tampabay.com

Obstacles lead to life of fulfillment

Travel and a home-based business replace life in the corporate world for one couple.

By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA
Published February 27, 2007


LARGO - For those of us contemplating changing careers and/or lifestyles, Debra and Roger Bobier may have set a new standard.

Once upon a time, Debra and Roger, now 52 and 63 respectively, were like many who are approaching the second half of their lives: They had good jobs in the corporate world and were settled on traditional tracks toward retirement.

That all changed after a series of personal and financial setbacks.

The Bobiers rallied and reinvented themselves. Today, they spend about half the year traveling to Asian locales, and the other half here, teaching and selling yoga-based trips and merchandise.

"We are truly enjoying the art of living," Debra said. "We travel all over India, Thailand, Bali, Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia - by motorbike, train, bus, camel and donkey."

They do all of this, they say, because their experience in the region lets them live and travel for no more than $2 a day.

But how they got to this enviable point is complicated.

Roger, an engineer with Chrysler Corp. for more than 17 years, was the first to step off the career track when he quit to open a surf shop on Indian Rocks Beach.

Then, after a long legal battle with the city, he closed the business. Embittered, he took an extended vacation in Thailand. There, he says, an astrologer uncannily forecast Roger's next career iteration.

"He told me I had had a major crisis in my life, but that by Christmas I wouldn't be worried anymore and by spring I would have a whole new life. Everything he said came true," Roger said.

Within a year, Roger, his son and a Thai family partnered to open Thai Pan Alley restaurant, in Indian Rocks Beach.

Shortly after, in 1992, he met Debra and the two married. "We were like two comets colliding," said Roger.

Debra recalled that she had enjoyed a 24-year career in radio, rising from programming to sales and then management at stations in St. Petersburg, Tampa and Orlando.

"In radio, I was always given an opportunity to be creative, expressive and entrepreneurial," Debra said. But, as the radio industry consolidated, she found she wasn't having "fun" anymore.

"It took me three years to decide to let go of my career . . . and build my life on a whole new structure. There was no safety net, no parachute when I jumped off the cliff."

She joined Roger, publicizing his restaurant. But by 1997, a series of difficulties forced yet another lifestyle reinvention.

Roger almost died from a ruptured appendix. In a relatively brief period, Debra's mother, father and grandmother died. The restaurant partnership split up, and Roger decided to sell it.

The couple took a year off to travel, hoping they would decide how to live the rest of their lives.

"We went all over the world," Debra said. "We enjoyed it so much we figured we had to find a way to make a living out of traveling."

When he was offered an engineering job in Turkey, they decided to sell their home, cars, furniture and most of their possessions. Debra said she wound up with six bags of clothing and belongings and her 14-year-old cat, Teddy. She now calls the decision "liberating."

During the next year, they lived in Istanbul, England, Germany and Thailand. Except for England, which has strict quarantine regulations, Teddy traveled with them.

"We were living abroad and being paid for it. It was so perfect," Roger said.

During a trip to Bali in 2000, they enrolled in an intensive training course in yoga.

They had practiced yoga over the years, but not at this level.

The Bobiers became captivated with the ancient regimen that combines breathing, exercise and meditation. In 2001 they started their business, Yoga Bound.

"People in America have a hard time relaxing," Debra said. "Our whole system is based on being busy, productive and winning. Yoga has taught me to breathe, to totally relax."

Yoga Bound is a Web site (www.yogabound.com) offering extensive information and links to all things yoga - including a boutique offering Far Eastern and yoga-style merchandise.

People also sign up to join the Bobiers on customized yoga retreats in such locales as Bali, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and India.

The Bobiers once again own a home, in Largo, where they teach yoga to clients and fill orders from their Web site.

They say they doubt that they are done reinventing themselves and emphasize that whatever the next phase may be, it will include yoga.