Quitting your job and living the dream

Ever dream of quitting your job, moving somewhere deliciously tropical and spending the rest of your days doing what you love (and even making a good, or great, income from it)?

This story isn’t about me, though some of you may know that I spent 2004-2008 living my dream life in Mexico (Puerta Vallarta and Los Cabos), making much of my income from my writing, dancing, coaching and speaking and occasional brief trips North to practice as a doctor. I’m writing this now from a new and as of yet undisclosed tropical location, where I’m very fortunate to be spending a lot of my time lately.

When I took the leap and went for the dream, I had only been practicing medicine for 4 years – Canadian doctors make much less than our American counterparts, and I spent much of my income on my insatiable appetite for travel. I had no savings, a big line of credit, and still owed on my student loans. People here and there who have heard my story, not knowing my true circumstances, have said “sure, easy for a rich doctor to go live in paradise.”

I certainly was blessed with advantages that not everyone else has, like a medical clinic in Vancouver that would let me drop in and work a few days every few months whenever I needed to make some extra cash. But then you can surely do things that I can’t do, too. If you insist on making comparisons, I suppose that any kind of “proof” of why it was easy for me to do this might come in handy as an excuse to stay in the comfort zone that you’re secretly longing to leave.

Until you hear Jon Morrow’s story, that is.

In 2006, he was in a terrible car accident. He remembers being pulled out of his minivan with his shirt on fire, and learned afterwards that his legs were broken in 14 places. During his recovery, he reflected on his life and discovered that he didn’t particularly care for how he was living. He quit his job, sold everything he owned, and began devoting 15 hours a day towards becoming a professional blogger. Shortly after, he sold what had become a very popular blog for a 5 figure price and started working for one of the top blogs in the world.

As Jon writes: “Amazingly, that was only the beginning of the story.”

One cold January day, wrapped in blankets as he worked away at his computer, he asked himself what the heck he was doing living in a place that (if he was honest with himself) he couldn’t stand? Soon after, a friend who had retired to Mexico called him to brag – as usual – about how awesome his new life was. Without a second thought Jon informed his friend that he, too, was going to move there.

And he did. A year later, he got in his car and drove 3,000 miles to his new condo in Mazatlan. (aaah – I remember what that feels like, except I think it was even more miles than that to drive from Vancouver to Puerto Vallarta, stopping in Mazatlan en route for some fabulous roast chicken tacos).

I think I can guess what you might be thinking at this point. Big deal, some ubersuccessful techie-genius blogger with horseshoes up his you-know-what moved to paradise a la Tim Ferriss, another story that makes me feel bad about my “ordinary” life, thanks for sharing.

But wait – you don’t know the most important piece yet.

Jon has SMA, or spinal muscular atrophy, a fatal disease. He can’t move from the neck down. Part of his motivation to leave his home in the U.S. was to get away from the $127,000 it cost in annual medical bills just to keep himself alive. Thankfully he had Medicaid, but in order to for the government to keep covering his astronomical bills he was only allowed to keep $700 of his income from living expenses every month, all his income beyond that had to go towards medical bills.

This is largely what motivated him to move to Mexico, to see if he could make a living for himself that he could actually keep for himself and share with his family (and start giving to society, instead of taking).  He decided that the best way to finances his new life was to help as many other people as he could. You could say it’s gone rather well for him. Really well. At one point he was making so much income that Paypal shut down his account for suspected fraudulent activity.

Jon says it best: “Normally,a guy like me would be wasting away in a nursing home somewhere, watching television and waiting to die, but here I am speaking into a microphone and essentially getting paid to change the world. If my fingers worked, I’d pinch myself.”

All right then. What’s your excuse now?

Susan Biali is a physician and author of Live a Life You Love: 7 Steps to a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You. She blogs at her self-titled site, Dr. Susan Biali, MD.

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