How to Quit Your Job, Sell Your Stuff and Move to a Tropical Paradise

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Following last week’s post about my small emotional freak-out over selling all my Stuff to being a new phase, I thought it’d be fitting to introduce you to Annabel Candy. I met Annabel in person one rainy day in Melbourne, and her warmth and positive energy was infectious. Annabel is a serial dream chaser, so if – like me – you’re in need of a voice of reason to help you take baby steps towards a big leap, here are some words of wisdom from a brave woman who learns to swim by jumping in the deep end …

How to Quit Your Job, Sell Your Stuff and Move to a Tropical Paradise – By Annabel Candy

That’s what we’d all love to do isn’t it?

We all want to take a break from work, be free to move anywhere and experience life in our dream location, where ever that is.

But is it really possible? Do you really have what it takes to let go of your stable income, sell the things that are tying you down and set up home in a foreign land? And if so how do you do it?

It’s inspiring to pore over travel blogs searching for the ultimate lifestyle destination and it’s fun to read books about other people’s travel adventures. But what if you try and it all goes wrong? What if those horror stories people keep telling you about con men, tropical diseases and other travel disasters happen to you? What if the naysayers are right and you try it then fail then have to come back with your tail between your legs?

Adventurers all have those fears of failure. We’re all scared to give up our income and sell the clothes, cars or house we love. The thought of moving somewhere you’ve never been before thousands of miles from your friends and family is terrifying.

So let me tell you about how I overcame my fears and did it anyway.

I haven’t just done this once either. I’m a serial dream chaser who’s taken risks repeatedly that have allowed me to live in eight different countries and travel to many more.

So far I’ve lived in the UK (where I was born), France (several times), the USA, Zimbawe, Laos, New Zealand and Costa Rica.

I’m currently holed up in one of the world’s many paradises, Noosa on the Sunshine Coast of Australia and, although I plan to spend a long time here, I’m not done with travelling yet. My future travel plans include a six month safari in Africa and a big trip to South America. And that’s just for starters.

But now I’m just going to tell you the story of my most recent move, from New Zealand to Costa Rica, where me and my family spent 18 months, then on to Australia.

How I Quit My Job

Me and my husband lived in New Zealand for 10 years and during that time we set up our own business.

It took us many years to build up our business and earn enough not just to survive on, but to thrive on. We lived on stunning Waiheke Island with a work-from-home-in-tropical-paradise-lifestyle that was envied by all our friends.

But although we already lived in tropical paradise we wanted to try another type of tropical paradise. We were dreaming of abundant wildlife, the chance to learn a new language and the reality check that comes from living in a developing country. The jungles of Central America were calling us.

After endless months of debating about taking the risk of shutting down our business we decided to do it. We handed all our clients over to a friend who could help them and shut it down.

We knew if all else failed we could always come back and start all over again. Yes, we’d be back to square one but at least we’d have some great stories and unforgettable memories to fuel us into old age.

How I Sold My Stuff

We sold almost everything we owned starting with our home which had a huge garden with 16 different types of fruit growing, a (small) sea view and was close to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

When we bought it that house was a dive but we’d spent years of hard graft and money doing it up. It wouldn’t be easy to replace either because houses with sun, privacy and a flat garden are rare as hen’s teeth in that part of the world.

Plus there was an emotional attachment.

You see it wasn’t just me and my husband whose lives were going to be turned upside down.

We have three kids and two of our children were actually born in that house. In the Maori tradition we’d planted trees for them and buried their placentas in the garden.

Selling the house was hard but it was harder still to sell my children’s toys. Especially for them.

We kept about half a container of belongings including family photos, some very special pieces of furniture and a few treasured personal items in storage to be sent out later when we settled down.

Our children were aged two, five and eight so this move was also about us being the type of irresponsible parents who’d moved their children from a beautiful stable environment on a wild trip into the unknown. We planned to start our travels in Guatemala and one friend asked if I knew that Guatemala has the world’s highest incidences of child kidnapping. I did not. I wished she hadn’t told me either.

We encountered many naysayers like her along the way but we did the only thing you can do: develop a thick skin and keep your eyes firmly on your dream.

How I Moved to a Tropical Paradise

We picked Central America because it had the wildlife we craved and it was spanish speaking so our children would be able to grow up being bi-lingual.

Most of our friends, family and banking facilities couldn’t cope with such a vague destination – many didn’t know where Central America even was – so we told everyone we were moving to Panama. From our research, Panama seemed like the most-likely outcome although we planned to travel round Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica before settling anywhere.

We ended up spending 18 months in Central America and living in Costa Rica for over a year. During that time we visited four countries, lived in countless cabinas and in three different houses.

Our children went to four different schools and were soon getting 100% in most subjects at school including spanish.

The Costa Rican beaches are gorgeous and we learnt to surf, recognise and name most wildlife in english and spanish and appreciate the delights of ceviche – a local specialty made with raw fish.

Best of all Costa Rica exceeded our expectations when it came to wildlife. We not only constantly saw toucans, monkeys and coatis, we had them in our garden. I regularly shooed errant wildlife out of our house including giant bugs, beautiful humming birds and even a bat that I fished out of the toilet using one of the kid’s swimming flippers.

But there were two main problems with our new tropical paradise.

First the schooling was poor; our two oldest children attended a local school which ran for just three hours a day with had no books or educational tools. We even had to buy them a desk and chair.

Secondly we couldn’t get internet. Getting a mobile phone in Costa Rica is hard, and because we lived in a remote area, we couldn’t get internet. Since our main business is web design we knew that, with no income coming in, eventually we’d have to leave. The proceeds of our house sale wouldn’t last forever.

How I Admitted Defeat and Moved On

We had to face it: Costa Rica wasn’t the right fit for us.

But we had a plan B to live to Australia where we are now. The beaches are picture perfect, the schooling excellent and they don’t call it the Sunshine Coast for nothing.

So what’s the point in this story?

The point is that we did what we set out to do. We quit out jobs, sold everything, moved to a tropical paradise.
Yes, we were scared about closing our business, selling our home and moving our children to somewhere we’d never been before with a language we didn’t speak.

Sure there were sacrifices like going from living in a four bedroom house to living in one room with five people.
We failed in our bid to live in Costa Rica, but we left rich with experiences. It didn’t turn out exactly as planned, but there were many successes along the way, like the love of spanish, surfing and wildlife which we took with us and the many life lessons we gained.

You can do this too.

You can quit your job and come back to it if you want or need to. There are always jobs around for risk-takers and movers and shakers.

You can sell your belongings. You can always buy them again if you really want to.

You can move to a tropical paradise. It might not be forever but at least you’ll have done it.

So what are you waiting for? What’s really holding you back?

We all have fears but we can’t be ruled by them. I decided to give fear the finger every day of my life and you can too. I’m cheering you on.

And who knows? Someday we might run into each other in some tropical paradise. How great would that be?

Annabel Candy has hitched rides on a fire engine in Turkey, a donkey cart in Tunisia and a gravel truck in Zimbabwe. She’s traveled the world to spot animals in the wild and ended up sharing her home with them. She lives with her husband and their three children in Queensland, Australia where she writes travel stories on her blog Get In the Hot Spot and shares blogging tips at Successful Blogging. You can catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook too.

What tropical paradise are you dreaming of?

Leave a Comment

  • Bethany ~ twoOregonians February 22, 2012 at 2:17 am edit

    Fabulous, fabulous! Bravo to you, Annabel, for taking the plunge. I am so grateful that my husband was a willing partner in our giant life risk: we’ve been on the road now since the beginning of the year, living life abroad, and discovering lessons around each corner. I applaud you for celebrating the unconventional and giving your children the gift of travel as well. Cheers, Bethany xx

    Reply
  • Brit McGinnis February 22, 2012 at 11:06 am edit

    This is such an incredible story!! I’m a student about to graduate from university, and I’m struggling with the desire to have a steady income and job (it is a Recession, after all!) with the desire to FINALLY travel like my friends who didn’t have to work through college. Any advice?

    Reply
    • Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot February 23, 2012 at 12:36 am edit

      Hi Brit,

      Hope you don’t ask your bank manager or anyone who likes to play it safe! I say travel:) Have fun, follow your heart. You can finance travel either by working while you are away or by working hard and saving for six months then traveling for six months. Repeat as desired:) Steady jobs will be there if and when you need them.

      Reply
  • erin aka eef February 22, 2012 at 12:26 pm edit

    Wow! I’d always imagined that once I settle down and have kids, my traveling days will be over–you’ve given me new hope!

    Reply
  • Meg | One Love Meg February 22, 2012 at 1:55 pm edit

    I love the idea of exposing children to different cultures at a young age. I don’t have kids but when I do, I want them to live in foreign countries and speak several languages. There is no better time to learn, then when you are young. Thanks for sharing your story Annabel.

    Reply
  • Andi of My Beautiful Adventures February 22, 2012 at 9:34 pm edit

    I have goosebumps! This was absolutely inspiring!!! Your children are blessed to have such big dreamers as parents.

    Reply
  • Victoria February 23, 2012 at 3:11 am edit

    It’s great to find other traveling families! We had a tough time when we sold the kids toys when they were 6 and 2.5. Toys come and go though. They are getting used to saying good bye to toys, and friends, and places we love. Annabel, I applaud your efforts to encourage families, as opposed to couples, to follow their dreams too! Sure we don’t get to see everything that the traveling couples get to see (like the view from the top of a huge hike), but we get to see a lot more than we ever expected. And on top of that, every where we go (since we left the US) people have been very happy that we brought our children.

    Reply
  • Still Served Warm February 23, 2012 at 4:13 am edit

    Inspiring.

    Reply
  • Vacay Girl February 25, 2012 at 10:29 am edit

    Love this blog Annabel. My destination is next year to move to Cabo San Lucas for at least a year. This post just adds to the positive fuel that fires me up. Nobody I know has done this before so I feel like a loner in that aspect. But I do have several friends that I have confided in that are cheering me on.

    You hit the nail on the head, fears come in big or small sizes. I wonder how I will fare in my journey as well. Will there be danger, embarrassing moments, moments of more defeats than triumphs? And then within those same moments of negative thoughts I’m so anxious excited and overjoyed by my thoughts of living in a foreign country, learning the language and meeting new people. I know it will all consume me as I have a year of saving and waiting to go but as the time comes near my only fear of all fears is….telling my mom. So in the meantime I build up the courage.

    Love your blog! Thanks for the inspiration!

    Reply
    • Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot March 13, 2012 at 12:25 am edit

      Hi Vacay Girl,

      I know that feeling but once you hit the road you’ll meet plenty of like-mined travellers.

      Do you know what probably all those fears will come true. But you will survive them – after all, what’s a life without a little danger and embarassment?!

      Good luck with your mum though! Mine still despairs of me but she’s got used to my nomadic ways:)

      Reply
  • Kirsten February 27, 2012 at 7:05 pm edit

    Great article!

    I love hearing and connecting with other people doing similar (or more interesting) adventures. …We sold our house, 1/2 our stuff and moved to Hawaii last year and haven’t looked back once. We’ve talked about going international for our next move whenever we’re ready to leave Hawaii. And reading this gives me inspiration and helps calm any lingering fears about the future.

    Kudos to you for living your dreams! And thanks for the inspiration!

    Reply
  • Jt Clough | Big Island Dog March 13, 2012 at 12:45 am edit

    I had to read this because 11 months ago I did the same thing.

    I left a thriving business I had built over 10 years behind, sold my home, and most of my things to move to the Big Island Hawaii.

    Yes there was emotional attachment and it was scary… but…. oh how I love living in paradise. I’m building my business only with a new focus (need a habits coach… I’ve got some good stuff for you!). My dogs are here and I still get to work with dogs only in a very island way.

    You can do it too! I’m here to tell you at 48 years old, I’m so glad I didn’t wait.

    Reply
  • For 91 Days Travel Blog April 2, 2012 at 4:27 am edit

    We sold everything too (or put into storage) and are traveling now. The hardest part of this process is to make the decision and to follow through.

    And STICK TO IT.

    After making the decision to start traveling we had moments, thinking that we are insane! But we are now so happy we did!

    Reply
  • Anne O'Connell (@annethewriter) April 12, 2012 at 8:14 am edit

    Hi Annabel,
    I love the photo of the bat! I am currently living with my husband and cat in the island paradise of Phuket, Thailand (Torre, where in Thailand are you?). We left the snow and cold of Canada long ago. We’re here for the long-haul for sure. Kudos to you for following your dream…especially with 3 kids. I recently wrote a blog about the 10 things that expats get used to and would love your thoughts and additions! http://anne-writingjustbecause.blogspot.com/2012/03/10-things-expats-get-used-to.html
    Happy trails,
    Anne

    Reply
  • Rob June 10, 2012 at 5:55 pm edit

    This is a dream of mine too. However, one must need indispensible amounts of money, no? How would one pay for food, shelter, medical costs, etc? Especially with kids in tow. I think I would have to wait until my kids grew up and moved out before I could take such a risk. Even then, the cost, just getting to one of these countries you mentioned, would break me financially. Finding a job would just be defeating the purpose. Will hang onto the dream though :)

    Reply
  • FrequentBird February 14, 2013 at 7:59 am edit

    Too many people say they can’t do what was done in this post. They are restricting themselves unnecessarily. I have quit my job and sold my stuff in a huff too. I have not yet moved to a tropical paradise yet though!

    Reply
  • Cassandra May 22, 2013 at 11:22 am edit

    My husband and I are in the process of making the decision to move to Thailand. The hardest part for us is pets, we cannot leave them, they are our kids, so wherever we go has to be pet friendly. This makes it difficult for quarantine reasons, and also because we are limited with accommodation. But we are trying to make it happen!!

    Reply
  • Annie May 31, 2013 at 4:41 pm edit

    HI,
    I have lived in Australia and miss it everyday. but how did you get the OK to move there? I had a working holiday visa but it only was good for a year. Being Canadian the Aussie gov didnt understand why i wanted to stay as they lose ruffly 2,000 ppl a month whom move to Canada. I’m well educated with 2 degrees and bilingual. If you could give any advice i would love to hear it.

    Thanks,
    Annie

    Reply
  • Summer Johnston August 9, 2013 at 1:35 pm edit

    Thank you for sharing this story. It is truly inspiring. I dream about your kind of life on a daily basis, but let the naysayers talk me out of it. You’re helping me realize I only have this life, and i should do what brings me joy in it!

    Reply
  • Jay August 23, 2013 at 4:53 am edit

    Annabel,

    I stumbled across your page while doing research for a move i am getting ready to undertake, i know all about quitting the job and moving to a paradise, i live in one sorta.

    , I was born in Lewiston maine USA, and spent a good part of my life as a radio broadcaster, eventually I transitioned into the world of information technology, after spending a few years in Washington DC and living the city life not to mention visiting phoenix, LA, Houston, Miami, Dallas and other big cities, I decided to slow my life down, I picked Key West florida as my home and have been living here for the past 2 years. The environment here is beautiful, and tropical, we have a beautiful reef located 6 miles offshore, lots of palm trees, tons of roosters, and sadly lots of tourists, we see as many as 20,000 a week, with the cruise ships (4 a day) the bus tours from Miami, the major airport bringing in 5 plane fuls a day, and the people who drive rent a cars to the island, this place is overly saturated

    ON my way to key west I journeyed across the usa on a scooter and saw many wonderful things it was an amazing trip which you can read about at http://msj.4321fun.com , and among my talents I am also a professional photographer. On my way to the keys I made a stop at the Everglades International Hostel, where I became the kitchen manager in exchange for my fee to stay with them, I stayed there for two and a half weeks soaking up the everglades and the surrounding area, before I sadly said goodbye and moved on to key west (my final destination)

    I have been searching for some time for a place to go that is quiet and laid back like key west but without the tourists, a place where I could live frugral and not have to deal with the hub bub of the normal life

    SO now after long last and a friend putting the travel bug inside me again i am getting ready to leave this tourist soaked town, i have set my sights on a small village called cahuita in costa rica on the coast, it will be much like where i live now, the reef, the sea, the weather, the wildlife, but without the tourists, i plan on going over for the month of december and if i like it return to the states and plan to move for good, things are so inexpensive over there it almost seems to good to be true,

    I am a photographer, i also do technology support for my clients and i own a web design and graphics comapny, on top of that i am principle partner in an etertainment business startup, not to mention i am 50% partner in an advertising magazine, i fear not though, these businesses will continue to go on long after i am gone, so i wont “quit” my business, just move away from it

    I dream even now of a night when i can fall asleep in my little bungalow in that village listening to the sounds of the howler monkeys and the waves crashing on the reef……

    soon the road will be calling me again….

    Reply
  • Paula H November 15, 2013 at 9:30 pm edit

    Your story is very inspiring…I have grown my whole life in Denver Colorado, I may have an opportunity to move to Florida, but I know no one there…Id sell all I have (so I don’t have to cart it there) and move…I have roots and a great job here but I feel God wants me in Florida, how do I overcome my fear of not making it and having to come back to people and ask them to help me because I made a wrong decision?

    Reply
  • Kim Bradford December 9, 2013 at 1:57 am edit

    This is exactly what I want to do! But I have to wait until my daughter graduates in 6 years. (Her dad and I are divorced, so I can’t take her and would never leave her.) I have time to save money and travel and decide where I want to live. I’m almost debt free, don’t own much and don’t know how I would support myself overseas. I’m continuing to explore options and do research. I can always clean rooms at a resort or be a caretaker for vacation property owners. It will just be me, so not a lot of money is needed. I want to live in a shack by the beach with vegetation in my backyard! Food growing all around me would be great! I admire you and your husband taking the risk and raising your children the way you saw fit, despite the naysayers! I’ll keep up with your blog and look forward to your next adventure!

    Reply
  • Dale McSherry January 4, 2014 at 8:59 am edit

    I have dual citizenship (Australian and American) and have lived in Hawaii for almost 30 years – most of my family is in Perth area – but we want to come back home but not necessarily West Australia. I’m a chiropractor and film maker as well as writer (finishing up my Master’s in Creative Writing) but want a Hawaiian like environment as well as great place to live and school for my 11 year old son. Not sure if I could pass the chiro boards but want to work or do something. How are the homes and prices there?

    Reply
  • kim January 29, 2014 at 8:40 am edit

    I have been wanting to move to the West Coast of The USA and I haven’t because I don’t have the financial backing or the money to do so. Even if I sold everything I owned (which isn’t a lot) I wouldn’t have the cash and Id have to quit my job as a housewife to do it anyway so I cant see a way to do it. I feel stuck and I want to be near the water but I would need to live frugally. What ideas do you have?

    Reply
  • Amanda February 9, 2014 at 8:29 pm edit

    I think you and I are soul sisters. You’re speaking my laungage. I am ready to do this same thing! My husband and I are always dreaming of living on an island but are held back by in-laws that don’t even like us that much and fear (of course). We have two boys 5 and 7 and my husband is a techno dj who has been in New Caledonia for the last 11 days. I have always dreamt of taking myself and family a few backpacks and leave this winter waste land (Northern Wisconsin). My business is not thriving in this small town and I’d like to make the push.

    Thank you for your inspiring article:)

    Reply
  • Lena April 15, 2014 at 5:17 pm edit

    Hello!

    I would love so much to do the same!

    I have no husband or anyone to support me in this. I have nothing to sell, no savings meaning I have no money to start with. My current job is paycheque-to-paycheque and easy to quit, no problem here because there is no obligation from their side.

    So having this all this in mind can I still move to the island? Any suggestions?
    Much appreciate
    Lena

    Reply
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