Hopes and Dreams

Our Hopes and Dreams for Leisure Guru

Having spent last week back in the UK visiting family and friends it became really apparent how much I want my Perfect Summer’s Day (and my Perfect Winter’s Day, which I will share with you another time). So it seems now is the time to knuckle down and make some decisions on where Leisure Guru is going.  Fortunately, in the Suitcase Entrepreneur’s 30 day blog challenge I have been given plenty of food for thought, helpful hints and tips, and great practical suggestions on how to realize my dream.

growing Leisure Guru

The thing is: it is scary and exciting all at the same time to dream. To think that perhaps we could, through Leisure Guru, inspire, encourage and help others to be leisureholics and have simply awesome times away from the office, with their family and friends. So that they too can look back in years to come with a wry smile creeping over their face, and think “I did that!”, or “I remember when…”.  The trouble is, for us here at Leisure Guru, the possibilities are mind-boggling, the sheer number of things to consider, quite frankly, overwhelming. But as I already wrote in a recent post, if you are serious about something, you need to commit and plan how to reach your dream.  So I thought today I would give you a brief insight into our hopes for Leisure Guru and how in our dreams we would like to see it evolve.

e-books and workshops

Leisure Guru for me is a fabulous outlet for sharing my experiences of life as a business woman and avid explorer of new places.  Eventually I would love to gather all these little gems of information together and package them into a series of E-books, which could be downloaded from the fab, super-dooper website that will come into existence soon.   These gems are valuable and I would also love to run workshops on overcoming the barriers to leisure-awesomification, both on-line and in person. How cool would that be?!

build a community

Leisure Guru is not alone in its desire for people to enjoy life to the max and to see, learn and experience more.  So we would like to establish trusted links with those also promoting the leisureholic ethos, and in so doing, develop a go-to resource for those seeking to maximise their leisure, wherever they are in the world.

But to me, the Leisure Guru of my dreams is more than a resource, where people can find ideas, inspiration and practical advice, it has its own community.  Morag and I have been enjoying very much the feedback and comments on the blog posts we have written. And we would love these interactions to build into a community, where hints and tips can be shared, advice sought and given, so that as many people as possible get to experience more awesome fun times, on their own or with family and friends.

bespoke services for leisure-awesomification

And last but by no means least, in the future we see Leisure Guru offering a range of bespoke services to time-strapped folks, who want to spend their weekends or holiday doing something “different”, but feel slightly guilty about not being able to really organize it properly, so that they absolutely do get the awesome time they see in their dreams.

Is this what the future holds for Leisure Guru

Is this what the future holds for Leisure Guru

These are our dreams. Our goals, if you will. Personally I think they will enable us to have more Perfect Days as there is a mix of products and services and a balance between active and residual income streams. I am sure that things will change as Leisure Guru evolves, but for now we have a great idea of where we are going.

Written by Catherine Evans Joines

This post was written in response to the Suitcase Entrepreneur’s 30 Day Blog Challenge – Days 9, 10 and 11.


The importance of being YOU

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

What a great quote!  We are all individuals. Each a sum of our own experiences, knowledge and personality. No two people are exactly the same. (Thank goodness, or the world would be a very boring place.)

difficult to stand out online

But with only words and syntax (and perhaps the odd photo or video) it can be really difficult to allow the “real” you to stand out in the online world. Always wondering if what you have written could be taken the “wrong way” or misinterpreted – it is a veritable minefield. When we started this blog I made a conscious decision to just write from the heart, as if I was talking and not to worry too much about being grammatically correct (although sometimes I do succumb and make some adjustments!), or whether my comments could be misinterpreted.

Five Girls, Conformity Versus Individualism

For me this is working. I am finding I am writing freely and I am enjoying it, which after all is the main reason we started the blog – for enjoyment. The blog is giving me space to actually articulate my thoughts and ideas on a topic that I feel passionate about: really enjoying and living the one life we have. We should not be looking back in years to come regretting a missed opportunity. I firmly believe that in 50 years time, you will regret more the things you could have done but didn’t, than the things you did but shouldn’t have.

passion for life  – no regrets

Where this passion for making the most of life came from I am not sure. I think it has always been there lurking in the background but it has taken some years for it to be really at the forefront of my mind. But now it is a major factor in the majority of decisions I make and the attitude I have toward problems/issues/niggles and of course the good things in life too.

getting to know “me”

I would say that over the past decade, but more so this last 9 months, I have been slowly getting to know myself; really working out what I like/don’t like; what I am ambivalent about and what bores me to tears. I have done personality tests to get the “scientific” perspective on me, as well as just observed for myself the reactions I have to various situations. It is through this “getting to know me” process that I have uncovered this passion for creating and living your best life and making it work for you.

First know yourself, then you will begin to understand why things are as they are, and why life is as it is. -Leon Brown

So what else have I learnt? Family is very important to me. I am an introvert, so need to spend time on my own to recharge my batteries…too many people for too long freaks me out and I need to return to the comfort of my home for some quiet time. I am ambitious; I am stubborn; I work hard; I strive to do the very best I can do; I am focused; I love learning, helping, researching, organizing, improving. I can be a perfectionist and I can procrastinate when I don’t want to do something. I could go on…but I think you already know me a little better now… 

Other than for you to get to know me, there is another reason why I shared these insights about me. I believe that to be able to let your personality shine in the online world you need to know who you are and what makes you tick in the real world. And I definitely don’t believe in portraying a different persona online to the one you would meet in real life. What you see is what you get!

businesses have personalities too

Businesses also have personalities and core qualities that define who or what they are – they have a brand. Morag and I want Leisure Guru to be unique, fun, fresh, practical, provocative, quirky and with a hint of luxury on the side. These are the “personality traits” we hope Leisure Guru will develop over the coming months and years.

Written by Catherine Evans Joines

This post was written in response to the Suitcase Entrepreneur’s 30 Day Blog Challenge – Day 12

When it comes to Leisure, the Passionate Entrepreneur is your friend

Only when you get a bit older do you look back and realise why your parents did the things that they did – hindsight is a fabulous thing.  And when it comes to leisure our father cottoned on to something 30+ years ago that still holds as true today as it did back then – the Passionate Entrepreneur is your friend.

the Passionate Entrepreneur is your friend

When we were growing up Dad used to take us on holiday at least once a year, sometimes we stayed in the UK, other times we ventured to Europe on a driving holiday and occasionally we would travel further afield to the USA or South Africa. Whilst the locations would change one thing never did, wherever possible Dad would use small businesses throughout every aspect of the holiday. The travel agent would be an expert in the area we went to, the accommodation would be a small B&B or hotel run by a local family, breakfast would be from the local bakery, wherever possible we would eat in one of the local restaurants, not at chains, and if a choice of activities was on the cards we would head to – you guessed it – the one run as a small business by people who loved what they were doing.

the lone rangers against mass-market competitors

As Catherine and I started to brainstorm what Leisure Guru could become several words kept coming up, words like ‘passion’ ‘expert’ ‘unique’ and ‘local’. Clearly influenced by our younger years, as we’ve travelled the world under our own steam we to have taken on our father’s love of the passionate entrepreneur. Every now and again we want to take a moment to say thank you to these lone rangers who’ve fought to build their businesses against their larger mass-market competitors, because these are the people who can really make life-long memories.

making life-long memories

They’re the James and Pepsi Crockett’s of this world, who founded Jus’ Sail in St. Lucia by buying the wooden Carriacou Sloop ‘Good Expectation’ and lovingly restoring it so they could offer sailing tours, private charters and day sailing experiences.  I met James and Pepsi in January of this year whilst on honeymoon. We chartered Good Expectation as a rather extravagant way to get from our hotel near Rodney Bay Marina in the north to our next hotel in the south of the island. The day was eventful; we had blissful sunshine, pouring rain and gusty wind but through it all James and Pepsi were brilliant, teaching us about the boat, letting us helm, feeding us with Pepsi’s gorgeous homemade snacks and keeping us well hydrated with a variety of fruit juices and, later in the day, beer. Eight months on my husband and I still recount the day as one of the best of our honeymoon. You just need to take a look at the Jus’ Sail website to see how passionate James and Pepsi are about what they do, so passionate that during the summer months they also commit some of their time and resources to running training programs for local youth groups to give them an overview of yachting as a potential career path.

Good times on Good Expectation (Photos Courtesy of Jus’ Sail and Chris Young)

Good times on Good Expectation (Photos Courtesy of Jus’ Sail and Chris Young)

a man on a mission

But James and Pepsi aren’t one offs. We also met Orlando Satchell in St. Lucia, he was a mere month or so into starting his own restaurant Orlando’s from his home in Soufriere. Having travelled the world and worked in top hotels building his skills, he had taken the risk to leave the stability of that life behind and build his own business; he was now a man on a mission to bring Caribbean cuisine to international recognition. And rightly so, because his food was some of the best I have ever tasted in my life. Served al fresco in the small courtyard of his home with perhaps maybe 10 to 15 tables in the whole place we savoured every mouth-watering, mind-blowing taste. In between courses Orlando would leave the kitchen to talk to each of the guests; finally at the end of the meal bringing us his pick of the finest rum which tasted like melted toffee and caused us to zig-zag our way back to our hotel, happy, satisfied and in awe of how food could taste so good. In eight months Orlando’s is now the 2nd highest rated restaurant in St. Lucia, an impressive and well deserved rise up the rankings for a man who is helping raise the profile of his local cuisine whilst also employing young St. Lucians so he can teach them about food, service, quality and value to help them gain the skills to further their prospects.

Orlando outside his restaurant in Soufriere, St.Lucia (Photo Courtesy of Orlando’s)

Orlando outside his restaurant in Soufriere, St.Lucia (Photo Courtesy of Orlando’s)

now I don’t think you’re going to get adventure like that at Fitness First!

Move forward six months and whilst living in Bangkok I find The Lab, dedicated to helping their clients (affectionately called Lab Rats) get super healthy by utilising a myriad of different equipment from kettlebells, TRX trainers, ViPRs, to ceiling ropes. Founded by Richard Cohen, the Lab started life in a small studio in the front of Richard’s house, he’s expanded this to a 2 floor gym in the centre of Bangkok with a team of 10 trainers. But more than this, what Richard has created is a community; it’s unlike any gym I’ve ever been to before (in a really good way). Every one knows your name, every one wants the next guy to be the best they can be, every trainer is committed and interested in their clients and every workout is different. In 2 months I’m fitter than I’ve ever been and what’s more it’s really fun – so much so that a trip to The Lab is in Trip Advisors top 20 attractions in Bangkok! Once again as we’ve seen with our other passionate entrepreneurs, The Lab is also giving back by supporting local charity, Mercy Centre Thailand, even going as far as arranging a once in a lifetime sponsored charity trek to Everest Base Camp led by one of their trainers, Ross Norman. Now I don’t think you’re going to get adventure like that at Fitness First.

The Lab, Bangkok, lots for the Lab Rats to Play with (Photos courtesy of The Lab)

The Lab, Bangkok, lots for the Lab Rats to Play with (Photos courtesy of The Lab)

The Lab, Bangkok, lots for the Lab Rats to Play with (Photos courtesy of The Lab)

like being given permission to be a kid again

I could go on and on with this list; waxing lyrical about XO Tours in Vietnam, singularly the best city sightseeing trip I have ever done; Escape Hunt in Bangkok, innovative, clever and highly enjoyable (and you get to play dress up at the end – it’s like being given permission to be a kid again) or Cornwall Segway in the UK because very few things are as cool as an off-road Segway course amongst the old satellite stations at Goonhilly; or the joy of a great B&B like Rosehill Rooms and Cookery in Devon, a Grade II listed house near to the sea with the kind of outstanding breakfast you would expect from a B&B doubling as a cooking school..….

choose the unsung heroes of leisure

But I have to stop, not because I don’t have any more on the list but because it’s time to go out and discover more of these gems. So here’s to the passionate entrepreneurs, building their businesses whilst giving back to their communities, introducing you and me to a glimpse of the world they’re passionate about and helping us to make terrific memories. Next time you’re faced with a choice between mass market or one of these unsung heroes of leisure – go for the latter, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

 – the passionate entrepreneurs

End Note: We have not received any money or special treatment for mentioning the above businesses. In fact none of them knew that we were from Leisure Guru when we met them and used their services. We simply believe that when you see people working on something they love,  and are truly passionate about it and able to impart that passion and knowledge to others in a quality, value-filled way that they deserve to have their presence shouted from the metaphorical blog rooftop every now and again. If you know some other passionate entrepreneurs and want to do the same, tell us about them in the comments section.

 Written by Morag Young.

To make things happen we have to prioritise them

“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.”

― J.P. Morgan

It is all well and good to dream. But if I really want that “Perfect Summer’s Day” I wrote about yesterday I am going to have to work at it.  It won’t magically appear unless I really focus on the steps that I can make to get me there.   So for the rest of the month I am going to push myself to do 3 things that will get me closer to my best life.

Now for the hard part. What are the things that I can do that will actually help me reach my dream of being location-independent, of working with passionate-souls and having the ability to develop myself further through learning, exploring and doing?   Mmmm. Not easy (Must admit that at this point I re-read yesterday’s post again, stared up at the sky, mouched around on the outdoor couch and chewed the end of the pen – yes I did have a pen to hand!)

active outdoors

Ok so one of the key elements that came out of yesterday’s blog post, was my desire to have outdoor activities in my day.  This seems achievable.  Although with the amount of travel planned in the next 3 weeks for the day job, it will definitely be a stretch.  But I will commit to doing some form of exercise outdoors for at least 30 minutes each day. Now that can be walking, cycling, swimming, circuits, climbing, anything in fact.  The important thing is being outdoors and actually doing something more than sitting! That’s the first thing, being more active.

Jump at Sunset

get the low-down on a virtual business

Second one. Well it dawned on me I don’t “know” too many people actually working virtually. Sure I know some from the online world, but that’s just it, they are online. I don’t actually know what their day-to-day looks like; how they organise their day; what they find most effective for moving forward; how they keep motivated etc etc.  So number 2 is to connect, in person, preferably over tea and cake, with someone working virtually. Someone who is actually making a success of the type of lifestyle I desire.  Ok this one will be more tricky and will need more thought on how to achieve it, but donning my corporate hat “isn’t that what stretch goals are for?”.

Tea and cake at Knotlow Farm

working on the move

And finally number 3. Although not mentioned too explicitly in yesterday’s post, travel features strongly in my best life. I want to be able to combine exploring and seeing new places with being able to work.  I have done plenty of business trips all over the world and am very adept at working in airport lounges, on trains, in planes and in hotel rooms.  But I have never tried to work on my own things whilst away from home.  Will I have the motivation and discipline? Will I be able to focus?  I know that I have a 10 day holiday coming up (to an as yet unknown destination) and I want to use some of this time to test out this part of my imagined “best life”.  In other words, I would like this trip to be a little bit of a trial run, to see if I like working while on the road.  So in the next few weeks I will plan the 10 day trip, decide which 3 days will be work days and then give it ago. (I know 3 days might be a bit short, but I think I will get a pretty clear idea if it is something feasible or if it is something I hate!)

Working looking at this view, will it be possible?

Working looking at this view, will it be possible?

So there you have it,

my three actions

  1. 30 min activity each day
  2. Connect with someone working virtually and making it a success
  3. Have a go at working on my things whilst travelling.

This post was written in response to the Day 6 challenge run by The Suitcase Entrepreneur.

Not just “some day” – My Perfect Summer’s Day

Today’s 30 Day Blog Challenge is to describe your perfect day but not as if it were some distant dream but as if you were living it in the here and now. Visualisation exercises like this are super powerful.  I find they help put things in perspective. They also give me the kick up the behind to make changes to what I am doing today, so that I will reach that goal, not just some day, but in the next 3-5 years.

So what would my perfect summer’s day look like?

I wake up in the morning early, just as the sun begins to stream through the open curtains and window. The dawn chorus is already in full voice and I can hear the sound of the stream in the distance. I get up and see the magnificent view of the hills outside, rolling as far as the eye can see. The breeze is a little fresh, but it is just what I need to shrug off the last remnants of drowsiness.

Now if I could wake up to this view every morning....

Now if I could wake up to this view every morning….

I pad down to the kitchen. And what a kitchen! A real country-style affair with lots of space for me to prepare food and a huge oven for those Sunday roasts and delicious cakes. The kitchen table in the centre is already laid from the night before (something I learnt from my mum), the jams, cereals, fruit bowl, crockery and cutlery. Perfect. I put the coffee machine on for my husband (I can’t stand the stuff but it seems he just can’t function without that caffeine fix first thing). Then I head out onto the terrace and do my 30 minutes of yoga and meditation. Just taking in the peace and quiet. Enjoying being by myself, those precious minutes to just regather and prepare for the day ahead.

I come in from the terrace to find my husband taking the croissants out of the oven. Mmmm. Nothing quite beats the smell of warm croissants in the morning, except perhaps freshly baked cakes in the afternoon! I enjoy my otherwise healthy breakfast: freshly squeezed orange juice, cornflakes topped with banana.  Breakfast is the most important meal and I need to be fueled up ready for the day ahead. Because today I have 2 client meetings (virtual, of course) and I am working hard on putting the final touches on the plans for the leisure expo, which will be held next month.

After breakfast I head back out onto the terrace, ensure the parasols are up to provide shade from the sun that I know will round the corner of the cottage soon.  I never have been able to work at a desk, so I kick back on our outdoor couch and get to work on the laptop.  The first 45 minutes are spent in a video call with my business partner, my sister. This time is, as usual, a mix of gossip, updating each other on the last week, brainstorming, allocation of important tasks, and setting a time for our next call.  You see we both travel often and we are often not in the same country, so Skype is invaluable to us. At the moment, she is off exploring and researching cool activities to do in Vietnam and Thailand. This is all part of the Leisure Guru experience, making the most of the opportunities out there.

Experience a river taxi in Northern Thailand

Experience a river taxi in Northern Thailand

So after the call with M, it is on to my client calls. I love these. Time to check in with people about the activities they might want to try in the coming months. Hearing the buzz and sense of achievement as they discuss their last adventures.  I can’t wait to get off the call and start researching for them. Finding where they could learn to scuba dive in Turkey, learn how to cook a thai meal in Thailand, make chocolates in Switzerland, balloon over the Serengeti during migration season. The list is endless. These assignments can be so varied and each one inspires me further. There is so much out there that I want to try. I make a note to find out (for myself) where I can find an alphorn lesson.

I want to have one lesson on the alphorn, just to try

I want to have one lesson on the alphorn, just to try

Gosh! It is lunchtime already.  Time for a change of scene. Today my husband and I grab the bikes after frantically stuffing the laptops into the rucksacks and head off into the village for a “continental” ploughmans.  The wind blows through my hair, the tyres scrunch along over the gritty path and the sun is beating on my back. I feel so carefree.  Our favourite “local” has really good wholesome food, a superb range of teas and the all important wifi! What more could I ask for? The owners are quite used to us settling in for the afternoon one or two times a week and today is no exception.  So after a fab lunch putting the world to rights with my husband it is again time to do a little more work.

With the green tea at my side, I log on to the email and social media. Yeah! All is progressing as it should for the expo. This is a relief. Our virtual assistant has it covered. Thank God for S. What would we do without her? Such a valuable member of the Leisure Guru team, keeping things ticking along on the tech side.   This means I can I get cracking on the fun stuff, writing for the blog, scheduling tweets and posts.  It is busy, absorbing work and as usual I don’t notice the time fly by.

Right 4.30pm – that’s it for the day on a work front.  Time to pedal back home, via the swimming pool for a quick dip and refresh.  I love the monotony of lane swimming. The constant back and forth.  Lifting one arm over and then the next, as the legs kick gently beneath the surface of the water.  My mind clears. Then it is the obligatory race at the end of the session with my husband.  This part is fun.  The only place where I am truly competitive is in the water. Today it is front crawl. I stand a slim chance of winning….let’s see…….Darn. Not today, lost by a whisker.

I love swimming

I love swimming

The ride back to the cottage is harder. It is uphill.  Remind me again why live at the top of the hill? Oh yes, I remember. We round the corner and see the little cottage surrounded by fields, the stream to the left and the hills behind it.  As we get closer I can smell the flowers in the garden and see our wee veggie patch. 

Time for dinner. Something light I think. Tomato and goats cheese tart with herbs from the garden, some salad and some home-grown spuds; homemade lemonade to accompany.  Dessert well that is the left-over banana and lemon cake, which I baked yesterday. Always a hit. Fresh homemade food, priceless.

Totally yummy banana and lemon cake

Totally yummy banana and lemon cake

We sit there out on the terrace enjoying each other’s company, supping lemonade, discussing and planning our next trip.  As yet the destination is unknown. Will it be hiring a campervan and travelling across Europe or heading to South American? Who knows…we have three months or so before we need to decide.

As the night draws in, I head up to bed. Content.

Totally enjoyed writing that piece and I realised how much of it I am actually doing right now or at least a version of it. Perhaps this will become reality sooner than I think!

This post was in response to the 30 Day Blog Challenge Day 5

Delving Deep to “Soar like an Eagle”

I decided to join the Suitcase Entrepreneur’s 30 Day Blog Challenge, albeit a few days late and so now am playing catch-up. This is an all too familiar state of affairs for me at the moment and is something I desperately wish to correct. I am still working hard in the corporate world and sometimes it feels like all I do is work and travel for business.  But since the start of the year I have been making subtle changes both in terms of my mindset but also in my actions.  Now I have a bit more get up and go. I am determined to make the most of my time away from the office, by really focusing and doing those things that interest me, which have sparked my imagination.

the birth of Leisure Guru 

Funnily enough this has coincided with my sister experiencing a similar desire for a change in direction.  We got chatting, as sisters do, and before we knew it the Leisure Guru blog was born. We are not experts, and neither do we pretend to be, as we haven’t yet got this leisure lark completely sussed, but one day we might!  The Leisure Guru blog is really our way of sharing our experiences of trying to maximise our time away from the office, so that we can look back on the last year and have some really cool stories to share.  Plus in years to come we will have a full suitcase of memories. Our hope is that you will enjoy sharing in our adventures and maybe it might inspire you too to grab life by the scruff of the neck and make it work for you!

So back to the challenge

The whole premise of the 30 day challenge is to respond to daily blog posts with one of your own.  I thought this would be an excellent way to gather momentum on the blog and get into a routine of writing and posting.  Here’s hoping! But as I am now arriving on day 4, this first post will have to be a mismatch response to not only today’s challenge but also those of the past 3 days… But hey what is a girl to do?

life on your terms requires clarity

As I read the first four challenges it became abundantly clear that in order to live life on your own terms both from a work and a lifestyle perspective you have to be crystal clear on what that looks like. Otherwise how are you going to know if you have made it? It is a bit like getting into the car with no clear destination. You just drive aimlessly round, turning left and right as the mood takes you.  But how do you know when you have reached the destination and you can get out for a while and admire the view before getting back in and deciding where to go to next? It appears that living your best possible life requires some planning and some strategy….it seems that we need to have “goals”.

your best life requires “goals”

It is all too easy to say “I want to put the zing back into my life by doing more fun things, travelling and seeing new places, meeting new people.” Being a bit of a control-freak I, of course, want to have more control over what I do with my time and be able to do work that can come with me wherever I am. I want to be location-independent. And naturally being a bit of a leisureholic I need to have time to wind-down and chill-out. But what does all that actually mean in practice and what does it look like?

delve deep to find your true heart’s desires

To be honest, I am still trying to delve down into my true heart’s desires in order to have a really clear vision on where I want to be and what I want to be doing, but this is what I have figured out already (in no particular order).

  1. I love the outdoors. The mountains and the sea to be specific.  I need to spend time outdoors every day. As I work from home when I am not travelling, this has been relatively easy to achieve. Today I even worked on the balcony sheltered by the canopy from the rain teeming down. Surprisingly refreshing!
  2. I like being active, but hate the gym. However, doing all the same exercises outdoors is actually quite appealing. Getting on the bike for a cycle ride, jogging round the block, hiking in the mountains, swimming in the lido, doing the parcours (outdoor gym thing with 10 stations on a 1.5 km route) – now that sounds much better.
  3. I love to cook healthy food, and be inventive with it. My poor husband has been subjected to all manner of weird and wonderful combinations and creations. I am loving experimenting.
  4. I need to be able to explore and investigate and learn new things.  I explore in the online world as well as the real one. I have been learning about building the life I want; doing several courses or events which have sparked my imagination; researching trips and vacations; fiddling with and learning wordpress to create this blog; visiting new cities; getting out there and trying new things; scaring myself doing adrenaline-fuelled activities. And all this in the past 7 months!
  5. I love being with my family and friends and spending “quality fun” time with them, not just being there in body but being really present.
  6. I need for work to inspire me, to really interest me. I need to work with people who have passion, who are enthusiastic about what they do. I get a buzz from being around those people who care about what they do and believe that their contribution makes a difference.  I need to feel that passion, to end the day feeling I achieved something.
  7. I am not defined by my job title.  I want a “job” that is flexible, which allows me to work from anywhere, at any time. I need it to mould to my life. I may choose to work all the time from the coffee shop round the corner, but if I want to, I want to be able to pick it all up and work from the ski chalet in winter and from the beach in summer.  I need that flexibility so that I can spend more time with those I love and care about.
  8. But most of all I need to play to my strengths. No more trying to be good at everything. I need to focus. I know that when I am doing those things that I am truly good at, it doesn’t feel like work. I finish and it has been “easy” – I have worked hard, but I was happy slogging away, figuring out those little bugs, researching that idea, investigating the best deals.  I am a lean mean researching organising machine!

how did I figure this much out?

Well, quite a bit of soul-searching, of noting down what made me smile, what gave me a sinking feeling, realising when I had completely lost track of time and when it was dragging into eternity and beyond.

But the best exercise of all was creating a board all about me and what I connected with, what inspired me, what would make me feel like I could “soar like an eagle”.

My dream board part 1

My dream board part 1

My dream board part 2

My dream board part 2

If you have never done this, it is simple. Get loads of magazines, scissors, a piece of paper, glue and stopwatch. Set the stopwatch for 45 min and then you are off into your own world (fab music helps here too). Flip through the magazine cutting out pictures or words, which call to you. These could be activities you want to try, scenes you would like to visit, really anything that makes you smile and think “hell yeah!”.  Stick the pictures to the piece of paper and hey presto after 45 min you have your board.

My board sits on my dressing table so that first thing every day I see the elements of my dream and know what I am ultimately working toward.

Awesome leisure is part of an awesome life!

In response to http://suitcaseentrepreneur.com/blogchallenge/blog-challenge-day4/

The mountains are not just for winter fun….

This week’s blog post is a little late as I spent a long weekend enjoying some fun times in the Dolomites.  I love the mountains and not just in winter. In fact, my first love of the mountains came on walking holidays in the French and Austrian Alps in summertime with my Dad and sister.

fantastic views, fresh air, exhilaration and relaxation

Now that I live so close to the mountains in Switzerland, I get to see first-hand how the landscape changes within a matter of weeks (sometimes days!) from green, green grass with little yellow and purple meadow flowers to having a white blanket of snow (and vis versa).  In winter the mountains have a more even appearance, as many of the smaller dips are covered over, much like correcting flaws in a cake when icing!  But in summer these little dips and bumps are clearly evident and look like wrinkles in the green carpet.  They just seem to beckon me to come and explore.  For me nothing can beat the combination of fantastic views, fresh air, (gentle) exercise, exhilaration and relaxation that a summertime trip into the mountains can offer. (Plus for me it has the added advantage of being the only place I seem to be able to pick up a bit of a suntan!)

the Dolomites

From Kronplatz toward the Austrian Alps - amazing

From Kronplatz toward the Austrian Alps – amazing

So this last weekend was my first ever trip to the Dolomites, in the South Tirol (Italy) and it certainly won’t be my last. We stayed in a lovely little village called Valdaora or Olang, depending on whether you are a German or Italian speaker – this caused no end of confusion with the satnav!  Valdaora sits at the foot of the Kronplatz. From December through to April Kronplatz and the villages beneath it are a hive of snow-filled activity and with over 100 km of pistes it is easy to see why.  The area doesn’t just sleep during the summer. There are plenty of activities to try out.  As we only had a couple of days we could only choose a couple.

a little bit of R+R

We decided to use our long weekend for a bit of R+R and to try to kick-start a bit of a “new you” health and fitness regime. So we booked into a lovely hotel with spa facilities offering jacuzzis, sauna, swimming pool, massages etc. We also booked half-board (which can be risky) but we were not disappointed – the food was amazing. A different but highly imaginative five course menu was freshly prepared for us every night. The portion sizes were just right, so that you felt only pleasantly satisfied and not stuffed to bursting at the end of the meal.  And if you didn’t happen to like one of the options they were more than happy to prepare a substitute. So the hotel was a little bit of luxury to ensure we managed the rest part of the equation.

a little bit of luxury in our hotel room

a little bit of luxury in our hotel room

But what about the relaxation side? Well, whilst I could have spent all my time indoors enjoying the spa facilities at the hotel, this would not have helped me “switch my brain off” fully.  For that to happen I have to be fully engaged in an activity, and I usually have to have some fear associated with it…this is why I find skiing so mentally relaxing, even if it is physically exhausting.  I spend all my time worrying about staying upright that I cannot concentrate on anything else other than what I am doing in the here and now – so the office doesn’t even get a look in.  So this last weekend, I didn’t pass up the opportunity to see some awe-inspiring scenery, to get the adrenaline flowing and to feel that sense of accomplishment that comes with trying or seeing something new.

Obviously a walk in the mountains was on the cards. So we took the cable car up to Kronplatz and walked down – in total we descended 1300m.  Now  whoever thinks walking down is easy, obviously hasn’t spent 3.5 hours doing it continuously without encountering even the slightest incline to help alleviate the pressure in the knees and thighs…not that I am moaning.  It was just stunning scenery the whole way down, mountains everywhere, ski runs turned into meadows, the sound of cow bells, the butterflies fluttering around your legs as you walked though long grass interspersed with pretty flowers, the breeze helping to cool you down in the heat of the day, and best of all the peace and quiet. Bliss.

So this is how a ski run looks in summer!

So this is how a ski run looks in summer!

a plethora of activities

On our walk we encountered others making the most of the amazing landscape. There were the mountain bikers

mountain biking on Kronplatz

mountain biking on Kronplatz

The paragliders

paragliding from Kronplatz to the valley below

paragliding from Kronplatz to the valley below

The photographers

there is so much to be inspired by...you just have to capture it

there is so much to be inspired by…you just have to capture it

The picnickers

just take some time out and admire what nature has to offer

just take some time out and admire what nature has to offer

The adrenaline junkies looking for some excitement by swinging out over the valley floor below

swinging out over the valley below

swinging out over the valley below

And all of this on one mountain!

don’t forget the rivers, lakes and forests

Where there are mountains, there are often rivers, lakes and forests….so even more activities to try like river rafting, canoeing, canyoning or just simply swimming in a mountain lake. But we didn’t opt for any of those for our second day’s activity…instead we chose the high-ropes course, a kind of obstacle course up in the trees. This certainly got the adrenaline coursing through my veins, especially as I am not overly keen on heights and am Little Miss Cautious. So whilst I know that it is safe, providing you follow the safety instructions, the idea of traversing a course several metres above the ground, whilst overcoming different obstacles to get from one tree platform to another, was, well, daunting.

adrenaline, fear, accomplishment

wobbly legs, aching arms, but loads of adrenaline ensured I made it across.

wobbly legs, aching arms, but loads of adrenaline ensured I made it across.

After our safety instruction (in English) and our first test course we were let loose on the different courses. There were several of differing difficulties. Once we had sussed out which was the easiest we were underway.  It was not easy. Sometimes it was not elegant, but I navigated the first one. I felt amazing. I had had moments where I didn’t think I would be able to stop the legs from wobbling or my arms from shaking, but I had managed it.  I was excited and thrilled.

Survived and thoroughly enjoyed it

Survived and thoroughly enjoyed it

After a short break to let the lactic acid dissipate and also to feel the relief of having solid ground under my feet again, I felt able to tackle another, harder, course.  This time I was more confident, had greater control, but was as equally inelegant as the time before.  It was awesome. Finishing with a zipline into a cargo net, followed by disentangling myself, whilst my heart was beating out of my chest, totally made me feel alive.

holding on for dear life, but secretly loving every second

holding on for dear life, but secretly loving every second

I love the mountains for their variety, for their magnificence and for their ability to inspire me.  It won’t be long til I am back visiting them again.