A NEW YORKER TOOK HER FIRST SOLO TRIP TO GREECE AT 38. SHE LOVED THE SLOWER PACE OF LIFE SO MUCH THAT SHE MOVED THERE.

  • Marissa Rodriguez visited Greece on holiday and decided to stay in Athens to work on her business.
  • She told Business Insider it took her time to adjust to a more relaxed lifestyle.
  • She spent her first months working with clients in the US from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. while traveling.

When Marissa Rodriguez left her home in Puerto Rico to attend New York University in 2001, she didn't know she'd stay in Manhattan for two decades.

Rodriguez started working in fashion at 24 in 2007. She began her career building wholesale brands for different fashion houses.

Rodriguez told Business Insider she'd wake up at 6 a.m., go to the gym, and hustle to start work at 9 a.m. By the time she got into the office, she would already have many messages from colleagues.

"I was always rushing and always behind schedule and feeling like it was never enough," she said. Still, she had a dream apartment and thought she'd live in Manhattan for the rest of her life.

She lost her job

Rodriguez started working for C.Wonder, a company run by Chris Burch, an investor and entrepreneur, in 2013.

She told Business Insider she worked 16 hours a day some days and often worked weekends. Rodriguez said that lifestyle was the norm in New York, and she didn't question it.

When she was on holiday in January 2015, the CEO called her to tell her the company was shutting down. She lost her job immediately. Later that year, C. Wonder was acquired and started running under new management.

Rodriguez told BI they'd been working hard on a new project just before being let go. "We left feeling so good right before Christmas," she said. "It really came out of nowhere."

Rodriguez had worked since college, and her newly unemployed status was stressful, "I was on my own, so it was terrifying," she said. "But it was also an incredible moment because I had to take a pause for the first time."

She re-evaluated her career

For a few months, Rodriguez applied for jobs in fashion but left every interview feeling like she didn't want to do the role. She wanted greater autonomy and flexibility than her previous work and decided to move into consultancy.

She told BI she'd been interested in e-commerce for several years. In 2016, she launched Inspired Brands, a consultancy business that worked with e-commerce brands.

"I worked for some really weird businesses and weird clients while I was finding my footing," she said. A year into running the business, she started landing larger clients, such as Sofia Vergara and Renata Black's lingerie brand, EBY.

With her new business, Rodriguez thought she needed to stay in New York to meet clients in person. But her perspective shifted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She took a solo trip to Greece

Rodriguez decided to attend a friend's birthday party in Greece in June 2021. She'd never visited the country before and decided to take a 10-day solo vacation to Greece around the party.

"I had had three really awful relationships back to back," she said. "I thought: 'I need to go face a fear of being alone, so I'm going to go travel by myself to Greece.'"

But her 10-day vacation turned into four months of traveling around the Greek islands while working on her business.

"It was an expensive four months," she said.

She changed her lifestyle

Rodriguez said she felt like a different person in Greece. As a self-proclaimed "type-A" personality, she always had to have a plan for the day and struggled to go with the flow in New York.

While traveling, she would wake up at 9 a.m. — a welcome break from her 6 a.m. alarm in New York — and spend the day exploring. "I loved waking up in the morning when America is asleep and getting eight hours of the day to myself to do that I wanted," she said. Rodriguez would then work remotely from 3 p.m. until 10 p.m.

"All of a sudden, my entire lifestyle changed, and I found that I loved it."

Though she was traveling alone, Rodriguez said she never felt lonely. "I made so many friends," she added, "Greek people are so warm and welcoming."

Athens felt like an unexpected homecoming

Two months into her vacation, she returned to Athens, which she had passed through at the start of her trip.

"I landed in Athens and had this sense of being home," she said. "Almost like I could have been here in another life."

For Rodriguez, Athens felt like a combination of what she liked about New York — a cosmopolitan city with distinct neighborhoods that are different from each other, and Puerto Rico — everyone knowing everyone and being near the water. She wanted to stay but didn't know how.

By October, she was due to leave Greece and couldn't stay in the country any longer without a visa. She heard that the government had launched a digital nomad visa, which allows nomads who earn a minimum of $3,769 a month to live in Greece for up to three years.

Rodriguez moved back to New York and applied for a visa. Her visa was approved, and she moved to Athens in December 2021.

She told BI that finding an apartment in Athens was easy compared with New York, one of the most expensive cities in the US, where the median monthly rent is $1,574.

"From 20 years in New York, I now understand that my entire understanding of 'normal' was totally skewed," she said, adding that food is much cheaper in Athens and there's a better food delivery service.

She's getting used to lifestyle changes

At first, Rodriguez was surprised by some differences between the US and Greece. She found that apartments didn't necessarily have air conditioning or hot water, but she's relaxed into her new lifestyle.

A Greek friend became her boyfriend in August 2022. "All of the caricature differences between us exist," she said. "I'm super American and very into personal development and growth. He'll say: 'Oh my God, take a nap, relax, watch the sunset. Stop being so American.'"

Rodriguez launched an e-learning platform called "Through Experience" this year. She works on her course in the morning and with her US clients in the afternoon.

"I don't miss the hustle and bustle of New York City," she said. "The energy is just too much."

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2024-06-24T10:13:02Z dg43tfdfdgfd