Why a 31-Year-Old Yale Grad Gave Up a $95,000 Job to Scoop Ice Cream in the Caribbean

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Four years ago, 31-year old Noelle Hancock did what many of us wished we had the guts to do. She uprooted her comfortable Manhattan, New York life, turned down a $95,000-a-year job, and moved to the Caribbean to scoop ice cream at a local ice cream parlor. With several job offers at her feet and a degree from Yale University under her belt, Noelle sold all of her belongings and purchased a one-way ticket to the island of St. John.

In her article for Cosmopolitan magazine, Hancock reminisces on her past life living in an apartment in the East Village, a neighborhood that offered every convenience and endless things to do. Still, she felt something was missing:

“I wasn’t living in the moment; I was living for some indeterminate moment in the future when I’d saved enough money and vacation days to take a trip somewhere. If you’re constantly thinking you need a vacation, maybe what you really need is a new life.”

 

Following a recommendation from a friend’s sister, Noelle decided to move to St. John, the smallest of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Also known as the “Love City,” St. John boasts some of the most stunning beaches in the world and is famous for its friendly locals.

However, having been raised in a conservative Southern family, the 31-year old journalist found it difficult to convince her parents that the move was a good idea. Her parents, strong proponents of the American dream, believed the right path in life was to work hard to gain a good education and to then end up in a “upper-middle class job with a 401 (k) and a good matching plan.”

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After her move, Noelle still experienced occasional doubts as she watched her old classmates and friends’ successes from afar:

“Seeing old colleagues and acquaintances building successful careers can make me second-guess my choices. One of my friends from college started a little website called Pinterest. Another just won an Emmy for a hit television show she created.”

Yet in the end, she seems pretty happy:

“But I have an island. I live in a charmingly ramshackle one-bedroom apartment on a hillside overlooking the sea […] Perhaps there was something indulgent and Peter Pan-ish about this new lifestyle. But the truth is, I was happier scooping mint chocolate chip for $10 an hour than I was making almost six figures at my previous corporate job.”

She also found that not everyone shared the same concern as her parents. She quotes a customer whose father eventually came around after he initially disapproved of his son’s decision to move to the Caribbean:

“Recently he visited and told me, ‘You had it right all along. I’m toward the end of my life and looking to retire to someplace like this, and now I’m too old to enjoy it.’ “

Nowadays, Noelle has traded in her ice cream scooper for a job as a bartender. Thinking about her plans for the future, she says:

“Sometimes I think back to the question I used to be asked in job interviews: ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ That always seemed a depressing notion, to already know what you’d be doing five years in the future. Lately I’ve been mulling moving somewhere entirely opposite of here… Who knows where I’ll end up? And what a marvelous thing that is — not knowing.”

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