Wanderlust: Meet Sara McLachlan

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Every week, I will be profiling an extraordinary human being who lives in our community. If you know someone who is doing something interesting with their life, I want to hear about it. Send me an email at [email protected].

(This week, I wanted to give Doppler readers a glimpse of what life is like for my cousin, Sara, who lives life to the fullest as a courageous traveller on the hunt to collect moments instead of things.)

Sara McLachlan has seen the most breath-taking mountains. She’s hiked four kilometres up a volcano where the final destination was a 150-foot cascading waterfall. She’s taken in the stunning sight of a picture-perfect rainbow high above a lush valley and she’s surfed with dolphins while the sun sets over the ocean.

And the 29-year-old wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. They are all part of Sara’s life mission to collect moments not things. She’s willingly left her comfort zone again and again with nothing but a backpack in the pursuit of creating a lifetime of happiness. As much as she enjoys the rewards of being a solo traveller – doing what she wants, when she wants – she’s also felt the total disconnect of being all alone thousands of miles away from home.

“I think the world is small but it’s only as scary as you make it in your own mind,” she says. “Just because there’s sharks in the ocean doesn’t mean I won’t go surfing.”

Out of all the places she’s been, Costa Rica has a special spot in Sara’s heart.

Those spectacular views, the turquoise waters, seemingly endless sandy beaches and getting the chance to explore and experience the raw culture of a far-away country are just a few of the perks of being somewhat of a travelling gypsy. She will be the first to admit it: she considers herself pretty lucky to be able to lead such a unique lifestyle.

She’s made a lot of sacrifices along the way. She doesn’t have kids to look after or her own house to maintain, although she keeps it in her mind that one day that will all change. She and her brother have established a small business and make one-of-a-kind clothing and other handmade creations. When she’s not doing that, she splits her time between landscaping and a job in town to save up some cash. Usually, just as she’s built a nest egg, she gets the bite to travel. She says she owes a lot to her parents. They’ve always been so supportive of her dreams. She’s a lot like her mother, whose stories of a life less ordinary (think hitchhiking across Canada and living wild and free in British Columbia in the early 70s) sparked something in Sara at an early age.

Travel is the only thing that can keep paying forward… it can give something back to you. These memories I’m creating, I will have for the rest of my life. I feel like I learn something new every time I go somewhere. I allow myself to be open. The universe provides the lessons we need if we’re open to it.

She’s been all over the world: Florida, Alaska, Dominican Republic and Mexico. Sometimes she’s travelled with family or friends, but the majority of her adventures have been done alone. She spent two months living in Whistler, BC during the 2010 Winter Olympics, and while there ended up going on a road trip to California with her younger (and equally awesome) brother, Matt. Even a stop-over in China when she was on her way to live in Australia for almost a year was “an experience itself.” She’s embarked on a journey to Nicaragua and El Salvador and would go back in a heartbeat. But it’s Costa Rica that has truly made its mark. She can’t seem to stay away. It started with her moving there and renting an apartment for three months back in 2011. The vibe of the local people and the incredible landscape continues to take her breath away.

In fact, she recently returned from a month-long stay there. She jumped from hostel to hostel and, on a whim, decided to fly to Panama. Everything happens for a reason, she says, and her impromptu visit was no exception. Had she not decided to go, she wouldn’t have ended up getting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to snorkel at night in perfect conditions to see the bioluminescent plankton. That particular experience has fuelled Sara’s desire to get her diving certificate.

They have a saying in Costa Rica, Pura Vida, which translates to ‘pure life’ and that’s exactly what it is. There’s no stress. It’s simple living. Everyone is enjoying life, even the kids, and they barely have anything to play with. Between the mountains and the ocean and the stars and the surf, it’s a place I like to call home.

It might just be her free spirit and go-with-the-flow attitude, but Sara isn’t big on researching where she’s going. She doesn’t need someone’s personal review or any preconceived notions filling her head. She likes to get there first and explore it herself and then she’ll draw her own conclusion. She goes with her gut and hopes for the best. It goes hand in hand with her desire to want to live life to the fullest. She’s fearless like that. She opts to stay in hostels rather than resorts because that enables her to see what she wants to see. A resort is a resort, she says. Only the food will change and maybe the colour of the bed sheets.

“The way I travel has allowed me to experience the culture [of a different country]for all it is. And that motivates me to write the next chapter.”

Sara has developed life-long friendships with people from all over the world. She keeps leaving but the door to her family home remains open, and that makes things easier for Sara when it comes to rebuilding a nest egg so she can take flight again.

She has always been a big believer that anything is possible if you want it bad enough. Material possessions are just that: material. What she has gained in her worldly travels is a lifetime of incredible memories. In an instant, she can be wherever she wants. She can hear the ocean. She can feel the hot sun on her face and the sand in her toes.

“I found magical things about each place I’ve been to. I can hold those moments forever. Closing my eyes and I’m there.”

But absolutely nothing can keep her from leaving her hometown in the summer. It’s the greatest place on earth and proof that you can take the girl out of Muskoka but you can’t take Muskoka out of the girl.

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