WhereSheGoes in the Newspaper

She quit her job and hit the road…

Story by Scott Petersen, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Saturday, April 01, 2006

Click here to read the online version

EDMONTON – With her stressful life stripped bare and abandoned in Edmonton, Carmella Lesiuk took a chance and hopped a plane.

Stagnating in her personal life and burning out at work, she did what amounts to only a fleeting thought for many, before they shrug it off and succumb to doubts and financial responsibilities. Lesiuk suddenly quit her job, sold nearly all of her possessions and took off to travel the world — for three years.

There was no fixed destination or plan, only an overriding “gut feeling” to guide her journey and a world of possibilities lying ahead. The decision to quit her job was surprisingly easy, she said, though the follow-through came with its share of disbelieving friends and worrying family.

Asking her questions about her travels only brings about more questions and adds to her story`s intrigue. And that story has inspired some people around the world to follow her bold move and tread their own path on the seven continents.

“People send me e-mails and stuff saying I inspire them,” said Lesiuk, 30, whose story has an expansive reach due to her online travel blog. “Some said it even gave them the courage to quit their job and travel and I`m like, whoa!

“I`m so real and kind of clumsy, so I think people say if she can do it, anybody can do it. They just need that little push.”

The blog from her travels is honest about where she`s been, what she`s done and who she is. It displays her whimsical nature, personability and unabashed naivete.

Lesiuk seems trusting, almost to a fault, but fears the day when she won`t give people a chance to prove they`re kind-hearted and genuine.

To read her blog is to get a sense of her person. The type of person who shows up for an interview with a Santa hat on because it makes people around her smile, even if that smile is because they think she`s a touch nutty.

“She`s very outgoing, she`s a risk-taker for sure,” said her sister, Trina Lewis. “I worried about her a lot more than she worried about her, that`s for sure.”

Lesiuk scrimped, saved, invested in real estate, worked long hours and climbed the corporate ladder at her job. Her bank account was bloated, but her personal life was unsatisfying. She burned out at 26, shortly after showing up to work one day with her slippers on.

A doctor advised a lifestyle change and the quirky brunette went extreme, quitting her job and setting in motion a selling blitz to gain the kind of cash she`d need for the long haul. She opened up a world map and started pointing at places to go. She was going travelling and her first stop was Switzerland.

“The more stuff I sold, the better I felt,” said Lesiuk. “My whole family thought I was crazy. In one week I got rid of everything.”

Then, on July 12, 2002, she was gone.

She awoke in Zurich, Switzerland, wondering what to do. The simple answer of, “Anything I want,” was invigorating. It became a day of wandering cobblestone streets capped by a dinner of salad and Swiss chocolate at a hostel. It was the freedom she wanted. It was new and exciting.

Lesiuk`s travels would eventually take her to six of the world`s seven continents, with only Antarctica excluded. The final tally was more than 30 countries, some explored more extensively than others.

All of this spawned out of travel that was only supposed to last a year. But when the time came to choose between going home and continuing on, the travel bug was still strong.

“I think when you`re travelling around the world like that, it`s like a high,” said Lewis of her sister. “You`re always getting a lot of attention because you`re always new to everyone. I think that`s addictive.”

Lesiuk returned to Edmonton twice during her stretch abroad. She otherwise maintained contact with others through her blog on travelpod.com, where travellers can go to post updated stories of their trip, pictures, place pins on a virtual map to show where they`ve been and then e-mail their friends to take a look.

The pod eventually took off as a source of inspiration, advice and possibly even a real-life soap opera for many others. In the hundreds of posts, Lesiuk wrote about her revelations at the world around her as she experienced many things for the first time.

She describes her passion for new tastes and food, whether it be a love of custard apples in Spain, the taste of Vegemite in Australia, or how fresh the seafood was on the Greek Islands. In hostels around the world, she`d meet up with travellers and combine culinary talents to whip up something different to varying degrees of success.

“I loved tasting things that you had to redefine your tastes for,” said Lesiuk.

She also peppers her posts with some of her innermost personal thoughts and feelings, mixing stories of travel to exotic locales with poetry. Her life was, and remains, an open diary online.

Lesiuk flew to Argentina at one point to see if it was love she felt for a man living there. The relationship didn`t pan out and she experienced depression and a spiralling self-image during her time there — one that had her seeing a psychologist who recommended plastic surgery. It`s just one of the tribulations she writes bluntly about.

“I don`t always make the best decisions, but I try to make the best decisions for me,” said Lesiuk. “My way is not always the right way.”

All the while, her travels were changing her in a positive way. She “re-learned to listen” to herself, trusting her gut feelings and intuition as they guided her on her travels, telling her what to do, what to get and where to go.

She no longer listens to the constant bombardment of advertisements on TV and radio, telling her how to feel about products or places. They`ve become the white noise around her own thoughts and decisions.

“I watch people watch TV now and it scares me,” she said. “It`s like they`re zombies. I don`t want to be like that. I want to feel alive.

“Any time you do something different, you`re learning, evolving, changing and growing.”

Lesiuk is now home in Edmonton while she digests everything from her travels and engages friends, family and strangers in a wide variety of conversations. There are no more travels planned for the near future, though they are inevitable for someone so curious about the world.

She`s working with Travelpod now as one of their longest-serving and most popular members. She`s an online community manager, basically providing other travellers with advice, and someone to talk to on discussion boards, and feedback on how to improve the site.

It`s not the kind of work that will make her rich. That`s not a priority anymore.

“The luckiest people in the world are the people who do what they love for a job because it`s not like work,” said Lesiuk. “I`m not worried about being rich anymore. I`m worried about following my path in life. I want to be rich in experience, love and life, but not so much in money.”

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