One of my favourite games to play is 'If I'd Never' (look - I've given it capital letters and everything such is the importance of the game) and it goes a little something like this...
Look at your life RIGHT NOW, yep, right now. Where are you? How did you get there? Which decision did you make that got you to where you are at this very moment in your life? Once you start digging, it's totally fascinating, like digging up the roots of your own family tree, but not.
So right now, I'm working for a TEFL company in Leeds, and all of my other family members live at least 200 miles away back in Berkshire where I grew up and all that jazz.
I had a good old think about this over a glass of red wine or bottle, and I think my turning point that took me on this path was a trip to Ibiza back in 2002 - stick with me, this is going somewhere.
During my trip I met a boy. When you consider that this holiday was an 18-30s holiday (and the fact that I was only 17 at the time and MY LOVELY DAD had to sign a consent form to say I could go...) I'm not sure my Dad was all that thrilled to hear that I met a boy.
This boy lived in Leeds. The furthest I'd ever been up North was Fife, so quite a lot further than Leeds (not really sure why I put that part, I was thinking when I started typing that bit that I'd never been that far up North but then I remembered that I had. Much further. Anyhoo...)
So I went up to visit this boy. And it turns out that I quite liked him and at the time I was on a 'gap yah' as I decided I didn't want to go to my first choice Uni, Bournemouth, so I decided to move up to Leeds. I worked in the Devonshire Brasserie and Hotel over in a lovely little place called Bolton Abbey. The hotel? Not so lovely, I don't think I'll be going to work in a hotel anytime soon...
So, I quit that job on Christmas Eve. That went well. Moved back home and worked in New Look for the rest of my 'gap yah'. That went well too. I easily spent more than I earned working there...bad idea.
I applied to Leeds Met Uni and got in to a QTS course with Primary Education as my degree.
To cut a long story short, this boy and I didn't work out, but I met a very nice other boy who I married 7 years later, so it wasn't an entirely wasted trip to Leeds...
After one year and a teaching placement, I decided not to pursue teaching as I didn't enjoy it enough to sustain it as a career. I liked the idea of teaching but all the planning was DOING MY HEAD IN. I'm not an organised person.
I changed courses to Childhood Studies and graduated three years later with a 2:1 (*bows* thank you very much) and toddled off to work full time in Superdrug. Yep, living the graduate dream.
Another long story short, a month later I got offered the chance to go and teach in Uganda with i-to-i on an all expenses paid trip of which Channel 4 would be filming me and four other Leeds Met students (Leeds Met were covering the bill in exchange for us wearing branded clothes - they pimped us!) I don't mind, it's easily the jammiest moment of my whole life and it was amazing. Oh did I mention that there were 8 millionaires joining us who were trying to solve poverty through enterprise? Yes, i-to-i boss Deirdre Bounds was there, along with that Google pay-per-click guy Seb Bishop and others...
When I returned home, I agreed to do a talk at an open day for i-to-i and Deirdre offered me a job interview. I aced the interview (natch) and started there in Spetember 2007.
Since there I've had the opportunity to go to Kenya, Honduras and most recently an amazing overland trip to Kenya, Tanzania and Zanzibar. I've met my circle of friends who I wouldn't be without and generally had a ball (occasionally doing a spot of work somewhere along the way).
If I'd never gone to Ibiza, chances are that I would have completed a degree in Tourism (my original choice) and who the hell knows where I'd be now? Fun game hey?