Recently on Facebook we asked:
We were overwhelmed with the responses to our question, which generally fell into these categories:
- I want to write a book
- I want to start a business
- I want to become physically healthy
- I want to travel / live somewhere special
- I want to volunteer for social good
- I want to do something creative
- I want to learn another language
Perhaps you share one of those goals? It’s a pretty fantastic list of dreams, all of which could be done in a year off with pay.
We asked the question with the pay included to counteract the “it would be nice, but I have bills to pay” kind of statements that usually follow expressing a big dream. We wanted people to be creative and honest with nothing to hold them back.
Now we’re going to be creative and honest right back.
Dreaming in Place
Many dreams can be achieved without leaving home, without spending a lot of extra money (or any at all), and without a lot of extra time. It’s all about focus and repetition. And today we’re going to show you 7 goals you can achieve with minimal investment. Today begins your Stay-at-Home Dream, fully funded by your current income and fit into your current schedule.
Don’t believe us? Keep reading.
Write a Book
A book with 70,000 words can be finished in a year by writing just 192 words a day. You can do that with your morning coffee before work. You don’t need any special software (we wrote our first 3 books in Microsoft Word), but even if you do splurge to get it, Scrivener (what we’re using now to write our 4th book) has a 30-day free trial and is only $15 to purchase.
There are scores of writing groups online to help you with critiquing, finishing, and self-publishing your book (or looking for a publisher). And if you need extra help or inspiration, you can’t go wrong with Guy Kawasaki’s APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, or William Zinsser’s On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction. Each of these books is less than $13, half that price at a used bookstore, or free from your library.
How many words will you commit to writing each day for the next 365 days?
Start a Business
Starting a business is easier than ever with the Internet. Quality entrepreneur sites like Fizzle will teach you what you need to know (stay tuned for upcoming podcast episodes with Fizzle founder Corbett Barr and Escape from Cubicle Nation author Pamela Slim), and you can work on it in just 5-10 hours a week to start…while you have a regular paycheck from your job. If you want an offline business, you might be surprised to find out it’s easier than you think.
In Dream Save Do we profiled Samantha, a busy mom in Australia who wanted to start her cake decorating business but had talked herself into thinking it was impossible as a home-based business. When she finally made the calls and checked into the details, she discovered she could be up and running in just a few weeks to serve the ready list of clients she had from baking all the neighborhood birthday cakes for the past year. And Little Avenue Cakes was born.
Can you spare 5 hours a week to work on your dream business for the next 52 weeks?
If running isn’t your thing, you can simply start walking every day like we did and drop the pounds while helping your heart. And we’ve seen tremendous results for our friends using the INSANITY Workout series, getting pretty buff in just 60 days. (Check out our recent podcast interview with One Fit Widow on how exercise brought her through her grief.)
Worried about your eating and health? We can personally recommend Dr. Agatston’s The South Beach Heart Health Revolution, the book our preventive cardiologist told us to read after my brother’s heart attack. You’ll learn a lot about the cardiac diet that worked so well it later became a diet fad for people without cardiac conditions. You can also read about the weekday vegetarian program, a completely reasonable way to eat healthier and be more environmentally friendly. (Click here to read about our experiment with this plan last year.)
Will you commit to just 30 minutes of sustained movement every day and one day of vegetarian eating every week for the next year?
Okay, you may not be able to scrounge coins from the couch to pay for a big trip. But you can take advantage of some terrific ways to travel without spending very much money. Take housesitting, for example. By promising to take care of someone’s pets and/or home, you will have free lodging in a new location. If you can drive or use airline miles to get there, you’re only left with sorting out your food and entertainment, something you’d be paying for at home anyway. Our favorite matching service is Trusted Housesitters, and if you want to join just use our code (married) for a 25% discount on membership.
Another option is Couchsurfing, which pairs you up with a local who has a spare couch or room. You pay nothing to stay for a few nights, but the payback is typically in cooking meals or sharing information about your country with the hosts. Each host is different and comes with a rating and a profile, so find one that suits your habits.
If you budget your travel funds during the first 6-8 months, you can start planning your trip for the second part of the year.
Will you sign up for a housesitting service and start evaluating the offers?
You can also volunteer around the world, doing everything from making prosthetic limbs to working on a ranch to helping with animals and children. (Click here to read about Katherine, a woman we interviewed for the newsletter about volunteering on a ranch in Argentina). Farming is a big deal, and WOOFing allows you to find free room and board while you spend part of your day working the earth or tending to animals. This is another way to satisfy your need to travel, as many of these opportunities are in exotic locations.
Closer to home, there are great organizations like Big Brothers/Big Sisters, animal rescue organizations, literacy programs, and teaching English as a second language. And if you’re into the do-it-yourself thing, organize your own fundraiser for your favorite cause.
You can make a significant impact in the world in far less than one year, especially if you stay in your own town and volunteer long-term.
Can you donate 2 hours of your time each week for the next year to help someone who needs it?
Whether you want to make art, take photographs, create a documentary or produce a play, there is nothing stopping you right now from storyboarding your project. Once you know the scope of your project, you’ll see the options for completing it with greater clarity.
We wrote 20-page versions of our first two books before we fleshed them out into full-length books. It helped us realize whether our ideas were useful to other people and if we had enough material. This works the same for an art project, documentary, or play.
Last year we interviewed Danielle Villegas, a woman on the verge of 50 who had just shot her first short film. (Click here to watch the video interview from our newsletter archives.) She said it was done on a shoestring budget and with a mostly volunteer cast, and she had to take on the gonzo attitude of 2o-something directors to get it done. Just this month she debuted the film at the Seattle film festival.
On an upcoming podcast you’ll hear us interview Nathan Agin, who recently shot a pilot of his documentary about healthy food choices by using a Kickstarter campaign to fund it and convincing his crew to be paid later.
Can you commit to creating a description of your project (on a website or in a video) that is so compelling other people want to help you finance and create it? And then show it to those people?
Learn a Language
There are dozens of free podcasts online to learn languages. Our favorite is Coffee Break Spanish (though they do have other languages available). Pimsleur, Mango Languages, Rosetta Stone, your local community college, and sites like Conversation Exchange where you can Skype with native speakers to practice for free are also great options.
And before you balk at the prices of those language learning programs, remember that you can get many of them for free through your local library. Mango Languages is actually developed primarily for library use. If you haven’t been to your library in a while, check it out. It’s no longer the index card checkout system for musty books you remember from your childhood.
Warren learned basic Spanish using podcasts during his morning commute in the year before we left on our trip and studied Thai during our time there with the help of Mango Languages.
Practice your new skills while ordering at ethnic restaurants in your city or by attending cultural events.
Would you commit to 30 minutes a day of learning another language for the next year?
Creating Your Own Destiny
Let’s be honest, you probably aren’t going to get one-year sabbatical with pay.
So instead of dreaming about that perfect day when the path to the life you crave is paved with gold bricks and zero obstacles, take a little bit of action now to bring the dream closer to you. Because even with a fully-financed sabbatical in front of you, there’s nothing to motivate you to reach your goals except your own desire.
And you don’t have to leave home to find that.
PS: Excuses? Leave them at the door.
If you do need a pile of cash and a major life overhaul to reach your big goal, click here to find out how we went from cubicle dwellers to world traveling writers in just 2 years.