Okanagan couple trades corporate bondage for South American backpacking adventure

Okanagan couple trades corporate bondage for South American backpacking adventure

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Pieter Martin from Oliver and Brianne Boback from Kelowna look out at the mountains in Colombia. (Contributed photo)

There’s a young Okanagan couple that felt like the gift of life was being squandered by the numbing effects of the monotonous nine-to-five grind.

But finally, Pieter Martin from Oliver and his partner Brianne Boback from Kelowna are treating the world as their oyster. Earlier in 2017, they minimized their possessions, flew to South America to begin a new life exploring the world.

They initially began their careers the safe way, enrolling in university where they both earned business degrees. Afterwards, they found themselves climbing the corporate ladder with promising careers.

From a professional point of view, they were succeeding, working 40 to 60 hours each week in the fields of finance and management. But it wasn’t making them feel content. And Martin was working evenings and weekends while Boback worked banker’s hours, so the little free time they did have was difficult to spend together.

“Even when we weren’t at work we were still being messaged,” Martin recalls.

While they had achieved the “American dream,” they realized it could only offer them a hollow sense of gratification. So they plotted an escape to the matrix.

To make a new life, they quit their corporate jobs, sold their coveted belongings and began their adventure by flying to Colombia.

“It’s been really nice to not think about everything going on, take each morning for what you really want to do,” Boback said.

When interviewed, Martin and Boback had just returned from a coffee tour led by a local farmer. Their commute involved a 45-minute motorbike and truck ride up mountains.

“The farmer walked us through each of the steps. He loves doing what he’s doing and showing people,” Boback said. “There were such lush green trees everywhere on the tour. You just need to take in these moments right in front of you and grab them – who knows when we’ll be doing it again.”

“It was amazing – we just woke up, had breakfast and then went on three- or four-hour coffee tour with locals,” said Martin. “We got to drink coffee and he sent us home with some.”

They were staying in a small hostel that’s located “in the middle of pretty much nowhere,” Martin said. “When we look around where we are, this is unbelievable.”

“It’s so interesting seeing other cultures and what people do to survive,” Boback said. “Just their mindsets, they do things a lot different than what we do at home.”

Martin notices the common folk in Colombia seem to approach their daily duties with more optimism than North Americans.

“They’re a lot happier,” he said. “They’re always smiling and they take pride in their jobs here, whereas back home everyone just can’t wait for Friday afternoon.”

Even on Monday mornings – a time of the week they used to dread – Martin and Boback find themselves basking in their surreal experience.

“Normally we’d be sitting in our desks at work stressed out,” Martin said. “It makes it that much more rewarding.”

Through body language and Google Translate, the couple has managed sufficient communications with the Colombian locals, but the language barrier has been a bigger challenge than they had hoped.

“Our Spanish is a work in progress,” Boback said. “Many people here don’t speak any English.”

“We’ve gotten by but we have to get better,” Martin said. “But there’s usually a bilingual tourist or someone around who can help.”

While they’re not abiding to any set schedule along their journey, their plan includes visits to the quintessential wonders of South America. They hope to experience Machu Piccchu in Peru; Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat in Bolivia; take a tour of the Amazon rainforest; and as Okanagan-born wine enthusiasts, they’re excited to explore the wine regions of Chile and Argentina.

Martin’s old classmate from Southern Okanagan Secondary School, Lisa Dell, is currently teaching in the Galápagos Islands, and they’ll be paying her a visit in May. Another friend of theirs from Vancouver is planning to meet up with them in Peru.

As for precautions, there are deadly snakes and spiders dwelling in South American, but Martin and Boback said they aren’t anything to be alarmed about. They’re noticing that right now, June bugs are very common in the area.

As for concerns involving crime, Martin said he was a little leery upon arrival, but he now compares the streets of Colombia to those in Kelowna.

“Five to 10 years ago it had that reputation of danger, but I haven’t felt in danger for one minute since we’ve been here,” he said.

“We’re not going around dark alleyways late at night,” Boback said. “The same general precautions anywhere you go – in Calgary you wouldn’t do that anyway.”

Sometimes the couple will spend their nights socializing with locals and other tourists, though they often find themselves sipping on beer and wine, relaxing to the view of captivating sunsets.

Their decision to unshackle themselves from corporate bondage had been accumulating for six years as they worked tedious careers in Calgary. After finally turning themselves into backpacking explorers upon arrival in Colombia two months ago, they plan on spending at least one full year exploring as much as they can. And while they’re living frugally off of savings right now, they hope to eventually sustain their free-spirited way of life.

And as they continue to grow their social media following, they’re inching towards the dream of being professional travelers.

Their Instagram account, where they chronicle their adventures, has accumulated over 30,000 followers so far. With an audience so large and travel-minded, Martin and Boback have a valuable platform for hospitality and tourism companies to promote their services. By offering businesses a plug on their Instagram account, they often benefit from free or discounted activities and accommodations.

“It really stretches our budget, making our trip longer and more affordable,” Boback said.

To learn their secrets and see what they’re doing, track their journey by following ‘mypassportandyou’ on Instagram, or visit their blog mypassportandyou.com.

By Dan Walton

Pieter Martin and Brianne Boback take a walk on an idyllic beach. (Contributed photo)
Pieter Martin and Brianne Boback. (Contributed photo)

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