My One Year Plan to Quit my Job and Move to a New Country!

Sayonara Japan

Sayonara Japan

I moved to Japan over 12 years ago now. For the most part, this is a fantastic country. I love the food, safety, culture, artistic appreciation and aesthetics. Japan is a great. However, I also like many other countries in the world and would love an opportunity to live in those places to truly get a feel for the culture and people.

We are going to change careers and move to a new country by April 1, 2010.

My wife and I really want to experience other cultures and challenge ourselves professionally. To that end, we have decided to leave our secure business and lifestyle and try something different in a new country.  We are both about 40 years old so this may be our last chance to really start over. We have enough savings to survive for a few years, but we are not rich by any stretch of the imagination. We feel we are very close to the age limit of being able to lose everything and still have a chance at a secure old age. I would like to share our decision processes and experiences over the next year as we extricate ourselves from our small business and embark on a new adventure in a foreign land. Here are the key issues that we have to consider.

Should we keep our house in Japan, or should we rent it out?
Mortgage rates in Japan are so low that it doesn’t make much sense to sell our house. There is very little capital appreciation, but if we were to rent out the house we could reliably make a little profit every month while paying down the bank loan. The choice we have to really decide on is whether or not we want to keep a home-base in Japan so that we can return on a regular basis.  It is expensive to keep the house, but we really want a place to call our own.

Can we give up most of our material possessions?
It is expensive to keep an empty house, pay bills and insurance on a car for a large portion of the year when we are not here. We could rent out the house and sell or give away all of our furniture and possessions and live a much cheaper nomadic lifestyle, but do we want to? As much as I hate being tied to physical possessions, I do love some of my things. My guitars are so personal that I would never give them up. It is also nice to have two big computer monitors and my own desk. I really like my espresso machine and I am quite fond of my sofa. The rest are just things and don’t really matter. We just don’t want to live like backpackers full time. It is nice to have a place to call your own, where everything is familiar and yours. Will we keep the house? Stay tuned to find out.

Should we sell our car?

We have a great car and it is paid for so the primary expense is insurance and the Japanese automobile tax every two years. In Japan, cars are not really necessary because of the great train system but having a car opens you up to a whole new world that most foreigners in Japan never see. The main problem is that the resale value of cars is so low in Japan that it almost doesn’t pay to sell. We will probably get rid of the car though.

Where will we go for doctor and dental visits?
We have health coverage in Japan. It is a little expensive and the quality of doctors is not always great, but we are covered nonetheless. The main thing is to be able to understand the doctors in the foreign countries we are going to live in. I know there are great doctors all over the world, but it is still something we are discussing and debating. Should we keep our Japanese health care or get some international health insurance?

Do we want to live in a tropical paradise or would that get boring fast?
I love traveling to exotic countries and relaxing on beaches with beautiful weather, but I am a city person at heart. I love and need the excitement and energy of busy places. Three or four weeks in paradise is fine if it has decent a internet connection, but I don’t think I could do it for half the year. Where are we going to go? I have no idea. I am currently thinking of Costa Rica, Guatemala, Hungary or the Philippines.  If you have any advice please leave it in the comments!

Should we sell our business?
We own a small English school as well as having a few internet ventures in the works. We are not sure if we should sell our school or keep it self running. Hiring a manager and staff will likely eat up all the profits, so it won’t bring in much money. Keeping the school would always give us a back up plan if our other businesses should fail. Another option we considered was trying to find a couple to jointly work the business, six months on and six months off, but there aren’t many that share our zeal for lifestyle design. We are probably going to sell but that hasn’t been 100 percent decided yet.

Should we buy another house in a different country?
We definitely want to keep our own places around the world. We will always have Canada, at my mother’s house. Now we have Japan. I also have many relatives in Hungary, so that will definitely be a regular travel destination for us. Having one more small apartment or house in another country would be fantastic. Hopefully somewhere warm to escape the winters of those other countries.

Where should we pay taxes?
We still need to make money,  so it is likely that we will need a place to collect income, pay bills and pay taxes. We will probably keep a house in Japan, so this decision may already be made for us. We will have to see what happens.

There it is for the world to see. We are embarking on an adventure of lifestyle design. My wife and I are giving up a safe and secure life with good income and long vacations for something completely unknown and uncertain. Regardless of the outcome I know the next few years are going to be a great experience.

Here is Part Two of our One Year Plan

Please give your advice, suggestions or comments below!
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My name is John Bardos. My wife and I gave up our business, house and possessions in Japan to search for more meaning and fulfillment in our lives. We've discovered that a satisfying life is about rich experiences, quality relationships and meaningful contribution, NOT consumption.

31 Responses to My One Year Plan to Quit my Job and Move to a New Country!

  1. It is really difficult to pull up stakes and move to a different state, much less an entirely different country. In theory, it seems wonderful but if you are attached to some of your material possessions, it would be hard being on an isolated island paradise even with the internet. I live in Hawaii but a few weeks in the western pacific drives me bonkers. Even Molokai gets tedious after a while. I am very interested in how this all pans out so I would like to follow your tweets.

    • John says:

      Hi Priscilla,

      Thanks for the message. Yes, my wife and I are probably not “isolated island” type of people. We will definitely have to spend most of the year in a busier and more connected place. Where that place will be is still up in the air.

      Talk to you soon!

  2. Stephanie says:

    I can hardly believe the serendipity in finding this post! Bless you, internet. I’ve been living with my husband in Tohoku as an English teacher for JET for the past 3 years. Both of us are in our early 30s. I’ll be ending my contract this July, and we’ve been searching for the next step. I am all about lifestyle design, which means there’s no set step for what to do next, and it’s taking a bit of pondering. I know I definitely want to live abroad, and I’d love to live in Japan again someday. My husband has an internet job and can work from pretty much anywhere… our situations seem remarkably similar! Anyhow… I don’t know if you’ve decided on selling your business or not, but if you are still interested in co-managing the business as you mentioned above with a couple who shares your love of Japan, travel, and creative living, by all means, feel free to contact me at *************.

    All the best with your upcoming adventure!

  3. […] My One Year Plan to Quit My Job and Move to a New Country (Part 1) My One Year Plan to Change My Country and Career (Part 2) Progress Report Here is my progress report and an overview of my current thoughts and plans. Sell our Business (or get it self-running) I have put our English school up for sale on a couple of online classified sites in Japan. I have also been talking to several people potentially interested in some type of work share agreement. That would mean my wife and I would come back for a portion of the year to give the new manager a chance to take longer vacations. I am happy with all the interest so far, but nothing has been decided yet. […]

  4. Loren says:

    Interesting post. I am in the middle of doing something very similar. My last day of work is July 17th 2009. I will be leaving my good paying IT Proj Management job behind. I have until the end of the month to sell all my belongings and move out of my apartment. It’s difficult to sell everything especially at a loss financially but I am also very excited about my new adventure awaiting me.

    I will be moving to Tokyo and starting school in October. I don’t know what awaits me on the other side. Will I find happiness in Japan and stay? Will I come back to the states and have to start all over? Will I move on to another country after Japan? Many of those questions add to the excitement of this journey.

    I wish you two the best of luck in yours.
    .-= Loren´s last blog ..It’s Alive! Am I? =-.

  5. John says:

    Hi Loren!

    Thanks for sharing your story. You will love Tokyo! Everyone does. Rest assured you are making one of the best decisions of your life. What awaits you is uncertain, and that is scary. But, it is also what makes life worth living. Please email if you are coming out to Kansai.

  6. […] his wife are currently living in Japan and running their own English school, however, they  have a one year plan to free themselves from their small business and move to a new country.  Check out the following […]

  7. Nox Ntuli says:

    Hi there. This is really wonderful to read. I have recently exited my law practice in South Africa and sold all my stuff except my sofas and some other personal stuff which i cant seem to part with. Im moving to Uganda. I dont know much about the country and dont have a job or anything. Im taking my daughter with me and i dont know what i will do there. Honestly im terrified. I have never been this scared in all my life but im leaving the country in a couple of weeks.
    I dont know why we are doing this but i know i have to do it. So good luck to you and your wife just know that there are many people in the world doing the same and they all seem to get on just fine.

  8. John says:

    Hi Nox,

    Thanks for sharing your story! Congratulations on your move. I wish you lots of luck in Uganda. Please let me know how things turn out.

    • Rosy says:

      Hi John I am 39 and have 3 wonderful kids but we are strugling with our economy since many time ago. We live in México but my husband is an ametivan citicen so our kids. I want to move to florida because of the weather and the hispanic group of people who lives there. But I also think we are just old enough to settle down I am so scared things dont work as we want and live our children in other country with jo family. My head is going crazy , just wanted to share as you did a desition and did great. Rgrds Rosy

  9. Lynna says:

    I just ran into your website, and I too am planning a big move like this. I moved to the US over 10 years ago. It has become a second home for me and I was able to meet someone special a few years ago. We are both people who cannot be in one place for too long and now have decided that 2010 is the last year we spend in the US. Where are we going to go? We do not know. Countries we have considered: France, UK, Belgium- All of which at least one of us has visited. It is extreeeemely exciting to think about and yet so terrifying at the same time. But it is something that needs to be done. We are stagnant in our lives here meaning we have reached the tip of the progression scale, and we strongly feel something inside saying that another big move is what needs to happen, whatever it may be. So it is so refreshing to read your blog and other peoples comments. It comforts me to know that there are other people out there going through the same thing and also provides me with solace that we are not making a terrible mistake and people do this everyday!! Thank you.

  10. John says:

    Hi Lynna,

    I definitely understand your feelings. Big change is very scary. When I rationalize out the worst case scenarios, I understand that my wife and I will be better for the change. However, just doing drastically different things is such a shock. It is too easy to get complacent and never change again. Unfortunately, that is what most people seem to do.

  11. Dwight says:

    Hi John. I just found your blog and am getting caught up on as much of your story as I can. My wife and I are nearly 30 (me next month, her next year) with a two-year-old. We got a brief taste of backpacking when we were 25, quitting our jobs in Alberta, selling our house and moving whatever was left of our belongings back to our home province of Ontario, before backpacking New Zealand, Oz, Malaysia, London, Paris and Barcelona. A crazy eight months for sure.

    Now we’re itching again, and we need to get going before our little girl goes to Kindergarten. It would mean quitting jobs again — and I’m on the fast-track to a great career in journalism, although working 19 hour days and being addicted to a BlackBerry like my boss is hardly what the sane, carefree human in me sees as a future, as my mind and heart is already discovering new customs and countries around the world.

    Taking the step to living the life we want to live is going to be tough, especially with all our less wordly friends and family judging us for giving up our “future” to travel (ugh, I can already hear the whispers), but with websites like yours, hopefully we can make it a reality.

    I just wanted to thank you for the work you do to help guys like me chase what really matters in life, and that’s experiencing it.


  12. John says:

    Hi Dwight,

    Thanks for the great comment! Please keep in touch I would love to hear more about your adventure.

  13. Johnny says:

    Hi, I recently found this blog and its an inspiration for me. I’m nearly finished school and I have big aspirations to live in a foreign country after university. I’ve been trying to find stories about people who have done so but its more interesting to actually follow one happening. I would like to follow you on twitter and get the rest of the story. Best of luck.

  14. […] enough was enough and last spring I made a public declaration on this blog that we were going to leave Japan and change our careers within one year. It was that deadline and […]

  15. Justin Klein says:

    Hey John,

    From one digital nomad to another…I just stumbled on your site, and I love it! I actually spent over 2 years living in Japan myself (first as a student, then as a game developer – both in Kyoto), and since quitting my job there have been bouncing around the world as much as possible. Just got done with a 3-month stint in Eastern Europe & Scandinavia (grrr…Schengen…), and am looking at heading to SE Asia next month, if all goes well.

    Anyway, just wanted to say a quick hello – it’s always cool to find others with such a similar outlook on life & the world. Who knows, maybe our paths will cross at some point, somewhere in the world 🙂


  16. Angelo says:

    An internet based income would be the best so you can make money no matter where you live. A solid business stuck in any one place is a weight.

  17. Jeff @ Digital Nomad Journey says:

    This is both a bold and important move you are making John – good for you!

    If not now, when?

    That’s a great question, there is never a perfect time. It is good that you had assets to sell, in order to fund your multi year travels. Hopefully, your Internet ventures will provide an income stream to continue on this way!
    Best of luck 🙂

    • John says:

      Thanks for the well wishes Jeff.

      Earning online income is definitely an ongoing process but we manage to keep our costs really low to make our saving go further.

  18. So…did you do it??

    We’ve been digital nomads for 2 years now, living in Central America and now hopping the pond to move to Bali, with our 3 & 1 yr old in tow.

    I was introduced to your site via Brandon Pearce, who we became great friends with in Costa Rica. We’ll be joining them in Bali in June.

    Reading your list of concerns is interesting since we did the same thing over 2 years ago, selling it all, leaving it behind and embarking on this adventure of the unknown, never really knowing where this journey will lead us, but delighting in it on the way.

    Perhaps we’ll meet up one day…


    • John says:


      Thanks for the visit and comment. Yes, we did it. This post is a few years old now.

      Have fun in Bali and hopefully we can meet up somewhere soon.

  19. Eric C says:

    Hi John,

    I discovered your excellent and inspiring site via Tokyo Podcast. I’m another Japan refugee and location-independent lifestyle practitioner. I know the above post is an old one, but I have a few questions:

    1) Did you sell the house?
    2) You mention needing a place to pay tax. As I understand it, taxation is based on physical residence (unless you’re American). Since you’re not residing anywhere, doesn’t this mean you don’t have to pay taxes?
    3) Do you see returning to Japan or Canada to live in the future? If not, where will you live when you’re too old to be moving hotel to hotel or short-term apartment to short-term apartment?
    4) I also make some money online, but I wonder: Do you ever get tired of the endless self-promotion, networking, marketing and social networking that is necessary to make a living “online” the way you do?

    I eagerly await your answers and wish you more power as you live the way millions of cubicle dwellers dream of living.

    • John says:

      Hi Eric,

      Thanks for visiting my site and asking some great questions.

      1) Yes, we sold the house. We were going to rent it out, but dealing with Japanese real estate companies was a terrible experience. (Don’t use Apaman. They border on the criminal.)
      2) Taxes depend on where you are earning the money. We have kept our business in Japan and I also have to pay some taxes in Canada for some consulting work I do here.
      3) I don’t think I want to live full-time in any single location right now anyway. Japan is great, but there is a big world out there. We will spend summers in Canada for the foreseeable future. Also, we have been returning to Japan twice as year as well. I am applying for EU citizenship, so hopefully we will be spending more time in Europe starting next year.
      I have a 75 year old uncle, that rotates between Canada and Thailand, so I am still far away from worrying about settling down in one place. I expect to be rotating countries for at least another 20 or 30 years. A lot can happen over that time. I guess it will depend on our health condition and what type of medical care we need. Canada has free health care, so that will definitely make it an attractive choice.
      4) I think it is important to distinguish between cheesy self-promotion where the only intention is to try to make money, and just connecting with people because you value human relationships and friendships. I love meeting new people; so networking, social media and even travel are fantastic ways to do that. With regards to blogging, I do this mainly for myself. The interviews help me meet new people and learn about how they live. My articles help me clarify and articulate ideas I am thinking about. I don’t consider this a chore. This is part of what makes me human.

      I hope that helps!

      • Eric C says:

        Hi John,

        Thanks! Wow, if you give detailed replies like that to people you don’t even know, I can see why your successful. I wish you all the best. I’ll keep checking your site and commenting here and there. More power to you!

  20. […] very first public declaration that I was going to change countries and careers within one year, gave me the courage to actually make it happen. That was four years ago […]

  21. Alana says:

    Hi! I found your blog via (Love his blog.)
    Personally, your story is insanely inspiring to me. I’m a proud Texan and I love my heritage here. However, I’ve been dreaming of distant shores for a while now and a recent trip to Germany only adds fuel to the fire. I want to spend 1-2 years overseas in either Europe or Asia or both… probably teaching English. I know this decision will not be a popular one with my family and friends but what can I say? These boots were made for walkin’! Keep blogging, friend! It helps people 🙂

    • John says:

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Alana.

      Asia will be a lot easier for you to get a work visa, so I’d recommend Japan or Korea to teach English.

      Good luck!

  22. Hi John, this is an awesome post. I have always wanted to live in Japan. Would you be willing to talk more on how you got there in the first place and a little more about your story of life in Japan? Please let me know if you have some time that is convenient for you to discuss (I left my email in the comments). Thank you.

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