Staff photos by Allison Potter
Scott Bold and his girlfriend, Michelle Eshleman, recently left steady jobs in Washington, D.C., and started a new adventure together in Wilmington.
A wintertime journey led a new Wilmington couple to choose this beach town as the area they wanted to drop everything and move to for a greater quality of life.
Michelle Eshleman, 28, and Scott Bold, 27, were working in Washington, D.C., before they spent a night in each potential beach town area last winter until finding their ideal destination.
“One thing that we noticed was that most of the beach towns we were going to were completely dead in the wintertime,” Bold said.
Many of the places they visited were purely vacation spots, with the majority of businesses closed during the off-season.
“When we came to Wilmington, we went out to Wrightsville Beach and there were people walking their dogs, jogging,” Bold said. “It was just as busy and looked like there was a nice community there.”
As soon as they drove through downtown, Eshleman said she knew Wilmington is where she wanted to live. But for Bold, the trip to Wrightsville Beach made up his mind.
Dropping everything and moving was not an easy decision. Bold, a U.S. Naval Lieutenant, had a five-year contract that was ending, while Eshleman was working as a case manager for mental health nonprofit.
“It was really nerve wracking, because both of us had pretty good jobs in D.C.,” Bold said. “… It’s hard to push yourself over that edge of leaving such a secure thing for such an unknown thing.”
Both had saved up money from their jobs to use during their “mid-career retirement.”
During a time when much was indefinite, the two, both originally from opposite sides of Pennsylvania, knew they wanted to live by the beach. Eshleman moved in March, and Bold followed shortly after in April.
The issues they had in Washington, D.C., with the high cost of living, traffic and safety, are better in Wilmington, Eshleman said.
Currently, they are both working to kick off multiple businesses to see what works and what people want.
When Eshleman could not find a job in the mental health field in Wilmington, she began selling her artwork through Etsy.com by opening an online shop called Paintspiration. She said she would like to get back into the field later on in life.
Her artwork started as simple paintings on canvas with inspirational quotes. Some of her mixed media pieces feature seashells found in Wrightsville Beach and other beaches.
Etsy is like a full-time job, which she spends about 60 hours working on each week to be successful.
“It helps that it doesn’t feel like work,” Eshleman said.
She sells her original artwork throughout the United States and her prints internationally. Only one of her online clients has been from North Carolina.
Locally, Eshleman’s work can be found at Open Studio on Military Cutoff Road.
She also recently began creating and selling Zen gardens.
With job flexibility, Eshleman and Bold are able to fit their work hours to their schedules.
“For me, it’s about gaining my independence back,” Bold said.
The Internet, he said, makes it easier for entrepreneurs to find their niche, take a chance and diversify their employment, like they are doing.
Bold helped Eshleman create her Zen garden site, separate from her Etsy shop, then began creating a web application that will ultimately be used as a marketplace to connect buyers and independent sellers. He just started a bi-weekly email newsletter, “Books That Change You,” with each edition focusing on a self-improvement or other book, takeaways and further reading recommendations.
If all goes well, the two want to start traveling during the beginning of 2014 to experience other cultures, maybe in South America or India, before settling down in a permanent location.
“We want to try to learn the language, just really immerse ourselves,” Eshleman said.
They are blogging about their journeys to share with family members, friends and others who have an interest in their activities and thoughts. The blogs are also a way for them to track their own journeys as a personal benefit and resource.
“I’ve had this ambitious idea of doing all of these things, and it’s finally starting to happen and come together,” Bold said. “It’s early on still, but I’m excited to be doing what we’re doing.”
To follow their journeys, visit www.paintspirationart.com or www.scottbold.com