The perfect leisure filled life? It’s going to take some hard work . . .

Dreams - Bernhard Edmunds
As part of The Suitcase Entrepreneur’s 30 day blog challenge, Catherine’s spent the last few blogs talking about the importance of finding out what you’re really about, what you want your life to look like and prioritising how to get there.

Now, I’m temporarily in a slightly more fortunate position than Catherine who is still leading a double life of corporate chick and wannabe leisure addict. In April, I took a year sabbatical from my corporate job when my husband was offered a 12-month work contract in Abu Dhabi. As fate would have it that’s morphed a bit and after 2 months in the UAE we’re now living in Bangkok for 3 months, due to head back to the Middle East at the end of September.

On top of being able to live in these new places, I’m incredibly blessed because I don’t need to work in a ‘traditional job’ whilst we’re away (in fact visa restrictions actually make it really tough to), and financially we can afford for me not to (it’s tight but doable). Even luckier, I have a hubby who is fully onboard with me wanting to ditch my corporate lifestyle in favour of running the show myself (via an online business that leaves lots of time for leisure). In fact, I think he feels like the PoW watching his buddy scale the prison fence and make the bid for freedom,  “if she manages to do this and get away, perhaps there’s hope for my escape. . . ”

Nirvana right? A whole year to work on getting the dream life so I don’t have to go back to the big company prison? Except here’s the rub, the bit I’m quite ashamed I’m actually going to say–

it’s a hell of a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.

There I said it.

The reality is that there’s something quite comforting in working for the corporate machine. The pressure is on them; they make the calls, set the direction of travel and schedule the work. There’s an enforced routine, human interaction every day and, if you’re lucky, feedback on how you’re doing. And after ten plus years I’ve learnt the rules and know what to do to survive. Now even if you hate your life in this machine (and trust me, I really really did), when it all gets stripped away suddenly you realize you’re standing on your own, metaphorically naked, and feeling more than a little bit vulnerable.

Now don’t get me wrong, during my first few weeks I loved it. I devoured my new leisure time. I read every book I’d been wanting to read for the last 3 years, I sat outside in the sunshine watching the world go by, I did my weekly shop in the middle of the working day when it took 30 minutes instead of the 90 minute weekend hell, I had time (and energy) to make food from scratch. I consumed blogs on travel imagining all the places I could now go to. I created my dream board, drew a ‘get a life’ tree (more on this in another blog), decided on my top 5 goals to make this my best year yet and did all that absolutely essential planning Catherine has been blogging about. It was really quite fabulous.

Except now I’m 100 or so days into this experience, and I notice my mood is starting to change, it’s getting tougher to make dreams a reality and I knew I was in trouble last night when I thought about my old corporate life and seriously considered going back. “It wasn’t that bad, it paid well, it was relatively secure’ all flashed across my mind. This of course is total BS – I would often start work at 4am and finish late into the evening; our honeymoon was the first time in 18 months hubby and I had spent longer than 7 consecutive days together (travelling for work having kept us apart previously). My old corporate life had more than a few serious flaws.

So where does that leave me? Well I have a vast array of great dreams, ideas, possibilities and opportunities – the world is my oyster. The problem is, that despite the dream board and goal planning, I don’t appear to have a terribly detailed map to navigate this new world. More problematic still, is the reason that map is missing, is because I haven’t drawn it yet.

It’s all on me now.

If I fail at making the most of this opportunity then it will be entirely my own fault.

I am the master of my own destiny and potentially my biggest saboteur.

And that quite frankly is, in equal parts, the most exciting and terrifying position I have ever been in. And what it’s taken me 100 days of dreaming, goal setting and prioritizing to realize is that creating my new life’s map, that will help me get to that awesome leisure filled life, is going to take a lot of hard work. In fact standing at the beginning of this journey, having already experienced some bad days, false starts and set backs; I’d say it would be a safe bet that this is going to be the hardest change I have ever had to make.

So following on from Catherine’s 30-day blog challenge, I’m going to take on a little challenge of my own.  I reckon building a new life is a bit like building a house, you’ve got to start by getting the foundations right. When you have that you know the base is solid and everything that gets added on top will hold fast.

When Catherine and I founded Leisure Guru we said we wanted to take the hard work out of leisure, and making the transition from dreaming to doing is hard. And let’s be real here, 99.9% of folks are not going to be able to take a sabbatical to help them become a life long leisureholic. So I’m going to try to do some of the legwork for you guys, I’m going to see what it takes to build those foundations. By the end of it I’m going to be honest, I won’t be able to draw your life map, only you can do that, but maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to pass you a template that you can adapt rather than a blank piece of paper.

So let’s see how we get on, someone pass me a spade so I can get cracking on these here foundations – no wait – too hard – anyone know where to hire a mini digger . . .

Written by Morag Young

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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

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.

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.