How to Change Everything with One Bold Decision

In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, about 12 months after the decision that changed our lives forever
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, about 12 months after the decision that changed our lives forever


What is one decision that would change absolutely everything about your life?

I am not talking about some flimsy resolution to change breakfast cereals.  I am talking about the boldest kind of decision.  The kind of call that makes you shudder at its potential impact.  The kind of decision that few make but that, once made, completely changes your life.

In the fall of 2012, Jammie and I made one such decision.  It was to quit our jobs to travel the world and do service projects in 2013.  Our lives have never been the same since.  Here are some of the biggest changes:

Action = Liberation! – A year of travel and service is easy to talk about.  We know.  We talked about it for years and did nothing about it. It was just too scary.  Taking action involved quitting our jobs; uncomfortable conversations with family and friends and diving into the unknown.  But we finally decided that we simply could not put off action any longer.  When we, at last, quit our jobs and set our plans into motion we learned that bold action is one of the most liberating things in life.

Risks are less scary once you take them – Less than three months into our year we realized that we had been foolish to fret so much about the risk we had taken in opting to reinvent our lives in 2013.  We were offered jobs; we made friends thousands of miles from home and began to see life-changing opportunities that we had never before noticed.  The risk we had taken in leaving behind the old turned out to be not very scary at all.  It was exciting!

Relationship magic – A lot of people say that travel is the ultimate test of relationships.  Both Jammie and I say that we grew closer in 2013.  Travel taught us to handle disagreements better and gave us a LOT more time to spend together.  We had conversations about things we simply had not talked about in our first year and a half of marriage when we had been stuck in the rat race, running faster and faster for lack of a more healthy perceived alternative.  This year we learned to appreciate each others’ qualities more than ever.  Quite simply, we are better friends than ever.

Seeing the value of  money- 2013 taught us to be frugal.  We had planned carefully for 2013 financially but even so, the fact that we were living off of reduced income streams and savings meant that we learned to be more careful.  Little savings tricks really helped.  One I use a lot is converting prices into Thai baht (there are about 30 Thai baht to 1 US dollar) and reminding myself how much I could buy in Thailand with what I am about to spend on, say, a Starbucks Frappaccino in Los Angeles (I can eat out for two days in Thailand for the $5 I would spend on that one drink).

Learning the limits of money – Even if our financial planning was a big reason that we were able to do what we did in 2013, we have noticed some very clear limits to what money can provide.  What good is money if you spend your every waking hour in a dreary office trying to accumulate more?  I’m not knocking hard work but living in the illusion that postponing real enjoyment of life for some nebulous future “retirement” is dumb.  You have absolutely no idea how your health or closest relationships will look by retirement.  Find ways to enjoy the benefits of retirement (time with loved ones, travel, service and personal growth) using your current budget.  It is probably not as expensive as you think.  For example, living in a place like Bangkok for a month can be done for less than $500.  Don’t have a month?  Start with relocating somewhere for two weeks.  Even two weeks of completely unplugging in a new environment can do wonders for your outlook.   If you really want to see me get on this soapbox, read this: Retirement is fool’s gold, live your life now!

Leaving the United States makes more sense than ever – Growing up outside the US, I was always convinced that America was the land of greatest opportunity.  That may technically still be the case but the magic seems to be fast evaporating.  On the flipside, the pace of progress in Asia and other fast-developing parts of the world makes even a bustling city like Los Angeles feel like a sleepy backwater.  I’m no hater, just stating facts.  Dare to think bigger than life in the US.  Trust me, you will thank yourself.

A quick word to my American friends: this is NOT about being unAmerican or lacking patriotism.  Surely one of the best things about American thinking is the pragmatic, no-nonsense pursuit of opportunity.  You are not being a bad American by pursuing opportunities outside the country.  What do you think the future pilgrims lives would have looked like if they’d stayed in the Old World?  Moving East is to the 21st century what moving West was to the last five.

We see more options than ever – Even if I theoretically knew that I had options in life, I was too jaded to really think about them before we took off in 2013.  Whenever layoffs took place at either my workplace or Jammie’s, I would get really worried.  What would happen if we lost our jobs?  How would we survive in a weak economy?  I would let such concerns influence my decision making and my overall happiness.  I grew much less adventurous and assertive.  I put up with things in the day-to-day that I should not have.  Looking back at 2013 and the improved work and life opportunities we now have, I wish I had been bolder before our trip.  There were always better options.  Fear blinded me to them.

What is the one decision that would change everything for you?  A new year is approaching.  You’ve got it in you to make a decision that would change just about everything for the better.  What is it going to be?  Investing in a relationship?  Completely changing what you eat?  Firing a bad boss?  Traveling the world?  Please don’t waste time the way we did before making our life-changing big decision.  Boldness now could mean a world of difference.



31 thoughts on “How to Change Everything with One Bold Decision”

  1. Great article Bjorn! I look forward to hearing what 2014 will be like for you and Ate Jammie. I don’t know what 2014 will be like for my family but I know that it will include living more simply. Blessings!

  2. Bjorn – some people make small changes. some people make BIG ones. Glad you’re both taking a bolder approach at it.

    I love the line about risks being less scary once you take them. What you’re doing would terrify most people but I think what this journey shows is you can take bold risks and everything will and can work out. Finding that courage to take that initial step is always the most challenging.

    In so many ways, I’m glad you guys are on this journey. You taking a bold risk and blogging about it, allowed us to visit the Los Angeles zoo together. I mean who would have ever thought that you quitting your job, moving across the world and writing about it would mean we would be sharing a churro in L.A!! I guess to add to you article, bold decisions mean new experiences, relationships and friends (and hey, even new family members)

    1. Hahahah!! Had I thought of it, I would have added churros as their bolded section:) But yes, what’s more valuable than experiences, relationships and friends?

  3. love this! i’ll be going to thailand with a one way ticket after being fairly stationery in Manila for 2 years. I’m excited for the next adventures ahead!! and love that travel has brought you closer. :) Would love to travel with a partner sometime.. haha, maybe eventually. For now, solo is the way to go! ;)

    1. I can’t wait to see you! It was surreal meeting Vishnu for the first time…

      As for travel with a partner it can be heaven or hell depending on who the partner is, I guess.. What’s your type? We can keep an eye out for candidates in LA/Bangkok:)

  4. Many great and inspiring thoughts in this article and it takes a lot of courage and entrepreneurial spirit to dare to make such a major change. Congratulations to you and Jammie to have taken the leap into the unknown and landed with both feet on the ground. You are both at the stage of life that you are able to do something like this.
    I particularly liked your statement ” Retirement is fool’s gold, live your life now”. That also reminds me on another quotation in one of your blogs ” You don’t know that something won’t work before you have tried it”. Was it Mandela who said that?
    More happy adventures in 2014!

    1. Thank you so much!! We really appreciate the love and support. And thanks for inspiring the whole travel and service thing in the first place!

  5. Good article. I wish more people would/could live this way. Last July we decided that Jaz would quit her job to be a stay at home Mom. On a hope and prayer we started an art studio to supplement the lost income.( It seemed impossible to give up 40K a year but once we pulled the trigger it was freeing. Every step along the way God has provided exactly what we need. reading this has given me renewed perspective as we prepare to make more bold decisions. Best of luck in 2014

    1. Andy, thanks for the comment! I checked out your site/art studio and was inspired. I’ll let you know when I come through Hagerstown, I’d love to visit. Great building choice too… Success in 2014!

  6. Well done Bjorn!. Thanks for the inspiration.
    This article reminds me of the quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

    “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

    1. Vikram! I love that quote… it was actually one of the ones that powered me as I planned the prison break that liberated us in the end… I was surprised to see you use it!

  7. That is really an inspiring article. God bless. If you remember we stopped by to see Febe and was glad to see you and Jamie as well.

    1. Razwana! Vishnu and I were chatting about you IN PERSON a few days ago… I love what you do and how you write… Here’s to collaborating in 2014!

  8. Brilliant stuff, Bjorn! Really good article to post on the eve of 2014. Miss you guys, but wish you all the very best for your next adventure.

  9. re ‘relationship magic': when Gregg & I were traveling in Italy we got separated (I was TERRIBLE w landmarks & being observant), & besides the inconvenience & fear, we had a plane to catch to Paris in a few hours….pressure!!!! After about 20-30 min of doing what each of us would normally do to fix the situation, we started thinking ‘what would the other person be doing/thinking right now?’ We found each other within 10 min of thinking that way & made it on time to our plane. Take Home Lessons: learn to look at a situation thru the other person’s eyes for another solution & (for me) become more observant!!!!! :) When you are the only person you can each rely on, you get closer. You guys are making amazzzzing memories!!

  10. Great Article. Lots of food for thought. Thanks for sharing these words and great questions. I would love to do exactly what you guys are doing.

    One question though, how did you overcome the fear? You know, what was the catalyst that made you go for it?

    1. Good question. The catalyst was basically the convergence of accumulated frustration from putting our dreams off, some key conversations with friends and the feeling that NOW was as good a time as ever…

  11. This is a fantastic article telling the truth! What an affirmation to the new choices I am making! Blessings!

  12. Love it! What an inspiring story!

    Our little family went through a similar decision/process 2yrs ago. We were tired of following the ruts plowed by popular culture. Now we are pursing a simple, intentional life and will never go back to, “normal”.

    We would love to travel abroad someday when the kids are a bit older…

    Looking forward to following your adventures!


    1. Nick, I just checked out your site. Inspiring stuff! Thanks for checking in. I am looking forward to learning more from you guys…

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