For many, 2020 will be remembered as a year spent at home.
Others have taken a different path. They packed their bags and moved to places that many only dream of visiting.
Here’s what they think of their decision a year later, in their own words.
Boston to Napa Valley, California
Name: Ian O’Reilly
Before the pandemic, I was employed as the Director of Beverages in Boston. The restaurant where I worked closed in March 2020, and then I was fired. Thinking about my career, I realized that I no longer wanted to work in the restaurant business. The hours and the lifestyle had taken a toll. I began to explore the possibility of moving to Napa Valley, California to work on the agricultural side of the wine business.
My girlfriend – who is also an advanced sommelier – and I moved to Napa City in September 2020 with our two dogs. I had no job and soon realized that the job market was extremely limited due to the pandemic.
Ian O’Reilly moved to Napa Valley without work; he now holds two positions in the wine industry.
Courtesy of Ian O’Reilly
At that time, I was hired to organize wine tastings online at Virtual With Us. For the first time in my life, I worked exclusively from home. I was in contact with several other sommeliers across the country who had lost their restaurant jobs. Considering the caliber of the people on the team, I was delighted to be included.
Last April, I accepted a logistics manager position at a start-up wine business in Sonoma, but continued to host online events. The marriage of the two has really come full circle in my wine experience. I now manage an inventory of fine and rare wines by the day but I speak about them as a virtual sommelier.
I work fewer hours and have a lot more fun. Plus, the cost of living in Napa is about half that of downtown Boston.
At this point, I have no intention of leaving. I am a permanent resident of Vacationland.
From New York to Greece
Name: Peter Despotopoulos
Profession: marketing director
In New York, I was vice president and managing partner of a custom carpentry shop. I decided to move because I was really unhappy there. I have always felt drained and exhausted. I hated my job and my profession.
More importantly, I felt that the cost of living did not match the quality of life. I was drowning in debt because everything I loved to do was expensive – Knicks games, food, concerts. The pandemic has exposed New York City as that very expensive and densely populated area with no natural beauty and with limited options for simple pleasures.
In New York City, I rented a one bedroom apartment on the top floor of a new luxury 60 unit building in the Long Island City / Astoria neighborhood. I am now renting a two-bedroom apartment in a modern six-unit building in an affluent area of ââAthens called Voula – an area known as the âAthenian Rivieraâ. I have a pool and the beach is a short walk away.
The cost of living in Greece is much cheaper than in New York. There I had about $ 4,500 a month in fixed expenses, including $ 2,500 for rent and $ 680 for a car rental. My business paid for no cell phone bill, no health insurance and no gasoline. My apartment in Athens costs 1,300 euros per month ($ 1,520) and my fixed costs have been halved. The worst thing with Greece is the price of gas – it’s about double that of New York.
Peter Despotopoulos (sixth from right, behind) said he goes to the beach in the morning and starts working in the afternoon.
Courtesy of Peter Despotopoulos
The work is less stressful than before. I work remotely as a marketing director for an American home furnishings website called Moro. Due to the seven hour time difference, my workday starts at 3 p.m. and usually ends around 10 p.m. Greece is a late culture – everyone eats and goes out late – so the schedules don’t bother me. I enjoy the beach before work and the great food and nightlife scene in Athens afterwards.
I still love going to good restaurants and I replaced the Knicks game with going to the stadium to watch my favorite football team, the Panathinaikos, on the weekends. I go on weekends to beautiful Mediterranean islands which are only a 30 minute flight or two or three hour ferry ride away.
Peter Despotopoulos has said he traded New York Knicks games for football games at the Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium in Athens.
Courtesy of Peter Despotopoulos
Almost a year later, I think I made a good decision. If you make a lot of money in Greece this place is heaven. Being of Greek descent, speaking the language and coming here in the summer gave me a good idea of ââwhat to expect.
Make no mistake, some days are tough being away from friends and family. Changes like this take time and patience to adapt.
From southern England to Costa Rica and Mexico
Name: Alister Gray
Profession: Executive Coach and Founder of Mindful Talent
In October 2020 my wife and I made the quick decision to leave the UK with our 5 year old daughter Rumi and travel while the world’s craziness settled down. At the time, we lived in a small town called Twyford. It was a short drive to central London which was perfect for our business.
A stint in Bali gave Alister Gray the confidence to run his executive coaching business in Costa Rica and Mexico.
Courtesy of Alister Gray
I had been trying to run executive coaching sessions and workshops in Bali, Indonesia for nine months in 2018 when our daughter was 18 months old. It gave us the reassurance that we could work from anywhere in the world as long as we had a good Wi-Fi signal.
We were in the process of applying for US visas with the intention of moving to California when the pandemic hit. We decided not to let this stop our ambitions to leave the UK and instead saw it as the perfect opportunity to travel to a country we have long admired: Costa Rica.
In January, we flew from London to Costa Rica. We found a dream home with a view of the Pacific Ocean in a place called Nosara. We woke up each morning to a family of howler monkeys, less than 30 feet from our patio.
We spent six months in Costa Rica and loved it, but our daughter’s school never really worked out. So we moved to Quintana Roo, Mexico, to a little place called Puerto Aventuras. While visiting friends in April, we fell in love with the way of life there. We were greeted by a lovely community of friends – a mix of Mexicans, Argentines, Dominicans, Americans and Canadians.
Costa Rica was quite expensive. Our costs went down about 40-50% from there. Our spending in Mexico is similar to that of the UK
After leaving Costa Rica (here), Alister Gray said his family lead more active lives in Mexico, where they plan to stay because they “love him so much”.
Courtesy of Alister Gray
Our quality of life has improved with the weekly help of maids, cooks and nannies. We also have the beach, tennis courts, running and biking trails and a golf course nearby.
Moving was one of the best decisions we have ever made. We gave our daughter and ourselves a freedom we would not have known if we had stayed in the UK
From Las Vegas to a nomadic lifestyle
Name: Bryan Conzone
Profession: Owner of the data analysis and marketing company TRFK
We were living in Las Vegas when the pandemic started. I worked remotely for many years, but my wife, Jenn, was a registered nurse. When the schools closed and there was no daycare for our five-year-old son and five-month-old daughter, she was forced to leave her post.
Our lease on our house ended in June and we had long considered moving to Texas. We decided to visit Dallas and Austin for a month each. That’s when we came across a company called Landing, which rents furnished apartments for 30 days or more.
We ended up liking this concept so much, that it quickly became a discussion of: Why Stop in Texas? Why not take this opportunity to explore the whole of the United States?
Bryan Conzone said the apartments he rented cost between $ 1,800 and $ 3,600 per month, including utilities, which is more than his townhouse in Las Vegas but cheaper than his rent in Orange Country, in California, where he lived eight years before Vegas.
Courtesy of Bryan Conzone
After Dallas and Austin, we stayed in Las Vegas; Seattle; Salt Lake City; San-Francisco; Orange County, California; Portland, Oregon; and Scottsdale, Arizona.
When we left Vegas, we put our things away. We just traveled with essentials, such as clothes, computers, educational materials and toys. It’s amazing that we’ve been without 95% of our business for over a year now.
Then we would like to explore Denver, Chicago, New York, Boston and then down the east coast to Orlando.
A year ago, there was no scenario where I would have thought we would be able to travel to the United States so freely and explore so many places. It has truly been life changing and completely changed the way we look at life for the foreseeable future.
Editor’s Note: Answers have been edited for length and clarity.