David St. Lawrence, our friend in Charlottesville who, with wife Gretchen, soon will become Floyd Countians, is an escapee from the corporate wars who found new life in woodworking, blogging and self-publishing. His essays on self-renewal and lifestyle changes are must reading for anyone contemplating giving up the daily grind and pursuing a dream. His book, Danger, Quicksand: Have a Nice Day, is the ultimate guide to survival in a post-corporate world.

Giving up the relative security of a regular paycheck can strike fear into the hearts of the strongest and most self-assured. For some, the change is forced when they are downsized out of a job they thought they would hold until retirement. For others, the plunge into the insecure world of self-employment and dream pursuit is purely voluntary. Either way it can scare the hell out of you.

During our years in Washington, we knew many who talked of “chucking it all” and moving to some remote place for a more leisurely life. Few did so but they talked about it a lot.

Here in the mountains of Southwestern Virginia, we meet and deal mostly with people who did make the change. They stopped talking and started doing. Sally Walker gave up teaching music to open a coffee shop and Café del Sol is a growing gathering place and social center. Rob Neukirch scrapped an acting career to buy Oddfellas and turn it into a staple on Floyd’s growing and restaurant and entertainment circuit.

Others hold down day gigs so they can pursue passions in art or music. Still others built comfortable nest eggs in their previous lives so they can live here now to do what they want. And still others do what they want rather than what convention expects. The woman serving coffee from behind the counter at Café del Sol might have a master’s degree in biology. In fact, Darcie Luster, who works at the coffee shop, has that degree.

Old friends in Washington often ask about the differences between life here and back there. I have a lot of snappy comebacks about the easygoing life in a county with one stoplight or talking about how here you work twice as long to earn half as much but that’s OK because it only costs about a third as much to live.

But the real difference comes when you think about leaving the daily grind behind and doing what you want.

In Washington, we knew a lot of people who talk about it.

Here we know a lot of people who stopped talking and did it.