Leaving the “American Dream”

          8 Years Global

Who would be crazy enough to leave great paying jobs that allow 2 months of vacation every year, a brand new custom built home and a community where the kids can still be kids and ride their bikes a mile or 3 to a friend’s house without the parents worrying that something bad is going to happen to their kids? Who would dare leave the views of living at Lake Tahoe and all the outdoor hiking, biking, skiing, snowshoeing, rock climbing and community events that take place all year long, especially during the summer months?

That would be us. Our family of 3, 4 if you count our dog. 2 years ago, I suffered a major blow to my career. I ended up with a very unfortunate and severe knee injury at work and had to have multiple surgeries and a Total Knee Replacement by the time I was 38. The doctor told me I’d never be able to return to my job and I needed to find a desk job.

My husband and I both worked as Public Servants, I as a cop and he as a Firefighter/Paramedic. We had equal pay, equal retirement and almost equal amounts of time off we could take to vacation whenever we wanted. We had medical benefits and were dually covered and really didn’t pay a dime for healthcare, except what was taken out of our paycheck biweekly. There were no co-pays and our prescriptions were very affordable to us. We had a plan to retire by the time we were 50 and travel the globe.

Having the full retirement package would afford us the ability to live comfortably and travel where we wanted when we wanted without a time schedule. We had a timeline where our brand new custom home we had just started building would be paid off by the time we left our jobs and it would be a great source of passive income as a rental. We would live out our golden years as soon as we could because the jobs we did, we knew every morning when we said goodbye to each other and our son, that there was a real possibility “tomorrow” would never come and that could be the last time we ever said goodbye.

With this knee injury, I was losing everything. I was losing the equality I’ve always had, the retirement I was to collect that would be 5 times as much as I collect now on PERS disability plus medical benefits. I never had to depend on anyone for anything since being a child. And now found myself falling into a pit of despair as the reality of it started to sink in. I, for the first time in my life was going to have to depend on my husband to take care of me, emotionally, physically and financially. This was a whole new world I wasn’t prepared for and never imagined would happen.

All the sudden I went from having everything, and a plan, living in one of the most beautiful places in the world, to losing that future we worked so hard to achieve and were so brightly looking forward to. The tears came crashing down onto the doctor’s bench like a waterfall as the doctor handed me an entire box of tissue and continued to say that I needed a desk job and that within 5 years I’d be looking at having a total knee replacement. I was only 35.

Over the course of the next year my knee continued to get worse even though I had done everything I was supposed to in order to make it stronger and better. I rode my mountain bike every day that summer whether it was in Tahoe or all around McKenzie Bridge, Oregon or Oakridge Oregon. I came home after the summer and got back on my bike, but I couldn’t even pedal anymore. I knew at that point I was looking at another surgery. The second surgery, 10 days before Christmas 2016 made absolutely no difference in my abilities. It just made things that were already hard to do, harder.

Fast forward 3 months (the day after my birthday), I’m on the table again, but this time, they are cutting my leg open, cutting off bones, rearranging my muscles, flipping my kneecap inside out, sewing my deep skin layers and gluing the top layer of skin. This happened to be the worst recovery of my life. I could no longer enjoy any of the sports I used to because of the impact on the knee. I slumped into the deepest depression of my life. I spent months crying in my bedroom, often unable to even drag myself out of bed to make my son breakfast and give him a proper send off to school. As hard as he (our son) tried to understand, he just couldn’t imagine his perfectly abled mother unable to do all the things with him that I had previously been able to do.

Everyone I talked to about TKR’s were so thankful they had them and were happy with their decisions and if faced with the option, would absolutely do it again given the circumstances were the same. I felt elated that there was at least that option for me and I might be able to fully recover and go back to my old life, but I’d never be able to be a cop again.

After realizing my career was gone, my lifestyle would have to change and I no longer had anything that brought me happiness where we were. I felt like I was living in the most beautiful prison, our new custom home that we built with our own hands.

I needed more. I became unsettled and I would literally pack a bag and take off for a week when I didn’t have doctor appointments. I couldn’t stand my life and I didn’t want to live the way I was living. At the same time, Bronson’s department kept taking benefits away from them. They took their medical retirement, gave them a 7% pay cut, decided they were only going to offer 50% coverage for health care with a buy up of nearly an extra $800.00 each month. Shit was going to hell in a handbasket. After months of deliberation from my very first injury and a lot of tears from both of us, I told Bronson I wasn’t happy and I wanted to leave. Not leave my marriage, but I wanted to leave this life behind, close this chapter and start a new one. Not to mention, the medical things I would do to help with my pain like chiropractic and Acupuncture therapies that were not covered by Work Comp were becoming too expensive to afford in the American Health Care system.

After about a year, Bronson was talking to one of his friends who had mentioned doing the same thing I wanted to do. Once I was able to convince him that once he separated from service from his department the PERS payments would stop, a lightbulb went on and the next day he said, “ok, let’s do it.”

That’s where this story begins. Our plan is to circumnavigate the globe for 8 years in a retrofitted van to find our version of paradise. We hope to inspire more people to find a way to follow their dreams and not be afraid to dream big. There is always a way to make your dreams come true, but you first need a plan. We find that the best education that we can give our son is multicultural. With the ability to enroll him in international schools and let him learn the languages and cultures of each country we live in. Of course we’ll still have a set curriculum on the road, but the experiences he’ll gain and the languages he’ll speak will set him apart from the average American student who is book smart but has no experience with other cultures. Not to mention, the longer we live abroad, the more colleges we find that have excellent education and cost anywhere from Free up to $9000.00 for a 4 year degree.

Thanks for reading our blog and feel free to follow us on Facebook, 8yearsglobal. We’ll be adding more social media sites such as youtube, twitter and instagram as our plans continue to expand. You can also e-mail us with questions and suggestions at 8yearsglobal@gmail.com


  1. Scott Chamberlain

    Good luck my friend, you deserve happiness!!! I’ll follow your blog!!

  2. Evan Tobin

    Awesome Vanessa! This will be a great adventure for you and your family. I think you will find true happiness in your journey

  3. This is awesome!!! I have known you for quite some time and I think of all people you can pull this off. Good luck to you my friend

  4. Hi Vanessa. Candi and I read your whole blog … What a gut wrenching and heart felt story…. And…what a great way to catch up on the 15 years or so since we last saw you.

    So sorry to hear about the health issues that you had to endure.

    We are now in those golden years you speak of. But still working full time so that we can afford to do the traveling that has been put on hold like forever. Once we had grandchildren though, we realized that we needed to keep our roots in Napa so that we could experience that joy.

    So happy for you!!! Love your spirit! Can’t wait to follow you during your adventure of a lifetime!

    • Thanks Dan. I’ve often wondered how you and Candi have been. I probably would never have been able to do this unless, like I was, forced to make a decision. It was just after having so many health issues at such a young age, American health care is just becoming more and more unaffordable. I’m glad that you’re still able to get out and travel. Following the dream is hard when you’ve taken so much time working toward achieving that goal and feeling like that goal is never going to come. So, even though it’s a tough pill to swallow, there’s a reason it happened, and this is my reason!

  5. Good luck my friend!! Can’t wait to see and read about your adventures!

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