Have you ever made a really big, life altering decision?
I’m not talking about getting married or buying a house. Those are huge decisions for sure, but I’m talking about a different kind.
I’m talking about happily going in one direction in life, working towards a goal, and then BAM!
A train hits you – you’re knocked off your track and you start going in a direction you never even dreamed or expected.
That’s what happened to us.
How our world changed in an instant.
We were a newly married couple who both worked full time in Richmond, Virginia. We had a pretty town home, a little bit of credit card debt, a dog, and we were looking to buy a house.
My husband was happy in his job, but he had this feeling that he wanted more, and it didn’t go away. So, he did something he always wanted to do and applied to medical school both locally and internationally. He wasn’t sure if he would get accepted.
In fact, he was pretty sure he wouldn’t. He’d been out of school and working for a few years, and wasn’t sure if it was too late for him. He sent off the applications thinking that if anything, he would at least have an answer and could move on with his life.
But here’s the thing: he got in.
I’ll never forget the moment. We were driving to Florida to spend Thanksgiving with my family, and he got an e-mail on his phone saying that he was accepted to one of the best international medical schools.
The thing is, sometimes the best things happen to us when we really don’t expect it, when we really aren’t sure if we believe it’s even possible.
He pulled over, and we sat there hugging each other and crying. I can’t really describe the moment better than that with this grown man crying saying, “I got into medical school! I got into medical school!” and me just blubbering with my mascara running.
Life altering decisions come with financial considerations.
We both quit our jobs and moved internationally to Grenada, West Indies so he could start this medical school journey. We arrived in a country that rarely gives out work visas to visitors.
So, not only did we lose about $65,000 a year worth of income between the two of us, he couldn’t work, I couldn’t get a job, and medical school costs $300,000 including tuition, plane tickets, and living expenses.
Each round trip plane ticket that we buy to get to the island costs around $1,000. As you can probably imagine, just two months into this journey, we were $6,000 in credit card debt.
I decided to take a non-traditional route.
One day, I was reading a story about someone getting out of debt from doing side jobs. Something just clicked for me, and I knew that above anything else I could rely on my extreme work ethic.
I started to realize that I didn’t need a brick-and-mortar job to make money. I had the Internet. And a blog! DUH!
I started applying for freelance writing jobs on other blogs, babysitting on the island and I opened a Fiverr.com account (a website where you can offer simple and easy services for only $5).
At first the work was slow. I was making enough to pay the minimums on my credit cards plus a little bit more. Then, a few months in I started to get referrals.
I was checking the ProBlogger jobs board every single day looking for writing jobs and I started getting them!
Soon, I was bringing in $500 a month from just writing. Then my Fiverr account surged in popularity before my eyes, and I was making an additional $500 a month from that.
Slowly but surely, I started paying our credit card debt down.
Eventually, I started meeting new people and networking on the island. Six months after I first moved, I heard about a real job but I didn’t know if I would get it being an American citizen (which requires the business to buy my work visa, etc).
However, my experience freelance writing online actually made it a great fit for me. I got the job and I count my blessings every day.
Now, I work full time in an office that overlooks the pretty Caribbean water.
My ocean view in Grenada.
Every night I go home, check my planner and write 2-3 blog posts for either my blog or another. I would have never dreamed three years ago while working in Richmond, VA that I would end up here. I would have never thought this was possible.
We paid off $6,000 of credit card debt with side jobs.
Ultimately, it took 18 months to pay off that $6,000 worth of credit card debt. It took hard work and I did it by myself as my husband went to school and studied 15 hours every day.
Every time I would get a PayPal deposit from Fiverr or from a writing job, I put it right towards the cards. It was not easy but I learned it was possible.
Now, two and half years into our Caribbean journey, my husband and I are credit card debt free. We’ve also built up a $7,000 emergency fund and pay as much as possible each month toward his student loans.
I want to emphasize that if we can do this, anyone can.
If you are deep in credit card debt or unemployed please don’t despair. The possibilities of what you can do are limitless.
All you need is a big shot of motivation and a strong will to succeed, and the rest truly will come. We are examples of that.
About the Author:
Catherine Alford is a freelance writer who currently lives in the Caribbean with her husband and spoiled pup, Julep. She received a B.A. from The College of William and Mary and an M.A. from Virginia Tech.