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Taking Baby Steps on Behalf of a Dream:
What One Man's Story Can Teach You
About Living the Life You Want

By Valerie Young

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 the cottage.

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 we visited.

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 began.

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 direction. 

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.

Liam Hughes

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 dream!

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 ChangingCourse.com/archives)

To learn more about Liam and his tour business and to see pictures of his beloved Knockahopple Irish Cottage go to Knockahopple.com

 

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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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