Show Mobile Navigation
Humans |

10 Remarkable Stories of People Who Escaped the Rat Race

by Paul Medina
fact checked by Rachel Jones

You’d think the never-ending daily grind was required for the human experience. But these people prove that it’s definitely not. Do you dream of breaking free from your 9-to-5 and pursuing your passions? Well, you’re not alone.

Many people out there have stepped outside the norm and created a life that aligns with their values and desires. Today, we’re sharing ten remarkable stories of people who escaped the rat race. Hopefully, their stories will inspire you and ignite a spark to make your leap into a life less ordinary.

Related: Top 10 Shocking Stories From People Who Should Be Dead

10 Chris Guillebeau: The Art of Non-Conformity

TEDxConcordiaUPortland – Chris Guillebeau – The business of inspiration

Chris Guillebeau is an individual who redefines the concept of success. Born in 1978, this modern-day Renaissance man is an author, blogger, entrepreneur, and world traveler. What sets Chris apart is his unconventional approach to life and career. Chris famously embarked on a quest to visit every country by his 35th birthday. An audacious goal he accomplished.

His adventures gave birth to his bestselling book, The $100 Startup. His book celebrates the idea that you can create a meaningful, profitable business without breaking the bank. Chris’s writing is a breath of fresh air in the stuffy world of personal development. He’s not preaching about quitting your job on a whim. Instead, he encourages strategic risk-taking and thinking outside the cubicle. His wisdom is practical and down-to-earth.

But it’s not just about entrepreneurship for Chris. He’s a proponent of the side hustle. He advocates that you can pursue your passions while keeping your day job. In a world that often tells us to play it safe, Chris Guillebeau is a rebel with a cause. He challenges the status quo and reminds us to live on our terms.

9 Johnny FD: From Cubicle to Digital Nomad

Village Life in Ukraine. 🇺🇦

Johnny FD’s journey from a cubicle-bound 9-to-5’er to a globetrotting digital nomad is inspiring. Born and raised in San Francisco, Johnny took the conventional route early. He attended college, landed a desk job, and began climbing the corporate ladder. But the monotony of the rat race didn’t sit well with him. Johnny yearned for something more, something outside the cubicle walls.

In 2008, he made a life-altering decision. Johnny packed his bags and headed to Thailand. With him was a few thousand dollars and a dream. He had no clear plan but was determined to break away from the mundane. What followed was a rollercoaster of entrepreneurial ventures. Johnny dabbled in Muay Thai and dropshipping and even became a certified scuba diving instructor. He chronicled his journey on his blog and YouTube channel, sharing the ups and downs of his unconventional lifestyle.

One of his larger achievements was becoming a successful podcaster and author. His book 12 Weeks in Thailand: The Good Life on the Cheap became a bestseller. It offers invaluable insights into the art of location independence for all who want to be digital nomads. Johnny FD’s story is a testament to the power of taking a leap of faith and daring to live on your own terms.

8 Robin Greenfield: Living a Sustainable Life

Everything I Own Fits in this Tiny House – FULL Tour of my Simple, Sustainable Life

Robin “Rob” Greenfield lives life on his terms and positively impacts the planet. Rob’s journey began when he decided to grow and forage 100% of his food in the heart of Orlando, Florida. Rob transformed his front yard into an edible garden. He showcased that you don’t need a vast plot of land to be self-sufficient. But that was just the beginning.

Rob’s adventures continued as he cycled across the United States three times. In doing so, he demonstrated the feasibility of sustainable transportation. He even wore his trash for a month, reducing his waste to a mere 2% of the American average. It highlighted the urgent need for conscious consumption. Rob’s dedication to environmental activism and mindful living goes beyond personal experiments. He encourages countless others to follow his lead in reducing waste and living sustainably.

Rob Greenfield makes sustainability accessible and relatable to people from all walks of life. His cheerful demeanor, captivating storytelling, and commitment to leading by example have earned him a dedicated following. He proves that escaping doesn’t mean sacrificing happiness or purpose.

7 Jacob Lund Fisker: Early Retirement Extreme

Jacob Lund Fisker: Early Retirement Extreme

Jacob Lund Fisker started his journey to escape the rat race while pursuing a Ph.D. in theoretical physics. He realized that the traditional path of working 9 to 5 wasn’t his cup of tea. Jacob set out to design a life of financial freedom. In 2010, he launched his blog, Early Retirement Extreme. Online, he chronicled his journey toward extreme frugality and early retirement.

Jacob was fully committed to minimalism and self-sufficiency, where he managed to live on just 25% of his income. He saved the rest of his income for investments. Jacob biked instead of driving, cooked his meals, and learned practical skills to reduce expenses. Through his disciplined approach, he retired at 33! And with enough savings to sustain his chosen lifestyle indefinitely.

Jacob’s influence extends beyond his personal journey. His book Early Retirement Extreme became a manual for others looking to move away from a tedious life. He emphasized the importance of financial literacy, efficient resource utilization, and investing wisely. His ideas have inspired individuals to reassess their priorities, take control of their finances, and pursue a life less burdened by traditional work constraints.

6 Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus: The Minimalists

The Minimalists | Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus | Talks at Google

Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus are two childhood friends who grew up in Dayton, Ohio. They pursued what society often considers success: high-paying corporate jobs, fancy cars, and big houses. Yet, despite their outward success, they were dissatisfied with their lives.

In 2010, something inside them clicked. They decided to simplify their lives. They quit their high-paying jobs, sold most of their possessions, and vowed to live a more meaningful life with less. This radical shift led them to create their blog, The Minimalists. They shared their experiences, insights, and strategies for adopting minimalism.

Joshua and Ryan’s minimalism struck a chord with people in the golden age of consumerism. They toured the world, spreading their message through books, documentaries, and speaking engagements. They’ve highlighted the importance of valuing experiences over things. While also emphasizing minimalism’s positive impact on mental health and overall well-being.

5 Colin Wright: Exile Lifestyle

Ep. 176 | UnAmerican Dream (with Colin Wright)

At 24, Colin Wright was caught up in the whirlwind of corporate America. He was working a job that felt more like a life sentence than a career. But Colin broke free instead of succumbing to the drudgery of life in the office.

Colin embraced minimalism, a philosophy that champions experiences over possessions. With only a backpack, he set off on a globetrotting adventure. Every four months, he allowed his audience to vote on where he should travel next. This unique approach to living kept him on his toes. It immersed him in diverse cultures and landscapes, shaping his ever-evolving perspective.

As an accomplished author, Colin channels his experiences into words. He’s penned books that motivate others to break free from societal constraints. His words serve as a beacon of hope for those yearning to say goodbye to the 9-to-5 grind. Colin is a testament to the power of choice. He reminds us to choose experiences over material possessions and to forge a path that aligns with our passions.

4 Leo Babauta: Zen Habits

S1 Intro – Fear + Wonder

Leo Babauta’s story begins in Guam. He was working as a computer programmer, caught up in the hustle and bustle of the corporate world. But in 2005, something inside him snapped. He began by decluttering his life, both physically and mentally. Leo embraced minimalism as a way to find true happiness. (Do I see a trend here?)

Soon after, Leo started his blog, Zen Habits. Still active today, the wildly popular site shares insight on minimalism, mindfulness, and living a simple life. Leo’s writing resonates with people worldwide seeking an out from the rat race. While also working to build a more purposeful existence.

Leo has also authored books like The Power of Less and Zen to Done. His books provide practical advice on simplifying your life and achieving your goals. Leo’s wisdom and authenticity make him a sought-after guest speaker and coach. Through his methods, he continuously guides individuals toward their path to freedom. Leo’s story proves that anyone can leave the daily grind with determination, a commitment to simplicity, and a focus on what truly matters.

3 Tammy Strobel: RowdyKittens

Downsizing | Minimalism: A Documentary

In the mid-2000s, Tammy Strobel was ensnared in the typical trappings of modern life. She had a demanding job, a mortgage, and a lifestyle of excess. However, a pivotal moment occurred when she stumbled upon minimalism and the idea of downsizing her life. This epiphany prompted Tammy and her husband, Logan, to embark on a journey toward simplicity.

The couple decided to sell their spacious home, opting for a tiny 128-square-foot house on wheels. This downsize was a conscious choice to prioritize experiences and connections over possessions. Tammy’s blog, RowdyKittens, became a chronicle of their journey. Those who read the blog sought a similar shift.

Tammy’s endeavors extend beyond her personal sphere. She passionately advocates for sustainability, mindfulness, and the power of community. Through her books and workshops, she empowers others to reassess their lives and find contentment in the present.

2 James Altucher: The Multifaceted Entrepreneur

How to Skip the Line | James Altucher | TEDxBocaRaton

James Altucher joined the corporate world when he graduated from Cornell University and landed a job at HBO. However, his entrepreneurial spirit soon took over. He co-founded a web development firm called Reset Inc. during the dot-com boom of the 1990s. The company thrived, earning him millions. But the subsequent crash left him bankrupt and struggling with depression.

James didn’t let his failures define him but used them as stepping stones to success. He became a hedge fund manager, best-selling author, and podcaster. His podcast, The James Altucher Show, has featured interviews with some of the world’s most influential people, garnering millions of listeners.

James refused to conform to societal norms. He instead opted for a path of self-discovery, continuous learning, and unconventional thinking. His books—Choose Yourself and Reinvent Yourself—reflect his philosophy of taking control of one’s destiny and making a change.

1 Elizabeth Gilbert: Eat, Pray, Love, and Find Your Passion

Success, failure and the drive to keep creating | Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert‘s story begins with a painful divorce that left her feeling lost and unfulfilled. Determined to find herself, she embarked on a year-long adventure to Italy, India, and Indonesia. This soul-searching journey resulted in her bestselling memoir, Eat Pray Love. The book struck a chord with readers grappling with similar existential dilemmas.

Elizabeth demonstrated that it’s possible to break free from societal expectations and follow one’s heart. Her experiences in Italy, indulging in food and culture; in India, seeking spirituality and balance; and in Indonesia, finding love and inner peace, resonate with anyone yearning for a more meaningful existence.

Beyond her book, Elizabeth’s impact on the self-help and personal growth genre is immeasurable. She continues to inspire through her writing, speaking engagements, and online presence. Her journey reminds us that it’s never too late to seek a life filled with purpose, love, and self-discovery.

fact checked by Rachel Jones