Blueprint for Life

Over the course of the last 30 days or so during the Suitcase Entrepreneur’s 30 Day Blog Challenge a blueprint for my life has been evolving.  The challenge has been a great way to focus on the specifics of how I would like things to develop in the future, and to enable me to make small steps toward making that happen.

I decided to pull everything I have learnt or figured out together into a cloud diagram, which I thought I would share (please forgive the child-like appearance. Art and Design was never a strong point!).  There is much to do and I am looking forward to seeing how things evolve in the coming months.  It is just such fun exploring life and leisure.

life blueprint

Written by Catherine Evans Joines

This blog post was written in response to the Suitcase Entrepreneur’s 30 Day Blog Challenge – Day 29

A travel hacking success story – A 10-day Canadian Adventure with my Mum

A few years ago when I was living in the UK, I had accumulated enough BA miles for a free trip to Canada. Even better yet, through regular use of my BA American Express Card I was also able to take a companion, my Mum, along for free.  All we had to pay for were the taxes.  Two return flights to Montreal for under £375.  Can’t really do better than that, or can you?

flights for under £375 for 2 – London to Montreal return

Canadian Flag

Canadian Flag

With the flights taken care of we only had the accommodation, car hire and insurance to think about.  Travel Insurance for me is easy. During all my time in the UK, I used only one company, Insure and Go.  The test of an insurance company is not how cheap it is, but how they respond and recompense in the event of a claim.  Having had the misfortune to require their services twice in previous years and being suitably impressed with the customer service, support and no-hassle manner in which everything was dealt with, I had no hesitation in taking out another year long policy with them. Even better news, is actually they were quite reasonable with their premiums.

avoid the extortionate insurance offered by car hire firms

Well the car hire was with Hertz, but booked through Ebookers, who had a promotion on at the time and so we saved approximately 20% off the car hire charges.  By booking through Ebookers, it was possible to save (a lot) on the collision damage waiver and cancellation insurance, which the car hire firms love to charge at more than the daily rental for full coverage. (Although I had travel insurance, CDW is often not included.  And I won’t hire a car without this insurance, as I don’t want to be paying for a car I didn’t even own, if God forbid, there was an accident!). So even more money saved here!

internet deals for the accommodation

Accommodation was slightly more tricky as we had no set plan for our trip to Canada.  We knew that we wanted to spend some time in Montreal, visit Niagara Falls and the wine region and see Toronto in our 10 days. But how long we would spend in each location was totally free-flowing.  Before we arrived, I booked up our hotel in Montreal but that was as far as I got.  This was definitely an alien concept to my Mum, who I am sure would have preferred to know much further ahead of time where she would be staying.  The idea of booking things so last minute and online (without phoning ahead) took her right out of her comfort zone. But she trusted me that it would all work out and it did. In fact it was quite exciting sitting together at the internet corners in various hotels searching for the best deal for the coming night or two and making the decisions together on where to stay.

Catherine at Niagara Falls at Dusk

Catherine at Niagara Falls at Dusk

some positives and negatives to booking last minute

Booking hotels last minute can have its pluses and minuses – if the hotel is empty, you might be able to get a cheap deal, as often the hotelier would rather have some money for a room than none at all. But if you want to visit a popular area waiting to the last minute can mean that the only options left are really expensive or you have to stay a little further out. In our 10 days we experienced both ends of the scale.  To book the hotels, I used a mix of discount hotel websites but each time we tried to stay in the same “extended family” of hotels – the Comfort Inn chain of hotels. This enabled me to gather some more loyalty points, which I converted later back into airline miles, ready for another trip!

but the flexibility is amazing

My Mum and I had a super holiday and as we had not booked up all the hotels in advance this enabled us to even change our plans. For example when we drove into the picturesque town of Gananoque (right in the middle of the Thousand Islands area on the St. Lawrence River) we decided that 1 night was simply not going to be long enough and so immediately booked a second at check-in.

Town Green in Gananoque

Gananoque

Or when we found that after a couple of days we had seen all we wanted to in Toronto. So instead of staying longer we decided to leave and take a detour via Ottawa on our return journey to Montreal. I just loved this flexibility.

Toronto CityScape

Toronto CityScape

It was a fab holiday and I have no idea exactly how much I managed to save on the overall cost, but I do know that what I did spend was well worth it.   I had such a great time with my Mum, just exploring and following where our curiosity led us.  Highly recommended.

Written by Catherine Evans Joines

This blog post was written in response to the Suitcase Entrepreneur’s 30 Day Blog Challenge – Day 27 and 28.

Exploring the world…..

In my last post I discussed what home means to me, but I also mentioned that I want to mix living in two different countries with trips elsewhere in the world. So where would I like to go when I am not in the UK or Switzerland? I have quite a list, made up of places I have been on work trips but just didn’t have time to explore as much as I would have liked, to brand new places, which have been “calling” to me for years, and then there are the old favourites, where I would just love to return to time and time again.

My brand new places to visit

My brand new places to visit

From the list of only the brand new places, I can see that I will need to prioritise to make this dream a reality!

However, if I think about it, my dream is really a work already in progress.  In the past decade or so, I have already visited so many places under my own steam.  Places such as Hong Kong, India, Tunisia, Turkey, Malaysia, Singapore, Oman, Morocco, France, Spain, Andorra, Italy, Canada, and many more.

So my aim from now on will be to continue to visit between 2 and 4 new places a year, both near and far.  I will look at spending a few weeks as a tourist exploring, as far as possible in such a short time, the language, culture, history, heritage, countryside and of course, the food! (Food is one of the delights of travelling, in my eyes).  Yes it will only be a toe-dip into the place. But even in a short period of time, if you walk around with your senses open and receptive, you can learn so much!

collage of the food I have eaten from around the world
collage of the food I have eaten from around the world

collage of the food I have eaten from around the world

Written by Catherine Evans Joines

This blog post was written in response to the Suitcase Entrepreneur’s 30 Day Blog Challenge – Day 24

Home and living anywhere

Although I sometimes apply the “wherever I lay my hat that’s my home” principle, especially when travelling, the concept of HOME is actually quite tricky to define.  For me there are so many elements to HOME.  Yes there is the building, the decor, the furniture I have chosen, the soft furnishings, the art on the wall, the books in the bookshelf, music on the iPod, the trinkets on the shelves and the photos all around.  It is the little sanctuary in which I can hide from the world, regroup, entertain friends and family, chill out, relax, be myself.

hearts build a home

home is more than the physical components

But there is more to it than just the physical components.  Being at HOME is also all about being with the people I am close to; who “get” and accept me.  It is the conversations, the looks, the banter, the hugs and affection – with only these I can feel at home anywhere.

it’s the people and society too

So if the connection and time spent with those closest to me is what makes me feel at HOME, in today’s world of super-connections via the internet and telephony systems, really the world is my oyster in terms of deciding on where to live…or so you would think.   But having lived in Switzerland for the past three and a half years, feeling at HOME is also linked, for me at least, with the commonalities I see between my core values (and attitudes) and those of the society in which I am living.

So if I had the choice (and I do) where would I choose to live?

For me this is quite simple.  I would love to live in both the UK and Switzerland, taking trips abroad to other countries on a semi-regular basis.  However, in practice this may require some ingenuity to overcome some logistical issues, like residency permits and having work that is location-independent.

the UK

A roast dinner - boy have I missed these!

A roast dinner – boy have I missed these!

I love the UK because it is the country I grew up in. My family and a large number of friends live there.  I understand how things work, like local government administration, the legal system, the tax system (or at least I know enough and when I need to, I know where to find out more!). I know the unwritten rules, the etiquette, the expectations.  I love the choice, in terms of produce, entertainment, lifestyle, career.  The diversity and variety is so vast.  Of course the food is important: the Sunday roast, the cans of baked beans, the marmite, the fish and chips, the fantastic Indian and Chinese cuisines, the great British cheeses like cheddar and stilton and of course the great British banger.   And there is the countryside, heritage and history….. I think you can see that I really do love my “home” country.

Switzerland

The town I currently call home, Zug Switzerland

The town I currently call home, Zug Switzerland

But equally there are things in Switzerland which I love.  I love the chocolate, the cheese, the mountains and lakes, the cow bells, the punctual clean trains and all the things you associate with Switzerland. But more than that I love the traditions, the strong sense of family, the respect, the politeness, the way “everything” just works.  I love the language and the sing-song intonation as it is spoken.  I love that on Sundays in Switzerland you can’t help but relax; the shops are shut and so it is really a day to spend with family and friends.  I love the Swiss attitude to Health and Safety, which is so much more pragmatic and requires you to use your common-sense.  I love the plethora of outdoor activities for winter and summer: skiing, snowboarding, ice-skating, snow-shoeing, cycling, lake-swimming, hiking, in-line skating, the vitaparacours, via ferattas.   And yes, over the past 3 and a bit years I have come to learn and am still learning how the administration works, the language,  the etiquette and the unwritten rules.

but don’t forget the travel

I guess I am greedy and I want to take the best bits of both countries and make my ideal!   As that is really not possible, the next best thing is to be able to split my time between the two countries I love, also making time for further exploration and discovery through regular trips around the world.

Written by Catherine Evans Joines

This blog post was written in response to the Suitcase Entrepreneur’s 30 Day Blog Challenge – Day 22

Reaching far and wide

As with anything in life, we often need help from others. For example the specialist legal, financial or technical services we will undoubtedly need over the next few months and which we touched upon in our last post.    But there are other types of support which we will need to consider, if we want to grow and spread our message.

Message in a bottle

trusted affiliation

The first relates to how do we get our message out there to as many people as possible.  Many people use affiliate teams to promote their products and services and hence drive business to their site.  In return those promoting the product or service receive a commission on the sale.  There is little doubt that Leisure Guru would also partner with affiliates for promoting our services.  This approach is extremely attractive and is really win-win.    We, most likely, would get business from someone unfamiliar with our services and the affiliate marketeer would receive recompense for promoting our product or service.   Plus the purchaser gets to receive an awesome product or service with no extra cost than if they had come direct.  Everyone involved benefits.   It will take time to build up a trusted affiliate team, who actively promotes our products and services and we will have to think carefully, when the time comes, on how to compensate for their efforts.

Conversely we will probably also be part of an affiliate team for trusted others offering quality products and services. We will choose to link with people with similar values and outlooks and whose products/services we believe really “fit” with our message.

guest posting

Affiliate teams are not the only way to spread our message and perhaps one day we will be able to attract sponsorship to enable us to get out there and develop the programs, products and services we have in our heads.  But first we need to consider how we can gain (even more!) credibility in this area.  Guest posting is one such angle and we have our first guest post in preparation for the NEW “Emerge and Evolve” magazine.  So look out for it in the coming weeks (super excited about this!)

Over the coming months we will be looking for opportunities to guest post on blogs, so if you have any suggestions of blogs which might be up our street, we would love to hear them (just comment below).  And I’ll let you into a secret, my biggest dream for the blog, is to have a guest post on the Huffington Post….maybe one day!

information products

But the written word is only one medium and I am more used to giving workshops and online seminars than I am to writing.  So I am looking forward to putting together some fab, practical and really useful information products to help with leisure awesomification.

But all of this takes time and it is still early days for Leisure Guru.
Early Autumn Days
Written by Catherine Evans Joines

This blog post was written in response to the Suitcase Entrepreneur’s 30 Day Blog Challenge – Days 18, 19, 20

First steps toward an online business….

In our last post we shared our hopes and dreams for Leisure Guru and how we would like it to evolve. These ideas are like seeds, needing the right conditions in order to be able to flourish.  In the case of Leisure Guru we need to set-up the infrastructure (website, mailing list etc), build an audience, and have quality content worth reading and sharing.   Slowly we are working on these aspects and in so doing we are getting nearer to making our dreams a reality.

online vision

This blog is a vital first step toward communicating and sharing our passion about the importance of living life on your terms and in maximising your time away from the office, so that you build up your treasure chest of memories.  Over time the blog will evolve into a full website where we can share our knowledge in the form of ebooks, video snippets, etc.  The website will also be our online business card providing details on how to work with us, the courses/workshops we offer and also those with our trusted partners.  But most importantly of all it will serve as a portal into an online community where hints and tips can be shared easily, where support is given as people make the changes they want toward an even better, more awesome time on this planet of ours.

our top 3 must haves for the website

So the top 3 things the website must have are:

  • A mailing list sign-up so that we can regularly share our news, our hints and tips, summary emails of the latest interesting articles we have read or videos we have seen. These fortnightly emails will help provide those little titbits of inspiration to keep you moving in the right direction.
  • A community log-in feature so that we can build our community feel, although initially this will probably be our facebook page (so please join us there if you haven’t already).
  • The ability to download our ebooks and other course materials without any hassle, whether paid for or happily provided free to all who are interested.

help required!

Everyone has a gift, all you have to do is find it, control it, practice, help others with it, then you use it towards your successful advantage. #TGIF #Weekend #Morning #Motivation #You #Become #Who #You #Work #To #Become #UniversalAutoSales
Now I would love to be able to claim that we have all the necessary skills in order to make our business dreams a reality, but that would just be a lie.  Whilst between us we might be able to figure out how to do most things, it really wouldn’t be the best use of our skills and time.    So we are already looking at ways of working smarter not harder by utilising others, who have different skills and specialities.  For example, we will be needing help with setting up the website correctly so that it does everything we want it to and for help maintaining it; plus we will need legal advice on aspects such as business structure, contracts and insurance; and let’s not forget the money side of things.  Some daunting tasks.

So in the next few weeks and months, as our needs develop, we will be looking to work with others, outsourcing some tasks, so as to free us up to do what we do best. Especially as we want to be working on the business not necessarily working in the business.  As you might expect we will want to partner with the passionate entrepreneur; with people who get the importance of doing something you love; who take the time to understand their clients and their individual needs; who don’t provide a commodity solution but provide excellent service taking those extra few moments to really “get” what we are about and who want to help us reach our goal. Just as we, in return, want them to reach theirs.

leaving us to focus on the business

So hopefully with the infrastructure in place we will be able to concentrate on the most important aspects: producing and sharing great readable content which inspires and encourages others to also live awesomely.   Through our blog, ebooks, video snippets, workshops, we aim to share with you our steps toward living our best lives – the ups, downs, the sideways steps we make as we meander toward our goal.  We love the interaction from the comments on the blog and welcome questions, suggestions and advice.  We also want to be able to introduce you to others who are maximising their opportunities – connections make the world go round!

and share our adventures

Morag and I do not profess to be experts. By no means do we have this leisure lark sorted but we are adamant that we will do our very best to experience more, explore more, see more, feel more – to be truly present in every moment and get the most from the life we have been given. It is such an adventure. No day exactly the same as the last and with new experiences just around the corner, it will be a pleasure to share these with you.

Written by Catherine Evans Joines

This blog post was written in response to the Suitcase Entrepreneur’s 30 Day Blog Challenge – Days 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

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.