My Brave New Life Anniversary


It’s a year since I walked away from my corporate job in Singapore with grand plans to become a location independent entrepreneur.

And what a year it’s been. Not the year, I expected, that’s for sure.

The highlights of the past year have been amazing — not just for the places we’ve been and the food we’ve eaten but also for the amazing people we’ve met.

From my point of view, a year after dropping out of the rat race for a second time, the risk we took leaping into the unknown has paid off in the form of a more fulfilling lifestyle. Far less money but a far better life.

Photo Credit: David Niblack; Licence: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported

I spent September last year in a state of anxiety. I kept waking in the middle of the night, my heart racing and my stomach fluttering, terrified of the craziness I was dragging my family into. All that seems like a waste of energy now.

I didn’t become a location independent entrepreneur but I have managed to support my family over the past year, which I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do.

I am still the sole income earner, although our exciting new project will change that soon.

(The work I’ve been doing is location independent, the project we are working on is entrepreneurial but location dependent, so I don’t really know what to call myself now. I think I’ll just have to go with the fallback option of just calling myself fabulous.)

Between my part-time remote editing job (which is still kind-of chugging along in spite of some bad news a few weeks ago), this blog and a dribble of corporate work, I’ve been bringing in between $1,000 and $3,000 a month. That has been enough to live quite comfortably — and travel from Asia to Europe and back again!

That small-by-Western-standards income allowed us to live for six months in a cute three-bedroom furnished house in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, eating out often, riding a rented a motorbike around the region and paying a part-time helper.

My part-time work paid for our rushed trip home to Australia last October when my father died unexpectedly — and far too young.

We used home exchanges and stayed with friends to make our European extravaganza affordable. Our trip to Europe was just one more thing that didn’t go to plan. Our two-month camping and cycling odessey didn’t happen because Darling Man was refused a visa. Instead, Miss M and I had a five-week girls-only trip, visiting Cairo, Paris, Provence and Switzerland (and cycling for one amazing and unforgettable day in L’Isle sur la Sorgue in Provence).

We’re not swimming in cash, by any means. The trip home for Dad’s funeral, which wasn’t covered by our travel insurance, meant we didn’t have enough money to attend a friend’s wedding in Phuket.

But the principle of geoarbitrage that Tim Ferriss talks about in his Four-Hour Work Week is working for us. While I work for Western pay rates we can live quite well in Southeast Asia. I can work part-time so I can enjoy more time with Miss M than I did when I was a exhausted full-time working mum paying ridiculous prices for everything in Singapore.

The past year, and my previous dropout, drove home to me how expensive it is to get sucked into consumerism. We do have a nice house here in Ho Chi Minh City. We rent it fully-furnished so we need minimal stuff, just cooking things mostly. We drive the same old motorbikes that we had last time we lived in Saigon. (Don’t ask me how Darling Man re-aquired them again, I have no idea. I only know our motorbikes have had a rough couple of years without us. They are battered and scraped … but they still go.)

We have minimal clothes and shoes, two laptops, basic mobile phones and a few other bits and pieces. We don’t have a fancy sound system, a flat screen TV, the latest designer duds, a gazillion toys  — we know that stuff is not going to make us any happier. All we need is the basics and each other. I think I am incredibly lucky to have come to this realisation, even if it was quite late in life.

Our lack-of-stuff is liberating. We can pack up and leave the country without much fuss. But I’m sure our lack-of-stuff puzzled the people who came to my birthday party last week.

The past year has also thrown Darling Man and my differences into stark relief. While I think my ideal lifestyle would be to spend six months at a time in every single exotic destination in the world, Darling Man has discovered he wants to stay home. In Vietnam. So that’s where we are for now….

Which is why we are going ahead with our street food tours in Ho Chi Minh City.

We are just waiting for some paperwork to be finalised and for our new website to be finished and then we will officially launch Saigon Street Eats. It’s a very very exciting time and I can’t wait to start taking people out to explore the Saigon I know and love.

All in all, it’s been a fabulous year of dropout living. And the year ahead looks even better.

I can hardly believe I pulled this off. But I did.

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7 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.

20 Comments

  1. Sally says:

    Yay! So proud of you! And after 1 month of full-time employment back in the States, I’m totally ready to join you!
    Sally recently posted..That Time I Went to Vietnam

    • Barbara says:

      Yes, come and join us!

      You can live in our attic. We’ll call it a garret and we’ll starve you so you can finally write that book you’ve been talking about. Because I’m competitive, that will mean I’ll finally write that book I’ve been talking about. Then we can eat snails and drink crack-coffee to celebrate!

  2. bristol says:

    awesome. you guys will be like saigon’s mark lowerson. you should start a food blog to complement your tours

    • Barbara says:

      Oh, Bristol, I couldn’t imagine doing more than one blog. I just roll the food posts in with the rest of the random stuff I write about on this blog!

  3. […] this week (or possibly last week) I learned about a blog called The Dropout Diaries from Sally (Unbrave Girl). I love it. And it was this blog that got me thinking about the several […]

  4. yay, yay, yay! i’ve followed along on this journey – the bumps and highlights – and can’t WAIT for your future to unfold. eat well!!
    wandering educators recently posted..Crispy Fries … on My Pizza?

  5. Heather says:

    I relate to your story so much. My “dropout” is very different from yours, and yet also much the same. Congrats to you for getting to where you are. It sounds like you’re happy and have no regrets about the decisions you’ve made, and that’s all that counts.
    Heather recently posted..Braai Day Photowalk in Kensington

    • Barbara says:

      Thanks Heather. I just caught up on your story. It sounds like we’ve both had a bit of a difficult year coping with loss.

      Congratulations on your dropout. Here’s to more good times for both of us. (And all the other dropouts out there.)

  6. You ARE fabulous 🙂
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Have you seen my O face?

  7. Edith says:

    I was tickled by this: “I think I am incredibly lucky to have come to this realisation, even if it was quite late in life.” Believe me! It is not late in life. Try being over 60 before you start to get it! I am in the process of discarding most of my belongings. Why I thought I needed them so much, I will never know. I remember that I used to dream of the perfect little homey cottage with a lovely garden as a respite from studies or work. A little piece of my own private heaven to relax in. Now my house feels like an albatross. The idea of spending the rest of my life paying a mortgage and utilities, plus cleaning, repairs, painting, whatever….NO WAY!

    I did travel when I was younger and have lived abroad most of my life, so it is not as if I have not seen anything of the world. However, having a lot of posessions is draining mentally, physically, and financially. I am working right now towards a retirement in Thailand within the next year or so. Thank you for helping me along the way with your inspiring blog.

    • Barbara says:

      Thank YOU Edith.

      I know what you mean about being tied down by property. I loved my lovely house in Melbourne but the mortgage – servicing it, thinking about it, budgeting around it – was just so stressful. I feel much happier now as a non-property owner.

      I hope you love Thailand. Keep me posted on your relocation plans.

  8. jan says:

    Barbara is just Fabulous – it has a nice ring to it. Bring on Saigon Street Eats – I may even have to return to Vietnam to sample Saigon’s delights first hand. Congratulations.
    jan recently posted..We chose Lan Ha Bay over Halong Bay

  9. Ayngelina says:

    Congratulations! Wow I remember when you were working back there and it doesn`t seem so long ago. So much changes in just a year.
    Ayngelina recently posted..Food Friday: Farm to table

  10. Spencer says:

    Good on you. I quit my job in 2004 to do a RTW and haven’t looked back since!

  11. Katie says:

    Hi Barbara,

    Good luck in your new venture! It seems that your new business is doing well, and I’m glad. 🙂 I’m new to your blog (saw your link on Dave & Vicky’s blog, I think). I look forward to reading more of your travels and adventures. Reading your adventures in HCMC makes me want to visit it again. I’ve only visited it once, which is a pity, since it’s the other half of me (I’m half-Viet). Happy safe travels!

    • Barbara says:

      Thanks for visiting Katie! I love living in HCMC. I think it’s a place everyone should visit at least once, even people who are not half-Vietnamese.

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