Amigos, I’m back. As I continue to prepare to leave to Mexico City on October 1, I’ve been furiously focusing on trying to sell all of my furniture to get ready to vacate my apartment in two weeks (my lease ends Sept 21).
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been connecting with friends and former colleagues whom I haven’t seen or spoken with in a while. What has struck me is that more than a few people have told me (after they get over their shock and confirm I’m actually doing this) that they admire me; they wish they could do the same; or, that I’ve inspired them in some way. Amigos, I have to say, that feels really good. 😀 Preparing to do something like this does take a lot of work, patience and planning to make it a reality (and more importantly, to ensure it goes smoothly and that you have a plan A, B and C, just in case). If I can inspire and help guide even one person to pursue their own dream to “live life by their rules”…I will consider that a big success.
These conversations and people’s reactions have inspired me to write this post.
For those of you who are new to my blog, a little over a month ago I decided to quit a very well-paying executive role with a Fortune 10 company to take a year off of work and focus on me: my health, my well-being, experience a different kind of life and I simply decided to hop off of the hamster wheel for a while.
Many people “dream” of doing something like this. I was one of those dreamers a few years back. However, I am also a person who puts plans into action–I’m a doer who executes with the precision of a military general! So, when I have an idea, I’ll think it through every which way and I give it time. While this decision may seem to some of the people who know me to be a bit sudden–it wasn’t. As I mentioned, I’d been thinking about something like this for at least two if not three years. However, I don’t say anything until I’m typically ready to do it. I may have mentioned it to one or two people but that was the extent of it.
The first thing I want to say, to benefit my readers, is that if you truly want to do something, it can be done. However, most people don’t have the patience it takes to make something like this happen. At times, IT TAKES YEARS. At least it did for me.
It’s not at all easy to walk away from your career, your city, your comfort, your salary. But, if you plan it right, you can take a calculated risk. If any of you have ever dreamed to take a year off of work (or maybe just a few months), here’s some advice on how to make that a reality
 If you’re single, you’re good to go. If you’ve got a partner, you gotta both get on board and decide you are both committing to this. It’s a huge decision and there’s definitely risk involved. I have a friend whom I met in London when I was there a couple of years ago. He’s 26 years old. During his time there, he met a girl while traveling. They maintained their relationship long-distance for almost two years. She’s from Montreal. He planned a similar break and I have to say it was his decision that pushed me to fully pursue mine. He decided he would work extremely hard, get promoted and then take a year off of work to travel through Asia. Why promoted? So he could re-enter the workforce after his year off at a manager level. Why Asia? It’s very affordable and he had a friend who’d just done the same thing so he leveraged the friend as his guide on what to do, where to stay, how to navigate a few of the countries and he got intel on actual costs. He and his girlfriend got on board to do this together and it took a year of planning; that’s realistic.
 Once you have decided this is something you absolutely want to do, start your research. I watched many, many YouTube videos–even really bad ones, if I felt they had some content/perspective that was important to me. I read blog upon blog (pay attention to the date they are written; remember, visa information, economic and security situations of countries change, etc. Make sure you are reading blogs that are not older than a year). Make sure you cross-reference visa info from bloggers list against the most current requirements as posted by the consulate of the countries you’re interested in visiting. I studied visa requirements and expat stories for three countries (I was initially going to go to Spain but I opted for Mexico instead; I did, however, fully research visa requirements for both countries). I plan to go to Germany after Mexico so have researched that country extensively as well. With the internet and global connectivity being what it is now, there’s absolutely nothing you won’t find online to fully research and inform your plan. All of this information is at your fingertips!! Take advantage of it.
 Create a plan. I normally write my plans down (either on paper or on my computer or iPhone notes). The reason I do this is there’s something about brain chemistry and what the brain does with information you write down. It’s almost like it was trained (due to our schooling methods) to take that information much more seriously than anything you hear, think about or visually view. If you write it down, it sticks! It is like creating your own positive self-fulfilling prophecy. Try it!
 The most important step is to save, save and save as much money as you can. That may mean you have to make drastic changes in the present to “fund” your future dream of living life on your own terms. If you haven’t read my post on hyperconsumption in America (watch the videos linked to the post as well), I recommend you do. Keep this in mind when you consider how you live and where you might “trim” spending. Here are some ideas, no matter what income bracket you’re in (remember, you should be planning 1-2 years out):
- Minimize eating out and drinking. Loads of cash is wasted on outside food & drink (especially alcohol).
- If you’re making below $80k a year (depending on your geographical location) and your rent exceeds 20% of your income, get a roommate or move to a more affordable neighborhood.
- For example: Say you make $80,000 a year. Assume 28% tax rate so you take home approximately: $57,600. Divide by 12. You’re monthly take-home is approximately $4,800. Multiply by .20 (or 20%). That gives you $960. If you’re paying more than $960 rent, you need to find a cheaper place or get a roommate.
- Keep a written budget–on Excel, Google sheets, a budgeting phone app or on paper. Whatever floats your boat but understand exactly what you are spending your money on and only “allow” yourself a budget of X$ for specific expenses (such as entertainment, eating out, etc.). Make sure you write down how much you will put away in savings each paycheck and stick to it.
- Cars. I spent lots and lots of money on cars in my past. What can I say, I’m a Californian – car capital of the world. I kick myself in the behind now when I think about it. I spent thousands and thousands on fancy cars I didn’t need, some I rarely drove and one that ended up being a lemon. Bad, bad way to spend money. Do yourself a favor, buy a used (certified pre-owned) car that is 3-4 years old with good mileage and literally just gets you from point A to point B. That’s ALL you need. Lesson learned for me. To show I practice what I preach, here’s an example. When I moved back from London, I had to buy a new car. I was making over $150,000 a year. I purchased a certified pre-owned 2014 Chevy Spark for $9,500. It had 63,000 miles and was three years old when I purchased it. I paid it off in four months. I will now sell it to CarMax as I leave and will likely get $5,500 of that back. Insurance was also cheaper because it was older. Get it?
- Ladies (and some guys) – STOP buying expensive make-up, loads of shoes and clothes you will never wear or clothes you will only wear once for a very specific event. Please STOP. I too spent thousands of dollars on this before I came to my senses. Buy quality, mix-and-match your outfits and accessories to make “new looks” (like the French do) and tell yourself you will not contribute to our culture of hyper-consumerism. It’s a waste and bad for the environment.
- Lastly, have lots and lots of patience. If you really want to make your dreams a reality, patience is truly a virtue. You have to keep your eye on the ball, play the long game and be determined to make it happen.
This last piece of advice is a *bonus*. Whether we have worked with people from different countries or have met folks while traveling in the past or in school or we have that one person on social media that lives on the other side of the world but we developed a relationship with them…whatever the case may be, work your network!
What do I mean by that? I mean, don’t forgot to tap into people who live in your destination country for advice. Many times, locals will save you lots of money, time and headaches if you simply ask them for advice. If you don’t know anyone who lives in your destination country (like me with Mexico City), talk so a few close friends locally and see if they know anyone in your destination country that they can connect you to.
Be considerate and don’t tap into your network too often. Most people are happy to help, just as you would be happy to help them if they came to your country. However, do your own homework and utilize these resources for additional tips or advice. Also, remember, if you can one day return the favor, do so. Whether that be by taking them out for dinner when you arrive at the destination country or some other way. Practice good karma.
That’s all folks! Sending only positive vibes and wishing for all of your dreams to come true!!