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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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/

104 Days

it's the weekend!

it’s the weekend!

I have just had my birthday and along with many others I find myself repeatedly saying “Isn’t time flying?”, “Gosh! How quickly this year is going by; it is almost August already!” and the quizzical “Where is the time going?”

Where is the time going?

So where is it going? Well first off, I spend 10 hours at work a day. Fortunately for me, I work from home, so don’t have the dreaded commute. But I do travel for work and so am often away during the week, or late home in the evenings. Those evenings at home are spent cooking, tidying, doing laundry, packing for the next trip. Just running round like a headless chicken! This is swiftly followed by flopping on the sofa and doing an impression of vegetating in front of the tele, but actually I am trying desperately not to think of the work to-do list for tomorrow. So in the week, there isn’t much time for me…..

recurrent weekly cycle

This recurrent weekly cycle is so familiar – it could be performed in a daze. Often it probably is! The stimuli are the same. The outcomes are the same. And so the days start to blend into one. Sure, there are excitements and things to learn at work….

But when I look back, it is the things I do for me that are my milestones: the spa day with my mum and sister; that hen weekend at Butlins Bognor Regis; the trip to the theatre and sitting in the Gods; the rugby league Challenge Cup finals; the basketball at the Olympics last year and this list goes on….. What is important, really, is the time I spend away from work with my family and friends.

treasure chest of amazing memories

So thank goodness for …..the Weekend! That time when you can get to do fun things. When you can, metaphorically, let your hair down and let the real YOU emerge. The weekend is precious. We have 104 days each year which we can use for adding to our “amazing memories” treasure chest. There are so many possibilities of new things to try, or learn, or practice, or see.

the weekend = 104 days 

Let’s get out there and make those 104 days count!

Free your 104 Days!

Free your 104 Days!

 

Making that work trip more of a pleasure

Travelling for work can be a double-edged sword. You may get to visit some amazing countries and cities but you are expected to work hard whilst you are away from the office. It is way too easy to get into the habit of saying “Well what else am I going to do? I may as well just keep on working on those e-mails/quotes/meeting reports.” This can be a very dangerous thing to do. As I can guarantee you will return back home tired and weary. And worst of all those emails/quotes/reports will probably still be there. Remember that old adage “A task will always fill the time available”? Well that is exactly what happens here.

So over the years I have developed a strategy of building in “me time” into those busy work days on the road. First up, I always try to get up early, have a really leisurely breakfast, reading the news or better yet a novel (I purposefully avoid eating brekkie with my colleagues – as anyone who knows me will tell you, I am just not a conversationalist first thing in the morning!). Next up, work hard during the day and get back to the hotel room in the evening ready to hit….not the gym (as I hate feeling like a hamster on a wheel) but the local park or just a walk round the block. The important thing is to get some fresh air, to stretch the legs and to just feel the weight fall off the shoulders. I use this time to reflect on the day and to plan my next steps. I find these moments away from the laptop (and the Blackberry, which is purposefully left behind) allow me to find some clarity and to really plan an efficient approach to the rest of the evening. After dinner I can then crack on and accomplish what I need to in a fraction of the time, it used to take me.

Marvelous fish dish @ Under the Red Hog http://tinyurl.com/mf82m74

Marvelous fish dish @ Under the Red Hog http://tinyurl.com/mf82m74

Sometimes when I am away for a few days at a time, I actually take one night off, shock horror, and do no work. It is amazing to just take some time for myself. To go out for dinner, enjoy a glass of wine, a nice dessert. Eating out on your own can be an interesting experience, but if you have your book in hand, no-one will bat an eyelid (and think you have been stood-up). The book is a great decoy and restaurants are great places for a spot of people watching – another favourite pastime of mine. Plus if you are brave heading out of the hotel and going into town to a restaurant at least allows you to see something of the city you are visiting, and maybe even sample some local cuisine.

Absolutely Delicious Polish Cheesecake @ Under The Red Hog, Warsaw http://tinyurl.com/mf82m74

Absolutely Delicious Polish Cheesecake @ Under The Red Hog, Warsaw http://tinyurl.com/mf82m74

The other thing I try to do when I am visiting a new city is make some time to actually see more than my hotel, the client site and the airport. This can require some ingenious time management (otherwise known as very early mornings) but it can be done. In my last trip to Warsaw two weeks ago I got up early and was out sightseeing before 7am. I enjoyed wandering around as the city woke up and the businesses started to open up. I was able to navigate round the city on a mix of my own two feet, trams and buses and returned back at my hotel ready for the work day to start at 9 am. Obviously this required some planning the night before but at least I managed to see some of this amazing city which throughout history just can’t be kept down. It rises like phoenix in the face of adversity. The old town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, completely rebuilt after WWII, has a magical feel, perfectly complemented by the new town with its wider boulevards and modern shopping area. I may have only been there for 2 nights but by eating out both nights, getting up early and exploring I felt I had actually “been to and seen” Warsaw. I worked hard in the two days, was efficient with the work in the evenings but I returned home fresh and invigorated. Not grumpy and shattered.

Travelling for work can really be a pleasure. You just need to work out what you can do to put the spark into it for you!

Warsaw Old Town Square

Warsaw Old Town Square

10 awesome (and nearly free) ways to enjoy the outdoors this summer

This week I was on a work trip to Warsaw, Poland and as usual I didn’t have a lot of time for me during the 2 days.  But as this was my first real visit to Warsaw I was determined that this time I would see something of the city. So bright and early one morning before my meetings for the day started, I decided to explore the city.  The weather was perfect, the sun was shining and it felt like summer might be finally here.  As the city slowly woke, I enjoyed my “free” sightseeing and the benefits of fresh air and exercise first thing in the morning. As I wandered, I got to thinking about how I could spend more time enjoying the outdoors this summer (weather permitting!!).  Here is my list.

1. Swimming in the lake or Lido (as I live in Switzerland this is relatively easy but could be substituted for swimming in the sea, if you are brave enough to venture in the coast round Britain!)

Enjoying the summer sun and cooling off in Lake Zug

Enjoying the summer sun and cooling off in Lake Zug

2. Walking in the forest or in the mountains. Essentially anywhere where there are more birds than cars!

3. Arrange an evening BBQ with friends. Here in Switzerland we have these great little grill places tucked into the woods or by the lakes, which are ready and waiting for us with wood and kindling available.  So all we need bring are the matches, our sausages and burgers (oh and salad) and drinks! Super easy.  Grilling and watching the sun go down, chatting with friends. What could be better?

4. Cycling by the lake or through the park. With the many bicycle rental schemes around, even if you don’t own a bike, it is easy to rent one and whisk yourself through the parks under your own steam.  Also perfect if you are visiting a new city and want to see more, faster!

5. Have a picnic “Dad style”. So when Morag and I were little, we often went on holidays with our Dad. Now Dad didn’t have a lot of patience for making packed lunches and relied instead on the impromptu picnic to keep us fuelled for the afternoon.  A “Dad style” picnic involves heading to the nearest baker, choosing some nice baguettes or rolls. The baker is followed by a stop at a delicatessen for the ham/beef that will be the filling for our sandwich; then the greengrocer for some fruit for dessert. And finally the newsagent for the drinks.  Next stop, a nice bench in the park or by the lake to sit back and enjoy a back-to-basics picnic! Superb!

6. For those summer evenings, mosey on down to the nearest “free” music event near you.  And chill out listening as the music fills the evening air.  For me this would be the free Jazz event that happens every Wednesday evening in summer at the local bandstand.

7. Crazy golf! Grossly underrated. Crazy golf, or mini-golf as it is known here in Switzerland, can be a real laugh especially with friends.  It can bring out the competitive side of even the most mild-mannered people!

Nothing like a little competitiveness between friends!

8. Rollerblading – this is very popular here in Switzerland and there are loads of Rollerblade paths (as they are just like cycle paths, this should be easy to try almost anywhere – if I can stay upright!)

9. Head to town and be a tourist for the day…take the camera and really view the city through fresh eyes.  Just as I did in Warsaw this week.  I plan to visit Zürich one weekend this summer and just enjoy being there instead of frantically dashing in and out of shops!

10. Now the best way to enjoy the outdoors this summer for me is at home, on the balcony. Sitting there with a good book, listening to music and sipping home-made lemonade. Bliss!