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Why? So the questions keep coming and we figure we should start in the beginning. On our first date in 2005 (at the Steaming Bean in Shell Beach, CA), we talked about our regrets in life  (it was a long first date). We both only had one. We had both wanted to live overseas for a year or two (in our adult life), and somehow been talked out of it (or scared out of it) time and time again. In fact, we had both applied to (and been rejected by) many of the same international NGOs after college.

Our wedding. Ebb Tide Park, Shell Beach, California Oct 21, 2006

By the next year we were married. The year after that we were preggers with Mira and a year and a half later Elena came along. It was a busy, busy time! Sometime during those early years we went to a financial planner for the first time and we were asked to write down our short term goals. We didn’t talk about our answers beforehand but we both wrote down “live overseas for a year or two” as a top goal. We were still in baby/toddler survival mode then, plus a few home remodel/moves. Over the next few years Natasha’s dad became increasingly fragile. By then life abroad had moved to the back of our minds. When he passed in 2014, our focus had shifted to remaining in Shell Beach, building our dream home, and starting new jobs.

Elena and Baba, Pacific Grove, CA 2012

Why now? Sometimes you just need a little reminder to put your dreams back in focus. The new house, new car, new jobs and security were great… but we started feeling a bit restless last summer. Natasha’s cousin Kate and Kate’s husband Sebastian had become a bigger part of our life over the previous years, and their bold moves and priority shift reignited our dreams. They were exploring minimalism, FI (financial independence), and their nomadic experience living in Esmerelda (their Airstream) for the previous year was truly inspiring. Time, not things, was a gift that they had given one another. Meanwhile our dreams were running out of time. We had an 8 and 9 year old who still preferred spending time with us over all others, and moms who were aging but still healthy.  It was time to make this happen.

We began reading finance books and listening to podcasts incessantly. We realized that by saving rather than spending we could afford to do this in a few years. We started to plan a round the world year abroad, but Mira was adamant: “I’m not going!” Thankfully when we unpeeled the layers of her angst we discovered that she loved school, and was willing to go anywhere as long as we found a school for her to attend that was similar to the Singapore American School that Natasha attended as a kid. The hunt for a school began, but we waivered in our resolve many times. We looked online for options, but the good international schools in South and Central America (close enough to fly home to work intermittently and visit the grammas) were all in big cities (we don’t like cities) or very, very Catholic. We have no problem with Catholic schools, but the old school style of teaching/discipline would not be a good fit for Elena. We then heard about the Green School in Bali and we decided to book a trip for this past March to check it out. As we learned more about the school, the jungle life (scorpions, Spitting Cobras, and Pit Vipers) we felt that maybe it wasn’t such a great idea. Natasha also found herself up in the wee hours of the morning worrying about earthquakes, tsunamis, and the very active volcano Agung. We had pretty much nixed the whole overseas idea when a chance coffee shop conversation led us to explore Sayulita, Mexico as a small town option.  We hated it! It was New Year’s week: crowded, loud, dirty, and filled with fellow Californians. We backed out of the school tour we had scheduled, but after a better day in a nearby town (San Pancho) we decided to reschedule our school tour. Jason and Natasha were not impressed. It was a tiny school, run down, no space to play. Funny thing, the girls loved it. They loved that the kids were involved in community service projects; there were small class sizes, and art and music every week. We knew that if that school impressed them then we had to show them a true international school. Bali was back on. We discovered that there were quite a few international schools in Bali and 2 of them had International Baccalaureate programs.

We landed in Bali on a Tuesday afternoon in March and by Friday we were SOLD! The question then became timing. We were ready to go immediately, but we had financially planned to go in another 1 to 3 years. The girls were ready to go now, the grammas were healthy now, Natasha’s clinic (federally funded) was in a fiscal crisis with increased hours and pay cuts on the horizon, and Jason’s autoimmune arthritis was progressing to the point where he couldn’t mountain bike, surf or even stare at a computer for more than an hour or two without severe pain. In fact the only time he had been pain-free for the past year was during our 2 week visit to Bali. We ran our numbers and decided the time was now. Thankfully our house was rented right away, our car sold without putting it on the market, and we were able to quit our jobs with enough cash in the bank to sustain our sabbatical for a year or more.

Sanur, Bali, March 2019

How? We spend money on travel. Period. We stopped buying things. We travel hacked to get free airfare for every trip this past year. We budgeted every penny. We saved. We sold. We donated. We loved our work, but we love the idea of family time, of healing time, of adventure even more.  We are purpose driven and know that idle time won’t work for us for long, but we want to give ourselves a few weeks to focus on getting the girls settled in school, furnishing our rental house, figuring out visas, bank accounts, driving and even how to pay utility bills in a developing world country. Natasha can’t practice medicine in Bali, but she hopes to volunteer in the service projects the school supports. She also hopes to do some online consulting and telemedicine once the dust settles. She will also work when we are stateside over Spring Break and summer.  Jason has a million ideas for ways he can contribute at the kid’s school. He is also planning to pursue his flight instructor license (his first passion) once his neck pain improves.

How long? It depends. We committed to a year, but the amount of work and sacrifice to make this happen makes us hope that we stay for 3. It really depends on how much the girls like their school, how far our budget will carry us, what work we can find to fill the budget gaps, how we deal with the heat, the mosquitoes, Bali belly and the frequent earthquakes. Really, for Natasha it depends on the critters. One venomous snake encounter and we are out of there!