Jessica Nabongo had everything she thought she wanted.
Quickly moving up the ladder at a prominent pharmaceutical company in Detroit, Nabongo bought her own condo. Her company paid her cell phone and internet bills, and she had a 401(k). She bought nice clothes and shoes, and she could easily travel with her six-figure compensation package.
But when a bonus about two years into her career proved to be lackluster, Nabongo realized she wanted something more.
“My whole life I have been taught life was a meritocracy: I work, and I do what I’m supposed to do,” Nabongo tells MONEY. “This, to me, showed me [life] wasn’t only purely based on merit — and that changed the way that I looked at things.”’
So she took a leap. Nabongo moved to Japan to teach English and went on to …