What Happens When you Don’t Live your Passion?


By Karlene Cameron

There is a saying, “You can run but you can’t hide”. At some point whatever you have been running from is going to come back to bite you in a tender place.

The travel bug bit me way back in 1995 or thereabouts while working in a job/career as a reporter that I hated like you wouldn’t believe. Back then, I grappled with figuring out what else I could do for a living. I couldn’t figure it out. So one day I decided that perhaps relocating would be the answer, that a change of scene would do me good, and I began looking for opportunities overseas.

In the meantime I bought a large-sized map of the world and hung it on my wall. Little did I know that that one action would attract travel into my life.

In 1999 I finally found a job opportunity in East Africa, and the next five years would be the highlight of my life. A few months after settling in, I took a trip to Paris. I fell in love—with Paris, that is. What a magical place! and especially at Christmas time. The scent and sounds of the métro, the animated people, the spectacular museums … it was like a fairy tale. There was excitement in the air as the Millennium drew nigh and I had a ball of a time exploring the city. When it was time to leave, I cried.

The first two years in Africa were wonderful. I worked at improving my French, and it was fun speaking it whenever I visited Paris, only to get a response in English each time. What was I saying wrong? Nothing, a friend told me. The Parisians just want to practice their English!

But when 2002 rolled around, I knew it was time to leave Africa and move on. I had somehow completed a cycle in my life and my time was done there. I could feel this spiritually and emotionally. But I had nowhere else to go, and I still didn’t know what I wanted. So I stayed on.

What a mistake that was! The next two years were awful. I felt miserable and empty, like my soul was dying. Even Paris eventually lost its luster. Something had to give.

So I quit. Just like that. I had nowhere to go, no job to go to, nothing to do with my life, but I quit. A few weeks later, I boarded a jet plane not knowing where I was going. To make a long story short, I moved to Italy and took my 40th year off. I studied graphic design and worked the odd job. During that time, I had that awful feeling that I describe as being in an airplane that circled the sky, not knowing where to land.

Italy was a wonderful break for me, but after a year it was time to go home. A few weeks after returning, I ran into former colleagues who all told me that they wanted to do what I had done, which was to travel and work. I locked this away in the back of my mind to revisit later. In the meantime, I was doing volunteer work and working in less-than-desirable jobs for the next few years.

But in 2008 I came to a turning point and decided that it was time to write my memoir “Look Forward to Mondays”. My goal was to inspire others to take action and do work that they love. It was also my intention to travel and promote this concept of figuring out what to be when you grow up. That would be my new “career”, I decided.Look Forward to Mondays

But by late 2010 when on the last chapter of the book, I no longer wanted to talk about what to be when you grow up. And my book needed a happy ending.

One day a little voice told me to view Barbara Sher’s videos on YouTube. I had been an avid reader of her books and resonated with everything that she said. While viewing a video of her Scanner retreat held in a medieval village in France, something suddenly clicked. I wanted to do what she was doing. I wanted to travel and teach.

No sooner had I gotten this revelation when came a Series of Unfortunate Events—I got laid off from my job. How much clearer could the Universe be? It was time.

A year later, I am living life on my terms and have a brand spanking new passport waiting to be stamped, as I prepare to launch an overseas retreat in the fall.

Visit Travel Write Teach for more information.


Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Niver is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 102 countries on six continents. This University of Pennsylvania graduate sailed across the seas for seven years with Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Renaissance Cruises and spent three years backpacking across Asia. Discover her articles in publications from AARP: The Magazine and AAA Explorer to WIRED and Wharton Magazine, as well as her site WeSaidGoTravel. On her award nominated global podcast, Make Your Own Map, Niver has interviewed Deepak Chopra, Olympic medalists, and numerous bestselling authors, and as a journalist has been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded three Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and been a finalist twenty-two times. Named a #3 travel influencer for 2023, Niver talks travel on broadcast television at KTLA TV Los Angeles, her YouTube channel with over 2 million views, and in her memoir, Brave-ish, One Breakup, Six Continents and Feeling Fearless After Fifty.

One response to “What Happens When you Don’t Live your Passion?

  1. Hi Karlene, I can relate so much to your story. I started traveling in 1996. At the time I was working in a job in London and got offered a promotion. But at the same time I got the itch to travel. It was a scary decision to make: do I go traveling or take the promotion? I was very ‘green’ and naive at the time and going working/traveling would mean giving up my job, my house and my car and traveling/working on my own around Europe – something I’d never done before. I decided to go traveling and it was the best thing I ever did. I have never looked back.

    I came to Amsterdam first and found work here and in the following years traveled and worked in bars and hotels in Berlin and Quimper but always came back to Amsterdam. For the last four or five years I’ve been looking for an enjoyable job but have been unable to find it. My ideal job would be working in tourism and being able to combine that with travel writing. I went to New Zealand for the first time with a friend in 2005 and have been back there twice since then. I have totally and utterly fallen in love with the place. So much so that I’m going to be brave and head back there this year to try and find a job there. The possibilities of finding of job and getting the visa that I need is nearly impossible, for too many reasons to explain here. But I feel so strong about the place, I feel I have to follow my heart and give it my best shot. I would dearly love to write about New Zealand on a longer term basis.

    It’s not the conventional thing to do, I know, but I’ve never really been conventional. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed and am hoping that , a bit like you, something will guide me in the right direction towards an enjoyable job that I can live on.


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