It’s the kind of thing that gets portrayed in rom coms: an overly-stressed, over-worked woman up and quits her well-paying job, sells everything in her gorgeous apartment, and buys a one way plane ticket to some tropical island where she rediscovers the way we were all really meant to live.
Except for Noelle Hancock it’s not a movie, it’s her life.
Four years ago, Noelle—a 31 year old journalist living in New York City—quit her $95,000 job and bought a one way ticket to St. Johns in the Virgin Islands.
You already love her, don’t you? We do.
“It was startlingly simple to dismantle the life I’d spent a decade building: I broke the lease on my apartment, sold my belongings, and bought a one-way plane ticket,” she wrote in an essay published in Cosmopolitan this week. “The hardest part was convincing myself it was OK to do something for no other reason than to change the narrative of my life.”
What struck me—and apparently others, since her story has totally gone viral with over 150k shares on Facebook—was her belief that some people are “meant to move around every few years, change jobs and live many different micro lives.”
This, of course, is a truly dreamy concept….in theory. I’ve always felt like sort of a nomad—moving every few years, feeling energized by new places and people, etc. Even at 31, the idea of a mortgage gives me a stomach ache. But on many levels living like Noelle way feels so…unrealistic? And yet stories like hers resonate with me (and so many others, clearly).
When she first moved to the island, she took a $10/hour job at an ice cream shop (despite her Yale degree) and now she works as a bartender. Sure, she admits, she sometimes sees her peers accomplishments and has pangs of jealousy, but she is a firm believer that too often we buy into (pun intended) the false promise that ‘things’ can bring us happiness.
And this is not to say that settling down means settling. Getting a promotion, buying a house—these aren’t lesser dreams or lives. They just happen to be much more mainstream and acceptable. Part of Noelle’s hope from sharing her story is that people will have the courage to give their “foolish dreams” (her words) a chance.
Another reason Noelle left New York to pursue a tropical life—she wanted to connect with people again, the old-fashioned way. “It’s ironic to feel lonely on an island of 4 million people [the island of Manhattan, that is],” she said in her Cosmo piece, “but it seemed I spent my life staring at screens: laptop, cell phone, iPad — hell, even the taxis and elevators had televisions in them. I felt stressed, uninspired, and disconnected.”
Once she moved to her tiny island of 4,100, she started meeting people of all different walks of life, many who have made a similar life change. “I met new people constantly, talking face-to-face instead of communicating via email and instant messaging.” Life in this little oasis looks a lot like being barefoot, having limited Wifi, and showering with filtered rainwater. She writes, “I see my friends every day. On our days off, we hike the local ruins, dive, or go boating to the nearby British Virgin Islands.”
This morning, Noelle took a break from taking a break and Skyped into the Today Show to discuss her article. “I was just looking for a different kind of life where people were still engaged,” she told Matt Lauer. Then she probably shut her laptop and went back to living in paradise.
It all sounds pretty glorious, huh? Instead of complaining about always needing a vacation, why not turn your life into one? Noelle admits moving to an island isn’t the right thing for everyone, but at the very least it might help us take a moment to maybe redefine that ol’ American Dream and make sure we’re living the kind of life that we really want.
And if not? Hell, change it.
(Image via Facebook)