Yale University graduate Noelle Hancock, 31, had a US$$95,000 job as a journalist in New York City.
Four years ago, inspired by a tropical screensaver and hungry for a vacation, she broke the lease on her flat, sold her belongings and bought a one-way ticket to the Caribbean.
Her destination: St. John, the smallest of the US Virgin Islands.
There, despite her parents’ misgivings, Hancock took a job scooping ice cream.
On Cosmopolitan.com, she explained why.
Hancock wrote: “I was happier scooping mint chocolate chip for US$10 an hour than I was making almost six figures at my previous corporate job. It was calming to work with my hands.
“I met new people constantly, talking face-to-face instead of communicating via email and instant messaging.
“When I closed the shop at the end of the shift, my work was done and my time my own.
“Besides, I found that not everyone shared my parents’ concern.
“‘When I moved here 25 years ago, my dad insisted I was ruining my life,’ said one of my regular customers when we got to chatting about our lives one day.
“‘Recently he visited and told me, “You had it right all along. I’m toward the end of my life and looking to retire to someplace like this, and now I’m too old to enjoy it.”‘”
Hancock continued: “These days, I work as a bartender, a job I pursued simply because it’s something I always wanted to try.
“Sometimes I think back to the question I used to be asked in job interviews: ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’
“That always seemed a depressing notion, to already know what you’d be doing five years in the future.
“Here it’s not unusual for someone to work as a cook on St. John, then move to Thailand for six months to work as a dive instructor, then they will head off to Alaska and work on a fishing boat.
“Living abroad has exposed me to a different approach to life, one in which you’re not expected to settle in one place and do one kind of job.
“Perhaps some of us are meant to move around every few years, change jobs and live many different micro lives.”
Hancock admits she may have been bitten again by the travel bug: “Lately I’ve been mulling moving somewhere entirely opposite of here. Europe, perhaps?
“There are so many places to go! It fills me with a sort of wild happiness.
“Who knows where I’ll end up? And what a marvelous thing that is — not knowing.”
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