How to Cross Paths with Opportunity

INTERVIEW WITH KIM DINAN OF SO MANY PLACES

Kim knows something important: that opportunity finds you when you put yourself out there. It likes to sweep in and rescue you when you have NO IDEA how to do what you want. But first you have to be brave enough to TRY…

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It only takes 5 steps to change your life. Kim helps us understand what these five steps look like in action:

Dream  |  Decide  |  Save  |  Plan  |  Do

STEP 1: DREAM

Can you tell me about your big dream?

I’ve wanted to write books for as long as I can remember – since I was a child. Other kids played “school” and I played “library.” I love books and I’ve always wanted to create them!

How did this dream manifest as you grew up?

I loved my job and my life, but I was spending a lot of my life in a cubicle and I was increasingly feeling like I was selling my life for a paycheck, so I began dreaming again.

Through my dreaming, I discovered that I really ended up wanting two things, actually. First, I wanted to write for a living, but it was hard to work 9-5 and write. I just didn’t have much time or the headspace to be creative. Second, I really, really wanted to see the world.

Meeting a sea lion in the Galapagos

Meeting a sea lion in the Galapagos

STEP 2: DECIDE

How did you decide that it was time to act on your dreaming?

I knew that there was just too much world to see – and my vacation time was never going to cut it! So…I figured that in order to make my dream come true, I’d have to leave my job.

And if I was going to make such a big sacrifice and give up my great job, I’d might as well see as much of the world as possible and try to write at the same time, which as I’ve said, has been a dream since I was a child.

So the big plan became:  writing and traveling. At this stage, that’s all we (me and my husband Brian) knew. But it was enough to get started on the road to making it possible. We had no idea if or how it would be possible, but we wholeheartedly committed to at least TRYING to make it happen.

What were you doing at the time?

I was working in the environmental field as a Sustainability Coordinator for my local city government. It was a great job and we had a great life. We weren’t running AWAY from anything. Instead, we were walking TOWARDS something.

Nomadic turtles, carrying our 'home' on our backs...

Nomadic turtles, carrying our ‘home’ on our backs…

STEP 3: SAVE

How long did it take you to save?

It took Brian and I three years to save for our trip. We already had a small savings account but when we really got serious about saving for the trip we buckled down and grew that account pretty quickly.

We never would have saved so much money if we weren’t saving to leave our jobs and travel!

Us in the Amazon Rainforest

Exploring the Amazon Rainforest with my husband

How much did you save?

We saved $55,000 to travel with. We haven’t spent all of that money and you don’t need that much money to travel for a year – but we were planning to travel for more than a year so we figured we’d save as much as humanly possible, and that’s what it ended up being.

What saving strategies worked best for you?

Well, first of all, we got rid of all unnecessary expenses. We cancelled cable, sold the car that had a payment, cancelled magazine subscriptions… everything.

We ate out only once a week, packed our lunches, made coffee at home. We just watched every penny. Every time we spent money, even on something small, we did so consciously and deliberately.

You mentioned you both have student loans?

We both went to 4-year universities and had student loans. Even today we owe a combined almost 20K. We pay a few hundred dollars a month in student loans. We’re not letting our student loans stop up from living the life we want!

A bit of tropical exploration

Reaping the rewards of our three years of saving

STEP 4: PLAN

How long did it take to plan what to do?

I was about 27 years old when I decided that I was actually going to do this. I suppose for a long time, on some level, I’d known. But I was 27 when I made the decision to finally do it.

We set off in May 2012 when I was 30 years old, so it took us three years to plan and lay the foundation to make this dream possible.

How did you figure out what to do?

Well, I knew I wanted to travel and I knew I wanted to write but I had no idea how to get there. It seemed impossible! I had a great job, a house and a mortgage, and all of the trappings of modern life. So leaving all of that behind to write and travel sounded insane!

So I just took it one step at a time. First, I started my blog, So Many Places, in November 2010. I wanted to write, and having an online space to do that seemed like a good logical first step. So I started writing on my blog.

That was the starting point for opportunity finding us. A first logical step put us ‘out there’ so to speak and opportunity was able to come knocking – and then it continued to knock.

Through my blog I began to meet people who had done what I wanted to do. So I began talking to them, and I continued writing, and I started saving with the goal to use the money I’d saved to actually live my dream.

One thing just kept leading to the other!

My blog opened doors for me. The people I met introduced me to new ways of living and earning money online. Everything led to the next thing – but it wouldn’t have been that way if I hadn’t had the courage to admit what I truly wanted in the first place and then to start working my way towards it – even though I didn’t quite know how!

After about a year I was earning some money via advertising even though I didn’t really have any idea what I was doing. I just sort of figured things out as I went. I read a lot of blogs (still do) and eventually developed friendships with other bloggers and was able to ask them how they were doing it.

in Nepal

Me in Nepal hiking the Anapurnas

STEP 5: DO

Where have you been on your travels?

We started out with a road trip through the U.S. and visited many National Parks in the West. Then we went to Ecuador (and the Galapagos Islands), Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, India, Nepal and Indonesia.

Next we’re headed to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago and then to Southeast Asia.

What opportunities have presented themselves to you on your travels?

Oh, there have been so many opportunities, both for earning money on the road and for adventure!

As far as earning money, my blog has been successful and has allowed us to stay in some amazing places, like in an Adventure resort and spa in Ecuador and a beautiful luxury villa in Bali.

As far as adventure goes, we’ve done some amazing things that we never originally intended to do like go on a cruise of the Galapagos Islands and visit the Amazon rainforest.

We’ve just found that once you get out on the road you’ll talk to other travellers and learn about all of the amazing things to do in an area, things you would never learn about in a guide book for example.

Again, simply by putting yourself in the space where you want to be, opportunities will come along and help guide your route.

Take it a step at a time and you'll find opportunities as you walk

Take it a step at a time and you’ll cross paths with opportunity as you walk

How did the opportunity arise to write your first book?

I went through an intense process of leaving my ‘normal’ life behind to chase my dream of world travel and writing – and I wrote publicly on my blog about this – and still do.

As a result, I now get probably ten emails a week from people asking how I’ve done it or from people who tell me they want to do it but are so scared.

And I learned so much from the process of going through it myself. I knew all about the fear, the doubts, the naysayers…

I wanted to create a book that would guide others through the process so that they would know they are not alone and that the things that they are experiencing are “normal,” so to speak. That’s why I wrote Life On Fire: A Step-By-Step Guide To Living Your Dreams.

Through actually acting on my dreams, the opportunity was created to do something I’ve wanted to do since I was a child!

Many years later, my childhood dream is about to be realized...

Many years later, my childhood dream is about to be realized…

How long did it take to write your book?

I’ve been keeping notes and thinking through the steps that I lay out in the book for about three years. I began writing the book in Indonesia and finished the first draft, edited it, etc. over about three months time. During this time I worked 12-hour days.

Can you describe the writing process?

Pretty much what I mentioned above.

It took me longer to edit the book than it did to write it in the first place. I went through seven rounds of intensive edits after I had a good, working first draft in place. I also had other people that I really respect read my book and give me feedback.

Writing is fun because you are swirling with ideas and it is exciting putting thoughts down on paper. Editing is tough because you really have to push through resistance to get it done.

My book:  Life on Fire

My first book: Life on Fire

What advice do you have for others who want to do something big but don’t know where to start?

I write about this in my book, actually:

‘Start small and be patient. Every big thing is accomplished step-by-step.’

So identify your dream, write it down, and then write down ten small steps you can take to get there. Start with your ten small steps. When you’ve accomplished those, write down ten more.

I heard this advice and it really stuck:

‘Think of your dream as a mountain. Everything you do should take you a step closer to that mountain. If you’re ever unsure of what to do, ask yourself if your decision will take you closer or farther from that mountain.’

If you’re setting your life on fire, we’d love to share your story!

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One response to “How to Cross Paths with Opportunity

  1. Kim, thank you so much for sharing your inspiring story. I know you’re currently off walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain and you’ve had a couple of tough days, so I hope you’re feeling stronger soon. Keep living your dreams and inspiring others!

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