We blame the President of Ecuador. How could he allow a political coup attempt – complete with rioting police, burning tires in the street, and soap opera style dramatics – to happen on the day we planned to arrive at the first stop on our long-awaited trip around the world?
We couldn’t believe our luck. We had just spent the last 2 years transitioning from middle-aged yuppies to backpacking world travelers. We had quit our jobs, sold our house, and gotten rid of everything we owned except what was carefully packed in our backpacks. Our bank account was filled with the money we aggressively saved and earned.
We were suited up in our travel clothes and ready to go, and we could only sit slack-jawed as we watched the international news reports. The airport in Quito, Ecuador was shut down as the military took control, and the borders with Peru and Colombia were closed. Travel on the Pan American Highway, the main artery through all of South America, was blockaded in Ecuador.
Over the course of the previous 2 years we learned how to prioritize life over money, experience over possessions, and relationships over status. Political unrest was the one thing we didn’t learn how to handle. Fortunately our big life upheaval did prepare us for venturing into the unknown, so we kept moving forward.
“We have political drama every few years; it’ll blow over soon.” This was the feedback from our Colombian friend in Seattle, and she backed it up by giving us the names and phone numbers of her relatives in Colombia and Ecuador just in case. While I’m sure this was meant to reassure us, it did the exact opposite.
We got on the plane and decided to at least get to our first stop in Miami. We met up with friends and spent our layover eating Cuban food and sipping mojitos on the beach. We still didn’t know what country we’d be sleeping in the next night, but it gradually became more of a curiosity than a worry. After all, didn’t we remake our lives so we could have more adventure? The more we started leaning into the situation, the better we felt about the outcome.
When we made it back to the airport we discovered the Quito airport was reopened, but the news replay of the president getting tear-gassed by his own police force did little to encourage optimism. Again, we depended on the skills we learned over 2 years of planning for this trip, making difficult choices and weighing the benefits on an almost daily basis, and we worked out a plan. We’d go to Quito (this is a country heavily dependent on tourism, after all, so it was in their best economic interest to get back to normal ASAP). If it looked dangerous when we got there, we’d book a short flight over to Bogota without ever leaving the airport.
We sat next to a midlevel Ecuadorian government official on the flight in, and he told us not to worry. He then went on to highlight some of the exotic places we should see, the foods we should try, and the events we should experience. He, like our Colombian friend in Seattle, made it seem like the news was just a soap opera set to entertain and real life was far more serene. We’re happy to say, he was right.
When we arrived at the airport we did find armed guards, but it was the normal situation for the airport and the workers showed the same bored disdain they do all over the world. We were lazily stamped into the country and shuffled out to our cab just like we’ve done dozens of times before and since.
Ecuador became our home for the next 3 months as we learned Spanish, made new friends, and experienced a diverse and beautiful country. Had we given in to our initial worries at the first report of danger, we would likely not be living the life we are now, traveling the world and living our dream.
This is a more exotic example of the type of roadblocks stopping people every single day from living their dream. At the first sign of difficulty, most people back down, assessing the effort as too great. In reality, the biggest effort is usually a mental one. Get over that, take the first step, and the rest happens in fairly logical fashion. This has been proven over and over again in our lives.
As we’ve continued traveling the world since then, we can’t believe we ever doubted our ability to do it. The work was worth it a thousand times over, and the life we have today – living in exotic places, meeting fascinating people, and absorbing new cultures – is one we cannot imagine ever giving up.
We’ve learned how to navigate an attempted coup, survive an erupting volcano, withstand a Force-12 storm in Antarctica’s Drake Passage, and enjoy a large family reunion in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert without speaking the language. We’ve also learned the more challenging skills of saying what we really want, standing up to peer pressure, and trusting in ourselves to figure things out when we don’t have all the answers. Whether your dream involves travel or not, these are the skills that will take you wherever you want to go.
When you learn to achieve your dreams, nothing seems impossible anymore.
It’s all a matter of figuring out the logistics and taking action, one of the most valuable life lessons you’ll ever learn.
We wrote this book for other dreamers, people with unrealistic visions of what life could be. Do you:
•Imagine waking up every day to a life you love, doing meaningful work, enjoying relationships with great people, pursuing your hobbies and interests in your free time, and living exactly how and where you’ve always wanted?
•Think about how it would feel to know you made your own lifestyle dream come true and how much confidence it would give you in attaining other things in your life?
•Envision the kind of people you would meet and know if you were living the way you really wanted to? You’d be having dinner together, going on trips, calling each other for advice, and helping each other out. You’d actually be one of the people you respect now.
Your dream lifestyle is not out of reach. It is the life we live every day, and we’re not so different from you.
Our lives before were uninspiring, but from the outside looking in we had nothing to complain about. We had good jobs, a decent place to live, and enough money to eat out and go on vacation every year. We weren’t unhappy, but we were far from fulfilled. There was something missing, and we kept looking to our jobs and money to find it.
Maybe you feel the same way, a little bit adrift and somewhat guilty for not being happy with what you already have. All your basic needs are covered, but there’s a hole, and you may or may not be clear on how to fill it.
When my brother had a heart attack at age 35, we finally got the clarity we’d been missing: Life is short. We stopped looking for fulfillment in fleeting things like money and status and decided to chase our biggest desires: freedom and experience. This book is the roadmap we used to create the lifestyle of our dreams.
Our missing piece happened to be simplicity and travel, but even if yours is completely different – like starting a business, running a marathon, or building a house – this book will show you how to visualize it, put a price tag on it, accumulate the cash, change your habits, and rally your friends and family to make it a reality. Even if you just have a fuzzy idea of what you want to do, we can help.
This is an Action Plan for Dreamers, full of practical advice and real-life examples to help you create the reality you want in your life. This plan has been tested out by hundreds of dreamers just like you. It works whether your dream is to open a business, write your first book, or travel the world. We’ve done every thing in this book, and plenty of other people have road-tested our wisdom since.
We published the first edition of this book in 2011, and we weren’t prepared for the response. People were hungry for the recipe of the life we created and wanted to know how to duplicate it. They discovered we were all about practical steps and visible results and wanted more of our no-BS straight talk to coach them through their dreams.
Over the following months, people began emailing to tell us how they made the plan work for them.
•A single mother set a goal to grow her side business into a full-time gig and dump her dead-end day job so she could spend more time with her son. She sent us a thank-you note one day before her self-imposed deadline to tell us she had done it – and received a lucrative book deal in the process.
•A father wrote to us about his family’s failed attempt at an international sabbatical the year before and how our plan showed him the flaw in his earlier system. After revising their strategy, his family was able to make the 3-month trip to Indonesia a reality and start a bakery wholesale business to boot.
•A professional woman was inspired by our story to turn a job layoff into the jumpstart for a dream of teaching internationally. She used our plan to focus on how it could work instead of why it wouldn’t and now lives and teaches in Brazil.
•A recent PhD graduate with bipolar disorder took our book and learned how to design work around her life. Instead of taking the structured job waiting for her (which she knew would aggravate her condition) she created an entirely virtual career of writing and consulting with very few physical possessions. She is far more satisfied every day, and when the need for change arises she can easily pick up her laptop and go without disrupting her career.
•A busy mom told us she always wanted to bake fancy cakes, but after a move to a rural place for her husband’s job and a tight income, she wasn’t sure how she’d ever start the business. She took our advice on how to put a price tag on her dream and found it was cheaper to start a cake business than she thought, and her long-held dream became a successful reality within a few short months.
This Action Plan for Dreamers works. People have been using it to create and fund their own dream lifestyles since 2011, and we regularly get emails from people achieving their biggest goals.
Our greatest satisfaction comes from the readers who weren’t exactly sure what their dream might be until they started focusing on their lives to figure it out. They’ve gone from treading water to swimming.
We are firm believers in a series of small, everyday steps in making great life change. This book is our Action Plan for Dreamers of all ages and types.
This is in part a personal finance book. You’ll learn to use money as a tool to reach your goals instead of a goal in and of itself.
This is also a relationship book where you will learn through daily action how to improve your existing relationships with friends, family, your mate, and even yourself as you create the life of your dreams. In addition, you’ll learn how to meet new people who want the same things you do.
This is a happiness book, because by the sheer nature of working every day to make your life fit around your interests, you’ll become happier and more satisfied with the life you have.
This is an Action Plan for Dreamers, taking your deepest desires and bringing them to life through focused and everyday action.
No doubt about it, this is an intense process. You will be overwhelmed at the speed with which your dream starts coming together when you take action, and we want you to be prepared for it.
This is the plan of how we did it, and it is a plan for you to do it, too. Your dream is right around the corner, and you just took the first step.
Now let’s get to it.
– February 5, 2013
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