“You’ll know what to do when the time comes. Just follow your heart and what will make you happy” wrote my grandmother in an email to me three months before I made one of the most defining decisions of my life: The decision to quit my job with a Fortune 300 company and move to Nicaragua.
My mind was a wrestling match between excitement and fear. Fortunately the lure of adventure beat out the fear… just barely.
I didn’t leave California and take a 75% pay-cut in my salary thinking I wouldn’t return for years, or maybe ever. I left thinking that I could come back home at any time. That I’d return just as soon as I checked off a few personal goals – such as volunteering in an orphanage, learning to surf and speak Spanish. That mindset was enough for me to take the next step and buy a one-way ticket to Nicaragua.
That was back in 2007, and to this day I can honestly say that I have never, not even once, regretted that decision. Note to reader: That does not mean there haven’t been moments over the years when I’d miss my friends or crave first world conveniences like super fast internet and fancy restaurants. It just means that the highs always outweigh the lows.
So given the choice to do over, I’d choose a lifestyle of freedom and service again and again. Here are a few things I wish I’d known before I made the leap of faith.
1. When you’re on the road, your value system changes and so do your needs.
Barring items of sentimental significance, the material possessions that you leave behind will be worthless to you if you ever make it back to your home country. They’ll also probably be out of style. So don’t get overly caught up with putting all your personal items in storage. Just give away generously and cash in what you can by selling on websites like Craigslist.
2. Enjoy your good-bye parties with friends because you’ll never get those days back.
Don’t spend the time leading up to your departure stressing about the details of your arrival. It’s impossible to figure out every aspect of your new life before you’ve arrived, so don’t waste time trying. Just enjoy the time you have with the people you love. Chances are that it’ll never quite be the same again.
3. You are not alone.
When I left my friends and family behind, I had a feeling that I was alone in this adventure. I arrived without a single Nicaraguan number in my phone. But it has turned out that throughout the journey I’ve been accompanied by wonderful people. Some of them only lasted a season, while others have become my best friends. The point is that you’ll meet people and make treasured friendships when you embark on a new, albeit sometimes scary, journey of the less traveled.
4. Your dreams are too small.
Living in another country will be far more rewarding and exciting than you can possibly imagine. The opportunities to create positive change in the world are endless. When you seek to serve others less fortunate, the universe has a way of unfolding opportunities that are beyond your wildest dreams. I came to Nicaragua to volunteer as a sports director for an orphanage. I now run a non-profit called the Casa Llanta Fund, a multi-front education and sports centered foundation in San Juan del Sur which serves hundreds of children and families throughout the country. It also hosts one of the biggest music festivals and surf contests in the region as a fundraiser for the non-profit.
So give more and dream bigger.
Are you ready to take the leap of faith (even if you don’t know where you’ll land)?