How I Escaped a 9-5 Dead End Job and Launched a Life Abroad


NOTE: This post is to accompany an upcoming offering I’m cooking up on creating your Escape Plan. If you’d like to help me out, fill out this quick survey. Thank you!

Let me be transparent. I never made it up the corporate ladder like the many “quit your job, launch a biz” stories out there. I’ve never even made more than $35,000/year.

I always knew there was something more for me. Every day felt like squandering my talents. I was’t happy. I dreamed of escape.

There’s something romantic about living abroad. At least, I always romanticized it. I dreamed about moving to New Zealand or somewhere in Europe. My partner at the time always made excuses. How hard it is to start over. How difficult it is to move all your crap (note: DON’T move your crap, sell your crap). How difficult it is to get visas and for countries to accept you for work. And on and on. I felt discouraged and shot down. I knew I wasn’t living my life. I felt stuck in a rut and it was killing my spirit that wanted so much to feel alive.

I learned to let go.

The weight in my heart was weighted down by stuff, and by a dying love I was better off without. I learned to let it go.

This was a dark moment in my life, but it was also a time of great creativity, the typical “tortured artist” stereotype. There was sadness steeped with creative muse. I found my poetry. I became the writer I always was. And although I vowed two years of celibacy to go inwards, sensual, erotic words spilled out of me, confirming my erotic nature would not go hidden.

I knew that no matter what, I was going to be ok. Better than ok. I knew I was moving towards my best life, and learning to be my best self.

Making a List

I made a plan. I dreamed of going back to the Philippines and finding my cultural roots again. Exploring more than just the Cebu province I had always been to with my mom.

I set an intention.
To volunteer in India and move to the Philippines in one year (at the time, 2010). I wrote down a step by step plan to break down the fear. I began to downsize and sell my stuff.

It wasn’t rocket science. In retrospect, this is the exact technique Napoleon Hill teaches in Think and Grow Rich with your ‘statement of desire’. Write down a desired goal and when you’d like to complete it by. Write down what you’re willing to give to get that goal. And then write a plan of action.

My simple list seemed much easier once I broke down the steps:
Step 1: Commitment
Step 2: Research
Step 3: Visa application
Step 4: Apply for jobs/ Get interviews set
Step 5: Sell/move my Stuff
Step 6: Purchase one-way ticket
Step 7: Pack
Step 8: Get on plane

To make the commitment, I found a voluntour opportunity in India. I knew it would be fun to visit another country on my way to Philippines. To experience travel that I had missed from years of passivity and low self-esteem. I researched a lot of options before applying to a program. The application process was non-refundable so this symbolized the point of no return. This was it. Fill in the application. Step one.

I made sure to cut back on expenses/social life/going out. I didn’t go shopping except for food and necessities. I didn’t make that much so it was hard to get ahead each month but I tried my best. I sold most my stuff, with what little I had. A djembe drum, a violin, a guitar, dresser drawers, and an XBox360 I had won from work before I left.

Quitting My Job

I had actually planned to quit my job in December 2009. I had my plane tickets already purchased. I just wanted the last few paychecks.

Turns out, the job fired me in November instead but I left smiling and laughed in their face. It was a mutual departure and I still felt like I had ‘quit’. They just beat me to it.

While I tried to find a small seasonal job during the holidays to hold me over for a month, it didn’t work out and I made the intention to find a job that I could “take with me” and do from anywhere. Soon after, I found an opportunity on my twitter feed for a social media gig. I got the work, although it was very part time, but it was enough to hold me over for SE Asia, and it was my first foray into being “location independent”. I also got a design gig from scouring Craigslist and worked on designing a portfolio for an architect. This small taste of what my new life could be like was just the beginning.

Launching My Life Abroad

It helps to have contacts where you land. In my case, I went to India to volunteer with a group and then went to the Philippines where I have family. I soon grew bored of staying at
the family ancestral house and began to look for other adventures.

I experienced culture shock. Even in my own motherland. I wasn’t used to being on my own, and it was the first time I had gone back without my mom. It was my first time completely solo.

I found a Zen monastery retreat for 4 months and decided to take up the offer. It soon stretched into 6 months, with a month interlude in Taiwan to temple hop and visit the head temple from the Fo Guang Shan foundation. Because everything in the monastery is provided for (meals and sleeping quarters) and they actually gave us a monthly allowance, I was able to spend less than $1,000 that year.

I traveled here and there around the Philippines and eventually ended up in Manila for two years, living frugally on $50/month rent at an informal dwelling. It wasn’t glamorous, but it was enough to start my business as a self-employed graphic/web designer. Two years and still going. 2014 is the precipice of massive transformation.

If you’d like to have a life of travel/living abroad while being location independent, email me for a free 30 minute discovery session to see how I can help.

Janet Brent

Janet is a graphic/web designer for indies in the holistic and creative arts. She is passionate about working with creative world changers and showing people how to march to their own beats. You can email her at to introduce yourself or work with her. If you enjoyed this, sign up for more updates. TwitterFacebookGoogle Plus

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  • Bjorn Karlman

    I love this post!! Very bold, Janet. I seriously love your style. Congratulations on living a life that few would dare to even attempt:)