Many people dream of quitting their job and moving to a tropical island, but one woman actually took the plunge — and her story has gone viral.
Noelle Hancock was making $95,000 as a journalist in New York City four years ago when she began to feel disenchanted, she revealed in an essay for Cosmopolitan.com.
"It's ironic to feel lonely on an island of 4 million people, but it seemed I spent my life staring at screens: laptop, cell phone, iPad — hell, even the taxis and elevators had televisions in them. I felt stressed, uninspired, and disconnected," wrote Hancock, now 35.
When Hancock appeared on TODAY via Skype Friday, she added, "I was just looking for a different kind of life where people were still engaged."
On a whim, she posted a message to Facebook, asking friends to suggest Caribbean locales where she could move, and someone suggested St. John, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
"It was startlingly simple to dismantle the life I'd spent a decade building: I broke the lease on my apartment, sold my belongings, and bought a one-way plane ticket," she wrote. "The hardest part was convincing myself it was OK to do something for no other reason than to change the narrative of my life."
Despite her parents' protests that her Yale degree warranted a higher-paying job, Hancock happily took a $10-an-hour gig at a local ice cream parlor once settled in St. John. She now works as a bartender.
Though witnessing the successes of former colleagues occasionally makes her question her choice, the community of travelers she's encountered on the island has changed her perspective on happiness.
"Living abroad has exposed me to a different approach to life, one in which you're not expected to settle in one place and do one kind of job," she wrote. "Perhaps some of us are meant to move around every few years, change jobs and live many different micro lives."
Since the article was published Wednesday, it has garnered more than 160,000 Facebook shares and sparked Twitter users to praise her story with hashtags such as #inspired and #noregrets.
"I need a life makeover! I'm ready to be happy, surrounded by beauty and to do something that matters," one woman wrote in the post's comments section.
Hancock told TODAY.com that she wanted to share her story to give people with “foolish” dreams a voice.
"When I was living in Houston and New York, I didn't meet that many people who aspired to run off to an island somewhere. Most people wanted to settle down in the suburbs or make partner at a law firm, become a doctor, or work their way up the ranks in an investment banking firm," she said. "Those dreams are great if that’s what works for you, but it wasn't my dream."
She added that, while she knows moving to an island isn't realistic for the majority of people, "I wanted to share this article is to show people that it’s okay to make a new path for yourself, even if it’s a life that other people disapprove of or don’t understand. "
Hancock observed that for most of the 20th century, a large part of the American Dream had to do with the accumulation of wealth and material things — but that's changed. "I think that in the last decade or two, people started realizing that 'things' weren't making them happy. Experiences — especially new experiences — make people happy," she said.
The response to the essay has been "overwhelming," but she understands why it resonates with so many people.
"Everyone I know who moved here from the States has their own unique story, which is always fascinating. Anyone who’s changed their life in a drastic way has a riveting tale to tell," she said. "I have a friend here who used to work at NASA, friends who were attorneys, friends who were nurses, EMTs, mechanics, marines, waiters, bartenders, cooks. I have friends who came down on vacation and simply never went back."
Tourists often tell Hancock, “You’re so lucky that you get to live here!”
"I am incredibly lucky, make no mistake," she said. "But it’s also about being willing to change your life completely and leave behind everything familiar to you."
For the full essay, visit Cosmopolitan.com.
And for more on Hancock's adventures, read this excerpt of her book "My Year with Eleanor," which she shared with TODAY in 2011.