In the last issue of Changing Course was the story of
Angela and her dream of living in Spain. Angela's unfulfilled dream prompted
this response from a very engaging fellow named Liam Hughes from Milwaukee,
Wisconsin who also dreamed of living in another country.
Regardless of whether your dream is to travel
internationally, start your own consulting company, or set up shop on eBay,
Liam's story offers lessons to anyone who wants to turn their dreams into
reality. Here is Liam's story in his own words:
For years I had been going to Ireland to visit family.
Then in 1989 a cousin in Ireland told me that a cottage close to the family
farm was up for sale. Although it had been empty for several years and
required a lot of work, I knew I had found home. My great grandfather came
from Knockahopple in the mid-1800s and I was returning. I put a bid on it
and after some back and forth, I was happy to say I owned a very nice cottage
on two acres.
Happy but broke. Not because I paid so much for the
cottage but because at the time I wasn't in the best shape financially. I
needed a car in the worst way but the prospect of owning a cottage in
Ireland was so exciting that I forgot about how badly I needed a car. Money
was so tight then that I wasn't able to get back to Ireland for another two
years. The point is I made sacrifices. But without a doubt it was the best
investment I probably will ever make. The Euro came in and my property value
went through the roof.
Of course I'm giving you just a small part of the story
but I wanted to let Angela know that there are ways of creating the life in
Italy that she wants without sacrificing everything. For example, when most
people think about a job with summers off, they think of teachers. I'm not a
teacher. But when I applied for my job at a technical school here in
Milwaukee I specifically requested a nine month so I could spend summers at
I also needed to find a way for the cottage to be a money gain rather
than a money drain. So I slowly started to rent the cottage to friends. I
never thought of having guests other than family and close friends until I
received a call from Gaynie Ryan, a seventy-five-year-old woman from
Indiana. She heard of my place from a friend of my mother and was interested
in staying there while she visited Ireland in June of 1999.
We made the arrangements over the phone, but she was disheartened to learn
that her age restricted her from renting a car in Ireland. That was when she
asked if I would be interested in driving her and her friend to their
destinations. I agreed, and we made arrangements for the three of us to get
together stateside to work out their 14-day itinerary and determine the
costs involved in such a tour.
On the day of their arrival in Ireland, I had their car ready for them when
they landed, and we were enjoying tea and scones at Knockahopple Cottage
within an hour. The next morning I served a full Irish breakfast. It even
included fresh-baked Irish soda bread that I cooked over the open fire in
the kitchen (a secret I learned from my Irish cousin, Anna Hughes).
Both women expressed how special it was to sit by the open fire late into
the evening. It was at this time we would talk about the events of the day
and go over our upcoming itinerary. We covered much of Ireland and Northern
Ireland in those two weeks, including a number of days relaxing around
Knockahopple. Because we were not tied to a tour group, Gaynie was able to
adjust her plans based on her mood and the activities going on in the areas
On her last day of her trip, Gaynie and I sat by the
fire where she told me how special it was to see the side of Ireland most
tourists miss. She insisted I begin putting my passion for, what she called
the "real Ireland," to work. And on that day, Knockahopple Cottage and Tours
In just a few short years, my business has grown, but
remains small and personalized, which is exactly the way I want to keep it.
During the summer I host three to four groups of no more than four people,
spacing them out to make sure so I have some time to myself. It pays for my
time in Ireland as well as is providing me enough money to extend the
cottage so I will have a duplex by the end of this summer.
Pursuing my dream seems to be rubbing off on my guests.
Since visiting the cottage, two guests now own their own cottages an hour
away. One, a physician from Wisconsin, is now considering doing his practice
part time so he can spend at least three months a year in Ireland. The other
is a home health nurse from Philadelphia who is also looking at how she can
change her life to accommodate her desires. It's a great feeling to know
you've inspired someone else to achieve a dream.
I'm one of the lucky few who come from a family that
actually values happiness over money. I credit my courage to take risks to
my father, Eugene Hughes who passed away three years ago at 92. My father
always told me "Liam, I hope you aspire to more but, if you have a passion
for delivering pizzas for your life's work then do it. You will be happy
and that is what is important. Always work at the thing that gives you
great pleasure. Don't stay in a job because of the money. Life is
short and you need to feel it in your gut and heart. Everyone
knows what they really want to do and what they have a passion for they
just are to afraid to take the leap."
The first time my father encouraged me to take a chance
was when I wanted to open a stained glass business in a mall back in
Michigan. I was afraid I would not be able to afford the rent and I didn't
want to make a fool out of myself by failing. "What do you have to lose?" my
father asked, telling me to just take the risk. I owned that business for
seven years and only closed it because I felt it was time to move in another
So tell Angela – or anyone who wants to live their
dream – that all they need to do is set goals, take baby steps and then keep
walking. That's what I did and I've never been happier.
Beyond being inspired,
what did you learn from Liam's story? There are many lessons but three in
particular stand out. One, although it may sound cliché, we are once again
reminded that changing course does not happen overnight. In Liam's case his
quest to spend part of the year in Ireland began 18 years ago.
Although from a real
estate point of view buying the cottage turned out to be a good investment,
buying and selling real estate was not Liam's original goal. What he was
investing in was his dream of spending a part of every year in his beloved
Ireland. From here that dream morphed into renting the cottage and running a
tour business – none of which happened overnight. Imagine where you could
be now if 18 years ago you'd taken baby steps in the direction of your
Second, listen. Not to
everyone of course. You want to ignore all of those naysayers who are all
too willing to offer uninformed advice – like my 17 year old nephew who
recently informed me with great confidence that, "Most businesses fail."
Instead pay attention when friends, family, co-workers, or even strangers
say things like, "Have you ever thought about being a writer?" or, "You have
a great speaking voice," or "You should bottle this homemade BBQ sauce."
Another person might have laughed off Gaynie's suggestion of starting a tour
personalized business as a pipe dream. Wisely, Liam paid attention.
Finally, Liam's story also
reminds us that we absolutely must be willing to sacrifice for our dreams.
"My co-workers are forever saying to me 'I want your life,'" says Liam. "But
what they don't realize is that there are always trade offs." For example,
with a nine month contract Liam says he had to forego employee sponsored
health insurance. (FYI, you can find information on how to find affordable
health insurance in the Resources for a Change section below.)
In addition to answering
the question "What is my dream?" you must also ask yourself, "And what am I
willing to trade off to get it?" In the words of Charles DuBois, "The
important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are
for what we could become." (To read more inspiring stories of how your
fellow dreamers sacrificed for their dreams, read Issue 118 in the Changing
Course Newsletter archives at
To learn more about Liam and his tour business and to
see pictures of his beloved Knockahopple Irish Cottage go to
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About the Author
"Profiting From Your Passions®" expert Valerie Young abandoned her corporate cubicle to become the Dreamer in Residence at ChangingCourse.com offering resources to help you discover your life mission and live it. Her career change tips have been cited in Kiplinger's, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today Weekend, Woman's Day, and elsewhere and on-line at MSN, CareerBuilder, and iVillage.com. An expert on the Impostor Syndrome, Valerie has spoken on the topic of How to Feel as Bright and Capable as Everyone Seems to Think You Are to such diverse organizations as Daimler Chrysler, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Harvard, and American Women in Radio and Television.
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