Tressa Sanders, founder of Bounce Plan, worked a corporate IT job for 20+ years before deciding to quit her job, build her own web application and move to South America. Bounce Plan is an all-inclusive organisation and skill learning tool to help people work and travel. Her journey started in 2016 with an eight day journey on a cargo ship. Find out why and how she did it!
What made you want to move away to South America?
I've wanted to move to another country ever since my first international trip in 2002. I went to Ghana and had my first stress-free life experience. I didn't want to return to the US at the end of that trip. I had every intention of moving back to Ghana but it just never happened. Now fast forward to 2015. I'd worked in the IT industry for 20+ years. I've worked for some of the largest corporations in the world and I was sick to death of it. I was sick to death of it 10 years previously! I was also struggling with my health. Sitting in a cubicle 5 days a week was taking a toll on my body. It was serious. I felt like I had to do something. So I made a decision and a plan and made it happen. I had to quit the cubicle life. For years I had investigated different countries where I could potentially live. When it came down to it, I needed to just make a decision. I picked a "starter" country, if you will. A country that was stable, affordable and not too long of a flight from my hometown in Florida. South America was the perfect location to start my journey toward a new life.
So in 2015 I started preparing for my move abroad. I used my web app to keep track of everything that I needed to do, the amount of money I was spending or needed to spend, etc. Then I booked passage on a cargo ship (yes, this is a real thing) and in 2016 I boarded a ship and sailed to South America. It took 8 days and it was a magnificent start to my new journey.
You taught yourself Ruby on Rails. How did you motivate yourself to learn on your own?
Keeping motivated to learn Ruby on Rails wasn't as hard as one might think. For me, I could hardly get any sleep because I couldn't pull myself away from it. It was seriously all I did all day and night until I couldn't keep my eyes open. I love creating things so learning Ruby on Rails was very powerful for me. It's like going from having to wait for a construction company to build your house to being able to build it yourself for free and in a fraction of the time. Once you learn how to build a web application, you can build just about anything. At first I tried to learn Rails using tutorials but they were very outdated or incomplete. It didn't take long for me to give up on them. I decided the best way to learn was to build a web application I could use. I needed something that would help me to organise everything I needed to do in order to move abroad. After 5 months of building and learning, I had a fully functional, subscription-based web application that was presentable to the world. I called it Bounce Plan and I used to it to move to South America. I have built other web apps since then.
How did you go about making an application? What help is there for women who want to set up an app?
With programming you have to create everything. For example, if you download Wordpress and take a look at all of its files, as a developer, you have to create all of those files. So to make a web application, you have to first decide what you want to build and then create a basic outline for all of the features that you will need. Then you need to start programming those features. It's a long process but well worth it. If you are a woman and you would like to learn to program, you have several options depending on your learning style. You could take an online course, work with tutorials and books or do like I did and just start building a full featured web application right away using the resources that are available online. Rails does have a very effective guide that's available online and StackOverflow will become your best friend. I would also recommend finding a mentor if possible. I really wish I had.
What's the best advice you ever got?
The best advice I've ever gotten was from a friend who told me that if I didn't find a way to do what I've been gifted to do, then I would not live the life I had dreamed of living. It was so true. I was wasting my time at corporate jobs. I had to find a way to escape that career path and find a life path instead.
What are your future goals for yourself and for your business?
Oh boy. My goals for myself include buying land somewhere awesome and building a shipping container home and a sustainable aquaponics system to grow my own food and become completely off grid. I'd like to spend my days making the occasional documentary, relaxing and writing Noir novels. As for my business goals, I would love to see Bounce Plan grow to be a great tool and an educational resource for expats and frequent travellers. I would also like to see it blossom into something offline as well.
What have been the challenges in setting up your own business?
The biggest challenge is always marketing. I can setup businesses all day long but I often struggle with marketing. I think I have something happening with that now but it took many many years. There is so much out there on how to market a business that it becomes overwhelming. It's hard to know which method will work and it's not a good idea to just assume a method will work, just because someone said so. You have to consider your target market and your industry and work from there to find effective marketing methods. It's truly been a challenge for me. I've spent my entire career sitting in a cubicle with not much contact with non-tech people so to suddenly have to become a salesperson for my own business was quite a challenge.
What kind of mini-courses are most popular with expats and frequent travellers?
Skills courses. The one thing I get from both groups all the time is how can they generate income for themselves once they leave their home country. Many people teach English but that option isn't available to everyone. So it comes down to learning new skills, most of which (but not all) are technical skills that they can use to work for someone else or independently. Although I had been working in IT for 20+ years, I didn't feel I could leave the country without learning new skills, which I could use anywhere in the world. I spent more of my career working jobs that typically required me to be on site. So it's important to learn more portable skills. I would imagine some writing and publishing courses will also be popular with both groups and I'm working on those as well.
What's your favourite country that you've ever visited?
Ghana. Ghana was the first country that I ever visited and still the best. I was so carefree there. It was fun and if you wanted to buy something a lot of times you could just do a trade instead of using cash. I loved that! Also, everywhere I looked people were "creating" things. It didn't feel like a culture of excessive consumption. People were sewing outfits outdoors, carving statues and masks, making beautiful cloths and glass beads, etc... It is an amazing place. I look forward to going back in the future.
What's your favourite quote?
Whatever cannot give, whatever is ignorant even of receiving, knowing only taking, that thing is past its own mere death. It is a carrier of death. Woe the giver on the road to such a taker, for then the victim has found victorious death. ~Ayi Kwei Armah
It may sound grim but it's quite an empowering quote. It has kept me safe from people who may try to derail me from my path and from happiness.
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