:) You are right about what you say at the end. We always have to be reminded, choosing a profession that is different than other people’s idea of normal can be a little tough at times. I love it, but it is moments like these are what brings it all home that yes…you did make the right decision.

    • Dalene
      March 31 2011

      Haha – well, I think I told the kid we’d be buried in Canada….although Pete and I both actually want to be cremated, I didn’t want to get into that whole debate that morning! 🙂

      Thanks D’s!

  • March 31 2011

    Those are excellent questions! We need more people telling kids that success is not the same as wealth. A lot more people…
    The NVR Guys recently posted..Priceline Isn’t Perfect

    • Dalene
      March 31 2011

      Totally agree guys. I wish I had this kind of experience as a kid, and I wonder if I then would have waited until my 30s to start really traveling…

  • April 1 2011

    Great (and cute) post, guys! I wish I could have you two to talk with my parents and family 😀
    Dina recently posted..Best of France by Travelers Around the World

  • April 2 2011

    Wow I am totally impressed that you guys got invited to career day! Talk about some positive validation of what you’re doing! Congratulations and thanks for sharing!

    • Peter
      April 2 2011

      Thank you, it truly was an honor. It was great learning some positive validation of what we are doing. I hope another opportunity like this in the future exists!

  • April 3 2011

    Your conclusion about success is one of the hardest lessons to keep in mind sometimes. I find myself battling the questions now, after nearly three years, from family and friends…okay, now what? You can’t do this forever…are you going to step back into reality?

    I love that you proudly owned the “World Travel Blogger” distinction 🙂 it is a success and path in it’s own right!

    • Dalene
      April 3 2011

      Thanks Shannon! We hear those same questions regularly as well – less often from ourselves lately (although we do have minor freak outs, like I did!) but some people can’t wrap their heads around the fact that this CAN be a permanent existence and this IS our reality. We don’t need to the fancy house or car to show off what we’ve done in life – we’ve got much more then that (just not always visible!) 🙂

  • April 3 2011

    That’s so awesome guys! Must have made you feel incredible…good for you for conquering a fear and inspiring someone while doing it!
    Andrea recently posted..Gone Trekkin’

    • Dalene
      April 3 2011

      Thanks Andrea! I still will never choose to speak in public if I can avoid it, but I did enjoy it this time!

  • April 3 2011

    It is nice that kids have that perspective about success that adults lose along the way. So many times I will tell people I am a travel writer and they either think I am lying or ask if I get free trips. No one ever asks about the experiences, the life lessons or how inspiring writing about travel can be. It’s great you guys inspired those kids and I love the name tags they gave you!
    Suzy recently posted..Just One Please

    • Dalene
      April 3 2011

      I don’t know…not all kids share that perspective I think. We had some that looked at us quite strangely when we said that all we traveled with could fit into one backpack! Hopefully we helped them look at things a little differently!

  • April 6 2011

    Great post, guys! I always wanted to talk at a career day because I always felt disconnected when only doctors or lawyers came in. This would have been a career day I would have loved!

  • April 6 2011

    Just wait till all the kids you inspired take off and become travel bloggers. There parents will send you hate mail. Haha, just kidding. Great that you inspired some young minds to travel or at least think about travel. I love the badges.
    Ted Nelson recently posted..Travel Tuesday photo of the week- Japanese geishas

    • Peter
      April 6 2011

      Thanks Ted. Yes, we might have the parents to deal with, yikes! It’s enough dealing with parents in regards to the teaching and coaching roles, but in regards to the life decisions, that might get serious, lol. We loved the badges as well and this is one possession we will certainly hang on to!

  • April 7 2011

    Loved this story! I think kids today are smarter than when i was growing up. When I was in university it was all about choosing careers that would make you the most money, now it seems like people are choosing careers that they’ll actually enjoy. Wonderful that you were able to inspire a class of kids to do something that they’ll actually enjoy doing and I loved the question about where you want to be buried.
    Laurel recently posted..Roman Limes Museum in Aalen- Germany

  • Totally agree – success have nothing to do with money. You define for yourself what success is. Nobody else. As for us … what we are doing is just an expensive hobby for now!
    For 91 Days Travel Blog recently posted..Sample the Wines of Argentina with Anuva

    • Dalene
      April 11 2011

      Haha, us too! But, it’s well worth it! 🙂

  • April 13 2011

    Great one … might been a inspiration and motivational talk to those kids …. !!
    Sheril Benedict recently posted..Wudang Mountains

  • April 20 2011

    I think what you did is cool. Lot’s of kids will have a different idea of what is out there, that’s important.
    Rob Bloggeries recently posted..The Walking Bangkok Food Tour

    • April 20 2011

      Thanks, appreciate the comment!

  • September 27 2011

    I am new to the travel blogging world, and this post brings me such relief. In a few weeks I move to Scotland as a volunteer for a year. Some days I think I am crazy to give up a year’s salary to do this, but I can’t imagine doing anything else. Knowing other people have succeeded at this puts me at ease. Thanks!
    Kelsey recently posted..Who am I?! Who are you?

    • September 27 2011

      Congrats on your upcoming move to Scotland, and glad to see that you are obviously following through on your dreams (even if everyone else thinks your nuts!) One thing is for sure, you will never regret it. 🙂

  • January 22 2012

    Dalene,

    I have been so impressed with so many of the posts and quite simply the courage you have shown to do what you have done….

    My son and I have quit our careers to head off out…housesitting is part of the plan but you really are an inspiration. I would love to know any tips you might have but more importantly I would like to recommend you guys if we find ourselve with an overlap in assignments ….

    Forgive me but this is the first time I have made comment on ANY website and I have just spent ages building my own website with my son (a little white lie really co he done all the real work!!)

    anyway folks…. your site is just the shot in the arm I needed.

    best regards…good health n peace

    If you have never been to Wales or N Ireland then let me know and I can perhaps accomodate you for a while….either as a housesitter in my own house or simply visiting.

    Gary Thomson
    Gary recently posted..Weekend working on our new life

    • January 23 2012

      Gary – SO nice to hear from you! And what you and your son are doing together – WOW! Congratulations on making such a big life change which I am sure you will both love! If you want some housesitting tips, check out these two articles we did: Housesitting 101 and Housesitting 201! Beyond that, if you ever have any questions, PLEASE don’t hesitate to ask, we are always very happy to help. And if you get any jobs you can’t take – let us know! We are currently booked through the end of May, but are always looking for something cool to do after that! 🙂

      P.S. We were in Northern Ireland this summer and LOVED it!

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