5 Secrets for Avoiding an Average Life

Moving to Central America wasn’t a decision that came easily to us. Before finally deciding to go for it, my husband, Rich, and I had endless circular debates, many sleepless nights and lots of heart ache.

But eventually we took the plunge. We sold our home<!–more–>, along with most of our other belongings, uprooted our kids from the beautiful island in New Zealand where they’d been born and raised, and moved to Panama.

Why Panama?

For many years we’d planned to move overseas to Australia and visited several times to check it out. We were looking for warmer weather and, although what we saw of Australia looked great, it didn’t set our world on fire.

Meanwhile, my husband, Rich, was spending a lot of time on the Internet researching other possible places we could  move to. We were attracted to Central America for four main reasons:

  1. Strategic – We could get residency in countries like Panama, Costa Rica or Nicaragua.
  2. Setting – It’s tropical and safe with great beaches and amazing wildlife.
  3. Language and Culture – The main language is spanish and although we didn’t speak it we were keen to learn and wanted our kids to be bilingual and experience a totally new culture.
  4. Adventure – We’d never been there before but love to travel.

When it came down to it, the idea of moving to Central America and having a real adventure captured our imagination in a way that the safe move to Australia couldn’t.

But still the dilemma raged on for months

Our heads were saying move to Australia. It was the safe, sensible option. It was near New Zealand with the same language and a similar time zone so we could even maintain our web design and copywriting business Mucho and have a continuous income.

But our hearts were keen for adventure, even though we knew it would be tough to settle down and earn money in a developing country where we didn’t yet  have residency or speak the  language.

So how did we make the decision?

Why did we choose to go down the unknown path and take a risk? Were we brave, mad or both?

As Sir Edmund Hilary said about climbing Everest, we did it because we could. We knew that the freedom and opportunity we had then might not come our way again for a while. Our kids were still young (1, 5 and 8 years old) so we weren’t too worried about them missing school and we wanted to travel with them and expose them to new languages and cultures while we could.

We knew that if we don’t do it right then, we knew we might never visit Central America.

Best of all, we knew that if it all went wrong we could still move to Australia at a later date because Australia wasn’t going anywhere.

Of course, in the end that’s what happened. We spent 18 months in Central America and ended up living in Costa Rica, not Panama, for over a year before moving to Australia.

But we’re so glad we went there in the first place. Maybe our business and retirement fund suffered, but the experiences we had were priceless and we’d do it all over again in an instant.

Making hard decisions easy

Have you ever spent time reading and thinking about doing something without ever actually taking the plunge and doing it?

People often tell me they want to do something but they can’t because of this, that or the other reason. Usually they’re quite sensible reasons too, but do you want to lead a sensible life? Or maybe you’d prefer one filled with adventure?

If  you want to avoid leading an average life you’re going to have to make some hard, uncomfortable decisions and be prepared to take a few risks.

Sometimes it does take a long time to make a decision but then a tipping point comes and suddenly you know what you need to do and you find a way to do it.

For me, life is all about having new and exciting experiences, challenging the status quo and challenging myself.

You can learn about something second hand and study it until you’re blue in the face, but you won’t really understand it or appreciate it until you try it.

Reading about Costa Rica, India or Africa isn’t the same as actually visiting those places with all their inherent sights and sounds. Watching documentaries or slide-shows don’t cut it either. In the end you have to do stuff.

You have to live life and not hide away from it because you’re too worried about what might happen if it doesn’t go to plan.

It’s the same scenario with getting healthy. It’s no use buying fancy exercise gear, new trainers and filling the  fridge with seasonal fruit and vegetables. You have to get up early, get the clothes on and go for a walk then come home and make a fruit salad. Repeat for 28 days and you should start to feel a difference.

You can’t just think about doing things, you have to actually do them.

5 Secrets for Avoiding an Average Life

  1. Be prepared to make some decisions that scare you.
  2. Embrace the fear of the unknown and think of it as an adventure.
  3. Think about the worst thing that could happen and have a ‘plan b’ to fall back on.
  4. Be pragmatic and grab opportunities while you can in case they don’t come your way again.
  5. Be brave… and maybe even a little bit mad.

We may be average people with average families living in average houses on an average income. But that doesn’t mean we have to lead an average life.

Thanks for reading and good luck with all your plans!

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Photo Credit: Many thanks to Hamed Saber.

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  1. Tomas Stonkus December 15, 2009 at 1:14 am - Reply

    How refreshing! Love it! I am glad I am not the only one who sees the world this way!

    Yet, I have to admit that sometimes I do get scared and I do want some comfort, but for the most part I am seeking new and unique experiences that can show me the world from a different angle.

    Making a drastic move is kind of like going skydiving: you decide on it and you do it. Nothing else. Just say to yourself that you are going to do it and follow the steps necessary to get there.

    I did it and it was scary and rewarding and outstanding all at the same time! Seems like we do not have to go skydiving to go skydiving :)

    Thank you for such a refreshing point of view and I am really excited about the life that you lead.

    Best of luck!


  2. Ideas With A Kick December 15, 2009 at 1:48 am - Reply

    Hey Annabel,

    I think what comes out the most in these 5 ideas is the attitude component. They all have to do with upgrading your attitude, which I know from my experience and that of my clients how important it can be. So… right on from my perspective :)


  3. Bradley December 15, 2009 at 4:37 am - Reply

    once again, excellent post.

    i get scared all the time, but i have realized (and have to keep reminding myself) that you have to live your life and not just “x” off calendar days.

    for me the tipping point was when my x-wife left. i realized that i had been wasting time and that i needed to get on with it and not let anyone or anything hold me back.

    i havent gotten up the nerve to move to another country, yet. but i am starting my own business… and for me that is a huge scary thing.

  4. Annabel Candy December 15, 2009 at 9:01 am - Reply

    Tomas – I think there are plenty of ways to avoid leading an average life. Just as long as we can shrug off the pressure to stick to the norm and hold our heads up proudly as we veer off on our own direction.

    Eduard – That’s true. You’ve got to have a can-do attitude and not sit around worrying about what might happen.

    Bradley – Good luck with the business. We earned next to nothing in our first year of operating our own business in New Zealand. I really hope you have enough funds to keep you going until you’ve built up the business and can start earning decent money from it. It’s all about grit and perseverance but we also need to have enough cash to survive on until our perseverance pays off. Wishing you all success with it next year.

  5. CoralM December 15, 2009 at 10:41 am - Reply

    Hi Annabel

    I totally agree with your philosophies. Life is to experience! As you know, we’re going to spend Christmas in India this year! Make the most of NOW. Remember, they say “you’re a long time dead!”

    Namaste and Merry Christmas :-)

  6. Nancy Burcham December 15, 2009 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    For us, it’s been a combination of planning AND saying “enough with the planning, let’s just take the leap.” Sometimes a decision will never make “sense” if we plan for it too long, but you just have to do it, if you are really compelled for some unknown reason. That’s when the magic starts happening, and life unfolds with the adventure you describe, Annabel! We moved to Costa Rica with no plan B, and everything went wrong financially that first year. But we created a plan B and dealt with the set-backs. After almost 4 satisfying years there, it is now time to make another move – but thanks for the reminder that we can create adventure in whatever we do!

  7. Anne December 15, 2009 at 4:26 pm - Reply

    My life has not been one of “adventure” and looking back now I wish I had done many things differently. (Of course, I should note that “adventure” can mean different things. I’ve been home-schooling for twenty years – to some that would seem a crazy adventure!)

    Nevertheless, I am not in a position to jump-off and do the things I might want to do. Children, marriage, responsibilities. I want to say to those who are like me, don’t sit around feeling like you have less of a life. Sometimes the responsibilities SHOULD come first.

    However, I find some of this worthwhile, especially your list. That’s something I am going to save so that if I have the opportunity to do something – even something that seems very small – I will have the courage and the wisdom expressed there to help me make the jump.

  8. Annabel Candy December 15, 2009 at 5:12 pm - Reply

    Coral – Happy holidays in India, can’t wait to hear about all your adventures!

    Nancy – You’re right, you can plan and plan but you have to just jump in and hope for the best in the end. Sometimes it’s good to not take the sensible move.

    Anne – I think you’ve avoided average by homeschooling. In my heart I’m a homeschooler too but in practice I discovered that I’m not cut out for it.. I congratulate you on taking that brave move and hope you do get to shirk off from your responsibilities some time too. It really doesn’t have to be a major adventure or overseas excursion. Sometimes going to a shop you’ve never been to before or taking time to walk around your neighbourhood and take in the plants, birds and houses is a good start.

  9. Connie December 16, 2009 at 12:52 am - Reply

    Do all the kids speak fluent Spanish? Have they started to lose it since you’ve left or are you making sure they keep it fresh?

  10. Randall December 16, 2009 at 12:22 pm - Reply

    Thanks for another great post! I am at the tipping point, or at least very close. I guess there will always be fear when you take the plunge but I also believe it should be calculated. We are really trying to make a change for the better and we believe it will be soon. The day to day is a grind! I don’t want to be average! Your words are inspiring and a good outline to follow.

    Thanks for your recent post!

  11. Annabel Candy December 16, 2009 at 1:30 pm - Reply

    Connie – They did! I had high hopes to find them a spanish teacher and maintain it but that fell through. I speak to them in spanish a bit and they reply in english. They watch the odd movie in spanish. I hear that if they ever go to live in a spanish-speaking country they will pick it up again fast. I hope they get that opportunity!

    Randall – Change is scary. But exciting too. I hope that your plans are well thought out and exectured with a decent safety net just in case. Other than that brilliant to hear you’re going for it. So much better than not daring and accepting the status quo!

  12. Fida December 16, 2009 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    What an inspiring article. You are brave. You did it with three children – I don’t know if I would be where I am had I had children even though they adapt much better to change than adults do. And of course, I didn’t have the husband to do that. He never would have been happy ‘away from home’.

    After our divorce nothing stopped me. I need a radical change from time to time. I don’t really know why that is – but I think I am a traveler at heart. I want to get to know as much as possible about our world as long as I can.

    Is there an other move cooking on your back-burner or are you settled for good in Australia?

    Happy Holidays!

  13. Annabel Candy December 16, 2009 at 2:40 pm - Reply

    Fida – I think the kids do tie you down and make travel harder. There is a certain responsibility attached to being a parent and providing a stable environment to raise them in. But I want them to be adventurous too. Having said that they probably won’t be. After all the travel they’ve done they may just want to stay in one place!

    I’ll never be done with traveling but have to stay put for the next 14 years or so to put the kids through school. Having said that I do have plans for a 6 months safarin Africa in about 5 years and we certainly plan to visit the pacific islands and see more of Australia while we’re here. We have to concentrate on working for a while and saving our pennies. It’ll be good to have somewhere to come home to next time we travel though!

  14. Alex Hudish December 16, 2009 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this wonderful, inspiring post. Subscribed :)

  15. SergioM December 16, 2009 at 6:29 pm - Reply

    I see you were brave, really brave!

    Sometimes I think how would be living abroad and I truly believe that I would enjoy it but still there are some points of the list that I need to figure out. I don’t know when but someday I’ll make up my mind and then I’ll stop thinking about that.

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

  16. Annabel Candy December 17, 2009 at 9:03 am - Reply

    Alex – Con gusto:) My pleasure!

    Sergio – No pressure or hurry. As I said it took us ages to decide but then the time was right. At some point it will be for you too.

  17. Cooffee life December 17, 2009 at 9:59 am - Reply

    Thank you for this inspiring post.
    Take the risks and enjoy amazing life!

  18. Jared-Brandentity December 18, 2009 at 2:18 pm - Reply

    Step 3 is so powerful because when you think about the WORST possible result and truly take the time to analyze how this could negatively impact your life, you will begin to realize that it is okay to be afraid, but do it anyway!

    Great post…!

  19. John December 25, 2009 at 7:23 am - Reply


    Spent the earlier part of my life in the Australian Army. 2000 they sent me over to Mozambique to clear land mines. Spent nearly two years there, met my beautiful wife there. Migrated her and three kids out to Australia, from where they are now citizens. Been educating her through Uni (Bach of Nursing) and the kids. Did more battlefield clearance in Bosnia, and Cambodia. Trained the East Timorese Defence Force for 12 mths.

    Left the Aust Army in 2005 and then spent the next 3 yrs working in Afghanistan, then worked in Ghana managing a contract. Currently in Mogadishu, Somalia, keeping the logistics up to the Peacekeeping Force.

    Next project will be toward the development of airfields in either Somalia, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    My wife and I have now educated our kids, paid off our house in Melbourne, Australia, and now have land in Mozambique on which we are building a house, so we can spend more time between with her family there, while we both work across Africa…our kids are all adults and pretty independent back in Australia.

    We live between English, Portuguese, Shangaan, Chope, Swahili, French, and Swahili at the moment.

    How do we get out of this rut and into a 9-5 job in suburbia…paying taxes etc?

    Panama seems to be more of a challenge..do you have any suggestions?

  20. Ryan @ Planting Dollars December 25, 2009 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    I can completely relate to this post having just recently moved from Wisconsin to Hawaii via a one way ticket after college.

    Life’s more exciting with near experiences that make you grow and things are turning out much better now that my actions are in line with my passions.

  21. » Can’t Beat the Feeling!  Self Improvement and Personal Development: Get In the Hot Spot with Annabel Candy April 13, 2010 at 10:45 pm - Reply

    […] 5 Secrets For Avoiding an Average Life […]

  22. Device January 27, 2011 at 5:58 am - Reply

    What I got out of this was essentially;

    “Hey you should do edgy things and live your life! Granted I tried and ended up going the safe route but everyone out there should do it anyway!”

    ….am I wrong?

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