On a sunny Thursday afternoon in June 1999, I was let go from a well-paying career I hadn’t even had for a full year.

I hadn’t seen it coming, so all of a sudden, I found myself at a fork in the road. The intuitive choice I made that same night has had a decisive (and incredibly positive) impact on my life until this day. The craziest thing I ever did.

I bought a one-way ticket to Bombay.

It is a common belief that without education we cannot succeed in life (it’s also a common belief that we have to be successful). It is an unwritten law that we aim high and prepare for the best career. Most of us haven’t found our passion, or what we want to do for the rest of our lives when we’re still in high school. Most of us choose what we’re told we’re good at or what we think will offer us the best opportunities.

So did I.

We study hard, get the best possible degree, and aim for the best-paid job in the field. In our free time, we try to find a partner, and soon, we are looking for a house to buy—to settle down. It’s what our parents hopefully did for us, and they worked hard to provide us with what we needed.

It is the standard box recipe, and most of us buy into it. We don’t even think about other options, and for a long time, we fail to assess if it makes us happy or not. It’s what everybody does, so we should do it too, right?

Remember the theme song from “Weeds”? “Little boxes, on the hillside, little boxes, made of ticky-tacky…”

We grow up learning to think within the box, and as adults, we continue to live in the box and often get quite stuck in it. It’s what we are used to, it feels safe.

Barely eight months into my second corporate job, I became redundant.

Think in full colour.

Spring greens and endless hues of blues. Squinting against the intense sunlight, you feel the moist salt on your skin, the breeze playing with your hair, the trickles of sweat running down your body from every fold of skin because that sun is hot.

Your nose picks up the sweetness of flowers attracting their love bugs; your ears are soothed by sounds of lapping waves. A hammock strung in the shade of the palm trees is inviting you for a siesta in paradise.

You’re living the dream: a stress-free life on a tiny tropical island.

Actually, I am living your dream. The picture I just painted in your mind’s eye really exists. It’s not a dream though.

I live in that dream picture—it’s just not the whole picture.

There’s much more to living on a tiny tropical island, and it isn’t all fun.