Ever since announcing that we were quitting our jobs and moving to Costa Rica we have been asked many questions about our decision to do so. The 2 most common questions we get are 1) Why did you stop working and move to a foreign country and 2) How are you able to do this so early in your life? Well, in this blog post I would like to spend a few minutes discussing the first question, WHY? I will save the How question for another post. I am answering these 2 questions because it is the ones family, friends and those interested in doing what we did ask most frequently; if I answer it here maybe they will stop asking.
Wow – what a question. First off, many people move to Costa Rica (and other countries) from the US because they are dissatisfied with the political, economic, religious or some other social climate in the States. Despite the issues we see with the 2 party political system melding into one, we like the US; we just couldn’t afford to do what we had in mind back in the States. So, again, why did we leave our careers, home, family and friends to move to Costa Rica? Let’s discuss the “whoa nellys” people often put out there. There is the fact that Jen and I are both young, one might say we have a lot of working years left in us, both of us being in our early 40’s. Then there is the fact that we were both very successful in our careers; Jen working in Commercial Title Insurance and me managing a Litigation Support company and we were giving these jobs up on purpose. Once you get past those two obstacles people still want to know WHY? and that answer boils down to the following, which I will discuss below: Sanity, Health, Market, Family Matters and Living Smaller. From here on out I will just be discussing me and my work as it contributes to our reasons WHY.
I think a little work history is necessary in order to convey how I got to where I was when I decided to make a change.
One year out of High School I moved from Dallas to Houston, Texas where I started the first of a series of jobs in the Litigation Support field, by-passing college. I worked with this first company for 5 years in various capacities from Driver to Operations Logistics, starting in Houston and ending up back in Dallas.
I met Jen while working at this company in Dallas. We worked in the same high rise in downtown; she worked on floor 47 and I on 44. Well things went as things go and we got married. We honey mooned traveling throughout Colorado and fell in love with the city of Denver; 6 months later we had moved from Dallas to Denver. I started working with a different company at this point.
Working at this new company I started back completely at the bottom of the ladder taking any job I could get just to be in Denver however, because of my work ethic and willingness to work whatever hours were needed, I rose through the ranks working as a Shift Manager on the Second shift then transitioning into a Recruiting and Training role. We ended up moving back to Dallas, as the money was better in Dallas than it was in Denver. I was able to transfer with the company I was with in Denver to Dallas. I ended up working with that company for 6 years before I was recruited away by the company I left this past June. I was with this last company for 13 years climbing through the ranks of management with the last 2 years holding the position of Vice President.
Whew – sorry for the walk down memory lane. I wanted to paint the picture of my career in order to frame how I got to where I was. As Vice President I was responsible for Operations, Sales and Administration for our company – a total of between 30 – 40 employees. In addition, I was responsible for client interaction – complaints, pricing issues, and errors; except for client happy hours and lunches all client interaction had something to do with a problem. Have I mentioned my main clients were attorneys? I will leave it at that.
All that ground work laid to say, I worked a minimum of a 10 hour day, easily longer. My phone, for 13 years, never left my side with calls taking priority over the dinner we were eating, the movie we were watching and just about everything else. The phone could ring anytime 24/7 and the phone did ring. So after years and years of this, coupled with other items covered in this blog, I started to fray…snap…anger easily. These are not the traits that I am known for. I have always been the ever optimistic, bright sided, easygoing guy and I was vanishing, but other things were appearing.
As my stress level climbed so did the milligram dosage of my blood pressure medication. I am a man, that is to say, I don’t like to go to the doctor; right or wrong, I am more of a “head in the sand” type of guy when it comes to my health, however during a bad bout of bronchitis I HAD to head to a doctor and after seeing my blood pressure numbers I was convinced to do a complete blood workup. Taking my head out of the sand for just a minute got me 2 different prescriptions; one for blood pressure and one for cholesterol. After receiving the prescription and the doctor monitoring my blood pressure, over time the prescription grew, higher and higher. It was not only the stress of my job but the diet that was causing the health problems. Take 2 people working long hours, with nice disposable income and you have 2 people who, go out to eat…a lot and who drink…more than is healthy. So the stress of my job was making me sick and over the past couple of years a new stress crept into the equation.
I had spent 20+ years developing my skills in a relatively niche market. While I was focused on constantly crafting my management skills the market was changing; drastically it was changing. Think about it as Pager vs a Cell Phone or Cassette Tape vs a Media File. This was how my industry was changing. My company as a whole was changing right along with it, out of paper discovery and imaging and into collecting data from servers and drives. Even though the division I managed was becoming obsolete it remained viable because, even as a loss leader, it was an important component to our sales and service machine for the rest of the company. Needless to say, knowing you are the captain of a sinking ship and knowing that it is ok for the ship to sink, but you have to try and try to keep it afloat – oh yeah, your pay will decline as your profit does as well – doesn’t bode well for ones psyche. So, I had built a career that was becoming obsolete. I enjoyed many things about the company I worked for including working with the team I help build, the culture of excellence and I enjoyed winning. I knew I had a place in the company to transition to in order to keep advancing in my career and best utilize my skills. The question was – did I want to? Did I want to re-tool? Did I want to continue working crazy hours and feeling bad about taking more than a week of vacation at a time? I think you know my answer. I really did not want to continue down the road I was on and have my health issues continue to increase or even die at an early age.
One of the factors that pushed our decision to retire early was the unknown of dying. Both Jen and I are relatively healthy for our age and we are young. I typically do not live my life in fear, however there are a couple of instances of health issues in our families that gave us pause. Jen’s dad took early retirement and died a year later from cancer ,at a young 58. One of my cousins’ husband died in his early 40’s while being seemingly healthy. My father worked until, at 72 he went into the hospital for a long period of time and just could not work any longer. He died about 4 months later; 3 days after we moved to Costa Rica. I am not one to dwell on death but these 3 family members caused me to re-think the life I was living; of longer hours and more stress just so that we could have bigger toys. We wanted to be able to experience life in more than weeklong increments, a couple of time a year.
Finally, we became Intentionally Unemployeed in order to live smaller. It was interesting to watch people’s reactions as we were trying to covertly get ready for our move to Costa Rica while keeping our employers and friends in the dark. Over a year and a half we got rid of a large house, a grand piano, all of our furniture, 2 cars and a dog. We answered the question of why we were selling stuff honestly with the answer of “we are downsizing and trying to live more simply”. Incredulousness – that is the feeling that radiated from people who we told this too. It is not the American way to downsize your life when you don’t need to. In fact we should have been living larger; my Honda should have been a Mercedes and Jen’s Mini should have been a BMW (I know BMW makes Mini – just drop it). But we didn’t, we have always lived well below our means but still our lives were getting bigger and bigger not better and better. So we decided to force living small by quitting our jobs and living without an income and solely off of savings.
PPM – Poor, Pitiful Me
You may be thinking that I suffer from the Poor, Pitiful Me Syndrome, that I am just a complainer. To that all I have to say is, at least I did something about it. I don’t know how many times I have listened to someone complain about their life, specifically, about their job, but they were not willing to change…anything. As the saying goes – the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result. Our path might be a bit extreme for some but it sure feels right to us.
I hope this novelette help shed some light for our friends and family and to others curious about our journey on why we moved.
…or really, just the beginning,