I Stopped my 9 to 5 Job to Follow my Dream and Live Abroad
I decided I wanted to become an attorney at age twelve. I was the skinny kid in school and decided that being a lawyer would make me influential and respected. As I grew older, the reasons to become a lawyer evolved and developed.
You see, in 1996, at the time I was in my last year before college, my choices on what to study were limited. I could choose medicine, architecture, engineering, law, science, and so on. I am trying to say that there weren’t as many choices for a career as there are today, at least the kind you could make a living with. So, I could do pretty well as an attorney and apply to law schools in Mexico City.
I started law school and worked as an office clerk in a law firm in 1997. Of course, full of enthusiasm, and as anyone in the same stage of life, I wanted to conquer the world.
Before I knew it, I was stuck in a nine to five with frequent late or sleepless nights, stressed, in debt, and working much more than what I was being paid. I was depressed, not eating well, and drinking and smoking cigarettes. I thought this was how it went and thought of no other possible alternative for a different lifestyle.
As time went on, I eventually graduated and finally made some money from stable clients. I met my wife, got married, and was now the owner of my law firm. I drove a nice car, wore fancy tailored suits with Italian silk neckties, played golf on weekdays scheduling meetings with clients at the golf course – life was great, well actually not really, I was still unhappy.
Everything was empty, nothing was enough, and I felt so dissatisfied filling the voids with tequila and cigarettes, and gaining weight. I knew something wasn’t right, and I just lacked the insight and self-honesty to realize it. I was in a very comfortable prison system, and I had both built an invisible one.
I took on scuba diving and frequently traveled to the Mexican Caribbean to dive; soon after, I bought my first entry-level underwater camera and started taking pictures and filming underwater.
I’m not going to get into too many details about diving, but your buoyancy (whether you sink or float) depends on your breathing. You float if you inhale and fill your lungs with the air when you exhale your sink. Neutral buoyancy is what you need to achieve, neither sinking nor floating- call it gliding if you’d like. To achieve this, you must learn to be conscious of your breathing. I felt so much peace while underwater, and years later, when I learned about meditation, I understood how paying attention to breathing calms you. Finding a healthy hobby that truly nourished my life, scuba diving, and underwater photography, motivated me to work hard as an attorney to get back out on a dive boat as soon as possible.
In mid-2010, my wife was offered a job in Berlin, Germany, and a paid master’s degree, and the offer was juiced up with living expenses. It was her dream. I was asked to leave behind family, friends, and a law firm with clients all to move to a new country I knew little about and did not speak a word of German.
I arrived in Berlin in October 2010; I stayed at the Hilton Hotel on Gendarmenmarkt Plaza until we found an apartment to rent. While leaning out the hotel room window, I remember asking myself: What the heck am I doing here? I don’t speak a word of German, and I have no job nor permission to work here, no family or friends. I’m not going to lie, and it was scary. There was no turning back now, and the only way was forward by learning German, and supporting my wife in any way possible while she went to work and school.
Berlin is an incredible city, 30 % is parks, lakes, and rivers, and having moved with our two dogs, it was a wonderful place to spend time.
I mainly focused on keeping our apartment in order – groceries, cleaning, cooking, and so on and going to German class from Monday to Friday. Again, I had no permission from the German government to get a job, and I had plenty of time on my hands to think about my future: Would I study law again and enter the job market ten years later? Would I learn something else? I thought of employing myself in some activity I liked and from which I could make a living. I loved scuba diving and made many friends in the industry, including dive operators and hotel owners or managers.
I soon started speaking enough German to get around, joining a dive club. Every Friday, they got together to watch members show the pictures and videos they made on their last trip; it was a photography and video group. I talked to them about my idea to guide and sell dive trips for a living. They said I should go for it, and I did.
About a year after moving to Berlin, I got together with a notary public to formally start my first company, a travel agency specializing in scuba diving trips.
I was the sole operation of the enterprise; all the work was done by yours indeed. I contacted hotels, dive shops, and transfer services, introducing myself as a German company looking to partner with them, providing customers in exchange for a commission.
I put together photographs, edited videos, created written content about the trips I would offer, and posted them on the website I started; the shop was open.
My first customers came in through word of mouth. I sold them a two-week trip to the Mexican Caribbean, they paid in advance, and off we went. We started diving in the reefs of Mahahual town, a 4-hour drive south of Cancun. Mahahual is a lazy fisherman’s town with about one thousand inhabitants, little boutique hotels, white sand beaches with your typical gorgeous turquoise blue Caribbean Sea, and equipped lush coral reefs. My clients Alexandra and Jean were thrilled, and I set them up in a little beach-front hotel. We crossed the border to Belize and stayed on Caye Caulker Island to dive into the Great Blue Hole, paradise. Belize is a country with many islands you would typically see in documentary films. We went back across the border to Mexico after some magnificent diving in Belize and continued the trip itinerary. Mayan ruins in Chacchoben, sailing towards the setting sun on the Bacalar Laguna, Cenotes (underwater caves) in Tulum, diving with bull sharks in Playa del Carmen, and snorkeling with whale sharks near Isla Mujeres. My clients, who at the end of the trip had become my friends, congratulated me and thanked me for putting together such a wonderful trip; they were happy.
I scouted several countries and locations all around the globe, looking for unique and off-the-beaten-path places to take my clients on memorable trips. I decided not to take on the competition by offering mainstream destinations. Although my client profile was reduced, people who traveled to my destinations had a good sense of appreciation for adventure and an open mind.
I opened another dive travel company in Germany and attended the dive trade shows all over Europe to do networking, looking for service providers to partner with and for clients. I later used whatever I photographed and filmed during the trips for marketing content in the shows and on my website to sell new trips. I was living the dream, and I loved my work; it made sense to do what I was doing, always glad I was no longer working as an attorney. Can you imagine having those paradises as an office?
Scuba diving took me to Mexico, Belize, Brazil, Croatia, Germany, Holland, Egypt, Maldives, Palau, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia; good times!
Years later, I moved to Brazil and started post-graduate studies in Biodynamic Agriculture, a discipline like organic-only which focuses much more on ecology and soil health. I have been planting my food at home for almost two years, learning by doing. Today I am excited to start new entrepreneurship with agriculture, a new dream. The privilege of producing healthy food to enrich the body, mind, and spirit has now become my reality. You see, it is not just about the money. Whatever I dedicate my life to must make sense and give joy to my heart. I want to feel I am fulfilling a purpose, leaving something meaningful for future generations.
The food we buy in supermarkets today, even fresh produce, has lost most of its nutritional value because we have overexploited the soil with destructive agriculture. Chemical fertilizers may be suitable for plant growth, but they do the ground and our harm. Soil is alive, teeming with life, and it is not comprised only of minerals.
I will tell you a secret: Just because you eat organically certified food does not necessarily mean that it is not harmful to your health. Organic agriculture uses toxic chemicals too; it is allowed. Although organic is way better than conventional, we can do much better, which is my present goal in life. If you are stuck in your nine to five jobs, keep this in mind: How many times during your lifetime will you need a lawyer? Once or twice, will you hire an attorney in a lifetime? You need a farmer at least three times a day to eat. The sky is the limit, and we need food, real food, and good-hearted farmers.
by Andrew Gold