It was 2018 when I realized working in a toxic work environment and pursuing a high-stress career in Corporate America wasn't for me. But at the time, resources on how to take a career break were scarce. I researched, googled, and scrolled through Pinterest. I read blogs and listened to podcasts about other women who traveled and eventually made a career switch. But there wasn't a platform dedicated to strategizing an exit plan from the American lifestyle. At least, not for women of color. I was left to make these life-altering decisions on my own with little to no help or substantial resources.
I managed to execute my plan, and here I am still curating this new life of mine. I still dream of living life overseas too. It's going to happen, but I'm just not quite there yet. And in 2021, more and more American Black women have realized hustle culture or Black Excellence is not where it's at. Two years ago, it was highly uncommon for a Black woman or any woman of color to quit her job, sell her house, give up everything she owns, and catch a flight to a destination unknown and start a whole new life. It was just completely unheard of.
It went against everything our parents and the generations before us taught us about building the American dream. Life for an American Black woman embodies hard work.
Oftentimes, this means demanding and stressful careers. It's a constant state of chaos and, the thing is, most Black women don't realize this until they are forced to. And there is no telling how chaos decides to show up, but it usually manifests in unhealthy vices or underlying health problems. The idea of "taking a break" or moving abroad isn't a part of what we consider Black Excellence to be. So, we entertain the idea of a relaxed lifestyle only when we are eligible for retirement.
But in case you haven't noticed, we are no longer waiting until 65 to truly live. We are deciding to be present and live our best lives now.
The pandemic showed us what a life with balance and freedom can look like. It gave more and more Black women the permission to discover new ways to find joy. Even if that joy looks like leaving their homes and everything they know. Whether that is through a career break or a more permanent move, Black women have come to realize a life of constant burnout and mental health problems isn't a life at all. And Stephanie Perry and Roshida Dowe came to this same realization too.
Together, through their company Exodus Summit, they help other black women navigate the ins and outs of taking a career break or living abroad. "The idea for Exodus Summit started in the summer of 2020. Stephanie and I thought this would be a good way for us to collaborate and serve more women than we could serve individually," Roshida explained. "This year, we have invited back women who attended the summit last year to be speakers at this year's Homecoming. These women are coming back to share their roadmaps for how they made the transition abroad happen for themselves."
Meet The Creators Of Exodus Summit
Stephanie is a digital nomad. She has visited 12 countries in 12 months all at $1200 per month. Before making the leap overseas, she was a hospital pharmacy technician. Now, she's a year-round house sitter and pet sitter who helps Black women take a career break to travel on a budget through her websitevaycarious.com.
Roshida, aka "Shida D", is a passionate proponent of career breaks, sabbaticals, and grown-up gap years. In her previous life, she was a lawyer in high-pressure tech companies. It wasn't until a decade later that Roshida realized she wasn't in love with the life she built.
Stressed, tired, and burned out, Roshida decided to take the leap and travel the world for a year. It was then that she discovered her purpose. Roshida decided to help other women experience the freedom she had found on her own career break. She now coaches women on how to plan satisfying and sustainable breaks from their careers and leave burnout behind.
xoNecole interviewed Stephanie and Roshida on their personal experiences with taking career breaks and living abroad. Here's what they had to share.
Leaving The American Life
It's never an easy decision to leave the life you're accustomed to for an unconventional life. There are so many what-ifs, risks, and issues that come up. Not to mention self-doubt and limiting beliefs. It's an internal battle of:"Can I really do this?""Am I making the right decision?" and "What are people going to say?" Especially for Black and brown women. Our function in the United States is to work and take care of other people so that others can live out their dreams. To seek a desired of level freedom is almost considered unattainable and too far-fetched in our culture. But says who?
Stephanie and Roshida share their reasons for leaving this American life.
Stephanie: "I decided that I wanted to spend a year traveling full-time and I thought that one year was going to be enough. And I was going to return from that year and be like, 'I did it. I saw it all. Now, I'm ready to go back to my old life.' It turns out, that once I was out for a little while, it made me put my life and work in perspective. I started to see how other people in other countries don't make work their priority and try to fit other things in. They get to enjoy a full life. They get to live it 360 degrees and not just work most of the time and then hope and pray when they get to that magical retirement age that they are still able to do the things that they have always wanted to do. So, being able to experience life in other cultures for those 12 months changed the idea of what I wanted my life to look like."
Roshida: "I got laid off from my job when the company I worked for went out of business. The thought of getting a new job was overwhelming (I was totally burnt out from the last job). So, I did some quick math and realized I had enough money saved to travel for a year, and I was off exploring the world less than a month later."
Challenges Of Living In A Foreign Country
When you finally decide to build a life in a different country, there is no question there will be a few challenges. And it seems scary at first when you don't know how another country operates or how to establish residency, let alone get a job. But we live in a digital world. We have a variety of resources that allow us to educate ourselves about other countries and their cultures. From social media, YouTube, language and travel apps, blogs, and Google, we can easily travel to another country well-prepared. I mean, I did. While external challenges exist to living in a different country, most of the challenges are internal. It comes down to adopting a new way of thinking and allowing yourself to say "yes."
Stephanie: "Living in another place is simpler than what most people think it is. It's 2021 and there is a lot of information out there. You don't have to go into a place blind. There are communities of people, especially if you're a Black woman. There are communities of Black women all around the world that are sharing information so that you can get to places and know what neighborhoods you want to live in, the good doctors, and the good service providers in the area. So, you're not moving to a place with no clue.
"The real hurdles are in yourself. How do I reject everything I was told that I was supposed to be living for? We are stuck on the idea of Black excellence, which is a trap. It's doing things for outward appearance and forgetting about what you really want. You have to be these things so that other people can look at you and respect you. But what about how you feel about yourself?"
Roshida: "Beyond not being fluent in the language, getting used to the local customs can be a challenge. But when you find the perfect place for yourself (for me, it's Mexico City), those challenges seem like learning opportunities."
Earning An Income And Finding Work In Another Country
Stephanie: "Because I like to go to inexpensive countries, finding work overseas would not benefit me. I would be paid in their currency, and it would be worth less than the U.S. dollar. So, I instead make money in U.S. dollars online and stay, visit, or live in these other places. It turns out that I have a skill set that people were willing to pay me for that I had been doing for free. I'm a house sitter and people used to ask me all the time how to get started with house sitting and I would give them information for free. Now they pay me for it. That's my business. I make a living helping people become house sitters. Most of my clients are Black women from the U.S. and the Caribbean. I found a skill set that supports me so that I don't have to have a traditional job."
Roshida: "During my career break, I started helping other Black women take breaks as well, and that turned into a business. Building my own business, I get to set my own hours, work with who I want, and work from wherever I want."
Misconceptions About Living Abroad
Stephanie: "Misconception number one is that it's dangerous. I spend six months out of the year in Mexico and people always want to know how safe it is or what about the cartels. But if you don't have cartel business, you don't have to think about the cartels. Another piece of American propaganda is that we are better than other places. Especially when it comes to certain things like safety. I am not safer in the United States compared to when I'm in a different country. Mexico is a place where people just mind their business. There is not a group of people in Mexico who are waiting to harass you. If you have an interaction with the police in Mexico, it's not going to be a negative interaction. In the cities we live in, in the United States, we are probably in more danger than in any place that you're going to want to go to in the rest of the world."
"It's also not as expensive as people think. People price places based on what they see when they go on vacation. When you live someplace, it's a lot less expensive than when you are just visiting. It was less expensive for me to travel full-time, than it was for me to live in Wilmington, Delaware."
"Loneliness. When you are a solo traveler, you will meet people if you want to. It's so much easier to meet new friends when you travel solo. I have friends now that I would not have met if I traveled with other people, and we are still friends today."
Life Abroad Vs. The Black American Lifestyle
Stephanie: "When I'm abroad, it's the only time I get treated like an actual American with all of the rights and privileges that come with being an American. I also don't have to fear for my safety as a Black woman abroad. Dating is better for me as a Black woman abroad too. My self-care is better. We think self-care is manicures and pedicures, but not like actual rest. I have free time to do creative things and daily spirituality practices. All of those things are things I have time for because I don't work and live in the United States."
Roshida: "Living outside of the U.S. gives me a sense of freedom that I didn't experience in the U.S."
On Why Black Women Are Adopting A Life Overseas
Stephanie: "I think that we have gotten tired of living the life of other people. We want to feel that freedom, that right now, it's only felt when we leave the country. Also, it's helpful that the internet exists and that Black women are sharing what they have been doing so new people can be introduced to it. I have a YouTube channel, and people are like, I didn't even know that I can do this. I think the communities of people who are out sharing information are very helpful."
"And I think that we've hit a breaking point where either you're going to make a big change, or this environment is going to kill us. We are fighting for our lives. It's a fight for our peace of mind, for our safety, for children's safety, and our joy. There's a new emphasis on Black joy that has not existed in the past. It prioritizes what you want or what life you want to live. All of these have converged to make it so much easier and so much more realistic for us to go."
Roshida: "Life abroad comes with significantly less stress and a sense of joy and ease that is hard for Black women to achieve overseas. It's not a stress-free life, but most other cultures have a more relaxed way of life, and it's nice to get to enjoy that abroad."
Exodus Summit 2021 starts this weekend, from September 24-26. Learn more about the virtual event here.
Featured image by Getty Images
Camille is a lover of all things skin, curls, music, justice, and wanderlust; oceans and islands are her thing. Her words inspire and her power is her voice. A California native with Trinidadian roots, she has penned personal essays, interviews, and lifestyle pieces for POPSUGAR, FEMI magazine, and SelfishBabe. Camille is currently creating a life she loves through words, self-love, fitness, travel, and empowerment. You can follow her on Instagram @cam_just_living or @written_by_cam.
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
There’s nothing quite as humbling as navigating adulthood with no instruction manual. Since the turn of the decade, it seems like everything in our society that could go wrong has, inevitably, gone wrong. From the global pandemic, our crippling student debt problem, the loneliness crisis, layoffs, global warming, recession, and not to mention figuring out what to eat for dinner every night. This constant state of uncertainty has many of us wondering, when are the grown-ups coming to fix all of this?
But the catch is, we are the new grown-ups.
As if it happened without our permission, we became the new adults. We are the members of society who are paying taxes, having children, getting married, and keeping our communities afloat, one iced latte at a time. Still, there’s something about doing all these grown-up duties that feel unnaturally grown-up. Enter the #teenagegirlinher20s.
If there’s one hashtag to give you the state of the next cohort of adults, it’s this one. Of the videos that have garnered over 3.9M views, you’ll find a collection of users who are overwhelmed by life’s pressing existential responsibilities, clung to nostalgia, and reminiscent of the days when their mom and dad took care of their insurance plans.
no like i cant explain to her why i had to buy multiple tank air dupes from aritzia #teenagegirlinher20s #fyp
The concept of being a 20-something or 30-something teenager is linked to the sentiment of not feeling “grown up enough” to do grown-up things while feeling underprepared and even nihilistic about whether that preparation even matters.
It’s our generation’s version of when we ask our grandmothers how old they are and they simply reply with, “I still feel 45,” all while being every bit of 76 years old. In this, we share a warped concept of time while clinging to a desire for infantilization.
Granted, the pandemic did a number on our concept of time. Many of us who started the pandemic in our early or mid-20s missed out on three fundamental years of socialization, career development, and personal milestones that traditionally help to mark our growth.
Our time to figure out and plan our next steps through fumbling yet active participation was put on pause indefinitely and then resumed provisionally. This in turn has left many of us hanging in the balance of uncertainty as we try to make sense of the disconnect between our minds and bodies in this missing gap of time.
Because we’re all still figuring out what the ramifications of being locked away and frozen in time by a global pandemic will have on us as a society, there really is no “right” way of making up for lost time. Feeling unprepared for any new chapter of life is a natural rite of passage, pandemic or not. However, it’s important to not stay stuck in the last age or period of life that made sense to us because self-growth is the truest evidence of personal progress.
So whether you’re leaning on your inner child, teenager, or 20-something for guidance as you fill the gap between your real age and pandemic age, know that it’s okay to grieve the person you thought you would be and the milestones you thought you’d hit before you ever knew what a pandemic was. If there’s anything that the pandemic taught us, it’s that we have the power to reimagine a better world and life for ourselves. And if we tap into our inner teenager as a compass, we can piece together our next chapter with a fresh outlook.
Sure, we’ve lost a couple of years, but there are still some really amazing ones ahead.
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Featured image by Stephen Zeigler/Getty Images