Get All Access for $5/mo

She Wrote An 'Escape Plan' to Quit Her Job and Move to an Island. Now She's There Generating Nearly $300,000 A Year "My detailed, step-by-step plan on how I would quit my job and move to a Caribbean island."

By Jason Feifer

Courtesy of Marla Bainbridge Martinez

In 2007, Marla Bainbridge Martinez went on a vacation that changed her life.

She visited Isla Mujeres, a five-mile-long Mexican island off the coast of Cancun, and fell in love with it. She returned for regular visits, meeting other Americans who had moved there, and started thinking: "They get to live there. Why not me?" The answer was work — she was a consultant at a technology firm, and couldn't just quit and move to an island.

To make this big change in her life, she needed a plan. So she wrote one: She called it The Escape Plan — "my detailed, step-by-step plan on how I would quit my job and move to a Caribbean island," she says.

In November 2023, that plan was completed. She operates a business called OIE On Isla Experiences, which is an umbrella for multiple income streams that drive nearly $300,000 in annual revenue. She books vacation rentals, offers concierge services for tourists, provides a private chef for people in vacation rentals, operates a small cantina, makes island-related merchandise, and designs websites for local homeowners.

(Full disclosure: I met Bainbridge inside SPI, a community for business owners where many experts, including me, offer advice and mentorship.)

So, what was in that Escape Plan? Here, she breaks it down.

Writing The Escape Plan

Bainbridge has a background in education and curriculum development — which is to say, she knows how to plan. "I started with the end in mind and worked backwards," she says. "I mapped it out by month with monthly milestone-like goals."

In a Google Doc, she outlined the three categories that mattered most:

1. Financial. She took stock of what she has, what she owes, and what kind of budget she'd need to live on. She called it "Operation Debt Reduction."

2. Network. She listed out her most important contacts, along with how they might help her during this moment of transition. Did any of them have work she could pick up, for example? "I was able to pick up side hustles until I could get my finger on the pulse of what was needed on the island," she says.

3. Action: She listed the actions required to quit her job and move to an island. That included selling her house, her car, many of her belongings, putting other things in storage, and so on. "Each action was a stepping stone towards reaching the goal," she says.

What Happens After 'The Escape'

Bainbridge wanted to escape — but of course, her plan had to extend beyond that. Once she moved to the island in 2010, she needed to earn a living there. But how?

During her first year on Isla Mujeres, she looked around for problems to solve. "There was a need for marketing local businesses to help them stay competitive," she says. "I began filling that need, building websites for businesses and enhancing their online presence on the internet and social media."

Related: This Salesman Was Unimpressed with a Local Pizzeria, So He Bought It — and Then Built A $20 Million Restaurant Business

That work led to new connections and opportunities. For example, she started building websites for people who own vacation property rentals. One client needed more help — not just in building a site, but in driving business to it. Bainbridge stepped up and ultimately took over the site, which she's grown from 10 to 100 vacation rental listings.

At each step, she'd repeat her process: She'd do good work, then explore what other needs people had. That helped her enter adjacent spaces, such as the concierge and private chef services for tourists.

Her Island Life Today

Bainbridge has been living her Caribbean dream since 2010, and now loves helping entrepreneurs escape to their own fantasies. She says the foundations are simple: If you want to build a life you love, you need to plan for it, draw support from your community, and take real action.

"My story is not only about my journey," she says. "It's an invitation for other entrepreneurs to embark on a similar path toward being brave to take risks, achieve growth and refocus to build the live they want to live instead of one that they stumbled onto. It's being intentional and focused about that journey."

Jason Feifer

Entrepreneur Staff

Editor in Chief

Jason Feifer is the editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine and host of the podcast Problem Solvers. Outside of Entrepreneur, he is the author of the book Build For Tomorrow, which helps readers find new opportunities in times of change, and co-hosts the podcast Help Wanted, where he helps solve listeners' work problems. He also writes a newsletter called One Thing Better, which each week gives you one better way to build a career or company you love.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Business News

How to Be a Billionaire By 25, According to a College Dropout Turned CEO Worth $1.6 Billion

Austin Russell became the world's youngest self-made billionaire in 2020 at age 25.

Living

Taylor Swift Has a Lucky Number. And She's Not the Only High Performer Who Leans Into Superstitions to Boost Confidence.

Even megastars like Swift need a little extra something to get them in the right mindset when it is game time.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Marketing

SEO Trends You Need to Be Aware of Right Now, According to a Seasoned Pro

Navigate the future of search engine optimization to elevate your online presence and drive meaningful engagement.