Friday, July 17, 2015

A Lemon Pie Life of Full-time Travel

This is a guest post by Johanna Read, a writer who gets paid to travel. She chose to transform a crisis into an opportunity to follow a dream, and her story embodies the THRIVE mindset. I am so excited to have her share her story here. Also be sure to read about her travels on her site!
Guest post by Johanna Read,

I have always dreamed of a life full of travel. Exploring places I’ve read about in
books, scuba diving in every sea, seeing for my own eyes how history evolves, understanding the nuances of cultural etiquette, finally learning about art and architecture, and eating. Especially eating.

But I had expected to fulfill this dream later in life, after I’d paid off my mortgage, after I’d climbed the corporate ladder, after I’d maximized my pension, and after I’d had a proper retirement party.

Sometimes life gives you lemons and you need to change your plans.

In the space of a few weeks in 2012, I found out I was getting divorced and downsized. And it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Everyone has some lemons in their life. Bad things happen to all of us. But it’s what you do with those lemons that counts.

If I had just the divorce or just the downsizing to deal with, I would have been devastated. But the two together meant I could try something completely new with my life. When life gives you a few lemons, you can make lemonade ... but you need to really squeeze those lemons and it can take a lot of effort to find the sugar. But when life gives you a bushel of lemons, why not make lemon pie?

I still can’t believe that I started living my retirement dream at age 43. Not only travelling, but writing articles and taking photographs that people actually want to publish (and even occasionally pay me for!). In the past year I’ve been on six continents, including a press trip to China. The majority of my hotels -- and sometimes exotic dinners, spa treatments and excursions -- are given to me free of charge, in exchange for writing travel articles. Oh, and they’re usually luxury hotels too! I’ve lost 25 pounds. My depression and anxiety are gone, and I can sleep through the night again. I can flirt in three languages. I’m perfectly ok with the unknown, in fact I think I prefer it now. I can go on months-long trips to countries I’ve never been, knowing not much more than which airports I’ll fly out of. My shyness is practically gone, and I can make friends anywhere. I’d always considered myself a happy person, but now I’m on another scale entirely. Not just lemonade. Lemon pie.

I’m not saying it is easy to make lemon pie. I’ve certainly had to make some sacrifices. I sold my half of the house to my ex-husband and invested every penny from it and my buy-out package. I own next to nothing. I wistfully remember my dental plan. For the few months of the year I’m home in Canada, I pay “family rate” rent to borrow my mum’s pied-a-terre (thanks Mum!). I’ll need to find another option in the next year or two before my mum moves in. I travel mostly in developing countries where the cost of living is low. What many people consider routine -- lattes, a movie, new clothes -- are for me the rarest of indulgences. But it was an easy decision to give up regular life in exchange for travelling the world.

I’m lucky that I don’t have children to feed or fund. I’m allowed to be a frequent house guest. I will eventually get a pension. I’ve lived my life in a way that made leaving the working world this early not impossible. I’ve always had a fear of debt and lived frugally. I jumped straight from grad school into my career, and sought promotion after promotion. I invested carefully. And if disaster strikes, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a real job.

I can’t tell you how much I love my lemon pie life of constantly learning and exploring.

People often tell me they’re jealous. But with some planning and sacrifices, almost anyone can live their dream. There’s no need to settle for lemonade either -- make lemon pie.

Johanna Read is a Canadian freelance writer and photographer specializing in travel and food. She's been to 48 countries (and counting!) and in the past year has been on six continents. Follow Johanna on Instagram @TravelEaterJohanna and on Twitter @TravelEater. Check out all her travels at


  1. many thanks for publishing my article, Alexis!

    1. So glad you wanted to do this! You have such a cool story and I'm so happy to be able to share it here!