How to Change Your Life: Just Go!

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Apr 30, 2016 / 0 comments

Let me tell you about an inspiring couple that changed their lives. And before you think, "oh, I can't do that," I suggest reading the interview (and their new book, entitled Just Go!), and then seeing how you feel.

How to Change your Life: Just Go!

I first met Gabi Yetter through a mutual friend (Barbara Adam, of The Dropout Diaries and Saigon Street Eats food tours, who wrote, with her husband Vu, our new travel guide to Vietnam). Of course, writers stick together, and we asked Gabi to write a book with us: The Definitive Guide to Moving to Southeast Asia: Cambodia. It was a pleasure working with her, and every time we skyped, Gabi was an energetic fount of information for all things Cambodia. Something is different about her - she has a joie de vivre that I rarely see - she is effervescent and full of joy.

When I read her book, Just Go!, written with her husband, Skip, a lightbulb went off. Yes, THIS is why she's so happy, joyful, and full of energy. Just Go! details Skip and Gabi's lives in making a decision to leave, putting in the hard work to let go, and then exploring the world on their own terms. 

There are many things I love about Just Go! The first is that Skip and Gabi's journey is detailed - honestly. It's hard to give up a life and choose another. I didn't realize how the details of this could play out, until I read otherwise. And while the getting there is tough, the BEING free is worth everything. You can tell this from every word in this book - that making these choices have changed Gabi and Skip's lives - for good. I'm impressed, and thank them for writing this book. Take it as inspiration, a guidebook, or a doable goal - but READ Just Go!, and incorporate it into your life. You'll be glad you did. Highly recommended.

How to Change your Life: Just Go!

We were lucky enough to catch up with Gabi and Skip to ask about the book, inspiration, tips, the real-life stories in the book, and more. Here's what they had to say...

Please tell us about your book, Just Go!

Just Go! is a book about picking up, packing up and moving to another part of the world, as we did when we moved to Cambodia in 2010. It's also a book about the potential for change and how life altering it can be to step off the proverbial treadmill. 

It is about (and for) people who say "Perhaps it's time to just go".

For us, making the decision to step away from our homes and jobs in the west took three years of researching, planning and organizing. Our book tells the story of how it happened and offers tips and shortcuts for readers who want to do the same thing.

Not only do we write about our experiences (with anecdotes and examples of what we encountered), we also feature the experiences of other people (married, single, with and without kids, old and young, retired and just starting out) who moved to other countries.

How to Change your Life: Just Go!

What inspired you to write this book?

We arrived in Cambodia on one-way tickets without much of an idea what to expect. Within weeks, we'd fallen in love with the country, made friends, created new lifestyles, figured out healthcare, finance and social aspects of our surroundings and become settled in our new home.

We were approached by many people - both in Cambodia and online - who asked for help on their own journeys so we decided to write a book about our experiences so we could share tips and examples with other people. We were also inspired by many people who were far more adventurous that we were and wanted to share their stories with our readers.

In Just Go!, you talk about winging it, trusting, going with the flow, and more. What are your top tips for people to change their lives and just go?

Everyone is different and some people like to have a plan, while others prefer to wing it and figure it out as they go along. We did a bit of both. We fell in love with Southeast Asia in 2007 when we went to Thailand on our honeymoon and decided we wanted to live in that part of the world. The next three years were spent researching, quitting our jobs, selling our home, and finding an organization that would provide volunteer opportunities for us (Volunteers In Asia, in our case). So the first part was quite clearly planned

The second part, however, was more about going with the flow as we didn't know anything about Phnom Penh, didn't know anyone in Cambodia, and didn't have a clue what we'd be doing once we arrived.

My top tips for moving to another country would be: Be flexible. Have a sense of humour. Expect things to be different (after all, you wouldn't be doing it if it were the same as staying back home, would you?). We found the best experiences happened when we were open to possibilities and when we took our time to savour the moment.

I'd also recommend being gentle on yourself. Don't make snap decisions about places once you have moved somewhere, as it often takes time to settle into a new way of life. I hated Phnom Penh for the first two weeks, and it's now my favourite place on the planet. Find a way to meet people soon after you arrive (whether through social clubs, expat meetings, work events, or online forums), as you'll have others who can share your experiences. 

Don't expect everything to be all sunshine and roses from the start, as it may take a little while to get settled. Stick it out for at least six months (unless it's really dreadful and you know you can't stand another minute), but don't feel you can't change your mind. We have a friend who moved with her infant son to the Dominican Republic, hated it, and moved to Morocco, which she loved. Sometimes the best things take a little time to find.

How to Change your Life: Just Go!

Do you have suggestions for people that want to change their lives and go find like-minded people, and support for this process?

I'd start with online research. Get involved with Facebook groups that speak to an audience you relate to (Families On The Move or Expat Focus, for example). Join LinkedIn groups that are based in the countries you are interested it and post any questions you have. 

Research blogs that write about nomadic lifestyles, living abroad with kids, backpacking, or anything that appeals to you. If you're interested in volunteering or spending short periods of time in different parts of the world, read books about people and lifestyles that inspire you. Surround yourself with like-minded people (either physically or online). 

How to Change your Life: Just Go!

Volunteering abroad has been a large part of your overseas experiences - what are things to look for and research, if readers choose this path as part of their journey?

Depending on what part of the world appeals to you, there are many organizations which offer volunteer opportunities. One of the best is as it lists a wide variety of options - from one week to one year or more - and doesn't charge for the volunteer experience.  I'd also suggest going to the country you're interested in living in and finding opportunities when you're on the ground as it's much easier once you start making connections. 

Our volunteer experience consisted of working as English resource advisors for NGOs in Phnom Penh, but we both found many more opportunities which presented themselves to us once we started meeting people. I did a lot of freelance writing for Cambodian publications and wrote two books (The Definitive Guide to Moving to Southeast Asia: Cambodia, published by Wandering Educators, and The Sweet Tastes of Cambodia about Cambodian desserts). Skip was approached to do various consulting projects since he has a background in business management and marketing.

How to Change your Life: Just Go!

What's up next for you?

We are presently house-sitting around the world and spending several months of the year in Cambodia. We are both working on our own books - I am about to publish my first children's book (Ogden, The Fish Who Couldn't Swim Straight) and Skip is completing a murder mystery novel that is set in a Massachusetts town with the backdrop of a small newspaper where he worked in the 1970s.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

I'd advise not paying too much attention to naysayers and people who try to warn you away from following your heart. We - and most of the people we write about - have encountered people along the way who are overly cautious about travelling to other parts of the world and will often try to impose their fears on you. What if you get sick? What about security? What if you can't make friends? What if you are homesick?

As I write about in my children's book: What if it's amazing? What if it's the best thing you ever did? What if it changes your life?

You can always go back. But you'll never know what you'll miss if you don't try.


How to Change your Life: Just Go!

Learn more:

Gabrielle Yetter has been on the move since she was 11 months old. British by birth, she was raised in Bahrain, was a journalist in South Africa, and in 2010 moved with her husband, Skip, to Phnom Penh where she wrote The Definitive Guide to Moving to Southeast Asia: Cambodia and Just Go! Leave the Treadmill for a World of Adventure with Skip. The couple write a blog and Gabi is on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


All photos courtesy and copyright Gabi and Skip Yetter