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Member Spotlight – Katie

My Story

I was born quickly during the night on the floor of my family’s home.  My father helped deliver me. Perhaps that was just the beginning of me bucking conventional choices in life.  

I was raised in Columbus, Ohio (U.S.A.).  I grew up in a pretty typical middle-class family, with one older brother.  My parents both worked hard to situate us in a location with excellent public schools.  Their strong work ethic rubbed off on me. I always earned high marks as a student and maintained a part-time job throughout my years in school.

female travel

I attended university at small liberal arts school about 45 minutes north of Columbus.  I double-majored in international business and French. I had the great privilege to spend a semester studying in Paris, France.  At that time, a student Eurorail pass was a small investment that allowed me to visit half a dozen different countries with ease. That was the beginning of my love affair with travel.

female travel

Post University, I spent 3 years working in the nonprofit sector helping organize local speaking engagements for visiting foreign dignitaries, and organizing fundraising events.  I found the work interesting. However, working for a nonprofit meant that I earned a tiny paycheck. Indulging my desire to travel was out of the question. I was barely affording my one-bedroom apartment and car payment.  I even took an evening job working for the Ohio Department of Tourism’s call-in center to make ends meet.

That was followed by an 8-year position with a large life insurance company’s Sales and Marketing Department, where I continued to be involved in organizing events, meetings and conventions.  In 2007, the insurance company shut down their Columbus, Ohio office. I was offered an opportunity to keep my job and relocate to Chicago, but that wasn’t in alignment with the other pieces of my life at that time, so I declined.

In 2001, I had met a young man from Guadalajara, Mexico while in an Ohio nightclub.  We started studying English and Spanish together on the patio of my apartment. That relationship became romantic, and we dated for nearly 3 years.

In 2004, we were married in the church that backed up to our little apartment.  We bought a house in the suburb where my parents and brother lived. My husband started his own contracting business.  And in 2008, I joined a project management firm. I had a series of unsuccessful pregnancies during this time. However, we took it all in stride, and moved forward with our strong relationship.  We were happy living our American dream… for a while. But there was still something missing. He was missing his family in Mexico. We were fed up with Ohio winters. We were on the ‘hamster wheel’ and feeling a little weary.  It was time to recalibrate and hit refresh for the next chapter of our life together.

female travel

In 2010, we sold the house, cars and most of our possessions.  For those who have done this kind of large scale purge, you know it is overwhelming at first, and then liberating.  We purchased land 45 minutes south of Guadalajara, Jalisco (Mexico) in the town of Chapala. We built a house with lake and mountain views.  I was blessed to maintain my job with the project management firm, where I served as a remote team manager working online. We were working towards our new dream… or so I thought.  Tragically, our beautiful marriage started to deteriorate. For me, it came as a complete shock.

In the summer of 2011, I moved in to the partially finished house, and then filed for divorce.  This was by far the most difficult time in my life. I had not established many friends yet in Mexico.  I worked hard to keep up a strong front when working so I wouldn’t damage my career. But every Saturday, I would clean the house and cry for hours.  The dream was not to be in a big empty house alone. For me, it was a mourning period like losing someone to death.

female travel

Family, friends and co-workers thought I would return to Ohio. Despite the extreme difficulty of what I was facing, I chose to stay put in my new house, new town, new country… this was another refresh.  One I had not planned for, but after feeling so out of control during the divorce, staying and rebuilding on my terms was a way for me to be back in the driver’s seat of my life.

Over the next 4 years, I worked hard for my employer. I traveled as much as I could with allotted vacation time.  I built new friendships. And I completed projects on the house. My ex-husband was in and out of my life. I suppose that period just reinforced that we had grown in different directions, and our divorce was truly the right decision.  Finally, I had to sever that tie because it was keeping me from moving in a direction of new growth. Funny, the divorce refresh button stopped to buffer a bit before fully completing the refresh.

In 2017, I started feeling a strong pull for change in my professional life.  I struggled with the idea of walking away from a good job. There were plenty of moments where I thought leaving my role would be letting others down, but in reality, for me to stay would have been letting me down.  I didn’t know what I was supposed to do next. I knew that I didn’t want to leave a 9:00 to 5:00 job, just to start another with the same structure.

I took many online assessments and classes. I did lots of soul searching.  I always came back to the same thought… how can I build a career around my passion for travel and my passion for Mexico?  Online entrepreneurship in some form appeared to be the answer to building fulfilling work that would allow me to involve my passions and be location independent.

I battled with self-doubt. What if I fail? What if I look like a fool? What if I fall into financial ruin?  What if I regret my career move? What if people I consider important in my life are critical, judgmental or unsupportive?  I was scared, but I had to take a leap of faith. I had prepared for a change by saving some money for about a year so that I would have a safety net during a period of no income.  That of course was eased by the fact that I am living in a low-cost-of-living environment.

At the beginning of 2018, I resigned from my job of 10 years at 43 years old.  This refresh felt huge psychologically because I chose it, and I was taking it on alone (the move abroad was not alone; the end of my marriage wasn’t a situation that I chose).  It was the first time in my entire life I didn’t have to wake up to an early alarm clock. I traveled to Colombia for the month of February (photo below with look of true freedom).  I took part in a retreat that provided some structured guidance in self-growth and professional growth, as well as, provided for some much needed down-time. I returned home to Mexico, and spent some time with family and friends… and floundering online trying to figure out what was next.

female travel

I have started my own online company consulting to single women on solo travel in Mexico, and relocation to Mexico.  I have a wealth of knowledge to share on these topics based on my personal experiences. I am happy to be on this journey.

When I reflect on my ‘refreshes’ in life, I consider moving abroad refresh #1.  I consider divorce and building a solo life in Mexico as refresh #2. I believe I am in just the beginning of refresh #3 with my career change.  I think there is more to this phase than I can fully visualize at the moment. The idea of this refresh unfolding and revealing big exciting things has me bubbling with the same nervous excitement I get before embarking on travel.

It takes courage to face our fears and go after what could make us truly happy.  For now, I am braving bliss!

~Katie Bliss Ibarra

Member Spotlight highlights stories of inspiring women from our She Hit Refresh community. We hope that by sharing their stories of change and travel we can expose the unconventional paths that thousands of women 30 years and older have chosen.  There is no one way to live a life, just your way.

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