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So Long, Corner Office: Former HR Director Quits Firing People

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Lisa Hoffmann decided downward dogs suited her better than layoffs.

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You've probably had that daydream where you pack up your things, clear off your desk, and go travel the world. Most of us indulge in this fantasy occasionally, but quickly snap back to reality. Not so in the case of Lisa Hoffmann, a former human resources executive. After 11 years in the business, Hoffmann quit her lucrative job for the unknown.

The decisive moment came one day in 2008 when she was sitting in a Las Vegas Starbucks on a 110-degree day in September. After listening to police sirens and tripping over a stranger's foot (without receiving even the slightest of apologies), Hoffmann's inner voice said: "You are thinking about leaving your job, do it, do it now."

A month later she quit.

Before that time, Hoffmann had been living the good life, working at Harley-Davidson Inc. (HOG) in Nevada and Utah as HR Director for two years. She was making six figures, living in a 4,000-square-foot apartment, and buying designer clothing. (She also owned land in Utah.) Before joining the motorcycle company, she had worked for seven years at Republic Mortgage, a brokerage based in Utah.

Many people would have considered hers an ideal life. Hoffmann. Think of the movie, Up In the Air, she says. Just like the main character in the movie, one of Hoffmann's main responsibilities was firing people. "One day a board member complemented me on a job well done, and I thought to myself, 'Lisa, is that what you want to be known for?' "

She had turned into someone she disliked. "I would take care of people in the mortgage industry who became demanding. Suddenly I find myself in a five-star hotel demanding clean towels. It disturbed me that I became that way."

This decision to leave her carefully planned life wasn't made overnight. "For a long time, I would tell myself I had to leave but I finally gave myself permission to listen.

"Before I would come up with reasons to counter my thoughts, telling myself it's not practical; how will you afford your condo, land in Utah, and car? Then I said, 'I need to be true to who I am.' "

Hoffmann didn't jump without a net. She did have a 401k and cash after selling some property, which all added up to about $300,000.

After a six-week trip to Europe by herself, she moved to Newport Beach, California, to pursue her life-long dream to live on the beach. Life took another turn when her mother got sick. Hoffmann then went to Las Vegas to take care of her.

After her mother passed away, Hoffman returned to California and, realizing how much she loved yoga, decided to become certified.

Then she traveled to practice yoga in India, Nepal, and Germany, leaving with just a backpack and a satchel. She's still on the road.

Hoffmann isn't living the high life she was used to. No more staying in five-star hotels. Instead she lives with families in exchange for teaching yoga. She sleeps on floors in rooms without air-conditioning. She's even found bed bugs in some of her lodgings.

This is very different from her previous life where she used to shop at Nordstrom and custom blend her lipstick to match her shirt.

Hoffmann also gives back to the communities she lives in. She often teaches natives yoga for free. She's planning on teaching English and yoga during her next journey in the Isan region of Thailand.

What's next? She still has $19,000 left and is brainstorming many ideas with friends. One notion: build a sustainable community in the island of Kailua. She's also thinking about going to Cambodia or Australia. (For updates on her whereabouts, see A Wandering Yogini.) But really, her next destination is unknown. "Before I had this all mapped out on an Excel spread sheet," says Hoffmann. "I guess I would say that I am continually trying to simplify my life."

For those who'd like to follow her example, Hoffmann recommends against chucking it all out. Rather she suggests letting things fall into place. It's important to dream. "I always say if you don't dream, dreams will never come true."
No positions in stocks mentioned.

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