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.

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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

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/