Then there are those who only work to live the life that Instagram makes. They collect their paycheck and take it to Lisbon, Paris or Madrid where they flood social media with images of all the experiences their hard-earned money has bought them.
But Dar LaBeach is a new breed, and they live here just to live.
Life has changed a lot in the past couple of years, and many people are embracing a so-called “soft life” – a rejection of the struggle, stress and anxiety that comes with working a traditional 9-year career. at 5 and drift away your days on the hamster wheel of life. Instead, living the sweet life is about throwing yourself into joy and prioritizing the richness of experiences.
At the start of the pandemic, LaBeach was at a crossroads and decided it was time to make a drastic change. After being laid off from his marketing job in New York in the spring of 2020, he went to Mexico. He was earning between $100,000 and $150,000 a year, but was stressed, disenchanted, and tired of living for anything other than himself.
“It was really, ‘F-all of it,'” LaBeach says Fortune.
He had planned a trip to Mexico for his birthday anyway, but his sudden unemployment sped up the trip. He lost his job on a Tuesday, booked a flight on Wednesday, and by the end of the week he was sitting on a beach in Tulum, Mexico. He needed a break; to breathe.
“It was while I was there that I realized I could really do this sustainably,” LaBeach says. Do what? Being on a beach, frolicking, just living. “I realized, ‘Wow I don’t need to be in New York. I’ve really leaned into the idea that if I need it, I’ll find it.
The month-long trip turned into two months, then three.
LaBeach, 31, now divides his time between New York and Mexico. He is able to do this without spending more than $1,000 a month on rent in either city. When he’s in Mexico, he mostly rents out through AirBnb and he shares an apartment with a roommate in Brooklyn.
He had put aside some savings when he chose to walk away from his job, and he received severance pay when he lost his job, although he says it was pretty insignificant. LaBeach says he doesn’t care about money, and he admits he’s lucky to live this way now because he says he’s been into capitalism for so long.
“Money comes and goes, and when I need money, I can book projects, work, etc. so I don’t let it stress me out,” LaBeach says. Since losing his job in 2020, he has developed a sort of freelance career at will in marketing and strategy consulting. “There are many ways to make money, and I’m proud to have developed a sufficiently diverse skill set over the years in business, strategy, entertainment, services, travel, etc. to get there.”
A shift away from traditional success
You have to have “an existential conversation” with yourself before you can lead a sweet life, explains Deirdre Royster, professor of sociology at New York University. The pandemic accelerated many of these conversations, but life and what people valued were changing before it all stopped.
The “good American life” script of “The American Dream” has been completely reversed, Royster says. It’s no longer just a family of four moving to the suburbs with a tidy house and a white picket fence. Royster herself, a tenured professor at NYU, found herself pursuing a whim during the pandemic to follow her passion for interior design. She applied to the Pratt Institute and won a partial scholarship.
“In the 1980s, people were asking ‘How do we maximize?’ But now people are asking, ‘What is the minimum amount I need to live a sustainable life?’ I love that idea,” says Royster.
LeBeach’s experience during those first few months in Mexico, as he recovered from burnout and a life of career service, made certain things very clear to him: “Never again will I wouldn’t make the trip, wouldn’t book the flight, wouldn’t eat the thing, because of the money… Needing the money isn’t going to interrupt my need to live,” he says.
He’s like many Americans who have used the pandemic as an opportunity to disrupt their lives. The collective trauma of this global tragedy allowed some to pump the breaks, turn into a skid, and realize that there was perhaps something more important in their lives than wondering if they lived enough to their work.
Quietly giving up – the internet’s favorite working term of the moment – its distant cousin, lying flat and the sweet life, have all emerged as symptoms of a shift from traditional expectations of what success looks like in America. Living a sweet life doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have a job, it just means your job isn’t your whole world.
For LaBeach, embracing the sweet life has meant becoming a staunch anti-capitalist, he says. When he moved to Mexico City, he became involved in mutual aid. He says that by connecting with his community there, he came to understand that “a lot of black people move to Mexico City not realizing that we are gentrifiers.”
As the world initiates the soft shutdown of the pandemic, people find new ways to get back to life, Mexico City has become a haven for some Americans looking for a change while taking full advantage of the working age of anywhere. The Mexican government recorded more than 5.3 million Americans flying into Mexican airports from January to May 2022, CNN recently reported. This is almost a million more than the same period in 2019.
LaBeach looked at all the people coming to Mexico from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Brazil, etc., and decided to form a new community of like-minded people. He hosted dinner parties for black and brown expats and immigrants. It has helped amplify local protests and activists advocating for women’s rights. Even though it was just his small community, he wanted to make sure they got involved.
The rise of the sweet life
The term sweet life really caught on among black women earlier this year. The cottage industry of advice, lifestyle hacks, and femininity within the YouTube vlogosphere is littered with videos such as “How to Live Your Best Sweet Life”, “How I Created a Sweeter Life for Myself” and “The truth about the ‘soft’ life.” All are aimed at black women.
“I feel like I’ve entered my sweet life era,” creator Courtney Daniella Boateng says in a video about the hard work it takes to live a sweet life. “I’ve really invested in slowing down and detaching my self-esteem or productivity from these ideas of high levels of stress and just wrestling.”
But many of these creators paint a very opulent picture of #softlife; plus a Sophia Coppola, version of the “Marie-Antoinette” era.
“The sweet life, as portrayed online, can often feel like luxury and real levels of pleasure,” Boateng says in the video. “However, there’s a reality to living a sweet life, that everyone in the real world has to be exposed to, like, you have to work, you have to earn money. Life isn’t always rosy.
Friends and family often ask LaBeach how he allows himself to live the way he is. It’s not like he has a nest egg to fund his life. He took a “$10 in; $20 approach,” he says, and it works for him. He booked commercials while living in Mexico — last year he appeared in a FanDuel ad airs during NFL games and he even has a line – and it gives him extra income doing a job he loves. He freelances by relaxing on the beach, or even sitting in the stands at the US Open.
“I have no regrets,” he said. “Maybe I’ll go back [to a full-time job] and the only way i could at this point is because i know what it means to me to be in this space. I know I’m not there because I have to be there… There are now stipulations and limits in place that allow me to live the life I want to live.