– Story by Erin McPhee Photography by Don Denton
Lynn Tetarenko knew she had to challenge herself.
Looking back on her exciting life to date, both personally and professionally, she took stock of the physical and emotional hurdles she overcame, the highs and lows she experienced, her love for adventure, and her willingness to take risks as well as make choices that have set her life in entirely new directions.
Considering her unconventional journey, she decided it was time to take a moment and go back to where it all began.
Lynn recently travelled to Mérida, Mexico, celebrating the 30-year anniversary of her first visit, a year-long Rotary International high school exchange. She was intent on returning to the place where her wanderlust began. Only 18 at the time and unable to speak the language, Lynn was firmly pushed outside her comfort zone.
During her recent two-week visit, to once again study Spanish, and again as a solo traveller, Lynn reflected on how that early experience was very much the catalyst for all the things she has felt brave enough to undertake since.
For example, Lynn left behind a promising career in finance to work in sponsorship and marketing for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. She and her husband, Kevin, spent a week climbing to the summit of Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro to honour the memory of her father, raising more than $30,000 for the Alzheimer’s Society of BC. She has travelled, mainly on her own, to more than 30 countries, everywhere from Egypt to Iceland. And, she spent four years working abroad in London.
Currently assistant vice-president of wealth management at Island Savings, a division of First West Credit Union, the steps the 48-year-old Happy Valley resident has taken to get there have by no means been linear. But she wouldn’t have had it any other way. In fact, it’s the sort of advice she enthusiastically imparts.
“If you’re closed off, you could miss so much living and so many experiences that are going to make you who you are five years, 50 years from now,” she says.
Born in Powell River, the youngest of three girls, Lynn spent the bulk of her childhood in Port Alberni.
“I just sort of found my way. We were a very, very tight-knit family and there was just always that sense of support,” she says.
After her year in Mexico, Lynn spent 11 years in Victoria, a place she visited often as a child, since her grandparents lived in Oak Bay. She studied finance and business administration at Camosun College, and took a job in wealth management.
After eight years in the workforce, she experienced an early midlife crisis of sorts. Deciding she wasn’t interested in pursuing such a straightforward path for the next 25 years, she decided to get an ancestry visa and move to the United Kingdom by herself.
“I literally sold my house and put everything into storage and left my job — where I had been put on a career fast-track — and moved to London,” she says.
While she found a great job at a large bank and her plan was to stay long term, four years in, the course of her life changed once again.
“Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s so that’s when I returned to Canada,” she says.
Lynn settled in Vancouver, frequently visiting the island and spending time with her parents. Rather than continue on in the finance world, she decided to embark on a new career and took a job with the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“That was one of my big left turns in career because I decided I wanted to do something other than finance,” she says.
Lynn spent the next five years with Vancouver 2010, which she describes as “possibly the best five years of my life.”
“It really was amazing. I was blessed enough to go to both the opening and the closing ceremonies. Sitting there and seeing what all of us had created collectively, it wasn’t about what one person did here or there, it was that team approach. It was the relationships that were built. And I think almost as soon as the closing ceremonies started, I was in tears,” she adds.
Sadly, Lynn’s father passed away just after the Games ended, in June 2010. She spent the next eight weeks at their family’s long-held Sproat Lake property, supporting her mother, who last year succumbed to dementia as well.
“It was during those eight weeks that I met my husband,” she says. “Our parents knew each other. We had property in the same area. Thirty-one years after being up there, our paths crossed literally on the beach.”
Prior to meeting Kevin, Lynn had been planning to return to the UK, interviewing for the London 2012 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games
“And then I met my husband,” she laughs. “And I thought, you know, I think this is something worth hitting pause on my Olympic career.”
Lynn and Kevin married soon after and will be celebrating their eighth wedding anniversary this year.
The couple spent seven years in Chemainus, where Lynn happily re-entered the finance world, joining the team at Island Savings.
“It inspires me seeing how much they care and the level of skill and expertise they bring every day to help people understand their financial picture, and [enabling them] to make educated choices to improve their lives,” she says of her co-workers.
A year ago, Lynn and Kevin relocated to the West Shore. They’re gearing up for a fun summer at their recreational property on Sproat Lake, glamping in their RV — equipped with an espresso machine and wine fridge — and hosting friends and family for camping weekends.
Lynn has surprised herself many times over with her life choices, and the path she has ultimately taken is not one she could have foreseen.
“It hasn’t felt like I’ve zig-zagged,” she says. “It’s just felt like it’s been right. I’ve made choices sometimes that have scared me, sometimes that have been unknown, and I try and encourage people to do the same.”