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lessons learned after I quite my job

What I Learned After I Quit My Job And Moved Abroad

I sit here today, reflecting on the last two years since I quit my job. I’m thinking back on the lessons I have learned about what it means to quit a job and start over in a foreign place. And I find myself realizing that I learned a lot!

Four years ago, we were surrounded by toxicity and felt trapped. We made great money but the environment we worked in was supremely unhealthy. There were centralization/cost-reduction efforts going on, there were rumors of layoffs, and there were decisions being made by the organization that clearly didn’t care about its people.

We saw the writing on the wall, and we began to plan for a different future.

I have always had the travel bug and I, somehow, managed to infect Tim with it. So, for over two years, I was the driving force in researching different locations for us to move and start over. My goal was to give us back our lives, our time, and our happiness.

So, at the end of December 2014, I quit my job of 16 years, as did Tim, and we started a whole new adventure.

Here are some of the lessons learned:

1) Just Do It! And you will fly!

To quit my job, sell everything, and start over felt like jumping off a cliff. And in many ways it was. Here is the good news: we didn’t crash, instead we learned to fly. It is not as tough as you imagine it to be, so my advice to everyone is: Just Do it!

We jumped and we learned to fly. Our concerns about finances, making friends, and making this lifestyle work, turned out to be unjustified. Not only did we make it work, we have been successful in all those areas. We didn’t just fly, we soared! Looking back, we’re wondering why we hand’t done it sooner..

I quit my job and learned to fly

2) Happiness is what you make it

This sounds so cliché but we found it to be very true when starting over. When you go into a completely new environment (and I mean different language and all), you have to be willing to compromise. So, you better know yourself and what you need to be happy. Otherwise, you can find yourself quite miserable in your new place.

If, high-end shopping and expensive cars are your thing, then I suggest that you rethink the idea of moving abroad and living on $2,000-$2,500 a month. The idea of living like a king on that type of budget is an empty dream. You have to adjust and make sacrifices in order to make it but it can be extremely rewarding.

So, it truly is about making your own happiness of your circumstances.

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3) Detoxify

In our previous life, we lived with a low level of suck, all the time. What we didn’t realize was that we got used to it. The misery became part of the “normal”. We complained and complained and complained but it took a lot for us to change it because it was part of the regular life. It was toxic and we became infected.

So, after arriving in Puerto Rico, we needed about six months to detoxify ourselves from our previous lives, see my post about De-stressing From Life.

What we found after this period of detox, was that we began to look at the world differently. Very differently, in fact.

Where before we overlooked every day things, we started to appreciate them more. We also began to be aware of opportunities around us. It was almost as if we were blind before but now we could see. A truly incredible experience. Thinking back on it, I believe that the moment I quit my job was a turning point in my life. Everything changed and I was able to become, who I was meant to be…

happy

4) It’s not always about the place, it’s about the circumstances.

We spend years being unhappy and blaming Michigan for it. You know, it was the usual – the terrible winters, the cold, the grey skies. And the thankless jobs, of course.

But what we found was that we don’t have to move across the world to find happiness. It’s really not about the place, it’s about the circumstances. For years, I believed that if I could just live in the tropics, life would be so much better. But what I learned after spending this extended time on a tropical island, is that it’s not the tropics, or even the beach that make me happy. It’s the ability to do what I want to do. To live the life I want to live. And, to answer only to myself (and God).

Of course, the tropics are nice but they are not the answer to my problems. I’m a lot more in touch with what I want and need and, today, know that I can be happy anywhere, as long as my circumstances are right. Although I still believe that Michigan winters suck!

beach

5) There are many things you don’t foresee when moving to a tropical island

Going on vacations somewhere, is not the same as living there. When you are on vacation, you experience only the best of the place. However, when you live there, you get to see it all – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

We learned so much about living on an island that we didn’t know before! There are things that are absolutely amazing, like beaches, weather, and people. However, there are things that we could have never foreseen that are not so nice. For instance, the salt air destroys electronics; it literally reduces a lifespan of a computer, fridge, or TV by half!

Another thing we learned was that sand is in and does get into EVERYTHING! Our dust has sand in it, and guess what? The dust is wet and salty too! This does some very bad things to your car.

Other things that surprised us were some of the attitudes toward Americans, difficulty of getting things done, and incredibly high taxes. Read my series of posts, on the realities of living abroad.

sand

 

6) Simpler is better

I saw a saying someone posted on Facebook today:

“If you’re life is not adding up, start subtracting!”

Like everyone else, we used to care about nice things. Nice house, nice cars, nice furniture and so on. But since we sold everything we owned (except our clothes and computers) and started over, we found that we don’t need any of those things. We now rent a furnished apartment, drive an older car, and live a very simple life.

Surprisingly, there is freedom in that lifestyle. We can pack up and move to a new place in one day. We love that! We can go and do anything we want at any time. We don’t have personal stuff, junk, or whatever you want to label it, to keep us in one place.

We live a simple, yet comfortable, life and we understand now that that’s all we need.

simple life

7) Starting a non-profit can be a real pain in the ass

Last year, we worked really hard and helped start a local farmers’ market, here in Luquillo. We were the original founders. We loved getting it going but I have to tell you, it is a ton of work! I had no idea that starting and running a non-profit was that involved.

It was a great experience but doing it with no money and all volunteers created challenges, many challenges. We loved the experience but I don’t think we’d do it again. In the future, we’ll stick to volunteering with already established organizations – I think.

8) If it doesn’t work, change it!

These days, I say to people, if you feel stuck in your life, step out of it. Step out of your daily-dance routine and see what happens, because beautiful things can and do happen.

You’ve all heard the saying attributed to Einstein:

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

So, why not try something different in your life and see what happens? You may learn something – we sure did. Today, if something is not working in our lives, we simply change it.

subtract

What’s next for us?

After, two years of amazing adventures. “Bumming it” on the enchanted island of Puerto Rico, (and in Spain, in Poland, in USVI), starting a non-profit, growing and selling a business, we are going back to the USA for 2017. Arizona here we come!

Why?

To take our business to the next level.

We tried to do it from here but it simply isn’t working, see my post about taxes in Puerto Rico. Because running a business from Puerto Rico is nearly impossible for us, and we need to reestablish residency to take advantage of some of the perks in Arizona; we’ll be going there for at least 7 months. Will we stay in Arizona for longer than that? Who knows…. Maybe… but Maybe Not. There is still a lot of world we want to see.

So, almost exactly two years after I quit my job, sold everything, and moved abroad, we are about to take another U-turn in life. Fun, eh? We think so and are looking forward to new adventures.

Life is good.

Joanna-

About Joanna

is a Polish American living in Arizona with her husband Tim. She is a founding partner of JTR Tech and she is proud to be a professional geek. She had dreamt of living abroad for many years. So, she and Tim created AbroadDreams.com to document the process of making their dream of moving abroad come true. They spent 2 years in Puerto Rico and several months in Spain and Poland. Now they are exploring the American Southwest.

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7 comments

  1. Hi Joanna,

    I enjoyed reading your posts. You and your husband are very brave risk takers. I love all the information you have shared about living abroad. I’m Puerto Rican, born and raised in Massachusetts. My husband and I have been living in Florida since 1990 but I have always wanted to leave here to live somewhere different. We considered moving to PR when he retires because of the laid back living on the Island. Vacationing somewhere and living there is entirely different. I was convinced not, after following a great deal of your posts. I would have a difficult time adjusting. All the best to you on your next adventure. Thanking for sharing all your experiences good or bad. Your posts have been very informative.

    Carmen

  2. Although I’ve come to believe that a relatively small percentage of folks who move abroad will actually *stay* abroad forever, I’ve also come to believe that it’s an incredible life experience that more people should do.

    We (and all of our ex-expat friends) found that there is nothing like living abroad for a while to help you truly appreciate some of the things we took for granted our whole lives here in the States. And for most of us, just as you’ve discovered, simplifying life and experiencing the “freedom” of a different lifestyle produces some profound changes (and, in turn, opportunities!) so the best of luck to you guys in Tucson! I’ll look forward to hearing more about it.

    • Hi Arden,
      I couldn’t agree more. My appreciation for the simple things in life has grown exponentially. We will continue to blog about our experience in AZ, exploring the southwest, and all the world trotting, we have yet to do.
      Thanks for reading! Joanna-

  3. Prescott AZ is nice. I’ve got a 100 megabit internet connection out here. Infrastructure is good. Good luck.