Design Your Life
This Couple Ditched ‘The American Dream,’ Paid Off All Debt And Moved Abroad
By DeAnna Taylor
Tenaj and Faustino (Tino) have been married for 18 years. You’d never guess just by looking at them, but they are both 40 years old with teenage sons. Tenaj is from New Orleans while Tino is from Cuba. They have been living in Penang, Malaysia for the past year.
We spoke with the dynamic couple about their decision to give up their lives in America, pay off all debt, and move abroad.
Travel Noire: What did you all do for work before moving abroad?
Tenaj and Tino: Faustino worked for the Federal Government. Tenaj worked in the healthcare industry as a Director of Marketing. We also owned a Child Care Center and a Ladies’ boutique.
TN: Walk us through the moments that led you to say “that’s it, we’re quitting our jobs to travel.”
Tenaj and Tino: In 2014, we were living “The American Dream.” We owned two business, had a beautiful 2500 sq ft home, and we both had amazing careers outside of our shared business ventures. We made it a point to take two vacations abroad per year, one with the kids and the other was ours alone. Just when we thought we were invincible, Tenaj was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm and suffered a stroke.
While recovering at home, we began to reevaluate our lives. We started to question our purpose in life. We asked ourselves were we really happy, and the answer was no. Although we accomplished everything we had set out to accomplish, we still weren’t happy. We had our dream home, but we were never there to enjoy it. Somewhere down the road, we turned into “those people,” the people that lived for the weekend. It was at that point that we decided to quit our jobs, sell everything, and move abroad.
TN: How long did it take you from that moment of deciding to move, to actually getting on the plane? How did you prepare for the move?
Tenaj and Tino: In all, it took about two years. We devised what we named “The Freedom Plan,” a plan to eliminate our debts. We paid off every credit card and open account we had. We figured if we were going to do this, we couldn’t leave owing anyone anything. We stopped buying things that didn’t hold value in our lives. No more expensive shoes that cost the same amount as a round-trip ticket to a foreign land for us.
We were no longer interested in “Living the American Dream.”
We sat down one day and calculated our monthly income versus our monthly expenses. We realized that if we stuck to our “Freedom Plan,” we would be debt free in two years. After watching a few Youtube videos about “minimalism,” we decided to give that lifestyle a try. We realized it wasn’t the possessions that made us happy, it was being able to travel and enjoy life on our terms. During this time, we also researched and traveled to the countries that made our short list. The last step was to sell our home, quit our jobs and sell everything else that couldn’t fit in 3 suitcases and 2 carry-ons.
TN: Did you have work lined up for when you moved? If not, how have you survived financially?
Tenaj and Tino: We did not have work lined up. We are currently living from our savings. We both have Masters degrees and will put our degrees to work when we feel the time is right, but right now we’re just enjoying life.
Travel Noire: How did your son adapt to the change? Is he with you all full-time?
Tenaj and Tino: Our youngest son Daniel travels with us full-time. He adapted to the change amazingly well! Our initial plans were to homeschool, but once we arrived in Malaysia and toured a school, we knew we couldn’t allow him to miss such an amazing opportunity. He now has friends who are just as interested in learning his culture as he is theirs. Although he has adjusted well, he does miss some of the New Orleans food and his family at times. Our oldest son is in college back in the United States.
TN: Can you offer any advice to our audience?
Tenaj and Tino: We would tell anyone interested in leaving just to do it. Take the leap. If you’re waiting for the right time, it’ll never happen. Tomorrow is not promised. Jobs come and go, but you only get one life. So live your life to the fullest. Travel as much as possible, get as many stamps as you can, go to foreign countries, and meet foreign friends. We promise you won’t regret it.
TN: Where can we find you on social media?
DeAnna Taylor is a criminal defense Attorney turned travel writer. The Charlotte native recently completed one year abroad working as an English teacher in South Korea. Her hobbies include fitness, traveling to new countries, and trying new foods.