Life in Paradise on a Shoestring

Theresa Stark: Testing the Waters

July 27, 2020 Dawn Fleming Season 2 Episode 30
Life in Paradise on a Shoestring
Theresa Stark: Testing the Waters
Show Notes Transcript

Part of a military family, Teresa Stark grew up in Scotland. Her family moved around Scotland then returned home to the U.S.  Used to moving around and her love of travel led to her desire to relocate overseas. Not sure where to go, she decided to take a year and travel the world. She stayed for one month in each country for an entire year through Remote Year. The program was hassle free, she felt safe and each place she stayed and had a city host - a concierge to provide local knowledge. Hear her story and check it out yourself at

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Commercial: [00:00:02] Welcome. You are listening to the overseas life redesign podcast where you'll hear fine, relaxed, and inspirational interviews with people who are really living the dream. I'm Dawn Flemming an attorney turned alchemist and your host for the show coming to you from the tropical island paradise of East level net us Mexico. Listen to conversations with courageous souls who step out of their comfort zone and designed a new way of life. They'll share their experiences, wisdom and offer practical steps you can take to redesign your life overseas. Listen, and you'll believe if you can dream it, you can achieve it.


Dawn Fleming: [00:00:42] All right. I am here today with Theresa Stark, and I am excited about doing an interview with her and kind of her overseas life experiences. Thank you, Theresa, for taking the time to chat with me today. I really appreciate it.


Theresa Stark: [00:00:58] Oh, thanks so much. I'm happy to do it and happy to virtually meet you.


Dawn Fleming: [00:01:03] Yeah. And we are we were talking her last name is the same as my great grandparents. So we were just talking about whether we might be cousins. So that would be fun. We'll have to do some more digging. But anyway, so why don't we just start, Theresa, with your kind of overseas life experiences and how that all came about?


Theresa Stark: [00:01:23] I grew up military. My father was in the Navy. So when I was four years old, we moved to Scotland. And so that was kind of my early life. We lived in Scotland until I was almost in middle school. And although there was a little bit different, because when I came back to the United States, I was several years younger. In Scotland, you start first grade or primary school at age four or so. And then I had a little bit different skill set with metrics and things like that. So my growing up in Scotland was just, again, kind of the start of my overseas life. We moved around within Scotland quite a bit every six months and we went from there to San Diego and we lived there for several years. We did a short stay in Mexico and then we moved to Minnesota. And I thought my parents were crazy because I was definitely not a fan of that cold weather.


Dawn Fleming: [00:02:44] No,


Theresa Stark: [00:02:44] That would definitely that definitely not. And then we stayed put, you know, really until I graduated college. And then then I sort of ventured out on my own and started taking travel as an adult and doing my own thing from a travel perspective.


Dawn Fleming: [00:03:06] And I know you probably didn't have anything to compare it to, but what was growing up in Scotland like was that did that again.


Theresa Stark: [00:03:16] I yeah, I didn't have anything to compare it to. But then when we moved to the states and in retrospect, definitely some differences. For one, we had our milk delivered every morning, the little bottles of wine that bottle that people probably think of from the fifties where you'd go out, you get your milk, you take the cream off the top that you use, and we'd shake it up and make our own butter or use it for coffee. We would have tea time every day. So everything down, you know, and even we would take our little break from school and then we'd have later classes. It rained every single day, having galoshes and a and an umbrella, and a raincoat was just a given. And especially in Scotland where we were Tucows, they had a close. And so they call all of the houses in Scotland. They're Harry, they have long hair, you know. And again, those are not things I realized until many years later when I came back to that and when I came to the States and got older and was like, hey, wait a minute, we don't do these things. Things are a little bit different. And I guess when I think back, I kind of compare it to it was just a much slower pace and lifestyle compared to what was happening in the States. And I've been back and I still think it's very different for example, my mother and I took a trip back there and we were staying in a small town and a bed and breakfast. And we're like, you know, how can we go about and see the town and they said, Oh, the post will be here any minute, you can just ride with them. That's what we did for the day. We hopped on the back of a postman's truck and he became our tour guide for the day.


Dawn Fleming: [00:05:13] And how fun.


Theresa Stark: [00:05:15] Yeah, it was really cool. So again, I think it's a very different pace and lifestyle that, again, I didn't realize until I was quite a bit older.


Dawn Fleming: [00:05:29] Sure. Well, one of the things that comes up, I guess, too, and why this is kind of a nice interview, a little bit of a change from the folks that I talked to that go places when they're an adult is one of the concerns that people have is, oh, my gosh, what about the kids? You know, should I move them to a different country? Are they going to get as good of education? Like, how's that going to impact them? And so are you speaking as an adult? I mean, it sounds like you had kind of the idyllic childhood where you didn't you did have that slower pace, maybe an environment that was didn't exist in the United States anymore, but was still more low key and laid back.


Theresa Stark: [00:06:20] Yes, definitely, definitely and at the foundation, too, I think for my later life balance and in being a military kid and moving around to whether it was different places or just different areas of the country, and having that support it, I guess, gave me the foundation that is that it's OK and it's not scary to pick up and move, which is led me into my adult travels. I traveled quite a bit on a vacation standpoint, but then in twenty seventeen I took the big plunge and I basically packed up everything I owned, put it in storage, got rid of a lot of things. I actually gave my car to my son and I left the country and traveled for the entire year from January 1st to January 1st and.


Dawn Fleming: [00:07:20] Wow, good for you. That sounds fun.


Theresa Stark: [00:07:22] Yeah. Yeah. And that's what gave me the ability to kind of get a feel for a lot of different places because we would be in a new country every month. And I actually did it through it was a program or a group that I applied to. So I wasn't completely on my own either. So I had a little bit of guidance and handholding from that sense. And they set me up to where I had a living space or year, a place to stay in safe areas, and then would also have a workspace, a dedicated workspace so I could work remotely and that sort of thing. And so it helped in that sense. And then once I did that, that gave me kind of a sense of freedom. OK, now I know what I'm doing. I've been handheld a little bit and then I was able to do a lot more traveling on my own beyond that.


Dawn Fleming: [00:08:23] Sure. So you were not by yourself. You went with someone else


Theresa Stark: [00:08:27] When I did the here, it was a program and there have been several programs that have popped up that do that where they will assist you and you basically pay a stipend. It's almost like paying your rent. It's more cost-effective, obviously than the United States. But they will help you set up your rent, your living space, your workspace. And I will at school.


Dawn Fleming: [00:09:01] That's cool! I didn't know there was such a thing available, so I might have to bug for the link to that type of a service because I think people would really like that. It sounds awesome.


Theresa Stark: [00:09:13] There is it's the program I did. It was called remote here. And there have been other programs that have popped up. I mean, obviously, with COVID, some of them have had to take a hiatus, but there were ones that were geared towards younger people, ones that are geared towards the more mature people, retirees, and so forth. And some are a full year, some are three or four months. So there's a lot of options out there for people who really just want to get their feet wet and aren't quite sure if they are overseas for long term life for them.


Dawn Fleming: [00:09:46] Well, but what a great way to try it out. I mean, I just did my finished up my first How to Live in Paradise without worrying about the price tag workshop. And that's one of the things that we talk about is how do you make the transition? What are some different ways of sort of testing the waters before you take the plunge? And that sounds like an excellent way to do it. So it takes work out of it, right?


Theresa Stark: [00:10:14] The guesswork, the fear, the big questions of how do I do this? How do I do that? Even some of the language factors, if you're going to areas where you don't necessarily speak the language, you have them call a city manager or someone you can question, what are the best restaurants? What's what are the dos and don'ts? What's safe, what's not safe? Can I take a taxi? Is it better to Uber? Things like that. And so, yeah, it definitely is helpful.


Dawn Fleming: [00:10:43] Wow. So where did you go?


Theresa Stark: [00:10:44] We started in Mexico City and then we traveled down through Columbia, Peru, all the way through South America. We would have kind of a home base in each country that we visited. And then I would do a lot of side travel, you know, my weekends or times that I had off. And I would kind of book from there, because once here you're in a country, it's cheaper to travel within that country. And then we went over to Europe. We were in Prague, Italy. And again, I did a one month kind of trip on my own using the trains and traveled all about. And then we were in Asia and we did Bali and Malaysia. And again, we would travel on our own. We did Kyoto, Japan. And those were those are the three base points that we stayed in.


Dawn Fleming: [00:11:50] Wow, girl, you covered some ground.


Theresa Stark: [00:11:52] Yeah, definitely made the most of my mileage. So with all the travel that we did and would use those to use the travel reward cards and things like that and, you know, build upon that, and that's where you take those little side trips and those little extras that you wanted to do, the fun things that you wanted to do within each of those countries and that sort of thing. So, again, you can make the most as you're traveling around and you can point some things.


Dawn Fleming: [00:12:26] Yeah, I'm a big believer in that, yeah, in fact, I published an insider's guide to Traveling the World for free, and that was one of the tips in there amongst a few other little secrets. But, yeah, that's a great way to go to do that.


Theresa Stark: [00:12:44] Definitely


Dawn Fleming: [00:12:44] Pretty cool. So so what was your I guess. Were there any standout experiences during that year that you have to share with us?


Theresa Stark: [00:12:58] There were so many, so many, and I guess that's the thing with experiences sometimes of the people, sometimes the place, sometimes of the moment. I definitely feel like there were little pieces of favorite things in every country. I really, really loved Peru. And part of that might have been that I was able to really I had an extensive amount of time off while I was in Peru. So I did a lot and I went to a lot of very remote little places, kind of one really neat and one of the best pictures and where I met some really great people with a little town called Walk Agena. And it literally is an oasis in the middle of the desert. Like if you've ever pictured an oasis-like this little seven-block town that had a tiny little lake in the middle of it and beautiful sparkling lights if you were traveling through the dunes and it was just probably one of the most unique places I've ever bad because it was just so off the beaten path. And one of the things I was able to do well visiting that town is because it is surrounded by dunes. And we did the dune buggies when sand surfing. So actually on a surfboard going down these dunes.


Dawn Fleming: [00:14:23] Really?


Theresa Stark: [00:14:25] Yeah, it was quite interesting. And then I went to an area called Karakus. That was where the desert meets the ocean. And it's just kind of again, if you feel like, wow, I am really in a special place because from one side it's all you can see is an ocean and the other side is all you can see is desert. So that was very, very cool. And then I also visited Lake Lake Titicaca, which borders Bolivia and Peru. And there is a tribal people that really, truly live in the middle of the lake and these floating islands that they create out of basically it's like straw or these woven together in vegetation and it builds these little islands. And so we had taken a boat out and visited one of the islands. And basically, the president of the island invited us into his hut, one of my companions I was traveling with. And so I got to visit the presidents of Carphone and sit in a tent and take a look at his wife's crafts and things that they had done. And it was really one of the neatest experiences that I have to say. That's one of them. I mean, there again, there's there were so many. And but that was just a really memorable period because I got to do a lot of different things and just had a lot of really. Wow, I can't believe I'm doing this moment.


Dawn Fleming: [00:16:10] Yeah. Really unique cultural experiences. It sounds like things that you just come across and a lot of places. Yeah. Awesome.


Theresa Stark: [00:16:17] Definitely.


Dawn Fleming: [00:16:19] Well, I think this is a good time to take a break. I'm going to break for a second and we'll be right back.


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Dawn Fleming: [00:18:08] Ok, I'm back with Theresa Stark and just hearing about her fascinating year off, what was it like kind of going back in? Well, first of all, did you return to the United States after that year or where did you go after that?


Theresa Stark: [00:18:24] I did, I returned to the United States. Yes, and I know where we're going with this, and it was kind of. It was such a mixed bag of feelings because initially, it was like, oh, wow, it's over and I can take a really hot shower and a lot of those. 


Dawn Fleming: [00:18:47] Creature comforts. Yeah,


Theresa Stark: [00:18:47] But sometimes you don't have, you know, that toilets that flush and have toilet seats that every toilet or I can just go into a drive-through or you had just the little things. So initially it was like, OK, I'm home. But then there was a real period of almost depression, like, OK, I hit that climactic part of my life, like, OK, I traveled the world. And now what? And it was actually kind of different because that's where I was left. I was like, well, now what I've reached that pinnacle that a lot of people strive for. And for some reason, it wasn't in my head until recently. Well, wait a minute. Why does it have to end? Because it really doesn't. I mean, if you do things properly, you really can live that dream life. And, you know, you've been an inspiration to the class that I just took with you.


Dawn Fleming: [00:19:48] Oh, Great.


Theresa Stark: [00:19:51] Yeah. Because I started thinking, well, you know, why why can't why live that way? Because you really can if you can take the steps, do your homework, do your research, have designed, design your life basically. And the intention of that is the stage.


Dawn Fleming: [00:20:13] That's the thing that I'm in right now, is to design your life for the long term stage and. Yeah, but so yeah. So getting back, it was kind of good and bad that it was nice to see your friends and your family and the creature comforts, but then it was OK, but now was. 


Dawn Fleming: [00:20:33] Just a little bit of a letdown after such a big goal. Well, now you said you were working during this period too though, right. So it wasn't all fun and games.


Theresa Stark: [00:20:44] Yeah. Oh Yeah, I would hold my job Monday through Friday. I mean, I'm fortunate that I do have a job with a phone and computer at that time, you know, I was I could really work anywhere. When we're in Asia, of course, because most of my work was done in our time, I was working crazy kind of hours. I would have to kind of set my schedule around that or even in Europe and things like that. But, you know, again, it's just balancing it out and making that plan and saying, OK, this is how I'm going to get that accomplished. And if you plan it, you can do it.


Dawn Fleming: [00:21:25] So are you working at the same place that you were when you were traveling?


Theresa Stark: [00:21:32] I am the same industry in place, my background is in media, marketing, advertising, and so a lot of things I do have been freelance or project-based. So I have transitioned to another organization, but still doing similar types of things.


Dawn Fleming: [00:21:56] And is that pretty easy to do from a location, remote location? For the most part,


Theresa Stark: [00:22:04] As long as you have a dedicated Internet and phone? I, I traveled with a VIP phone. I set myself up with that just so I would not have to deal with body camera chat on that. And again, I worked in a lot of co-working spaces, which you can all you can find all over the world these days and even more so outside of the United States. I mean, they've really just started to become more popular in the US. But I found especially in Central and South America, in Europe, whether there are Internet cafes or really actual co-working spaces, you can almost always find a great place to work. And sometimes it's a little beach cafe that just happens. And Wi-Fi, or sometimes it's like a dedicated co-working.


Dawn Fleming: [00:23:03] Right. And I'm sure they're just becoming more and more popular with everything that's going on that that we'll be seeing more of.


Theresa Stark: [00:23:10] Yeah, absolutely, absolutely, I mean, you know, who knows? You know, we don't have a crystal ball, but I expect a lot of people, some say if they've been successful, working remotely or during this challenging time, more and more companies will see the value and the cost savings, while people can be just as productive and sometimes even more productive when they're doing things kind of around their own schedule. And then you don't have those overhead costs either.


Dawn Fleming: [00:23:42] Well, absolutely. Yeah. And that it's going to be interesting to see how that impacts the commercial real estate market. All this space now that I realize we really don't need to pay for this. You're in south Florida. Southeast Florida, is that correct?


Theresa Stark: [00:24:02] Yes. The Palm Beach area is where I live. And I work in Boca Raton, Florida.


Dawn Fleming: [00:24:08] Ok, and so you've been there and that's where you went when you returned from your trip.


Theresa Stark: [00:24:14] Yes.


Dawn Fleming: [00:24:14] OK, so you've been there for a couple of years now since you've been back.


Theresa Stark: [00:24:20] Yeah.


Dawn Fleming: [00:24:20] And and now any ideas where you think you might head out to next?


Theresa Stark: [00:24:27] So I am really contemplating the final destination, Costa Rica, on the Poppo Manuel Antonio area, Costa Rica for a long time has been a spot for ex-pats. They actually have really great programs set up almost too kind of guide you through it. You inspired me. I mean, I'm kind of three places that I'm leaning towards, but my top two are going to be probably Costa Rica or the halloo Akumal area. And Mexico is, again, a kind of final retirement, long-term living destinations.


Dawn Fleming: [00:25:17] Ok, and was Costa Rica one of the places that you traveled to on your year during yours.


Theresa Stark: [00:25:22] That was not oddly enough it was not. But Costa Rica is one of the places that I have traveled to on my own pretty extensively. I went there just on a trip long before my year of travel, and I've been back about eight times. So I just that's it. There's just so much diversity there in the culture, the ecosystems. I mean, you've got beaches, mountains, desert cloud forests. And they're just it's a very, very educated country. There's a lot of positives. And, you know, people have been retiring there for years. So it's they've got some really great programs. And it kind of makes it easy for you.


Dawn Fleming: [00:26:10] Sure. Yeah, I know. I've heard that from a lot of folks. We spent a limited amount of time there. And you're right. Yeah, there's a lot of diversity. We spent a little over a week and got Fito and maybe it's just the time of year, but I think they get like one hundred and fifty inches of rain a year, just like everything was was green, like you like even moss green everywhere and then other places, not so much like that. So yeah, there's certainly something for everybody in Costa Rica. And it is.


Theresa Stark: [00:26:45] Yeah. And you can move around because their green seasons on the coast change then they do actually call it their green season and they get that, they get a ton of rain and like a three, three, four-month period. But if it's raining on one side, you can go to the other side.


Dawn Fleming: [00:27:03] Right. Right. Well, cool.


Dawn Fleming: [00:27:07] Is there anything that I haven't asked you that that you'd like to share about your experience?


Theresa Stark: [00:27:13] No. Other than, you know, I mean, if anybody is thinking about it, I say just to do it, just do it smartly. Do your research. You know, there are so many groups out there and people that are of this mindset that you can ask questions of and you can almost build yourself a little friendship network before you go. And I think that that always helps because you have at least you have a go-to or somebody you can call. So, I mean, whether you're looking at going to several places or one place, you know, just with the Internet, you can reach out and find so many people that are, you know, of the travel mindset that are more than willing to help and answer questions and give you guidance and direction.


Dawn Fleming: [00:28:01] Well, and that's good advice because when we sailed from Southern California and took our big trip, that community was so important. We had found we joined a sailing association that was global and had cruising stations all over the place and places where you could go in and they would help you if you needed parts or provisions or what have you. And so that's definitely the case is to get in that network of folks that can be there for you and be part of your support system. So that's great.


Dawn Fleming: [00:28:43] Well, good deal. Will I? What a great story. You've had some amazing experiences. The only thing I didn't get a chance to ask you about, maybe. Well, I'll do that before we wrap up, is your time in Mexico. You said you did spend some time in Mexico. Was that how long of a period was that? Was that impactful at all?


Theresa Stark: [00:29:03] Yeah, absolutely. And it's surprisingly so when I learned all the destinations, we were going to be going on my 12-month venture and Mexico City was actually the first place that was like our meeting spot was Mexico City a month there. We spent a whole month there. And surprisingly, because it was one of my like it wasn't like, oh, wow, I'm super excited to go to Mexico City, but it ended up being probably one of my most favorite places. It was definitely in my top five. And I mean and I heard some things about Mexico City. It can be so dangerous. And of course, it can. But can Miami be?


Dawn Fleming: [00:29:49] Well, the city right.


Theresa Stark: [00:29:52] And it actually, I, I ended up loving Mexico City. I love the people, the culture, the food, the free tacos. I mean, I must take three classes a day every day for 30 days. And just the museums, the parks, some of the most amazing parks with castles. I mean, it really it wasn't the Mexico that I was thinking of, like the beaches and things like that, but it just it was actually really, really wonderful. And during my month, you know, I did I actually met a girlfriend in Cancun. We did a couple of days in Cancun and traveled around Mexico a little bit. But Mexico City itself was absolutely fantastic. And someplace I would definitely go back to.


Dawn Fleming: [00:30:48] Yeah. And then did you say you lived in Mexico when you were a child who was at one of the places that you were with your parents compared to say, yes, Campeche for a very short period of time.


Dawn Fleming: [00:30:59] Ok 


Theresa Stark: [00:30:59] Kampuchea, which is it's kind of on the Caribbean coast, not too far from like Riviera, my Shamal, and all that.


Dawn Fleming: [00:31:11] Ok, so that that wasn't long enough period of time really to have a huge impact on. Yeah. Yeah.


Theresa Stark: [00:31:17] No, no.


Dawn Fleming: [00:31:18] Awesome. Well, that's perfect. I think we'll end it there. Again, I really appreciate your time. It's always great to hear different perspectives and different experiences that people have. And I am thrilled to hear about that resource that you said will do the planning for you. I think that's a really great way to start the process.


Theresa Stark: [00:31:46] And I'll get you the links for those so you can share them with your audience. And I'll share a couple of different ones that cater to different age groups and things like that because I was definitely one of them. We'll see the more mature individuals.


Dawn Fleming: [00:32:07] Right. That's OK. Well, wiser than the others wise. Yes. Yes, very good. All right. Well, thank you so much. I'm going to end it there.


Theresa Stark: [00:32:21] Thanks, Dawn.


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