C-K native spends years travelling; now taking courses in Fiji
As we bundle up to get through another Canadian winter, a local woman is living her dream in the South Pacific.
Sarah Williams, 27, has traded her parka for a swimsuit as she follows her heart rather than the ruts people so typically cut in the ground around them.
Remember our last two very cold winters? How we had to shovel and then shovel some more snow? Williams spent that time working in the sun and surf in Fiji.
Since the fall of 2009, Williams has embraced life, especially the outdoors, chasing dreams rather than thinking about what could have been.
“Sitting is not my style. My dad always told me, ‘You can sleep when you’re dead.’ I think I take that too literally sometimes,” she said.
Williams, who grew up in Raleigh Township, developed a passion for the outdoors at an early age.
“We were on a farm where I spent most of my life playing in the dirt and building forts. I was always outside and adventuring somewhere.”
Her adventuring spirit wound up behind a camera in 2005, due to a car crash. The accident on Charing Cross Road slammed her head into the windshield.
“I suffered many injuries, however, the short-term memory loss and the fact I was missing half my face were things that took a while to get past,” she said. “When I was recovering from home, I had so much time on my hands, I picked up a camera and just started to snap away.”
Her shutterbug therapy led her to take photography at Fanshawe College. But after focusing on commercial and fashion photography, Williams admits she wasn’t sure where her career would lead her.
A trip to Holland with a friend altered her life.
“That’s when it all started. It was a 10-day trip that changed my life forever. I soon came to realize I should have been majoring in travel, nature and outdoor photography,” she said. “We traveled around Holland and even took a road trip to Oktoberfest in Germany. I haven’t looked back. September 2009 started my life on the road.”
Following her trip to Holland, Williams went to Hawaii in early 2010 with her parents, and actually moved to Australia that August.
From there, she returned to Hawaii the following spring, and then onto California before returning to Chatham-Kent. But by late summer, she and two others drove across Canada.
Williams then spent time in Banff photographing wolves. In fact, she published a book on them.
Trying to capture the wolves in their natural habitat was a time-consuming experience, but one Williams loved.
“It was beyond patience. You could travel and look for animals for days, weeks or even months before you get that ONE shot you were looking for,” she said. “That’s why I have named my photography business Beyond Photography. It’s beyond the camera that makes the shot.”
Following Banff, Williams backpacked across Europe, trekked to Washington, D.C., Jamaica, Arizona, and in October of 2013, she first set her eyes on Fiji.
Williams volunteered on a two-week spinner dolphin research project and was drawn to the South Pacific archipelago.
“I fell in love with the culture, the people, the ocean. Traveling can be exhausting. So once in a while it’s nice to stay in one place for a bit,” she said. “But Fiji isn’t just a sit still place, there is so much to do and so much to adventure for such a small country. From hiking, white-water rafting, skydiving, scuba diving, fishing, and surfing, you can do it all there. There is by far never a dull moment while I have been in Fiji.”
Williams said she has learned a great deal during her short time in in the South Pacific country. And it’s not just her rescue and dive master certificates.
“I have gained a respect for things I never thought I would. It taught me to live without things I wanted and put in perspective what I needed,” she said. “Fiji taught me the true meaning of living again. It’s back to the simplicity of life, and the beauty of it.”
And what does a person who is in love with simply enjoying life around the globe do to better herself? For Williams, it’s back to school. She’s going to the University of the South Pacific in Fiji. Her plan is to turn her passion for seeing the world into a full-time – or full time enough for her – job.
She’s double majoring in international business and marketing, as well as tourism and hospitality.
“It wasn’t until this year that I decided I needed to further my education to be able to keep up this lifestyle forever. So a three-year commitment in one place was a wild one,” she said. “I can be my own full package and hopefully this will help me continue to travel the world forever, but have a good paying job too.”
So far, Williams has traded off long periods of travelling with intense times of work.
Her time away, to her is “working holiday visa stuff,” but her time back in Chatham-Kent is simply to fund her passion for travel.
“When I come home, I work a minimum of three jobs at a time and can work up to 18-20-hour days for months straight and no days off,” Williams said. “But that makes it so I have no time to spend my money and there is a goal behind it. When I have a goal to get out and adventure again, my head is down and I work myself into the ground.”
Still, regardless of “champion budgeting,” sometimes it’s not enough.
“I have definitely fallen short a few times, but that’s when my amazing parents always help me out to allow me to continue to follow my dreams,” she said. “They are the best support group anyone could ever ask for.”
That support group – parents Brian and Lisa Williams – are also where Williams gets her wanderlust.
“It helps that Dad is a pilot and Mom is a travel-aholic, so I definitely inherited the gene,” she said.
Williams for the most part, laughs off material things.
“Money isn’t good to you when you’re dead and you do only live once,” she said. “I don’t need electricity all the time; I don’t need a phone attached to me; I don’t need hot water,” she said. “But it’s funny how things go, as I can’t live without hot water in Canada.”
Williams encourages others to follow their dreams.
“Life is not meant to be spent in one place. I think we are meant to take adventures to find out where we truly belong,” she said. “I always say I would rather have a passport full of stamps then a house full of stuff.”