small choices changed life

4 Small Choices That Totally Changed My Life

Cally Duncan is a fellow adventurer, risk taker and heart follower. She grew up in a small farming town (me, too!), has lived abroad (check!), and came to the conclusion that the 9-5 just wasn’t for her (dido). But perhaps her biggest leap of faith was following a man she just met onto a sailing adventure of a lifetime. While I can’t say I’ve done that, I have been known to join men I’d recently met (and thus hardly knew) on motorcycle trips to Colombia, Volkswagon van adventures on Maui, and even a road trips from deep Central Mexico to Bend, Oregon. 

One might call us kindred spirits.

Here’s her story.

4 Small Choices That Totally Changed My Life

By Cally Duncan

I grew up in a small farming town in Alberta, Canada and grew up thinking I wanted to settle down and have a family and live the simple life. What I did not plan for is how much my life would change and that it would turn into one incredible adventure.

small choices changed life

The author on their newly purchased 38′ sailing boat called ‘Windfall’ in the harbor in Providence, Rhode Island

My recent decision to purchase a sailboat in the United States with my new Australian boyfriend to sail back to Australia may seem dramatic — especially when I tell you that neither of us know how to sail! — but when you start to look at the decisions I made over the past few years you get a different perspective on it.

Lately I have been reflecting back on some of the simple choices that I made that really led to this big decision, and when you break it down like that, it starts to seem like it could happen to anyone.


Read below about some of the choices I made that led to this crazy adventure, and feel free to follow our adventures on our blog: How Not to Sail a Boat.


When I graduated from high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career. However, I knew a few people in business and accounting and I always excelled at mathematics in school, so I went the familiar route. I also knew that it would be possible to work abroad, consult part-time or in some instances work online as an accountant, and, as someone who loves travel, this was a massive bonus.  

And so on I went, completing my four years of University in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and working for a mid-size accounting firm for the next three years. My job as an articling student (a common term for lawyers and accountants completing their post-grad qualifications while working) provided me an adequate income to live and save some money for adventures. The slow seasons in accounting gave me the time to travel for a couple months at a time each year. When I finally finished my Chartered Accounting designation in 2014, the world was my oyster.


Since your average 24 year old does not have the funds to travel indefinitely, my plan was to work as an accountant around the world and travel during my time off. This way I would also be making a responsible adult decision and getting work experience that would look impressive on my resume. I moved in with my parents so that I had the freedom to accept a job offer at the drop of a hat, and began applying for jobs overseas. My target country was Australia due to the incredible beaches, world renowned Great Barrier Reef and its reputation for adventure.

I landed a job quite quickly, happily accepted it and packed up all of my possessions to move across the globe. I quickly got settled in Manly Beach, a suburb of Sydney, and spent the next three years loving life and finding plenty of time for adventure while furthering my career at the same time. Whether a morning surf or snorkel before work or a weekend getaway, I have yet to get bored of my new lifestyle. I never expected it to be a long-term home, but I fell in love with Australia, and after the first two years made the commitment to obtain my permanent residency visa (if you’re considering moving to Australia, learn more about Australian immigration here) Come September 2018, I hope to become a citizen after approximately four and a half years living in this wonderful country.

I still cannot believe that a simple decision to travel and work abroad could lead me to a new home in a completely different part of the world.  


Those years spent working as an accountant in Canada before I relocated to Australia gave me time for some wonderful adventures. My many trips around Canada, my first solo backpacking trip to Central America and my first trip to Asia, also solo, were some of the highlights. However, the day I learned to scuba dive is one that has impacted my life ever since.  

small choices changed life

The author scuba diving in her favorite dive spot in the world (so far!) on that solo trip in Indonesia on a small island called Nusa Lembongan

My family was lucky enough to go on quite a few tropical holidays together when I was growing up. All of those holidays included a snorkeling trip, and became something I looked forward to on every Caribbean getaway. When we were home in Canada, the summers were spent in the lake with family, always water skiing and swimming, and just generally enjoying the water as much as we could for our few months of warm weather!  

Taking my Open Water Scuba Diving certification with PADI in Bocas Del Toro, Panama was the perfect adventure for me on that first solo backpacking trip, and as soon I was floating beneath the surface I knew it was a sport that I would love.  Every trip since then, including my move to Australia, has been an attempt to discover more and learn more about the underwater world, and in 2017 I decided to get my Open Water Scuba Instructor qualifications at the Utila Dive Centre in Utila, Honduras to give me the opportunity to work and travel even more and leave the office behind.  

This decision to start scuba diving not only changed my life in terms of hobbies and a part-time career in one of my favorite hobbies, but it also led to meeting my partner. Back in 2014, I went on a live-aboard trip on the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, Australia. While a weekend romance on the Great Barrier Reef makes for a great story, I was pragmatic and told myself that nothing would ever come of my encounter with John, the dive supervisor from that bucket list trip.  

You can imagine my surprise when three years later John and I reconnected, and after only a few short weeks together, we decided to buy a sailboat together and travel the world. Six months after buying our boat and planning our dream trip from our home here in Cairns, I still pinch myself that everything has turned out so well and cannot help but think that the simple decision to learn to scuba dive led me to all of this!

small choices changed life

The author’s first sailing trip back in 2012 that changed her life!


The last small choice I made was just another adventure on a backpacking trip, where I had heard about a fun three-day sailing trip in the islands off the east coast of Panama. Loving the water, I decided to book it and spent an incredible three days with a young couple in their 20’s on their small sailboat.

Hearing about their adventure and unique lifestyle was eye opening, but at the time not something that seemed realistic for me at that stage in my life. However, their stories always stuck with me and in the back of my mind I knew I wanted to one day spend some time sailing and exploring the world. I loved the idea of working as a team with my partner; I loved the ocean and snorkelling and diving; and most of all I loved the adventure of it all.   

I think it was this trip that planted the seed in my mind about sailing. When John confessed to me six months ago, after only a brief reunion since our original meeting in Cairns, that he planned to get a sailboat and sail from the United States back to Australia, I knew that it was an adventure I wanted to be a part of – despite neither of us knowing how to sail.  However, it was a decision that was easy to make because of my adventurous trip exploring Panama years earlier and seeing firsthand that it was possible.

As you can see all of the small choices above led to where I am today. It brought me this grand adventure and a wonderful man to experience it with in a way that I could never have predicted or planned for, but that is just another reason it was easy for me to say ‘YES!’ when the opportunity arose. 

I hope that my story helps you say ‘YES!’ to those small adventures and that you remain open to the unique opportunities that come your way. You never know how things might turn out if you keep an open mind!

If you want to know more about our adventure and our first few weeks as sailboat owners, subscribe to our YouTube channel – see our first video blog above – and follow our journey as we learn how to sail!

Have you ever sailed? Would you take off on a sailing trip around the world with a man you barely know? Leave your comments for Cally below!


  1. John says:

    If you have spent all your life with boats, then you can learn how to sail quite quickly. That’s what happened to me. Doesn’t take long to get proficient at it. What can be rather annoying though is the attitude of the majority of people who have learned to sail and who have never been in a boat in their lives before learning. Nearly allways they take some holier than though attitude about their expertise because they have completed that Yatch Master course thingy. Great idea for those who don’t know the Bow from the Stern, but oh so annoying to listen to sometimes.

  2. Augustus says:

    It’s amazing how these small choices could greatly influence one’s life in a dimension beyond words. As someone that is just getting out of the university, your story is very inspiring, and I hope to one day be able to share my story as well.

    Thanks for sharing this.
    Augustus recently posted…Best Spinning Reels For Inshore FishingMy Profile

  3. Nice post! Great pictures and suggestions fun things to see along the way. Thanks for all the details.Thank you so much for sharing this post and pictures..

  4. Kim says:

    Really nice and touching post. Small things can change your life. Last Year a travel to Andaman and yes, I must say it’s my turning point.

  5. So cool, Cally! throwing caution to the wind and setting out on a real adventure is where life’s best memories are formed. And you’ve clearly learnt a lot too – not only how to actually sail a boat lol

  6. Hapchap says:

    So cool. Isn’t it?
    I always keep on telling my wife that you must take even the smallest of the decisions with utmost sincerity. You have used your free time so wisely taken such an awesome decision to buy a boat.
    Would love to see videos on your youtube channel as well.

    Your story is an inspiring an one

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