In search of a meaningful life – some inspirational stories

Throughout this last volunteering job at the Jaguar Rescue Center, we have met very interesting people. People who, at one point in time, decided to quit their jobs and devote a substantial part of their time to volunteering around the world. And change their life.

Their stories, despite differences, have a common thread.  They are the picture of a successful professional. People in their mid-life, with established jobs, good salaries, higher education, and very well established in their professional branch. But, despite this, they were unhappy. Their job had become routinized; there was nothing else to learn, and, most of the time, they realize that they wanted to do something meaningful for the rest of their life. They wanted to have an impact. And they did not hesitate to make radical changes in their lives.   

I find their stories inspiring. They show different paths to find time and financial resources to be able to devote large amounts of time to volunteer for a cause that one deems meaningful without waiting to the end of the working life and retirement.

In these cases, that meaningful cause is to volunteer for wildlife rescue centers. But it could be any other cause that one would like to pursue. 

These are some of their life stories:

L was CEO of a renewable energy company that decided to quit her job to devote her life to wildlife rescue. Before quitting her job, she took an assignment for one year in China, which paid very well so as to save enough money to make the jump to the new life. While she was still working, she had done short volunteer works in different organizations around the world, mainly dealing with primates. These volunteer experiences convinced her that this was the way to go for her. She felt happy when she was working with the animals, and she learned that she was fascinated by primates. So, she started attending short courses on primates and thinking more and more about devoting her “second” half of her working life to primate conservation. The trigger event to make the radical change of life was to be diagnosed and survived a severe illness. After she had recovered, she made up her mind. And quit her job. 

Her new life involves living six months in her country of origin -where her partner still lives – and six months volunteering for two animal rescue/conservation organizations around the world. Financially, she will work while she is back home as a freelance wedding photographer and save the money to be able to go volunteering the other half of the year. In the meantime, she is taking primatology courses. Her favorite volunteering place: Borneo, with the orangutans. Her ideal volunteering time: 6 weeks. 

S is a nurse who lived on a large ranch surrounded by animals. Yet, she realized that she was spending more and more time traveling around the world volunteering for wildlife rescue centers. She liked traveling, meeting new people, and working with animals. In her late fifties, she had considered waiting to pension time to fulfill her dream of working around the world for wildlife rescue. In her case, her soft spot is elephants. Asian elephants. But then she realized that she didn’t have to wait.  She sold her ranch and everything else (car, clothes) to get an early retirement without touching her pension. In her home country, she moved with her two dogs to her mum’s house, where she has almost no expenses. And she is using the money of her sold property to fund her multiple 1-month volunteering work around the world.  When she is at home, she works as a freelance for a local vet, where her nurse training comes in handy. Her favorite volunteering place: Thailand with the elephants, and her ideal volunteering time: 4 weeks.

A is a real estate agent that moved to Costa Rica almost ten years ago.  She had a couple of properties in a place in Europe which he was renting out. He realized that most of the time, she really didn’t have to be there physically for administering the properties. Most of the time, the property administration was about making sure that the plumber or the electrician went to the flat to repair something. It was a phone job…and as such, she could do it anywhere in the world. Instead, she could live in a sunnier place, keep communicating with the tenants while having a local trusted person to handle the keys, and checking that the flat was okay when the tenants moved out. So she moved to Costa Rica and started volunteering at the rescue center. Her favorite volunteering place: Costa Rica with horses and monkeys. Her favorite volunteering time: 3 days a week, almost all year round. 

The stories show a wide variety of arrangements, combining living part-time at home and part-time abroad, where the volunteering takes place. In all cases, the source of the funding is at home either from their “old” job, as in the case of the state-agent or from a new one – like the CEO in renewable energy working as a wedding photographer or the nurse working as a vet assistant. They all have in common that they have freelance jobs that allow a great deal of flexibility. But, most importantly, I noticed that their source of income is all in their home country, where their networks are.  

I have found their stories inspirational because they show that the choice of how we want to live our life is all ours if we dare to make that choice. 


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