the next phase part 1

The Next Phase (Part 1): More Questions than Answers

I’ve hit a new phase in my life. I don’t know how I got here. I just know that I’ve arrived. So it’s time to start a new blog series that addresses the restlessness of the presence and the uncertainty of the future. What I feel certain about is that I’m ready for a move. Maybe even a big move. But at this point, I have more questions than answers.

Push and Pull Factors

My life has changed tremendously in the last 17 months, when I had a stressful high-profile career and a young adult in the house. Then my job was taken away, my child claimed her independence, a couple of cats died, and I’ve been obsessed with filling the money gap by creating online courses for the Early Exit Academy. This summer I traveled to Germany (Bavaria) to visit my brother and sister-in-law, and I just returned from a trip to southern Africa. Both trips awakened my sense of adventure. Never have I felt so unsettled.

All big decisions should be driven by a combination of push and pull factors. Push factors are those things that drive you away from a predicament or place. Pull factors draw you toward another life. I’ve been feeling the PUSH factors for quite some time now. But I don’t have the PULL part of the equation figured out yet.

Push Factors

Here are the things that are pushing me away from my current life.

  • A house that I no longer care about. This house, and neighborhood, served a purpose – raising my child in a safe environment. I spent years making my outdoor space look fantastic. I have a gazebo, deck, and landscaped gardens. But I no longer have the desire to take care of it all. And the house itself is nothing special. I don’t need the space and I’m ready to move on.
  • An unhealthy lifestyle. I’ve really struggled with my lifestyle this year, which is aggravated by working crazy hours from home. Despite multiple attempts, I’m not making progress (yet). I used to prepare healthy meals, but I’ve lost all interest in that too. And since I’m working from my home all day long, my all too-frequent escape is in the form of mid-day meals at the local deli.
  • Mass shootings and politics. I’ve worked on justice reform issues for decades and advocated for domestic violence survivors and our vulnerable older population. So it’s not like I haven’t contributed to making our society a little better. But now, I’m just tired of our reactionary divisive politics, the gun culture that takes so many innocent lives day after day, and the hatred spewing from the White House. I find it all intolerable and depressing.
  • Healthcare. The costs of healthcare are exorbitant. While I’m catching a break at the moment (thanks to my negative income), health insurance premiums and high deductibles are huge costs to bear. And should we lose the Affordable Care Act, my preexisting conditions would disqualify me from private coverage. I can access better healthcare at more affordable prices outside of the USA.
  • Cost of Living. I can stretch my dollars by moving to a region or country with a lower cost of living (geoarbitrage). I’m sitting on a huge asset – my house – that could cover living expenses for years to come if I move to a less expensive place.

I’m ready to make a change. And if not now, when? But what am I doing? Where am I going? How will I get there?

Pull Factors

I don’t have a clear vision of where I want to live – yet. But there’s a big part of me ready to move to another country. I sometimes think about my ideal day and the lifestyle I hope to create. A lifestyle that includes

  • Morning walks to the local market to gather fresh food
  • Visits to my favorite cafe to grab a morning tea with friends
  • Incredible scenery that I can view from my porch or veranda
  • Cozy walks through town
  • Hiking, biking, and kayaking in the great outdoors
  • Using a scooter as my main mode of transportation
  • Evenings spent listening to music and watching sunsets
  • Opportunities to join outdoor adventures
  • Volunteering to help the environment
  • Self-paced work schedule

So there you have it. Where is this fantasy land? I know that even paradise comes with its own challenges, but I’m ready for an adventure and the time feels right. So why not give it a try? If it doesn’t work out, I can explore other options. The very thought excites me, and is a little terrifying too.

The Wildcard

The wildcard in my decision-making process is my income. A few months ago, I launched my portfolio of courses at the Early Exit Academy. And I’m in the process of revamping my Better Life Challenges website, where I’ll begin offering interactive 30-Day Challenges for a price. But I’m still at a point where I don’t have any income. (If you’re wondering how I could afford exotic travel, I used frequent flier miles in one case and in the other, I had paid for the trip well before I lost my job.) So my stress level remains ultra-high.

Next Steps

My immediate concern is making money from my website, courses, and 30-day challenges. The products are there. The paying audience is not. Next week, I am headed to FinCon19 – the annual personal finance conference. There I will meet other bloggers, figure out how to monetize my blog in a way that suits me, and learn about marketing and promoting my products. What has become obvious is that I need help selling my stuff. So I hope to find a PR and/or marketing expert who can fill this void. I’m ready to make some money!

Today is also the start of a new journey to become a certified financial coach. I enjoy guiding people on their financial journey, but I don’t have the tools and strategies to turn coaching into a business. So I’ve sunk invested my dwindling resources into the Financial Coach Academy (affiliate link). By December, I’ll have all the tools and strategies needed to create my own coaching business. It’s a good fit for me, especially since I can coach anyone from anywhere. My coaching credentials follow me wherever I go.

My “escape to paradise” timeline looks like this:

  1. Sell stuff and start downsizing this fall
  2. Get input from a realtor on necessary home improvements
  3. Research and explore “paradise” options – I’m starting with Costa Rica
  4. Evaluate my budget and income potential in the new year
  5. Visit potential locations and talk to expats
  6. Put the house on the market in spring/summer 2020
  7. Move to paradise!

The entire plan could easily explode if I don’t have a decent income by the end of January. Then it’s time to re-evaluate my finances and pick up a salaried or consulting gig. Or maybe move up my escape timetable?

NOTE: If you’re wondering about my net worth – it’s a little over $1,000,000 ($300,000 is tied up in my house and almost all the rest in retirement funds). I turn 56 in December, so Social Security and Medicare are out of the picture for quite some time.

If you want to live an unconventional life, check out my Gutsy Women Program.

Read the Series

Part 2: Time to Hit the Road

Part 3: Downsizing and Lyfting

Part 4: Downsizing and Buying my Dream RV

About the Author Brenda

Dr. Brenda is a financial coach, educator, researcher, and sociologist. In addition to blogging at The Five Journeys, she is the founder of the Gutsy Women Club. Her passion is guiding people on their journey to financial freedom through coaching at DrBrendaMoneyCoach and online courses at

  • Kat says:

    Hi Brenda! I enjoy reading your posts. I’m 51 and one year into my Barista FI lifestyle (so lower income, cobbling together fun seasonal and/or part time jobs to pay the bills, while I wait for age 60+ to be able to touch retirement funds). I am planning (?) to eventually go scope out Thailand as my place for needed future expensive health care (e.g. I get a disease, need a dental implant, etc). Patients Without Borders has been helpful, but I want to go to some of the large medical tourism complexes to ‘recon’ before needing them for real. Good luck with your search, I’ll be interested to see where your Geoarbitrage lands you! (PS: I’ll watch for you at FinCon!)

    • Dr. Brenda says:

      Hey Kat, would love to chat at FinCon. I’ll be wearing my sweater with the Early Exit Academy logo. First FinCon ever.

  • Jeff says:

    I think I’m just going to live vicariously through you starting now as you seem to be doing exactly what I’ve been thinking. You’re just braver! WHERE to move is the challenge because, as you said, paradise has its challenges and some of those challenges are fairly significant. I’m your age so having access to high quality health care is front of mind for me. Agree we’re certainly not getting what we’re paying for here in the US, sadly. It will be interesting to learn (translation: please share this in a future blog article) what you decide to do on the health care front, whether it’s opting for an international health plan, a national heath plan, private insurance or paying out of pocket. Best of luck on your next adventure!

  • I totally get the push and pull thing and experience it all the time. As far as everything else, I think it’s a very personal decision. YOU have to do what YOU feel is right and it sounds like you are weighing the pros and cons. I hope the decisions come easily to you!!

    • Dr. Brenda says:

      Thanks Tonya, it’s a lot to think about. But I feel like the older I get, the less courage I have. Now might be the time!

  • Lisa says:

    Sounds like a great plan!

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