While getting a diagnosis for her daughter, Veronica stumbled into her own ADHD journey. And then she took off to make the most of it.
Veronica Hanson (00:00):
Hi. I’m Veronica Hanson, and I am a minimalist mom who used to be obsessed with the American Dream, and climbing the ladder. And now we have turned it all around, and we are a full-time international traveling, nomad family, and we are currently living in Tokyo, Japan.
Lindsay Guentzel (00:27):
Welcome to Refocused, Together. I’m your host, Lindsay Guentzel, and this is a special ADHD Awareness Month series of my podcast, Refocused with Lindsay Guentzel.
If you’re a regular listener, you know that the Refocused Podcast is where we change the narrative around ADHD, and share the tips and tools we need to refocus and live our best lives. If you’re new here, and found us because of ADHD Awareness Month, welcome. We are so glad to have you.
Now, there are parts of this ADHD journey that some of us have figured out, and there are parts that we all still need help cracking. So for ADHD Awareness Month, I’m collaborating, as always, with my partner, ADHD online to interview 31 people. That’s one interview for every day of the month about their own ADHD experience.
We’ll hear from people who were diagnosed as kids, and those diagnosed well into adulthood. We’ll talk about hyper focus and distraction, stigma and shame, grief and acceptance, and so much more. And we’ll see that ADHD can affect anyone, all genders, orientations, backgrounds, nationalities and cultures. And while there are differences in how we live this truth, there are also so many similarities that bring us together in community.
This special project is very near and dear to my heart, and although talking to 31 different people has been a lot of talking, I am so grateful for each person who shared their story, and I am forever changed by these conversations. And of course, I cannot wait for you to meet my guests, and get know them. Be sure to subscribe to Refocused with Lindsay Guentzel, so that you don’t miss story this month. And with that, let’s get on to today’s episode.
Veronica, I am so excited. One, obviously to learn more about your own ADHD journey. It’s what really pushed me when I got this idea. I was like, “31 interviews. Of course I can do that. That’s not a problem.” But these conversations that I’m having have just been so incredible, not only in opening my eyes to more things that I didn’t know were even connected to ADHD that I get to you dive into, but I think it’s just been such a great opportunity to really see how complex it is. But I also am very excited to hear about this nomad lifestyle that you have going on, because right now we’re speaking to each other. It’s night where I am. It’s morning where you are, so you just dropped your kids off at school. But thank you so much for making time for this. I truly appreciate it.
Veronica Hanson (03:08):
Absolutely. I’m excited.
Lindsay Guentzel (03:10):
So I’ve asked everyone to kind of start at the beginning. So at one point, you went in for an assessment for ADHD. What led up to that, and what were some of the things that you were thinking about prior to seeking that out?
Veronica Hanson (03:23):
I didn’t personally go in for an assessment. What was going on was I was getting my daughter assessed, and she was probably around five or six years old at the time. And we were just doing it mostly because she was having issues in school. The appointments were very regular for some reason. I don’t know exactly the details, but the doctor kept saying, “Please read this book. Please read this book. Please read this book,” repeatedly. And I was like, chaos mom. I had two kids that were young. I just could not read the book, whatever the book was. I was like, “Okay, yeah. I’ll get right on that.”
Eventually, something happened where I was like, “Okay, I read the book.” And honestly, I don’t remember what the book was. But I read the book, and then I came back to my next appointment with that doctor for my daughter, and I said, “I’m sorry, did you ask me to read that book because you think I have ADHD?” Because the book clearly was not about my daughter.
The book was about entrepreneurial women having ADHD, and it was about me. A hundred percent about me. And she was like, “Yeah. I definitely asked you to read that book because you have ADHD.” I had no idea. Zero clue. I did not intend to go find out I had ADHD. So then I had to go find out that I had ADHD, which I indeed did. But it wasn’t me that decided to go find out or try to seek out that information. Somebody who was knowledgeable about ADHD basically shoved into my face and was like, “You have this.”
Lindsay Guentzel (05:14):
I love the book story, because I think we all have that, being asked to do something over and over again. And yours is the culmination is finding out this, I joke, like this long lost secret. And I think the thing that’s so interesting about women is we now know it presents so differently for us. So when you look back, knowing what now about ADHD, what stands out as maybe some things that were there, that we just didn’t know actually were connected back to ADHD?
Veronica Hanson (05:46):
Yeah, the fact that I have always just been so impulsive to try things, that other people were just kind of side eyed you and, “What? Why would you try that?” And not that I executed things well. I’m willing to try things, but then it’s like I don’t necessarily follow through on a hundred percent of the things, or even 50% of the things. But I’m willing to put myself out there, in ways that other people are just not.
But it’s not that I can’t, that traditional idea of you can’t sit down and listen to a lecture, or you can’t sit down and focus on something you want to focus on. It’s not necessarily that. If I want to focus on something, I sure can, but I just change what I want to focus on more often than maybe the average person.
Lindsay Guentzel (06:39):
And what was school like for you growing up? ‘Cause I think for a lot of women we are people pleasers, and we also know something’s up. We don’t know what it is. We’re like, “This just feels different.” And so we end up being really good at school.
Veronica Hanson (06:51):
A hundred percent. So I excelled very well at school. I felt like, at the time, I remember thinking it was because I was a very good test taker. I was not so much in the homework world. Any of the classes that were very homework based, I didn’t so much do well at that. But I was a good test taker, and so I felt like I was very good at school until I wasn’t. Up until a point, I was a rockstar. I rocked all my classes.
And then at some point in college, it started to waiver where it was like, “This is getting hard enough that I need to try in ways that I don’t know how to get there.” But for a very long time I would’ve considered myself sharp, and very intelligent, and on track to do very well all the way through. And then at some point it just got exponentially harder, and I could not execute in the way I used to.
Lindsay Guentzel (07:47):
And college is one of the times that we see with women, that transition period, and it becomes so much more about figuring out a schedule, and sticking to it, and we don’t have a structure set for us. When you look back at college, are you able to see where the difficulty started to come up?
Veronica Hanson (08:08):
I mean, I would say I just had shiny object syndrome. It’s like you go on your own and I’m very social, and so even though I’m an introvert technically by traditional definitions, I’m very social. So you know, you go do all the things because you can, and I love to say yes to things. So I just, “Yes, yes, yes.” You do all these things, you spread yourself so thin, and our time is finite.
So I didn’t, so much, I never did that schedule thing. Or if I did, I’m really good at creating the schedule in January, when you create your new calendar, and you put all the colorful pens, and the stickers, and you just jazz it up in January, I’m really good at the beginning of a term. You’re like, “This is my plan,” and you set it all out, and you’re like, “This is what I’m going to…” But then how long does that plan last? I don’t know. Like a week? If that.
Lindsay Guentzel (09:03):
If that. Yeah.
Veronica Hanson (09:06):
I love to make the plan, but I don’t love to do the plan.
Lindsay Guentzel (09:12):
I’m laughing, because I also love all of those things. The newness. I geek out the first day of class, when you get to go through it and you’re like, “Okay, we have a test on this day, and the paper is due this day, so I’m going to have it done the week before.” Which of course is not actually what’s going to happen. No.
Veronica Hanson (09:31):
Lindsay Guentzel (09:34):
So adulthood, college, post-college, becoming a mom, are there moments that stand out? I mean, because you went in for your daughter, and your physician was like, “Actually I want to want to switch this up for a second.” And for you that was very eye-opening. But now, knowing what you know, are you able to look back and see kind of areas that were, I don’t want to say necessarily concerning, but you can look back and go, “Aha, there it was”?
Veronica Hanson (10:08):
Absolutely. I mean, as a mom I would say in those early years, not knowing what I know about ADHD, and even knowing that I had it, I would say that you miss so much opportunity when you sort let that impulsiveness dictate what you’re doing, or divide your attention. I used to consider myself a very good multi-tasker, for example. And turns out I’m shit at multitasking, but I thought I was so good at multitasking. So I would be half working, half cooking dinner, half trying to pay attention to my kid playing in the other room, and you can’t.
Because I didn’t know that I needed to focus on the thing in front of me, I do feel like I missed things. I missed parts of their growing up, and I didn’t just get on the floor and play with them, and focus on them, and not have my phone in my hand. And I miss things.
And so that is sad, in many ways, because I didn’t know that what my behavior was sort of doing was taking away from their experience of me as a mom, and my own experience as me, as a mom. I thought I was doing all the things. I thought I was juggling like a pro, and turns out I was doing what I thought society expected me to do. I was doing all the things, when really I should have just been focusing on things individually, so I could soak them in and my kids could soak them in, and I didn’t do that. So that’s one of the things that I look back and I say, “I wish I would have just got on the floor, and done that game, and not said later, later, later.” And I can never take that back now.
Lindsay Guentzel (11:55):
We’ll get to that, the parenting side of things. I want to talk about the changes that you and your family have made in your lives. But I want to say that you are not alone in feeling like you’ve missed out on things. I kind of look back, and there are moments where I’m like, “Was I there?”
And I also think it’s probably a part of my brain was so busy in the moment, there was so much happening, and you just lose things. They kind of get pushed down in boxes, and in 10 years I’ll like have this moment of like, “Oh my gosh, yes. That did happen.” But I don’t think you’re alone. In fact, in our house we have a rule if we’re even going to watch something that the expectation is I have to actually watch it. Like a movie we pick out or something. My phone gets taken away, because it is. It’s just this bright, shiny object.
My boyfriend will be like, “Are you bored? Do you not like this?” I’m like, “No, it is just habit at this point,” that you pick it up and then you are in this rabbit hole. And then I’m on the Facebook page of someone I went to middle school with, looking up stuff about I don’t know what. But you know that feeling where you’re like, “How did I get here?”
Veronica Hanson (12:56):
A hundred percent. Yeah. Yeah.
Lindsay Guentzel (12:59):
Did anything change in your life after you were diagnosed? Did you change routines, or add anything in, or remove stuff? You get this diagnosis, and you now are like, “Okay, what?”
Veronica Hanson (13:13):
I would say that I just became more intentional, and my husband, I think the people around us can support us differently when they know that how we’re behaving isn’t us being rude, or us trying to intentionally ignore, or whatever.
So I would say that I probably tried to change things in the beginning, but I mean, it took a long time to really just say, “Listen, I’m going to focus on this one thing for an extended period of time. I’m not going to whatever shotgun effect, figure out what’s going on with my life. I’m going to be much more laser focused and charge down paths, and stay on the path, to see how it can shake out with enough of my time and attention for longer periods of time.”
And then I think, yeah, my husband was very much like, now he understands. So there was less arguments. There was just more support of, “Yeah, I think that’s a good idea. Let’s go with that.” And then it continuously being like, “What about that idea? What about that idea? Let’s go back to that. Let’s focus on that for a while.” And sticking with that.
So I feel like having those people around you be aware of kind of how you are, ’cause I don’t know. I never took medication. My daughter did for a while, but I never did. I sort of had it there, but I was just like, I don’t know. I felt like I don’t want to kind of be a zombie for periods of time, and I know how it’s so tricky to get the right dosage, and all this stuff.
So I was just like, “How can I manage this without going that extreme?” So I mean, my natural instincts are still there. So I try to do the best I can, but I would say I don’t think that there was any such extreme where I was like, this way once I knew, this way before, and then switched or something afterwards. I would say it’s just you learn to cope, and you just roll with it in a different way.
Lindsay Guentzel (15:16):
Well and what I love about all of these conversations that we’re having is we’re hearing so many people talk about different ways that they manage their ADHD symptoms. And what I love about it is that it’s really, I think, confirming for people that you have to find what works for you.
You and I are not going to benefit from the same treatment plan, and I say treatment plan, and I say that and that does not mean medication has to be involved. Because you hear from a lot of people that medication doesn’t work for them, or it doesn’t make them feel good, or the negatives outweigh the benefits. And so I think it is so crucial for people to take into account, and I like that you said that, it is work to find the right balance. And I think sometimes, honestly, knock on wood, I feel so lucky that I very quickly found a plan that worked for me, and that’s after 15 years of trying antidepressants, thinking I was just anxious and depressed, and having none of that work.
Veronica Hanson (16:15):
Lindsay Guentzel (16:16):
So it’s just a great reminder that while ADHD is incredibly complex, so is the just unreal amount of opportunity in treating it, if that makes sense.
Veronica Hanson (16:30):
Yeah, because I mean some people have lives where medication does make sense, because they’re on a schedule. I mean, I kind of have a schedule with my kids’ school and stuff, but I haven’t been a traditional employee for 14 years.
Lindsay Guentzel (16:45):
Oh my goodness.
Veronica Hanson (16:47):
So I’ve worked for myself for all that time. So I mean, I do have a lot more flexibility to just roll with things, versus somebody that might need that consistent kind of schedule. So I don’t know. I felt like I do have that freedom to be a lot more flexible, and just kind of see what happens and let my brain kind of do what it does.
Lindsay Guentzel (17:09):
Well that’s really interesting, because I want to ask you about some things that you’ve learned that fall into maybe the negative category. But I want to touch on what you just mentioned, having worked for yourself for that many years, because you are then so well versed in creating your own structure, and knowing what you need to get done. And I think for a lot of people with ADHD, that’s the struggle. That, for me, is the struggle.
I am really great when other people create routines for me and there’s accountability. It’s figuring out how to do it for myself. So when you look back at your role as an entrepreneur, and outside of this traditional employee schedule, how did you see yourself building those skills?
Veronica Hanson (17:53):
I would say I just have always been super motivated to do things that I want to do. So when I know that this is the thing that’s going to get me from where I am to where I want to be, I can execute like a badass. I’m just like, “Yeah, just do it.”
So then when I’m talking to other people who won’t just do the thing, whatever the thing is that’s stopping them from changing whatever they want to change, I’m like, “You guys, all you have to do to go from here to there is do this thing. Pick up the phone, make the sales call, send the email, go communicate with the person in that office over there. Do that thing.” And other people don’t want to do the thing, but my impulsiveness have always caused me to go do the thing, because then I don’t have to spend time worrying about it, thinking about it, overly preparing for it, all the things that people do that prevent them from doing the thing.
So I would say in my business, I’ve always been ultra successful because the scary thing that other people don’t want to do, I’ll just do it, and I’ll do it quickly, and I won’t hash it out and drag it out for ages. I’ll just do the thing. And so I would feel like that would be kind of my superpower, is I do that scary thing. I don’t know, I just always have moved in that direction.
So when other people are worried about reorganizing their office, and creating the schedule, I did that six months ago, but today I’m just going to do the thing that’s going to make me money, and going to change what’s what I want to change in my business. So I don’t know. I think that’s served me very well throughout business. It’s served me very well through COVID, because so many things in business had to change at COVID, and I was willing to change all of those things very quickly, unlike other people who dug their heels in and said, “I’m going to keep doing things the way I’ve always done them.”
I was like, “No, we’re going to change these 900 million things, and we’re going to change them right now, and we’re going to see how they work.” Because I’d rather execute and see how things work, than sit around and ponder, “How is that going to work?” I’m just going to do it and see how it works, and if it doesn’t we back off. But if it does, you shortcutted all the things to your business, because you just did it instead of talking about it.
Lindsay Guentzel (20:12):
I’m curious. Are you afraid of hearing the word “no”, in business?
Veronica Hanson (20:16):
I honestly am not. I am not.
Lindsay Guentzel (20:20):
It comes across, I have to say. And again, I have no expertise, but just speaking to, you have obviously the hyperactivity, the impulsiveness, that go getter attitude. But the stuff that holds me back is all of the inattentive stuff. It’s that fear of what is going to happen.
You’re picking up the phone and making the call, and you’re like, “They might say no, and that would be too bad.” In my mind, I’m like, “Okay, they might say no, and then what would I do, and how would I do this? And then what if they say yes?” And I am plotting out every single scenario, till I’m blue in the face.
Veronica Hanson (20:54):
Yeah. Well, and it’s interesting because I coach a lot of people who are afraid to move forward in their businesses, and they’re afraid to hear no, and they paralyze themselves with all that indecision stuff. And honestly, when I look back at the beginning of my business, granted it was a long time ago now, 16, 17 years ago, something like that, and I don’t even remember the no’s.
Obviously, I have gotten tons of no’s. But they’re like, “Well I’m sure you’ve been scared of stuff.” And I look back and I’m like, “I don’t even remember.” Those interactions meant so little to me when I got a no, or things went wrong, that they are gone for my brain. It doesn’t affect me at all.
I’m sure I had some feelings, at the time. You know, you always probably had, I don’t know. I probably felt something at the time, but I don’t know. That’s probably the ADHD, where it’s just like, “That did not even happen.” It’s not even in my brain. I really would have to focus to try to even think of a story where I got a no, or something went wrong and I regretted it. I don’t even know if I regretted it. I probably don’t. I just do the thing and move on to the next thing.
Lindsay Guentzel (22:05):
The disconnect, that is a gift. I got to say. As somebody who can think back very, very far about embarrassing moments from elementary school that still give me horrible feelings. That is a gift that you have, that you are so disconnected from that. ‘Cause I do think that that is a huge struggle for a lot of people who are neurodivergent, who we are telling ourselves so many stories in our head that nobody else is hearing, and they’re not true.
Veronica Hanson (22:32):
Yes, the stories in our head. Well, and so many of the things, because I’m not an ADHD expert, so many of those things I don’t know the difference between how I think of things, and how a “normal person” might think of things.
But the stories that I think you tell in your head, as a westernized person, and as an American, I think are just so different than even globally. I think we tell ourselves certain stories as those identities, in addition to the stories we might be harping on in our heads as ADHD-ers. So I don’t know. I don’t where that line is of how much we think about it versus how much somebody else might think about, it in terms of the stories we’re telling.
Lindsay Guentzel (23:21):
Well, and it’s interesting I think, with the differences in cultures across the world. I have a dear friend who lives in Germany, and when he came to the United States, and we were just having this conversation about the differences, ’cause that’s what you do. He said, “Americans live to work, and Germans work to live.” And it does, in my head, make sense when you talk about maybe it is just what we’re doing in the United States. Not to say that anxiety and depression are just isolated to the United States by any means, the imagination. But there’s a lot of pressure that comes from the “American Dream” that we were all told that we needed to go after.
Before we jump into you, and where your family is at now, and kind of the decisions that got you there, which probably have some impulsivity to them, I would imagine. When you look at your ADHD, are there any things that stand out that you’re like, “Yeah, that’s a negative side for me. That’s something that I don’t necessarily really love”?
Veronica Hanson (24:21):
Yeah. I would say just the inability to follow through, because I want to be doing so many things. I really do try, in a lot of ways, to keep things organized. Right? Because a lot of “managing” ADHD really does come down to organization and lists, and how you kind of know how you react throughout a day or whatever. So I do just keep on my notepad, might not be the best way to do it, but just on my phone, the notepad section, I keep lists where the headers are all sorts of different things.
I don’t know. I probably have hundreds of notes now, so I probably should go through and clean them up. But I have, for example, an income sources note, where there’s 15 income sources I’m working on simultaneously to build up, with the idea being if all 15 income sources, if I can get all of them to five figures per month, then I’m doing real freaking good. You know?
So I constantly am going back to that list and saying, “Okay, well what can I work on that’s the lowest hanging fruit? What’s the thing that’s easiest today? Out of these things that I want to be working on, what has the path of least resistance?” And I constantly go back to that and try to see. But that might not be the best path to do the easiest thing.
So I would say that the fact that I’m constantly divided, because I want to be, and so then the execution is maybe not ideal, if you were a perfectly arranged person. You might have a more efficient way of getting to where I want to be. But at the same time, if I was a normal person, I wouldn’t want to be there. I wouldn’t have all those ideas. I wouldn’t have created this vision for things. So it’s a negative, but also it’s why I have it. Yeah.
Lindsay Guentzel (26:20):
It’s who you are. Yeah. And I have to imagine, and I have felt this way, the way you function, and the way your brain functions, and constantly having ideas, and constantly being working on them a little here, a little there, I bet the traditional workplace was pretty awful in that sense. Wasn’t it?
Veronica Hanson (26:40):
Yeah. A hundred percent.
Lindsay Guentzel (26:42):
Yeah. I’ve really struggled with it as well, and I don’t think I knew why until after my diagnosis, and then it was like, “Oh, yeah.”
It’s a little bit like I want to do what I want to do, and a little bit of I don’t love authority. But also, I know I’m capable of building really awesome things by myself. So I’m curious. When was it that you threw in the towel, and what was that push like?
Veronica Hanson (27:11):
So there was two different times that it basically happened. Once before I had kids, well I guess both before I had kids, but slightly different situations.
So the first sort of corporate-ish job that I had, I had already been an entrepreneur for several years. And so what my employer didn’t understand is that I was making equal amounts from my day job as I was from my own thing. And so, when you have something to fall back on, you’re just much less motivated to deal with bullshit.
So for example, I won a free trip to New York City, and I had never been in New York City. I was 22 years old, and so I tell my employer. I’m at this corporate job. I have accrued time off. So I tell him, “Okay, I’m going to take these three days off.” The trip is three days, plus a weekend.
So I’m like, “I’m going to take these three days off,” in whatever it is. Two months. And he’s like, “Mm, that’s a bad time for the company.” And I was like, “Tough shit. I have this time off. I’m going to take the time off on these dates.” And he was like, hmm-ing and haw-ing, didn’t say anything, whatever.
Time goes on, and I continue to do my job. The day that I’m leaving, which I’ve already prepped my assistant for, I’ve prepped all the tenants for, I’m leaving. I’m going on this free trip, obviously. He pulls up in his fancy car and says, “If you go on this trip, I’m going to have to fire you.” And I’m like, “Bye.” Like, “What?” I’m literally, I’m 22. I’m not giving up a free trip. Good luck with that.
So I left, and that was sort of my first thing, and I kind of did it on my own for a while and I was like, “Cool. I’m good. I’m like an entrepreneur.” But it’s not like I was making a ton of money. I was just doing fine for my age.
And then so eventually I did go back and get a “real job”, because we wanted to buy a house. Eventually we wanted to buy a house, and I don’t do good on paper as an entrepreneur. So we go in, and I go and get a job so that I can buy a house, and I work at that job for a while, and same exact situation ends up presenting itself less than a year later, where I am part of the Backstreet Boy Fan Club, and I-
Lindsay Guentzel (29:28):
I love that. How are we just getting to that, 30 minutes in?
Veronica Hanson (29:33):
I win backstage passes to go meet the Backstreet Boys in Calgary. Right? So I’m living in Portland, Oregon, but in Calgary, Canada, I win the passes, ’cause I put myself in for all of them, because I was like, “I’ll go anywhere if I win the passes. I’ll go anywhere.”
So I won them for Calgary, and I put in my vacation request time to go to that concert, however much in advance. I don’t even know. But the employer says, “Well, you’re out of vacation time.” And I was like, “That’s fine. You don’t have to pay me, but here’s the dates that I’m going.” Because remember, I’m still an entrepreneur. So at that point, I think I was making probably at least double my salary in my side thing. But I needed the income on paper.
Lindsay Guentzel (30:16):
But you needed it on paper, because of the house? Yep. I dealt with the exact same thing.
Veronica Hanson (30:21):
Yeah. So I tell her, “Yeah, it’s not a problem, but I’m going on these dates.” I don’t change the dates. This is the date of the concert. I’m going to meet the Backstreet Boys. Just don’t step on my flow.
But they’re like, “You’re out of vacation time. That’s really not how this works.” And I was like, “I don’t know what to tell you. I am going on these dates.” And so they said, “We have to let you go.” So it ended up working out perfect, because the date that I was leaving for the concert, I found out I was pregnant that morning. And so I was like, “Great. So now I don’t have to work while I’m pregnant,” or whatever. And then I never went back.
So two different times I got fired for honestly almost the exact same scenario, of “I’m going on this trip. Leave me alone. Why are you bothering me? I’m telling you in advance the dates.” I am not what you can depend on for your entire business. You have to figure that out. You’re the business owner. I figure it out when I can’t do stuff. You got to figure it out when you can’t. So I got fired, basically both times for going on too many vacations.
Lindsay Guentzel (31:23):
But, what I said that my friend in Germany said, it really rings true there, because there’s so many of us who do not know how to leave our work at work.
Veronica Hanson (31:35):
Lindsay Guentzel (31:35):
I don’t. There’s a very gray area. But again, my job is kind of like, “It has to get done, and it’s going to happen when it happens, and I have to be better about setting those boundaries.” You were like, “I’m good. That’s not what I want.” And I bet that was such a foreign thing to them.
Veronica Hanson (31:53):
Yeah. They were definitely not expecting it. They were definitely expecting me to just stay at the office. But I mean, once in a lifetime experiences are inherently once in a lifetime. Who gives up a free vacation, or a once in a lifetime chance to meet the Backstreet Boys or the Calgary Stampede? Nobody that I would want to really be besties with would do that. They would do the thing.
Lindsay Guentzel (32:18):
Right. And the frustrating thing is you did what you were supposed to do, to give them time to prepare for you to be off. And so it’s like, “Okay, so you want me to follow a system, but then when I follow the system, it’s not guaranteed that it’s going to work. Got it.”
Veronica Hanson (32:33):
Yeah, a hundred percent.
Lindsay Guentzel (32:35):
So when did the decision come up, or the conversations start, about leaving the United States? And where have you been?
Veronica Hanson (32:45):
It’s so ADHD realm, really, honestly. So I had always sort had this in the back of my mind. Well, not always. Maybe for the last seven years or something. Since our kids were little, I’ve sort of thought, “God, wouldn’t it be fun to live in Europe?”
So we had taken our kids on some vacations. We have gone to Italy, and Switzerland, and France, and I won’t name them all. But we’ve been around Europe and we love it. We love it. We were like, “This would be so great.” Everywhere we go, we’re like, “We could totally live here.” And so it’s always kind of been a bug in my ear of, “That would be so cool.”
But unfortunately, the EU, to move there has very high standards. You have to have a boatload of money, or you have to get sponsored for a work visa that neither my husband or I have the capabilities to get sponsored for. We are not some sort of executive with multiple languages, or whatever. So it just seemed like a pipe dream in terms of those traditional avenues.
So it’s been on my mind, but I didn’t have a path. And so what happened, ultimately to make us realize that that was not the only way, make me realize that that was not the only way, was that two years ago, this month in September, two years ago, in Oregon, there was wildfires, and they were super bad to the point where we were not wearing masks because of COVID necessarily. We were wearing masks because of the air quality, because of the smoke was so, so bad. And I know people that live in areas of wildfire totally know what I’m talking about. It’s now an annual thing.
So I said to myself, “Why are we sitting here hunkering down in our house, when we have money? We have the freedom to leave. What is tying us to stay in our house in the suburbs?” So I looked online. I found cheap tickets the next morning to Tucson, Arizona. Never been to Tucson, but I found a great resort. Everything looked fine. So we booked tickets 12 hours in advance, at nighttime for leaving in the morning.
So we hop on this plane, and go to this resort, and my husband’s working remotely because of COVID. I had pivoted to work fully remotely because of COVID, and sitting in that resort in Arizona, we didn’t know how long we were going to be there. I don’t know how long our reservation was, but we ended up extending it multiple times while we were there. And at some point while we were sitting in the resort, the country of Barbados introduced a Welcome Visa, where they were like, “You don’t need to have a job here. You don’t need to be super rich. If you know how to work remotely, we want to welcome you to Barbados.”
So I started looking into Barbados and I was like, “I’ve never been there. Let’s see what it’s about.” And because I clicked on that, YouTube was like, “You must be interested in Caribbean countries. Let me show you this video.” So it showed me a video from a school in the Dominican Republic, where they’re barefoot, on the beach, super crunchy, and, “We don’t care about standing in line. We just want to teach our kids to love learning.” And I was like, “We’re moving there.”
So that YouTube video, it’s like two and a half minutes. I literally got fed it from the YouTube algorithm. I pointed it out while sitting in this resort. This is September, and by November we lived in the Dominican Republic. So we just packed up, basically had a few parties with different groups of friends and family to say goodbye, and we left in November.
And at the time, I just want to say, it was COVID, only 17 countries were allowing Americans in the country, because there was a period of time where every country had blocked Americans, and Dominican Republic was one of the countries that was allowing us in. So it’s like the stars just aligned to show me this random video to a country that was allowing Americans in, to a school that totally suited our style, and we just moved there. We literally just moved to this random city. It’s not a tourist city in Dominican Republic. It’s a very small community. We just moved there. We stayed there for a year.
Lindsay Guentzel (36:53):
It’s really interesting because the same energy that you had when I was asking you if you are afraid of hearing the word no is the same energy you have with this, and I bet it comes in handy, because I’m sure there are so many people who can’t understand your lifestyle, who see it and are like, “I could never. That’s so irresponsible.” But at the end of the day, it’s your life, and you’re doing what makes you happy, and I imagine that you’re just like, “Meh, I’m good.”
Veronica Hanson (37:23):
A hundred percent. So many people before we left, even now, doing this for two years, people want to throw roadblocks that do not exist. “Well what about this? What about that? What about this thing?” That’s not a problem. All the things that you’re saying, those are not a problem. I don’t understand why you have decided that it’s impossible, when I’m literally doing it. I’ve been doing it for two years. They have created in their mind their own obstacles, which is super, super common.
The obstacles that they name are either totally possible to overcome, or non-existent, honestly. Most of the time, they’re just nonexistent. And so I don’t know, I don’t worry about that. Now I’m just like, “I love to say yes.” I love to say yes to everything. Americans are very much on this track, and so much reporting these days is talking about the power of the word no. Say no. Make sure that you protect your time. All this stuff, because moms don’t want to be part of the bake sale, or the community organization, all this stuff that in America people ask you to do is total bullshit. So it’s all about protecting your time.
As an expat, as a nomad, I say yes to everything. Do you want to go have drinks in this random neighborhood you’ve never been to? Yes. Do you want to go to a Tyco lesson, which I went to yesterday? Yes. Do you want to do these crazy things that you would never do back home? Yes, I do. I want to do all of those things. And so I say yes. I don’t have to protect my time. I don’t have to feel like I’m always guarded and closed off. I’m open. I am open to the world, and the experiences, and I think ADHD has totally allowed that and it fosters that, and it allows me to live a life where I’m not worried. I’m not stressed. I say yes. Things are fun. Life is fun.
Lindsay Guentzel (39:14):
I love how much you love it, and I think that that is the best part of this whole conversation, is because somebody is going to watch this, who has been feeling that, who’s been feeling that itch in whatever scale. Yours is pretty grand. I mean, you’re living in Tokyo right now, but I think there are a lot of us who hold ourselves back, and you have such a just go get it attitude. And I’m curious how the rest of the family fits in with everything that’s happening.
Veronica Hanson (39:47):
Yeah, I mean, I would say that my kids I think are just too young to really necessarily have a super strong opinion. They kind of go with the flow, because no matter what direction parents take them, I mean, kids kind of go with that flow.
As far as my husband going with it, I think cause he’s not ADHD, he’s just more malleable to being willing to support the things. And when we had that transition to realizing that we didn’t want to be no people, we wanted to be yes people, I think he’s just embraced the yes lifestyle. And so I don’t know. I’ve totally made that up, but he just really has just, “Yes. You want to do this thing? Yes. You want to go to this place? Yes. Whatever you want to do, yes.” And I don’t know. He finds his way in each of the places we go, and not everywhere’s perfect, but he’s working full time. He works. And so a lot of the times I end up taking the girls during the day, in the places that we were not in school in school. Like in Egypt, they were not in school. In Thailand, they were not in school.
So I would just take them out on adventures, and we made it work. And I would say that everyone’s just embracing the experiences, and now they’re starting to have opinions about wanting to go back to certain places that we’ve been. But I don’t know. We’ll see how it all shakes out, and we’re going to continue to live this lifestyle as long as it’s feasible, and hopefully with the aim that we’d love to be in certain European Union countries. It’s not true of all of them, but certain ones have free college. So I’d love to really be in one of those countries around the time they get into high school. But other than that, I’m totally open and willing to just do whatever.
Lindsay Guentzel (41:33):
So run through the list. Started in Dominican Republic.
Veronica Hanson (41:37):
Yeah. So we started in Dominican Republic. We met some really great friends there, and so when we were leaving Dominican Republic, we went to New York to hang out with some friends we had met in Dominican Republic. And then we went to Paris, and that was really fun ’cause that was around Christmas time so there’s Christmas markets, and it was lovely. And then after Paris, we went to Egypt. In Egypt, I mean, we stayed there for a month and we were staying in a five star, luxury hotel. It was ridiculous. It was so cheap and so amazing.
Sometimes I don’t understand exactly how we get these cheap accommodations, but if you continuously search, I mean, I think we were paying $40-something a night. So when people think, “Oh, she’s super fancy, and that’s why she’s able to live that lifestyle,” I just want to dispel that. We’re paying less than a lot of people pay in major metropolitan cities around the country in rent, to stay in luxury properties where they’ve got turn down service and free dinner, and free breakfast, and it’s not as expensive as you might think.
Lindsay Guentzel (42:40):
It just takes planning.
Veronica Hanson (42:41):
It takes planning, yeah. And it takes flexibility.
Lindsay Guentzel (42:44):
Yeah, that’s the big one too. Yes.
Veronica Hanson (42:47):
I’ve never been to Egypt. I didn’t know how going to Egypt in a pandemic would be. I don’t know. It’s so much unknown, but we ripped the bandaid off. We went. It was amazing, and it was practically empty. So it was a great experience. We would totally go back to Egypt in a second.
So after we left there, our goal was to be in Thailand, and get the kids in school. So we left to Thailand. Again, another extremely inexpensive, under $50 a night, amazing property. And we tried to get some school tours scheduled in Thailand. But at that time, during the COVID situation at that time, the school department was opening and closing on a weekly basis, based on different factors. I don’t really know. So we never were able to get the kids in school, in Thailand. So instead we just sort of hung out, whatever.
We’re not like homeschool parents. We just hung out. We did have to go back to the states for a family emergency. And while we were home for the family emergency, we got a letter saying Japan had accepted us. And it’s a balancing act of places that you’re allowed to go when you’re trying to stay places a long time, but Japan had said yes, and so we packed up and we headed to Japan, and now we’re in Tokyo and stayed at a hotel for, I don’t know, a couple of months.
And then now we’re in a rental, like a actual house, and we’re here, and the kids go to school. Just, we walk to school. It’s an eight minute walk around the corner, basically. And life is different. It’s been different in all these places. In one place they’re in a swimsuit and they’re going to school barefoot, and here they’re in uniforms, and going to school with diplomats kids. So it’s like, it’s different, but all of it is learning, and a great experience I think.
Lindsay Guentzel (44:41):
That’s so cool. What a unique experience. And again, it’s not for everyone. There are probably things that you miss, but at the end of the day, it’s like you get to live the life that you really want.
Veronica Hanson (44:56):
Absolutely. Yeah. I know. A lot of people say, “But what about having this product?” My best friend said that to me, while we were in Dominican Republic. “What about some cereal?” And then the next day I went to the grocery store, bought the cereal, and had my kid take a picture with the cereal that she was like, “I couldn’t leave because of this cereal.” And I was like, “Sure as shit, I just got this at the grocery store. What do you mean?” Don’t put up a barrier of, “You can’t get this thing, or you can’t do this because of XYZ thing.”
If you want to do that, you’ll find a way. Amazon America ships here to Japan. I do have to pay shipping and stuff, but for Halloween costumes, and a new pair of shoes or whatever, you pay the shipping, you suck it up. And I’m shipping that stuff from, well, probably from China to America, to here. Whatever they have to do. But I mean, it’s a global economy. I mean, you can get whatever you want in most places.
Lindsay Guentzel (45:57):
I think sometimes when people say that too, it’s more like they need to give a reason why, and most of the time it’s just that they don’t think that they could do it.
Veronica Hanson (46:08):
You’re totally right. I agree.
Lindsay Guentzel (46:09):
Which is not a bad thing. It’s not a bad thing. Not all of us are meant to live these big, adventurous lives. Some people really love owning a home, and the stability that comes with it. I think the issue is there’s a lot of people, I think sometimes myself included, that went down that path because that’s what we were told we were supposed to do, and then we get there and we’re like, “I don’t really like this very much.”
Veronica Hanson (46:35):
Yeah. You’re living the life that’s expected. I totally get that. I lived that life.
Lindsay Guentzel (46:41):
Veronica Hanson (46:41):
Society expects you to do these things. So you do these things, and then all of a sudden you look around, you’re like, “Is this my life? Is this what I was supposed to do?” And yeah, it just clicks that you got to do what you want to do. This life is short.
Lindsay Guentzel (46:54):
I want to wrap it up. Of all the things that you know about ADHD, from your own experience and then your experience with your daughter, is there something that stands out that you wish people understood better? Or there was a different perspective out there, for people who are unfamiliar with ADHD to take into account?
Veronica Hanson (47:13):
Yeah, I mean, when I learned about my daughter’s diagnosis, I basically flipped the script from all of those negative stereotypes that outsiders… I don’t know. I don’t want to generalize, but a lot of the things that you would think of as those negatives about ADHD, we flipped it, and we just call it our superpower. And I know that that’s, within the ADHD community, a very common way to phrase it or put the lens on it, is that it is a superpower, and you have ways of thinking that are so different from other people and other people don’t understand it. And that’s okay.
And so many of her teachers will come to me and say, “Oh, I presented this thing, this problem for them to do, and she came at it from this super different angle than anybody else, and look at the end result. It’s amazing.” And so I think that anyone who looks at ADHD and thinks of it as a negative, or thinks of it as something that needs to be managed in some specific way, because that’s what they’ve heard, it doesn’t. And it is a unique and wonderful addition to any team, to any project, to any work situation, to any entrepreneurial situation.
It’s not like ADHD’s are some token person that you should have around, but at the same time it’s really helpful in so many scenarios. I can’t think of a scenario that isn’t aided by that kind of creativity, even if you’re planning a party at your house. Like your ADHD friend is going to make that super dope. So anything on the spectrum, it’s a super power, and it is really a way to be more creative, and it does need harnessing. A lot of times you need people around that person to kind of bring it back down to earth, be more realistic, be whatever, and that’s fine. It’s a balancing act. We don’t all need to be the same, but celebrate it, and don’t talk negatively about it. And I would say be excited about all the fun energy and ideas that flow from someone with ADHD.
Lindsay Guentzel (49:39):
Veronica, this was such a fun conversation. I really truly appreciate your outlook on life, and I said it, and I mean it. I think somebody is going to listen to this and it’s going to be the push that they needed to start being a yes person, in whatever capacity they are holding themselves back for.
So thank you for sharing that, and for living a life that I’m sure people love to have opinions on, and not being afraid to put it out there. So, thank you.
Veronica Hanson (50:08):