What’s It Like to Take a Trip Around the World?

Chartered Financial Analyst Anita Lall on finding community both at home and on her year-long trip around the world

Favourite Toronto restaurant:
“If I’m with the kids, Bolan Thai. Love their great, consistent Thai food and friendly people. Just order a variety of things from the menu. Another favourite is Canoe: Fantastic food, views and ambiance. It’s a Toronto classic ”

Favourite travel destination: “In Canada, the west coast of Vancouver Island and the Yukon, because they are so beautiful and remote. I’d also love to return to southeast Asia and New Zealand.”

Four years ago, Anita Lall took a year off from her position as senior director at a Toronto real estate development and investment firm to travel around the world with her husband and two children, then aged 7 and 9. “My husband has access to a program at work where you get 80% of your salary for four years and then take a paid year off, so he proposed this a while ago. My initial reaction was, ‘are you crazy?!’” remembers Anita. But as the time approached for making a decision to opt into the year off, she realized that it was too good an opportunity to miss. “I just thought, I’ve been working for the same company for 10 years, the kids are the perfect age, the grandparents are well, and if you don’t do it now you probably never will.” Her employer agreed to treat it as a sabbatical year. “I was lucky it worked out that way. But I was willing to take the risk that my job wasn’t going to be there. This was something I was going to do for my family and for life experience,” she says. As the year off approached, Anita kept her eye on the ball at work. “The important thing was to make sure you’re really engaged in your work beforehand and I always was.”

And so in last part of 2014 and the first part of 2015, Anita and her family drove across Canada to the West Coast, then back to Toronto through the United States. Next up: a resort in Fiji, five weeks in a camper van in New Zealand, an apartment rental and staying with friends in Australia, guest houses and small hotels in Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and lastly vacation rentals in Turkey, Morocco, Spain, France, Croatia, Slovenia, England and Ireland. “It wasn’t like a vacation where you’re still checking work emails or calls. We settled into complete freedom, with a suitcase apiece.”

Their priorities were experiencing some of the local culture through art or food, and to get out and really see some remote natural areas that are less travelled. They planned their next destination on the road, without extensive research, other than to keep travelling west towards home. It was a distinct change from work, where Anita says goal-setting and deadlines are essential parts of her approach to success. “I focus on goals and make sure that I attain them and get positive feedback from the people I work with. I’m a CFA charterholder, so at the end of the day, the quality of the work that I’m producing has been exhausted to every degree. You’ve got to own what you do,” she says. “I try to look at it from the perspective of a third party and step into their shoes to see how they would read it.”

At home in Toronto, Anita embraces various neighbourhoods for their sense of community and history. One favourite is the boho, made-for-strolling Kensington Market southwest of University of Toronto. “I love the history of the area, how people settled there from different backgrounds and how it has become this artist enclave with great restaurants and stores but still has the feel of earlier settlers in Toronto. It’s been gentrified without being changed into big shiny flashy stores.”

Another go-to is right in her own backyard in midtown. “I like to go for a run or a hike through the St. Clair ravine, which is so peaceful and natural and beautiful, down to the Brick Works area and its farmers market. The Brick Works is a really good demonstration of how you can repurpose a section of the city that was more or less dead, with deteriorating industrial buildings, and turn it into something interesting where people work and come together. There’s such a sense of community.”

Her big trip affected her family in big ways. “I think we learned to live with less, to take things in a little bit slower, to appreciate small things every day,” she says. “We definitely saw different ways that different people lived and how we just want the same thing: taking care of your family, feeling value in what you do, and being happy and at peace in some basic way is what everybody wants.”


Anita Lall, Toronto, Ontario, Senior director at Dorsay Development Corp