Where are you, right now, reading this? Procrastinating in the office? Stuck on the commute home? Crashing out on the sofa after a long day? (We are.) Though many of us dream about ditching the desk job and pursuing our passions, few actually have the grit to follow through. Work hard, we’re told, and it’ll pay off. But what are you getting in return for your graft? Does the money outweigh experience? There comes a point in your life when you need to stop reading about other people’s adventures and make your own.
“Twenty years from now,” wrote Mark Twain, “you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do that by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
For a little desk-dreaming, we’re looking at five women who traded the 9-5 for their 5-9. We could go on about them following their passions, travelling the world, making a positive impact on society, yada yada; but instead read their stories and get inspired to find your own path. After all, you can’t discover the oceans unless you lose sight of the shore.
Hannah McKeand: After graduating from Lampeter University, Wales with a degree in classics, she worked both in theatre and as a statistician for seven years before realising that a life spent indoors just wasn’t for her. So McKeand dropped everything and, after taking some pretty serious trips to the Western Desert and Wakan Corridor, settled on an icier kind of exploration. She first went to Antarctica in 2004 and, in 2006, set the record for the fastest solo ski some 600 miles from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. It’s a journey she’s completed six times – more than anyone else in history – and that’s not all. McKeand has run 250km across the Bolivian salt flats, kite skied across Greenland and taken part in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. Today, she runs Expeditions 365, a company that offers polar training courses. So don’t just sit there dreaming about it, follow her lead and learn to do it yourself.
Jane Wynyard: It was two family tragedies which brought the shallowness of her high-flying fashion media PR job into sharp focus. So, in November 2016, aged 47, she quit in the hope of pursuing her passion for photography. Fortune favours the brave. Just half an hour after handing in her resignation, Wynyard discovered that she had been nominated for a travel photography competition run by the Daily Telegraph. Over the last few months she’s gone on to photograph for wildlife charities across Africa.
Tanya Jones: She's the Kanga to Australia’s many orphaned Roos. A decade ago, she, let’s say, jumped at the chance to quit her successful accountancy job and founded Tanya’s Wildlife Shelter, a rehabilitation centre for joeys whose parents have been murdered for meat. Jones is a one-woman-band and looking after joeys is a full-time gig; she’s up at 5am to feed them, a ritual repeated every two to four hours throughout the day. Each baby kangaroo is swaddled to replicate the warmth of their mum’s pouch and Jones is more than happy to have the creatures share her bed if need be. Each joey costs around 6,000AUD to raise up until the age of two when they are released back into the bush.
Kirsty Ho Fat: As she approached her 26th birthday, Kirsty Ho Fat quit her job in healthcare publishing and cycled 4,000 miles around the Great British coast. Inspired by Mike Carter’s ‘One Man and His Bike’ she had realised that mental health and happiness were far more important than an unfulfilling career. Having had the chance to reflect on her career while riding, she went on to launch totalwomenscycling.com in 2013, the UK’s first women’s only cycling website. Today, working as a communications manager for a women’s cycle clothing shop, she has never been so happy to wake up and go to work.
Kelly Brooks: So we’re agreed, staring at a screen all day (and night – let’s be realistic) is enough to make many people want to hit the bottle. It’s a position Kelly Brooks found herself in. Though her HR role at Linklaters was paying the bills, she’d spend her weekends drinking just to get over the nine-to-five grind. It was only when she took up yoga to help rehabilitate an injured knee that she unearthed a passion so sorely lacking from her day job. Today, after training in India, Brooks works full-time as a yoga instructor – and she hardly ever has a drink.