I feel like there’s a trend right now with millennials to quit their jobs and move abroad, whether in defiance of working a normal ‘9-5’ or as some sort of ironic hipster/wanderlust thing, it’s become a popular move to make. Is it for everyone? I can’t say. But I can say that for me, moving out of the U.S. was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Rewind to October 2014. I used up all my PTO and took a two week trip to Nicaragua to visit friends who had moved there. I had been there before two years prior, so I knew what it was like and what to expect. But during this visit, I had a different mindset. I saw my friends—who are originally from the States—living successfully (not monetarily, but physically, mentally and spiritually) in this third world country. And then I began to ask myself, “Why can’t I do that?” And then my anxiety would pipe up like, “Here let me me tell you why:
- You have a job
- You have bills
- You would probably die
- Go siddown somewhere’”
After I returned home and reluctantly went back to work, it was around 2:16 p.m. on a Monday (because Monday’s are literally, the worst), and I was counting down the hours until I could leave work and daydreaming about living anywhere but the suburbs of Chicago, when I again started tossing around the idea of moving to Nicaragua. I made no qualms about it: my family, friends, and even co workers knew how much I hated my job in corporate retail. That’s not to say I wasn’t thankful for my job, I appreciated the standard of living that my job afforded me; that I could pay my bills and afford occasional splurges at Sephora. But deep down inside, I was in a nauseating pit of despair. My mood would take a deep nosedive as I walked into work and last throughout the day and even into the evening after getting home. I later figured out after going to a series of therapy sessions, that I was suffering from depression and PTSD and also generalized anxiety disorder. That was a lot for me to comprehend, but it made sense as to why I had so many pessimistic thoughts that I just couldn’t shake.
Simply? I was unhappy. And to showcase my dissatisfaction with myself I was doing things that were out of character as a coping mechanism. The only thing at that time which consistently made me happy and gave me a temporary feeling of purpose was traveling. I felt in control and it made me excited to explore and meet new people, even though my anxiety at times made meeting people a real struggle. But whenever I came back home and had to go back to work on Monday, I would fall right back into that slump, succumbing to the depression and start feeling hopeless all over again. It was a heartless cycle I kept putting myself in looking for different results and always coming back around with less strength than I started.
Because I was in therapy, I was learning how to cope with anxiety and literally reshape my thinking patterns. And I wanted to make changes! I was physically tired of being unhappy. So I knew that I wouldn’t ever be content living in this suburban, but not quite yuppie life. I knew I had to move. I went back to my basics. I started praying again and meditating on Bible verses to see how I could apply it in my life. I quit hanging around ‘friends’ with toxic personalities that didn’t make me want to be a better person. Slowly, I was making changes.
So in October 2015, I finished out the lease on my apartment, rented a small storage unit, forwarded my mail to my family’s house and I moved to Granada, Nicaragua – exactly one year from my last visit.
Thankfully, I was in a position where I had a safety net of savings to last me a couple months until I found some work; which I eventually did. The cost of living is conveniently low here so that it allows me to work part time and focus on volunteering and helping others in the local community. Yes, I still have anxiety, but I’m in a place now where I don’t feel a constant pressure to keep up with the daily grind of work, sleep and no time for anything or anyone.
You might be wondering, do I recommend that anyone dealing with depression or other mental illness pick up and move out of the country? Yes…and no—here is why:
Each person has to decide for themselves what is going to make then genuinely happy with this life they’ve been given. And that answer is going to look different for each person. While I can be happy living in a tiny lil’ studio cottage away from my family and many American conveniences, to someone else that could be considered torture. I also don’t have any dependents counting on me for any type of daily care. That made my decision much easier.
I heard someone say once, “If you can’t change your circumstances, change your viewpoint.” Not all of us can afford to leave the ‘States for an extended period of time. In that case, learn how to reshape your thinking, like I had to do before I left. But if you can finagle a way to move, try it out for a probationary period and see what it does for you mentally, emotionally and physically.
I just know that I’m living my daydream because I learned to ignore my unrealistic anxieties, I said ‘no’ to living an ordinary life, and ‘yes’ to making changes. And for me, that works.
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