These people moved to their dream destinations during the pandemic — here’s what life is like 1 year later

Before the pandemic, I was employed as a beverage manager in Boston. The restaurant where I worked closed in March of 2020, and I was subsequently laid off. As I reflected on my career, I realized I no longer wanted to work in restaurants. The hours and lifestyle had taken a toll. I began to explore the possibility of moving to Napa Valley, California, to be on the agricultural side of the wine business.

My girlfriend — who is also an advanced sommelier — and I moved to the town of Napa in September of 2020 with our two dogs. I had no job, and I quickly realized the job market was extremely limited due to the pandemic.

Ian O’Reilly moved to Napa Valley without a job; he now holds two positions in the wine industry.
Ian O’Reilly moved to Napa Valley without a job; he now holds two positions in the wine industry.
Courtesy of Ian O’Reilly
At that point, I was hired to host online wine tastings at Virtual With Us. For the first time in my life I worked exclusively from home. I was connected with several other sommeliers from around the country who had lost their jobs in restaurants. Given the caliber of people on the team, I was thrilled to be included.

Last April, I took a job as a logistics manager at a start-up wine company in Sonoma but continued to host online events. The marriage of the two really brought my wine experience full circle. I now manage an inventory of fine and rare wines by day but I get to talk about them as a virtual sommelier.

I’m working less hours and having way more fun. Plus, the cost of living in Napa is about half of that in downtown Boston.

At this point, I have no intention of leaving. I am a permanent resident of vacationland.

From New York City to Greece
Name: Peter Despotopoulos
Occupation: Marketing director

In New York, I was the vice president and managing partner of a custom millwork shop. I decided to move because I was genuinely unhappy there. I always felt drained and exhausted. I hated my job and line of work.

Most importantly, I felt like the cost of living did not correspond to the quality of life. I was drowning in debt because everything I enjoyed doing was expensive — Knicks games, fine dining, concerts. The pandemic exposed New York City as this really expensive, densely populated area with no natural beauty and limited options for simple pleasures.

The cost of living in Greece is much cheaper than New York.
Peter Despotopoulos
In New York, I rented a one-bedroom apartment on the top floor of a new luxury 60-unit building in the Long Island City/Astoria area. I now rent a two-bedroom apartment in a six-unit modern building in an affluent part of Athens called Voula — an area known as the “Athens Riviera.” I have a pool, and the beach is a short walk away.

The cost of living in Greece is much cheaper than New York. There, I had about $4,500 a month in fixed expenses, including $2,500 for rent and $680 for a car lease. That’s without a cell phone bill, health insurance and gas costs, which my company paid. My apartment in Athens costs 1,300 euros per month ($1,520), and my fixed expenses costs have been cut in half. The worst part about Greece is the price of gas — it’s about double that of New York.

Peter Despotopoulos (sixth from the right) said he goes to the beach in the mornings and starts work in the afternoons.
Peter Despotopoulos (sixth from the right, in back) said he goes to the beach in the morning and starts working in the afternoon.
Courtesy of Peter Despotopoulos
Work is less stressful than before. I work remotely as the marketing director for a U.S. home furnishings website called Moro. Due to the seven-hour time difference, my workday starts at 3 p.m. and usually ends around 10 p.m. Greece is a late culture — everyone eats and goes out late — so I don’t mind the hours. I enjoy the beach before work and Athens’ great dining and nightlife scene afterward.

I still enjoy going to nice restaurants and have replaced Knicks game with going to the stadium to watch my favorite soccer team, Panathinaikos, on the weekends. I go away to beautiful Mediterranean islands on the weekends that are only a 30-minute flight or two- to three-hour ferry ride away.

Courtesy of Peter Despotopoulos
Almost a year later, I think I’ve made a good decision. If you make good money in Greece, this place is a paradise. Being of Greek decent, speaking the language, and coming here in the summers gave me a good idea of what to expect.

Don’t get me wrong, some days are difficult being away from friends and family. Changes like this need time and patience to adapt.

In October 2020, my wife and I made a quick decision to leave the U.K. with our 5-year-old daughter Rumi and travel whilst the craziness of the world sorted itself out. At the time, we were living in a small town called Twyford. It was a short commute to central London, which was perfect for our business.

I’d trialed running executive coaching sessions and workshops from Bali, Indonesia, for nine months in 2018, when our daughter was 18 months old. This gave us confidence that we could work from anywhere in the world, providing we had a good Wi-fi signal.

We were in the process of applying for U.S. visas with plans to move to California when the pandemic hit. We decided we wouldn’t let it stop our ambitions to leave the U.K. and instead viewed it as the perfect opportunity to travel to a country we had long admired — Costa Rica.

In January, we flew from London to Costa Rica. We found a dream home overlooking the Pacific Ocean in a place called Nosara. We woke up to a family of howler monkeys each morning, less than 30 feet from our terrace.

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