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How I Put My Adventurous Goals on Autopilot + Free Goal Setting Worksheet For Adults

Don’t let another dream slip away.

Today I want to share my Free goal Setting worksheet I use based of a system called S.M.A.R.T. GOALS. It not only helps me achieve my goals but it helps me achieve them faster and virtually puts them on autopilot.

But first, let me share my personal story of how I struggled to achieve my own goals.

Goals Are Dreams With Beautiful Legs : Annie Andre

GOALS and Aspirations

I only know of 2 ways to accomplish them.

So that’s what I’ll talk about.

  1. The Write it down method: Many people try this method but fail.
  2. The Just do it method: Pick goals as they arise and just do it (most people use this method to accomplish daily goals, small, short or long term goals and even big goals. (success does vary.New years resolution might be a good example of this method. “I’m gonna lose 20 pound this year” ).


I admit, for the longest time, I only used the “JUST DO IT” method ( no affiliation to Nike) and still do for a lot of things. It’s a simple, powerful method and it can be effective. It’s worked well for many of my bigger goals and one off goals too.

However, it doesn’t do so well when you want to have an EPIC LIFE. ( I never use this word epic but thought you could relate). Well  Epic can mean many things. For me at the moment, it means reaching my maximum potential by accomplishing many goals and dreams in a specific amount of time. Not someday, not one day. NOW.

Lots of goals means juggling them all at once. Easier said than done.

Today I still use the “Just do it” methodology when appropriate but lately I’ve been a convert. Now I use a new system which, yes requires me to write down my goals. But it’s a structured system that virtually puts my goals on autopilot. I’ve definitely seen a huge difference in the success rate and amount of goals I’ve accomplished. This makes me feel more fulfilled and balanced.

Let me share with you a story which many of you will be able to relate too. It explains how I became a convert because frankly, I thought writing down goals didn’t work. I thought it was a waste of time and effort.

Writing your goals down is a waste of time if you don’t do it right! More on that later.

Setting Goals: In Survival Mode

After I divorced my first husband, I was left with 2 little boys to raise on my own with no child support, no help, nothing.


Raising kids in a 2 parent home is hard but raising kids as a single working parent is infinitely harder. Especially when you are struggling financially and maybe even emotionally.


I didn’t have the luxury to think of anything but the bare essentials. This meant juggling work, career, the boys day care schedules, cooking, cleaning etc. Don’t forget the added stress of bills, lack of a social life and making sure my growing boys received enough play time and happy memories. I was constantly on GO GO GO GO !

It was a stressful time in my life and I lost a lot of weight. Almost to the point where I was a little unhealthy.

Me, Annie with sons Andre & Kieran
Photo above, I dropped to 115 pounds at 5 feet 8 inches.

Psychology Of Basic Needs

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it was only natural for me to want and focus most of my motivation around money, safety and my boys. I was focusing on my NEED FOR SAFETY

Maslow’s theory suggests that we have 5 levels of needs. The lowest being Physiological, then SAFETY, Love, Esteem and finally Self-actualization.

Only when the most basic level of needs are met will the individual strongly desire (or focus motivation upon) the higher level of needs.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs

I was at the “SAFETY LEVEL”, just one level up from the most basic need which was physiological: breathing, food, water etc. This explains a lot.

I didn’t know it at the time but I was about to put some goals in place that would get me higher up the pyramid.

GOAL: Satisfy Your Basic Need for Safety

Different people go about satisfying their primal need for safety in different ways; sugar-daddy’s, stealing, the lottery, second jobs, more education etc. My plan to satisfy this need was simple.

GOAL #1: Just stick with my current job, work hard and accumulate experience. No real action required except to do what I was already doing. I was lucky that I already had a great job working as a foreign exchange hedging analyst. I knew that after the dust settled from my divorce things would get better WHICH THEY DID.

It wasn’t long until I was actually saving money, socializing and I even relaxed. But just a little because I still wasn’t at the point I wanted to be financially. I was still on a tight budget, and wanted to be just a little bit more secure. Which lead me to my second goal.   

GOAL #2: Change Careers and Industries then climb the corporate ladder in that new industry.  I had a great job but it DID not ignite a passion in me which made my job extremely hard to do.  I had a choice………………..

1- Climb the corporate ladder in my industry of Corporate Finance. OR………………

2-  Change careers and industries to work in the field I’ve always wanted to work in. In other words find my dream job and climb the ladder in that industry.

Naturally, I chose #2, to change industries to find my dream job. But it wasn’t easy.

Career Change: Goal Setting “THE “JUST DO IT” Method:

I instinctively used the “Just Do It” method to flesh out the broad strokes of my plan in my head.

Since I wanted a job working for a web related company in the area of analytics, I devised a simple but effective plan and started acting on it RIGHT AWAY!

Little by little, i started chipping away at the goal. Every night, after the boys were tucked in bed, I tip toed to my computer and devoured information veraciously. My plan was to teach myself everything I could about web analytics, search engine and keyword optimization, HTML, banner ad, click through rates, bounce rates, sales funnels the works.  I also started selling things on eBay which let me apply my learning to a real world situation. (this would prove to be a very smart and strategic move later on.  The eBay side hustle started out as a fun side business but grew to the point where i was sourcing things from overseas to resell.  I was even selling things for neighbors and put ads on Craigslist to sell things for other people. (Many people now do this).


Like an overzealous churchgoer, I did this routine rain or shine without pause for what seemed like an eternity but in reality was probably around 12 months.

Then something amazing happened. It became easier. I was getting really good, learning a lot AND making some side money by selling on eBay. Before I knew it, studying nightly and selling things on eBay became a ritual that was as easy as breathing.

Between the kids, work, studying and my eBay biz, I felt like an overstretched rubber band ready to snap. I made a strategic decision to quit my job to take a  career break and focus on my eBay business.  Not because I was making loads of money but  because I saw it as a valuable tool to give me the experience I needed to break into the web industry.

After a year of working on my Ebay business, I thought I had accumulated enough experience to look for a job in a company using my self taught skills and eBay skills.  I put up a super cheesy add on Craigslist as an experiment.

“ Rock star eBay Seller Ready To Rock Your Sales Off”

Above photo not real add, for dramatization purposes only.
I can’t remember what the actual ad said, I just know it was over the top..

BOOM!  Within a week, I got a call from a start up company in Silicon Valley called Auctiondrop and they hired me.  It was the catalyst that helped me not only change my career but eventually led me to a new position where my salary increased beyond my actual goals.

Bigger Salary—> comfort safety—> check

New Job working for a web related company –> check

DIVERSIFY YOUR GOALS: Or you’ll be sorry

There’s just no pleasing me. I should have been content. Instead I felt unfulfilled because of one simple thing.

I didn’t diversify my goals.

I PUT ALL MY ENERGY AND FOCUS ON ONE GOAL: MY CAREER.I always meant too diversify and do more things outside work but never got around to it. This caused a severe bout of regret. Not diversifying your life goals also left me with some negative effects.

  • WORKAHOLIC: Ironically, I did such a great job of putting my goal on autopilot that it’s all I seemed to think about. I was turning into a workaholic with no life.
  • My life was unbalanced And that made me unhappy: I had safety but at the cost of my other hopes, dreams and desires. Now my life was all about work and my next salary increase.
  • BURN OUT: All work and no play. My life was unsustainable and eventually I got burned out.

Why the long story?

There are 3 things I want to point out in this story.

FIRST: The ingredients:

5 things helped me achieve my goals.   I might go so far as to say that one can’t exist without the others. They are….


Desire and willpower got me going but those only got me so far. it was the system, the plan that kept me on track when my willpower gave out and i was tired from lack of sleep and ready to give up. It was a simple plan but a plan nonetheless. Without it i might have just gave up. Structure was how i modeled my system, in my case it was through self education and giving myself experience. And finally, repetition over a period of time created automation and new habits After a while it didn’t even feel like work. Remember when I said studying every night just became my ritual as easy as breathing?

SECOND: Balance or unbalance:
Set goals throughout the different areas of your life. Not just work and money and not just at New Years. Otherwise you may end up feeling unfulfilled and unbalanced.

THIRD: You need a plan for your big dreams
The most important lesson I learned is sometimes you have to create your own opportunities. It’s hard work but it helps to have a plan in place to help.

As of late i’ve adopted a new methodology. The “JUST DO IT” method has served me well but as I said earlier, this has to be an Epic life going forward. Which brings me to the second chapter of my life. Where i am today.

Almost done, hang in there. We’re getting to the goal settign strategy soon


sweet-spotThe good news is, I’ve learned my lesson.  I’ve since remarried and have a third child. If you read my last article, than you know that I’m once again in the hot seat and in a sense in survival mode.

Except this time I’m living out a lifelong dream and living in France with my husband and three kids. While we’re here, I want to do EPIC things (I don’t like that word epic but you get what i mean).

I am rebuilding a sustainable life around all my passions. I’m finding my sweet spot in work again and this blog has a lot to do with that . The kids are getting an education of a lifetime living here in France. I have a whole page full of goals I’m working on, there’s just too many things to list.

There’s one thing, doing EPIC stuff requires some planning and organization. So I’ve been using a plan to organize all my goals.

It’s a simple system that will take you 10 minutes to learn. It’s working for me and I want to share it with you. This is saying a lot coming from someone who once though writing out our goals was a waste of time. This plan is NOT for everyone but I think it’s definitely worth 10 minutes of your time to read and then another 10 minutes to try it out. It helps me stay focused, motivated and accomplish more of my goals. Plus it helps me automate my tasks making them habits. I find this last thing to be extremely important because once it’s a habit your mind just gets used to the idea of things and that’s when you go on autopilot.

What makes This system so special?

There’s nothing special about this system. In fact, it’s not even my system. It’s a compilation of a lot of research on my part.

Why research? I didn’t want to re-create the wheel so i set out on a mission to study what was already out there on this topic. I wanted to learn as much as I could about highly effective people and how they

1- Set goals that stick= To Accomplish Great Things

I also wanted to know……

2- The reason why so many people fail at accomplishing their goals and dreams.  Myself included.

2 Things Stood Out The Most In My Research

Amidst all the noise and all the information, I found horrible advice, fringe advice, weird advice, advice that was too complicated or too simple. But smack dab in the middle there was a general consensus on what most people were saying about goals and goal setting.

  1.  You need to make a plan for you goals (YEAH No Duh But How?)
  2. People sabotage their own goal setting efforts by doing / not doing certain things.( ooh interesting!)

Then I took everything I found and tailored it to fit my needs and I structured a goal setting system to combat 8 of the main reasons people keep sabotaging themselves from achieving their goals.

Write smarter goals


–> Write S.M.A.A.R.T.E.R. Goals


S.M.A.A.R.T.E.R., is a mnemonic acronym. Each letter represents one of the main mistakes most people do to sabotage their goals.

Maybe you have heard of this already because I did not invent it. I just tailored it to make sure that it combatted the main reasons why I might fail at accomplishing my goals. You can do the same too. If you want to learn more about it just click here


Here is a table showing what each letter stands for and what mistake it solves.

1- Write Specific Detailed Goals 1- Goals Are Too Vague
Measurable 2- Goals should me measure-able 2- You Don’t know when goals is achieved
Actionable 3- Should be actionable 3- No action to complete
Accountable 4- Tell Someone 4- Not accountable = No pressure
Recordable 5- Keep track 5- You don’t build momentum, get discouraged
Time Base 6- State time frames 6- No time limit, No sense of urgency
7- evaluate & revise as needed 7- Stick to goals w/out revising them as needed
Reward 8- Reward yourself 8- Don’t motivate self, lose momentum, give up


Below, you can read over the 8 explanations for each letter. If you understand why these 8 reasons are preventing most people from accomplishing their goals than you’ll have a better chance at avoiding these mistakes.

When you are done, if you want to give it a try, just scroll to the end to download the goal setting worksheet I created and give it go one goal at a time.

—- S = SPECIFIC —-

Self Sabotaging Mistake #1: Goal is too vague or general.

imageOne of the biggest reasons people tend to fail at achieving their goals is because they create goals that are waaaay too general or vague.

You must write a very descriptive goal like painting a mental picture including all the actions, time frame and anything else relevant.

EXAMPLE: Don’t just say:

“I want to lose 20 pounds” That sounds like a dream with no legs” like “wish I could fly”

YES: Do say:
” I will fit into a size 5 dress by losing 20 pounds by June. I’ll accomplish this by doing the following things:X,Y, Z.


Write your goals down. When you write out your goals using the S.M.A.A.R.T.E.R. method, you are in a way visualizing your goal and creating a mental picture or list. Not just some vague passing fancy. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP!


  • Write goal in the positive-What you really want is to look thinner and fit in a size 5 dress not just lose 20 pounds.
  • Try answering what, why, where, when, how, who, which. You don’t have to answer all of these for each goal. It’s just a guide.
  • Lastly, Now make sure your goals also conform to the 7 THINGS BELOW.

    —- M= Measurable —-

    Self Sabotaging Mistake # 2: Goal is not measurable.


    If your goal is not measurable, how will you know when it’s completed? How will you stay on track?

    For some goals like weight loss, this will be easy.

    What if a goal is less tangible like “BE A BETTER PERSON”? You can’t measure that but you can measure the actions behind what you deem to make you a better person.

    For example: “I will be a better person by volunteering 3 times a year at the homeless shelter, take my kids out to the movies once a month and say hello to the postman every time I see him.” Do all that and you are golden.

    —- A= Actionable —-

    Self Sabotaging Mistake #3: You don’t give yourself actions or steps to take towards your goal.

     goal-actionsUsing my weight loss example, If you just say, “I want to lose weight”, not only is it vague and written in the negative, there are no actionable steps assigned to it. Nothing to track. No direction for you to start on your path. Just a vague wish to complete one day.HO HUM!

    If you say ” I will fit into a size 5 dress by losing 20 pounds by June. I’ll accomplish this by doing the following things:X,Y, Z.

    The X, Y, Z are the three actions you will do. Try to include at least 3 whenever possible.

    —- A= Accountable —-

    Self Sabotaging Mistake # 4: You Don’t make yourself accountable

    ACCOUNTABLEMaking yourself accountable is crucial to creating pressure on yourself to complete a goal.

    Remember when you were a kid? You were more likely to do your chores if your mom was pressuring to do it. That’s a form of accountability.



  1.  Tell a few people about your goals.- No one wants to look bad. Try telling a select few people who will help keep you accountable. Tell someone who is going to kick your ass into action. Go read what Derek Sivers said about this here. Very interesting.
  2. Join A Group: Mutual accountability is extremely effective. I have first hand knowledge of this with a master mind group I belong too.. Believe me it really works. Other examples of groups are Weight Watchers and Alcoholics Anonymous. Look for one online.
  3. Make a bet: The competition may be just be what you need to keep you accountable and motivated.


Self Sabotaging Mistake # 5: You don’t record or track your progress

 goal-chartIf goal is measurable, it should be recordable. This is an important step in the goal process because It gives your mind something to work toward.

There’s just something psychologically motivating about seeing a bunch of X’s on the calendar indicating that you are one step closer to your goal.


There are lots of ways you could record your progress
Want Fancy: Here they areGoals On Track

Here are six free web apps.

If you want a more comprehensive system, I’ve been looking into something called Goals On Track. It’s supposed to help you organize and track goals for all aspect of your life from family and financial, to weight loss and kicking your smoking habit. It’s got chart, bells and whistles. It’s not free. The last time I checked, it cost around $5.00 a month but there is a money back guarantee.

Here are 6 simple way to track your goals.

  • Simple chart- Graph or Goal chart
  • Write or make an X in the squares of a calendar .
  • Keep a journal- example is a food journal.
  • Use a TO DO LIST
  • Pen and paper


Self Sabotaging Mistake # 6: Your goal is not time based.


When will you start, how often will you do it. When will it be complete? These are all things you need to answer otherwise you may just never start. But there’s another added bonus.Sense of urgency.

Tick tock, tick tock. Giving yourself a limited amount of time not only tells you when to stop and start, it gives you a sense of urgency. Like studying for an exam at the last minute because you have to take the test in 2 hours eeeeeeeeek

photo via Undone clothing at etsy


  • Simply make a start and stop date
  • Create a schedule:  Don’t just say “Join the gym”. Instead say: Join a gym by June and go 3 times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday”

TIP*Track your goals longer to make them into lifelong habits.

If you are trying to make something a habit or automatic, make your goal timeline long enough so that it sticks.  According to the Cancer Research UK Health Behavior Research Centre, it takes roughly 66 days to create new habits.  If you create a goal that involves losing weight and you want to also eat healthier long term, you should track your goal for at least 66 days. That action, in this case, of eating well, has a better chance of becoming a new habit. Hmmm that’s a long time but worth it I think.


Self Sabotaging Mistake # 7: You don’t stop to evaluate and revise.

imageIf your goal is not working out what will you do?  Keep going? That’s not going to work, you’ll probably give up.

If you go to the gym 3 times a week and you’re not losing weight than adjust your goals. Go 4 times, eat more fruit, do whatever. Just adjust it so that you can stay motivated to continue.

Tip* Set a scheduled time to evaluate. weekly? Monthly?

photo via Elle moss at Etsy


—- R= REWARD —-

Self Sabotaging Mistake # 8: Your goal does not include a reward.

imageRewarding yourself is the best part of your goal. Studies show that by giving yourself small rewards, you will keep yourself more motivated pushing you closer to completing your goal.


When you create your goal chart to track your goals, decide when you will reward yourself. Every week, every 5 pounds you lose, every 100 dollars you save. Just decide up front what it is. Choose something meaningful.


That’s the S.M.A.A.R.T.E.R method.

How To tailor this system to you

There are a lot more obstacles that i could have put on the list but these were the main ones that MOST people struggle with and most don’t even know it. Recognizing those obstacles and putting them in your goal plan is the key.

Below are some example of things that might be your obstacle to setting effective goals.

Examples: Of other obstacles you might need to include in your goal making strategy.

  • you’re complacent-  I wrote about this in my last article 6 ways to kill complacency & how it helps me stick to my goals while in France
  • You don’t use your best work and rest cycles effectively: Don’t go to the gym at night if you have better workouts in the morning.Put it in your plan.
  • You’re Disorganized:
  • Distracted/ Busy / Sidetracked: Don’t pick a time to write your novel if the kids are whining. Adjust your schedule to make time for your goals. Reschedule your goal if you have to.

Now it’s time to create your S.M.A.A.R.T.E.R goals.

Tips: Here are some tips you should consider when you write out your goals.

  • Don’t get overwhelmed: Start small- Write a list of as many as you want but whittle it down to five or less and start taking action right away.
  • Be realistic with your time and goals
  • Break down bigger goals into smaller steps. I have a goal for business that is a small paragraph but a separate goals and task workbook for all of the different areas. Marketing, writing, researching etc.
  • Post your goals somewhere you can see them clearly. Mine are on the wall in front of my desk on a clipboard.
  • Continue to add new goals as you think of them. Do not just do them on new years.
  • Give your goals some wiggle room. Room to cheat. It’s better to cheat a little bit and continue on rather than stick to your goal and get discouraged and give up.
  • To make your life more balanced, try to work on goals from all aspects of your life. Don’t make all your goals about work. There’s relationship, kids, garden, house, work, chores etc.



It does come with a detailed description of the 8 most common mistakes people make.
The actual worksheet is on the last page.

S.M.A.A.R.T.E.R. Goals Worksheet

Good Luck, if you have any suggestion or tips that have worked for you, than share them in the comments area below. If you try the worksheet, I would be interested to know what you think. I won’t be hurt. Not all systems work for everyone. I only tried this system myself as an experiment and was surprised that it worked. Guess it pays to be adventurous and try new things HUH?

Complacency Kills your dreams. it's a virus

6 Ways To KILL Complacency + How Killing It Helps Me Stick To My Goals In France

Does this sound familiar?

This is going to be the best year eeever.

I’m going to lose 10 pounds,

be a better person,

do the splits,

start a business,

write a book

and… and… and

Complacency Kills your dreams. it's a virus

Self Portrait Living In Montreal wearing my handmade sleeping mask. So tired

Sounds like your typical goal or New Years resolution doesn’t it? Oh YE of little faith. It may sound like yet another vague goal or passing fancy but it’s not.

Not this time. I swear. You’ll see


Everyone has goals in their life. Some we accomplish while others stay on our to do list forever. There are a lot of reasons why we don’t accomplish our goals. I just want to talk about one.


Complacency is like a deadly virus dormant in your system ready to kill your goals and dreams.  It has the power to rob you blind of of new experience, positive change and personal growth.

The worst thing about complacency is that the infected person is usually unaware that he or she is at risk because they feel no pain. Typically you’re in your comfort zone.  There are signs that you may be at risk, you just have to look for them, be aware of them and most importantly take action.

com·pla·cen·cy       noun                  \kəm-ˈplā-sən(t)-sē\self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies

So how do you kick complacency to the curb and accomplish more of your goals in life?

How do you really suck the marrow out of life?

I’m not sure how other people do it but i know how i am going to.

First: By Goal Setting: I use a strategy and road map which I created after i did lots of research on this topic.

Second:  I kicked complacency to the curb: Then I kicked it again and again and again until it was nothing but a bloody stump on the side of the road.


Catherine in San Francisco on Mothers Day. Getting ready to eat Dim Sum

Disclaimer *I’m Not A Goal Guru*

If this is your first time here, you should know that I AM NOT an expert goal setter. I struggle just as much as the next person but somehow i figure out ways to take action and get things done, just not all the time.

I accomplish the things I do because I convince myself I have to. That’s IT!


Rocket Science

Now that  the disclaimer is out of the way, I’ll get back to explaining how i am accomplishing more of my goals.

First: I Came Up With A Set Of Attainable Goals And Built A Strategy Around How I Am Going To Accomplish Those Goals.

Setting goals isn’t rocket science. Yet every year, thousands, maybe even millions of people like you and me do something pretty typical. WE SET GOALS and PROOOOOOMISE ourselves that we’re going to accomplish them only to fall short or fail completely. Myself included.

I wanted to give myself a better chance at achieving my goals so i set out to study the psychology behind why people suck at sticking to their goals.  I did lots of homework, research and tons of reading to understand  why so many smart, well intentioned people set goals and fall flat on their face. Then I built a system around combating those reasons most people fail.

You can view the system by going to this article: How I Put My Adventurous Goals on Autopilot + download sheet

Second: I Kicked Complacency To The Curb By Playing Mind Games With Myself

As I explained earlier, complacency is like a virus which can really hinder you from reaching your full potential because when you are complacent, you are comfortable or satisfied.   Sometimes when you are too comfortable, you settle for what you have even though you may want more.  The only problem is there’s nothing really motivating you to change or improve your situation.

To me this isn’t living to your full potential. I might even go so far as to say that settling is kind of like living in mediocrity. Sure your life is good but is it great? Are you excited to wake up everyday?

To motivate yourself, sometimes you have to create a self imposed sense of urgency to kick yourself into action.

Bye Bye Complacency: How We Killed Complacency

That is the situation my family is in now. Our  “complacency mentality” is gone and guess what? I feel a sense of urgency which has triggered in me a sink or swim, all or nothing mentality.

We are not in a life or death situation but my families financial security and to some extent our future happiness depends on the success of the goals I (we) want to accomplish.

Adding to our urgency is a time limit. we have less than 10 months to accomplish some of our goals.

Tyler Tervoon over at Advanced Riskology did something similar a few year back when he also eliminated complacency by removing his safety net. His goal was to motivate himself to improve his situation after he lost his job. Hint, it has to do with him not taking anymore unemployment checks. WOW.

So how exactly do you kick complacency to the curb and motivate yourself into action?  I have 6 ways you can do this.

Before I share them with you, let me first share my adventurous journey and how and why we put ourselves in the hot seat. I hope it helps you understand what lengths you can go to accomplish your goals.

Just remember there’s a balancing act you need to master and it’s going to be hard because it involves balancing risk taking and feeling safe.

If you prefer to skip our story than you can just scroll down to read the 6 ways you can kill complacency.  just scroll down.

Turning Point: A little bit of back story

son and brother in law washing windshield of one of the penske trucks

Son Kieran and brother-in law stop to clean a bug infested windshield on their drive across country to storage unit in Boston. Blake is in the other truck and I’m in Montreal waiting with my 2 other children.

Around the beginning of January 2011, my family was at a turning point in our lives.

Both my husband and I were unemployed (thank you bad economy) and we were living out of our suitcases like a pack of vagabonds on the east coast.

3 months earlier we left our California home and expensive lifestyle to look for jobs and a lower cost of living on the east coast. I sold some of our stuff on ebay or craigslist and got rid of other stuff. We put the stuff we wanted to keep in 2 Penske trucks and drove them across the country to a storage unit just outside of the Boston area. We decided to stay with family and friends until Blake could find a job and then settle down wherever that job was.

We really thought that a job was just around the corner. Before we knew it, 2 months turned into 3, than 4 and then we just resigned to living like semi-nomadic vagabonds.

To make matters even stickier, we had to road school the boys because we had no physical address.  We also had to lug around my sewing machine, and fabric because I was trying to run my handmade sleeping masks business on the road.

To say that we were busy is an understatement. It’s amazing how far you can push yourself when you need to.

The Pressure Gets To Me

Back to my turning point: In January after living like that for 4 months, it felt like we were just winging it. Hoping a job would materialize because that’s how it’s always been.

It was extremely hard to be in that position with a family in tow and the pressure was getting to me. Although i hoped Blake could find a job, deep down i knew we had to do something fast before it was to late.  I started thinking and asking questions like ..

Settle somewhere with no job?


If we do settle what if we still can’t find jobs?

Then What?

Do I Grow My Sleeping Mask Business?

Do we work at Starbucks?



The storage unit outside of Boston. WAAAAA!!!!

Than one evening after many nights of that endless loop of questions I finally had an idea. It was while my husband and I were siting up in bed reading. I quickly turned to face him and blurted out my idea. I must have been frustrated or just sick of living in limbo and vagabonding because I don’t blurt, not like that.

I said..……

Blake, let’s do something crazy.

No more searching for jobs for a while or working for the man.

Lets get a FRESH START.  Lets create our own jobs and rebuild our lives so that it’s more fulfilling.

And lets do it in France

To my surprise, Blake didn’t scoff or raise an eyebrow. I think I half expected him to tell me to shut up and go to sleep.

I could tell by his reaction and his expression that he was actually considering it which of course made me feel less crazy.

The next morning, I thought the novelty of it would wear off but it didn’t. After about a week we were still keen on the idea and by the end of January 2011, we decided we were going to do it.

We were moving to France for a year to get a fresh start.


It’s a map of France PEOPLE!!!

I was so excited, I felt like a cliché. I felt like I had found a new purpose and a new lease on life.

Naturally my mind was buzzing with all the possibilities.

Woo Hoo.  No more packing our bags or lugging our stuff from one relatives house to another. No more unloading and reloading the car. No more wandering.

We had the beginnings of a plan.

A whole year in France to work solely on building a better, more sustainable life while also exposing the kids to another culture. I had already lived abroad several times so I knew how exhilarating living abroad can be, especially for moral and motivation. At least that’s how it was for me.

Naturally I started making a mental list of objectives and goals we needed to accomplish while in France. The biggest of which was to be self employed or at least be able to telecommute to work. .

“Go for the moon. If you don’t get it, you’ll still be heading for a star.”

Willis Reed

Miscellaneous Goals I wanted to achieve while in France

    • Create a business: Become a innerpreneur. Basically I wanted to build a small business around my interests and talents. Preferably a business that helps others and one that I can run from anywhere in the world. This meant no more handmade sleeping masks for the moment. (2 months later this website was born.)
    • Stay in Shape: -Fit back into a bikini again and see if that six pack is still there. Ok, maybe just a four pack. These damn last 10 pounds are a bitch to lose.
    • Build a stronger relationship with my kids: -Just so you know, the teenage years are filled with angst. Just you wait. They don’t stay young and adorable forever.
    • Continue to build a strong relationship with my husband.
    • Experience and do more NEW things in my life. In other words, get out and do shit. Take more risks in life. Having kids and living in the suburbs kind of turned me into an overly practically and risk averse person even though my true nature is to be more adventurous.
    • Work on my bucket list -Try to accomplish all the things that I keep saying I’m going to do but never get around to doing because I created this unsustainable life that required me to work crazy hours to afford it..

That’s part of my list and all the things I wanted to do while in FRANCE


Even though I had already successfully lived abroad for extended periods of time, it was crucial to my business idea that we go as a family. I didn’t want to be one of those gurus who preach something that they themselves had no experience in. I hate, no I abhor that. It’s like all these internet marketers claiming they can teach me how to make thousands of dollars a month when they haven’t made a dime.


It was not quite as easy as we thought it was going to be…

  • Phase 1 of Operation “FRESH START” DONE!

    imageIt took us about 8 months from the time we decided to move to France until the day our visas were approved.

It was a huge undertaking both logistically, financially and emotionally for all of us.

We had to jump through hoops, do mountains of paperwork, take care of our belongings, find lodging, pack, get insurance all while we were living like semi-nomadic vagabonds and road schooling the kids. I could write a book about how to move abroad. ( I might just do that).

In the weeks leading up to the day our visas were approved, we literally almost gave up on several occasions. We argued, fussed, we were all irritable. Believe me when I say getting here was quite a coup and it truly does feel like a dream come true. I still can’t believe it. You can read about it by clicking here

Phase 2 Of Operation “Fresh Start” In Progress: Complacency is gone


If you have some goal you need to accomplish but keep putting it off, consider removing complacency to motivate yourself  into action. It’s like being in a hot seat where  failure is not an option. .

That’s where we are at today.

Our visas are good for one year. We  have roughly 10 more months left on our visas. It’s taken us a little over 2 months to settle and do things like get the kids in school, open French bank accounts, get supplies and other logistics etc.

I feel motivated to make stuff happen because we’ve essentially removed our safety net and have a time limit of 10 more months.

How could I NOT feel motivated. Kicking complacency to the curb is the best motivator

Don’t worry, there are less daring ways to kick complacency aside. I’ve rounded up a few ideas on how you can create an artificial sense of urgency thereby removing complacency.



Here are a few ways you can remove the “complacency mindset”: In other words, keep yourself engaged, interested and motivated.


Catherine Motivated to run fast. In front of our home in Belmont California

1- Join a support group:

A support group is an engaging way to share your experiences with others and get support when you feel weak, stuck or unsure and need a little boost. It also gives you a sense of belonging which can help at least get you motivated to accomplish your goals. I have never been in a support group. Theoretically it seems like it could motivate you right? Isn’t Alcoholics Anonymous a support group, Jenny Craig.

2- Create Or Join A Master Mind Group

The concept of the Mastermind Group was introduced by Napoleon Hill in the early 1900’s. In his book entitled, “Think And Grow Rich”

A mastermind group is like having your own little mini boardroom of peers. Each person has their own strengths and we all help each other with our objectives. As far as I know this is used primarily for business. To me, this seems very closely related to a support group for business.

I have first hand knowledge of the power of a mastermind group. It’s a great motivator and keeps me accountable in my business. I meet with 4 other people over Skype every 2 weeks. We share ideas, ask for advice, talk about issues or problems we are dealing with or just connect on a personal level

3- Competition

Create a competition with others or yourself. Get creative. This is a sure way to get your lazy bones into action.

I used to work for a company with lots of guys. Guys are always competing. It’s in their nature. 2 of these “upper management” guys were over weight and wanted to shred some pounds so what did they do?

They made a bet to see who could lose the most weight. Guess what, it was the motivation they needed and they each proceeded to lose weight, exercise and eat well. I was actually impressed.

4- Tell People

Telling people some goal you want to accomplish is a great way to get rid of complacency and motivate you. No one wants to look bad in front of other people right? Just make sure you tell someone whose opinion you actually care about. Don’t just tell the mailman.Telling someone who will kick your butt into action would be best.

5- Hardship

Hardship is a fantastic motivator that squashes complacency like a pancake.  Did you know that more people start there own businesses during a recession or after getting laid off than any other time?  I know this first hand. I created two home businesses during times of hardship. One was after my first marriage ended.  The second was when I was laid off. Before those two incidences, I really wanted to start a business idea i had been mulling over but I was just too comfortable making damn good money at a 9 to 5 job.

6- Set Goals And Reward Your Self

Lastly, setting goals can help you kick complacency but you have to stick to it. Rewarding yourself at intervals for each little success is a good motivator. This is exactly what I’m doing for my goals.

If you would like to see the system I use to make and follow my goals than read the next article.  I’ll also make and publish my goal setting worksheet for you too use or just eye ball it and feel free to modify it to suit your own needs.

Bye for now, I’m off to work on some goals. Below is link to the goals worksheet.
Next article- How I Put My Adventurous Goals on Autopilot– Download the SMAARTER GOALS WORKSHEET HERE Includes instructions

How To Teach Your Kids To Be Adventurous: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Not all gifts come wrapped with a bow. Some gifts are less tangible. Some gifts keep on giving years after we are dead and gone.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Each and every one of us has some combination of traits, characteristics and interests that make us who we are. But how did you turn out to be the way that you are? As far as I can tell it’s from a combination of your Parents and outside influences.


If you’re like me, than one of the single biggest influences in shaping you, your morality and your character development can be directly attributed to your parents, your family or some other mentor in you life.

Thanks Dad: My father shaped me into who I am and who gave me the greatest gift of all. A gift that I carry with me everywhere. This gift gives me the confidence to live my life to the fullest in a way that makes me the happiest.  My dad gave me ….The gift of an “ADVENTUROUS SPIRIT”.

His name was was Jean-Louis Andre and he was born on December 21st 1929. I always miss him the most right around Christmas time and remember this precious gift that I still carry around with me.


Sure there were other outside forces that helped in the process of your character development like, school, church, friends, sports or other various activities. However, these other things most likely had a fractured influence on you.  The real meat of your essence probably comes from your parents or some parental like figure or mentor.

Passing On Values: The Secret Sauce

With regards to my own children, my biggest hope for them is to live their life to the fullest with fewer regrets in life? I think the best gift I can give them is to help shape them into humans who are not afraid to live a little adventurously once in a while. But how the heck DO you teach your kids to be adventurous, take risks and try new things?

To answer this question, I had to think back to my own childhood and examine my own fathers childhood too. 

Daddy’s Girl

The easiest way for me to explain how my father instilled an adventurous spirit is to show you by telling you a little about my father and my upbringing. Like most parents, my dad taught me the typical things parents wanted or expected of their children.

  • Be practical, pragmatic and well grounded
  • Don’t lie, steal or cheat.
  • Work hard, study hard, do you chores
  • Treat others the way you want to be treated and try to help others as much as you can
  • yada yada yada.

MODELING: Be a role model

What amazes me is that he was able to instill in me my adventurous sprit without using words. He never said  “Annie, I want you to travel and see the world”. Or “ You need to take more risks and try new things even if it’s scary”. In fact, he never said anything even remotely like that AT ALL.Yet, I always tried to be a little different as a girl. My first scary thing I did when I turned 18 was to pack a bag and move to Japan for 3 years.

I am convinced that it was my fathers actions and the way he lived his life outside of conventional wisdom that influenced me and shaped my adventurous side. NOT HIS WORDS

He didn’t know it, but by simply living his values and life the way he did, he was MODELING.  NO, not fashion modeling. Modeling is a phenomenon known in  social sciences where your actions are a bigger influence on someone than your actual words. For instance, there have been studies done that show that children are over 80% more likely to buckle up if their parents buckle up too. Yes, an actual study was done on this.

I’ve seen this same powerful influence of modeling happen with  my own kids.

When I was learning how to bake, that’s all I did for a month. I baked cookies from scratch day and night until I got the knack for it. Now my middle son and my 4 year old daughter love to bake too. They are really into the whole process of baking it’s kind of cute. My son Andre even thinks he might want to be a pastry chef one day. A mom can only dream.

When I taught myself to sew and started making cute little handmade sleeping masks for my business, my son took up crocheting. Yes, boys crochet too ok. Don’t hate! All my kids have a kind of DIY, tinkering nature about them. Which I think is FANTASTIC!

sleeping_panda eye mask

My own father influenced my adventurous side by living his life as a daring adventure. It had such an impact on me that it’s something that I have striven to do also for most of my life.

udon Thani Thailand


My DAD: He was a world traveler who lived abroad in Thailand for over a decade back in the 60’s and 70’s. This was before it was considered cool and trendy and before the word lifestyle design became popular.

ME: From the age of 10, I already yearned to travel and see the world.

  • In high school I begged my father to send me to Montreal to live with my aunt so I could attend a French high school. Which I did. it was the next best thing to going to Europe for me.
  • At 18, I left to live in Japan where I worked doing odd jobs so that I could travel through Asia and Europe for 3 1/2 years.
  • Now after four years of college, over a decade in the corporate world, 3 kids and 2 marriages, my husband and I are living in France on a family sabbatical of sorts with our three kids.

Rewind: Dying the way you lived

It wasn’t just his travelling that influenced me. It was the things that he accomplished, the way he lived and even the way he died.

Death: Years ago, when I was 21, my dad tried to be a good Samaritan by stopping the getaway car of a robber who had just robbed our local grocery store.  He was struck and thrown 30 feet in the air and landed on his head. He died 3 days later from massive head trauma leaving me and  my then 14 year old brother alone in the world.

Life: he lived a life that he wanted to live and as a result, he was a bit unconventional in his ways.

Not only was he a world traveler, he also had a pilots license, owned a single engine plane, lived abroad in several Asian countries totalling almost 15 years and spoke 4 languages. French, English, mandarin Chinese and Thai. I have photos of my dad climbing coconut trees, holding snakes and doing things that most people from Canada or the U.S. just didn’t do in the 60’s and 70’s.

Being Adventurous in spite of…But how DID he get to be so adventurous?

As far as I can tell, my dad lived adventurously in spite of his parents. Maybe it was because of the times he grew up in that lead him to be more adventurous. At this point I am only speculating.

He grew up DIRT POOR in Quebec Canada. When I say poor I mean like depression era poor, where they only had one frying pan in their house and didn’t always have enough to eat.  At 15, he left his home to go live and work on his grandparents farm to earn some money. I think that one act alone,  of leaving his home as a teenager might have been the catalyst that propelled him and gave him the courage to travel even further and live his life more adventurously.

Around the age of 22, he left Canada and immigrated to Boston Massachusetts in the U.S. where he learned to speak English.  I still remember his funny Bostonian and French accent that was so uniquely him.

Eventually he joined the military to get an education in engineering. Somehow he ended up a pilot and working in Thailand for the airforce in a city called Udon Thani.  He lived in Thailand for over a decade and married my mother who was Thai. I was born a few years later in the 70’s and lived in Thailand until I was almost five years old. Ironically, my first language is Thai, but I no longer speak it. (Use it or lose it people)


Fun fact: About my  place of birth:

If you are not familiar with Air America or Udon Thani Thailand, there was a movie loosely based off of this operation called…Surprise “Air America” starring Mel Gibson and Robert Downey JR. You can read more about the Air America operation here on Wikipedia.

Living Like An American

We left Thailand and settled in California after my mother passed away in a bus accident. Dad tried to live a conventional life. Perhaps more for my sake than his. Or maybe it was because he had had his fill of travel and adventure. I’ll never know.

Trying to blend in

Despite his best efforts to blend in, dad couldn’t resist the pull of his adventurous spirit because although we lived in the suburbs and he had a great job as an engineer working at National Semiconductor, we didn’t always live, act or look like typical Americans.

For starters, dad remarried a woman who he met in Taiwan. (Dad went to Taiwan often to train his counterparts.)  Her name was Shew Chang and she raised me until she passed away when I was 14. (Yes, there were a lot of deaths in our family.  It made for a very international and eclectic household: Try as they might, we didn’t always fit the classic image of the American household.

My Unconventional Childhood Home

Growing up all I ever wanted to be was normal. I thought we were anything but normal and I was embarrassed of my family because of our differences.  image

  • Birthday parties were horrible as far as I was concerned.  I hated the fact that my dad didn’t have hot dogs and hamburgers and cake at my birthday party like Vicki V. did at her party. Nooo, we had to have Pad Thai and garlic with black bean crab with a mung bean desert. Not exactly a child friendly meal in our neighborhood.
  • Instead of camping in the back yard or at camp sites, we spent summers in Thailand or Taiwan.
  • On one of our summer trips abroad,  Instead of a dog, I got a pet monkey. image
  • Exotic for us wasn’t Mexican food, but rather fish eyeball soup, chicken feet and turtle soup. “YES I know, not good”.
  • Instead of Billy Joel,  Bruce Springsteen and Pop music, I loved Asian Pop and Euro trash.
  • Instead of baking cookies, we made Asian dumplings and had Asian dumpling making parties.

I could go on and on.

Appreciating the difference

Needless to say, I wasn’t very popular in school. I didn’t really fit in with the Asians and I didn’t fit in with all the white kids. (that’s the major down fall of being a Hapa as the Hawaiians call it.) But I can appreciate it now for what it is.

I’m glad that I didn’t have a typical upbringing. Growing up different than others around me was in a way, my own little adventure and it gave me the confidence I have now to make life choices that might go against the social grains of our society.

What Can The Average Person Do With Their Kids

Which brings me back to my original question of “how the heck to teach kids to be more adventurous”.

Well, you don’t’ have to do anything extreme like travelling and spending summers in Thailand, Taiwan or move to France: unless that’s what tickles your fancy. You can do small little things everyday to instill a sense of adventure simply by doing new things or exploring the unknown. You might already be doing this without even knowing it Just like my parents did for me.

  • Introduce foreign foods to your kids. I’ve been feeding my kids cuisine from all over the world since they were born. As a result, I don’t have very many problems with my kids eating habits. They eat just about anything including Kimchee the stinky Korean cabbage.
  • Sign them up for a sport. My kids didn’t do much basketball or football. We lived by the San Francisco bay so they took part in a youth sailing program. Sports are a great way to instill a sense of outdoor sports adventure.
  • Learn a language together for the fun of it. Japanese, Arabic or ???? I was lucky, I already spoke French so I’ve been teaching it to my kids since they were young. My youngest daughter is fluent in French and probably speaks better French than English. Had I not spoken French, I might have learned a second language alongside with her. You can do a self paced lesson with software programs like Rosetta Stone.
  • Give your kids music lesson: Instead of piano, what about an accordion?  Ok, that’s my dream. That and the musical saw. Don’t ask.

These are just a few of the many things you can do to grow your kids adventurous spirit.

Not only will it be fun and interesting. It will give them the confidence to be more intentional with their life choices rather than letting life slip by.

I may also give them the confidence and guts to be adventurous and live outside of the conventional bell curve so that they can create a life based on who they are, not what society tells them they have to do or how they are supposed to live.


My Family Photo Annie AndrePassing on my adventurous spirit to my kids is the best gift I can give them because I know they will remember it long after I’m long gone just I like I remember my own father.

Thanks Dad. I wish you were here today to see me and your 3 grandkids. I love you!

Merry Christmas Everyone From Our Family To Yours

French: Joyeux Noel, Chinese: (Mandarin) Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan, Thai: Sawadee Pee Mai, Japanese: Shinnen omedeto


2011 Annual Review Looking Back: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly!

Do you set most of your goals in your head or do you write them out and review them at year end?

I’ve never really been one for annual reviews except when I had to fill one out for work at the end of the year.

They always seemed pointless.

looking back

Up until last week, I kept all my goals up in my head. But now I’m starting to wonder if I could accomplish more by making a formal plan and reviewing it every so often?

Turning Over A New Leaf

This coming year,  I want to try something different. I want to really work on goal setting and doing an annual review to see what worked and what didn’t work in my life.

As I said earlier, I keep all my goals in my head, so this past year I didn’t write out my goals at the beginning of the year.  That doesn’t mean I can’t write out what worked and what didn’t and compare it to what I have logged in my head. This will also help me write a real, detailed plan for my 2012 goals and then I’ll have a written version for next year end .

I hope that in looking back at my successes, failures and shortcomings, I can become more aware and intentional in my choices and adjust accordingly.

The System

I don’t want a complicated system, just a high level over view of the good the bad and the ugly. If I make it too complicated, I know I won’t stick with it so I decided to take Chris Guillebeau’s format for an annual review.

His method is simple and concise. Ask yourself these two simple questions

  1. What went well this year?

  2. What didn’t go well this year?

“Answering these questions is an easy way to begin the process of being intentional about your choices in the forthcoming year. “

Alternatively, if you want a little bit more help to review your year and plan for the next than you should download this free worksheet my Friend Benny Hsu over at Get Busy Living Blog  made. Get it here, it’s free and really helpful

Here I go!!!!!!!

What Went Well For Me In 2011?


The biggest thing that went well for me and consequently for my family is that in January of 2011, my husband and I set out on a goal to take our three kids, aged 15, 13 and 4 to live in France for at least a year. After 7 months of planning and living like vagabonds with no home and being unemployed our visas were approved on September 25th 2011. We flew to France less than 2 weeks later on October 5th 2011.

I’m super happy about this because moving to France has been a dream of mine that I never thought I would be able to accomplish after I had kids.  It wasn’t easy though.  I had to convince my husband, persuade the kids, arrange the visas, find lodging, figure out where to stay while we waited for our visas and homeschool the kids while living between family and couch surfing for a year. Phew…. But we’re here now and I love seeing the world through my kids eyes.

Survived A Year Of Vagabonding With Three Kids In Tow


In October of 2010 we set out to move to the east coast to find jobs but ended up vagabonding and living semi nomadically between Montreal and Maryland for most of 2011. We somehow switched gears when we realized how bad the job market was and decided not to settle down until we found jobs. So we ended up vagabonding between Montreal and Maryland for close to a year.

Living semi-nomadically was stressful but it was also fulfilling. we got to travel, stay with both sets of family’s. Mine and my husbands and we learned just how hard we could push ourselves as a family.  It was necessary for us to experience it, otherwise I’m not sure we would have taken the next step and set a goal of moving to France for a year.

Reconnect With Family

aunthuguetteFor about 8 months my family and I lived in my aunt’s home in Montreal. My aunt is 80 years old and she’s the closest thing I have to a mother since both my step mom and birth mother passed away before I was 16.

With the exception of my younger brother, all the family I have in the world live in Montreal Canada.  By staying in Montreal, I got to connect with cousins, have family diners, do Christmas and Canadian Thanksgiving. It made 2011 just spectacular for me. Best of all, my 3 kids got to meet their extended family and improve their French.

Prior to 2011 we (my kids and husband) lived isolated in California with no family around. It made for lonely holidays and no family get togethers.

I also have a whole other side to my family that live in Thailand but I’ve lost touch with them due to language barriers and the fact that they are dirt poor and don’t have computers. But I digress.

I absolutely love having had the chance to spend so much up close time together. Never ever neglect or take your family for granted.

Blogging For Business And Life: Practical adventurology

I started my blog Practical Adventurology at as a way to help other adventure challenged people stuck in the grind re-learn how to live more adventurously;  something I lost after college when I started down conformity lane taking jobs I hated and measuring success by title and money.

My blog is my attempt at combining all my passions into one. It’s part business, part travel, part inspirational personal development with an emphasis on being more adventurous because life is just too damn short.

I Connected And Networked With New People:

I’m kind of a micro manager and a loner.

Connecting with people has not been my strong point. In 2011, I made a point to reach out to people.  This is huge because In the real world, I don’t know a lot of people who have had the same views or goals as me so I don’t get a chance to share my views very often.

Online, there are a plethora of people who get what I’m about and vice versa.  I have a wanderlust and entrepreneurial spirit and It’s nice to be able to connect with other like minded people and share stories rather than working in a vacuum. The internet has made this possible.

The first person I ever reached out to happens to be Benny Hsu at  I found him on Twitter and liked what he had to say about personal development so I reached out to him. I’m really glad I did because it gave me the guts to connect with others after that. Plus I love cheering for him and seeing all his successes in life.

Learned My Limits:

cute_gift_idea_owl_sleep_maskI tend to try to be super human and do everything myself.

This year I am proud to say I asked for help.

Help from my kids and my husband.  I closed my profitable sleeping mask business because I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle running it in France while I start up a new entrepreneurial venture at the same time.

This was extremely hard because I worked on my home business for three years to get it to the point it was at.

I had to set a limit.  I was so stressed out over all that I had to do. Between, travelling, visas, the kids, cooking, making sleeping masks by hand, homeschooling and more, I was a miserable bitch. There I said it.

Allowing myself to let things go and ask for help has given me some breathing room and made me less irritable.

I also invested in myself by getting help from several coaches. I was able to achieve in a few months what would have taken me three times had I tried to go it alone. I highly recommend investing in a coach to meet with a few times a year. Or form a mastermind group. Both of which I do now.

Learned To Bake:


I love to cook and I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a pretty good cook too.

I cook Thai and Chinese food the most. Baking has always been my weakness. I’ve always wanted to learn how to bake especially cookies.

My cousins wife Diane is an amazing baker and she showed me how to bake her amazing cookies. Baking is like having a super power.

Not only can I make great tasting cookies, but baking is a great way to connect with the hubby and kids. Everyone wants to help and everyone loves to lick the bowl Thanks Diane. I love you.

What Didn’t Go Well In 2011

My Son Kieran

sailingOne of my regrets is that my son had to give up his sport of youth sailing when we left our home in California and turned into a vagabonding family of five.

We lived minutes from the San Francisco Bay, so sailing was just so spectacular for him and for us to watch.

By the age of 14 ,he had been sailing and racing competitively for over 6 years.

I hope he will be able to do some sailing this summer in the south of France, If we can afford it. Cross my fingers.

Homeschooling / Un-schooling

Because we lived like vagabonds in 2011, the kids did not go to a physical school. My husband and I had to homeschool them and let me tell you it was hard as hell. It was too much.

Between uprooting and moving our family to the east coast, living like vagabonds, running a home business and taking care of the kids, I did a terrible job of home schooling. Or at least, I didn’t do them justice.

I think I would have done a better job had we been in our own home and not moved but it’s water under the bridge now.

Not Enough Dating

CIMG0516My relationship with my husband means everything to me. I am very conscious about our bond and believe that a good relationship still takes a lot of work. Having time alone and doing activities together is one of those things I like to do with my husband to ensure our bond and keep having fun.

But, my  husband and I did not take enough personal time to develop our relationship in 2011.  We barely did anything all of last year. We were really busy with all that was going on, but that’s no excuse.

Next year will be different. I know it.

Not Enough Progress on my new entrepreneurial venture

I’m sad to say, I didn’t achieve all my entrepreneurial goals. I planned on writing an e-book and failed to finish.

I planned on coming up with a business model to monetize and turn my skills into a business. I didn’t execute.

I bit off more than I could chew by committing myself to some things I just didn’t have time to do. This is something that just couldn’t be avoided because making the move to France and vagabonding took all my effort and all my time.

2012 will need to be different. I can’t afford it not too be.

With my home sleeping mask business quashed for the moment, I  need to start a second source of income to be able to support and contribute to my family financially.

2012 will be about marrying my passion for travel, entrepreneurship, helping people and rolling them into a profitable business model. ANY IDEAS?  Post them below in the comments area. 

Well that’s it. There were other small wins and loses in 2011 but these represented the bigger ones that really effected me.


In looking back and evaluating the good and the bad, I can see that everywhere I failed was because I didn’t really sit down and plan my year and my goals.

All my goals were in my head. Had I sat down and prioritized I might have foreseen that I was biting off more than I could chew for 2011.

As a result I stretched myself too thin.

DSC_0826For 2012, I plan to write down my goals. I mean a really detailed plan so that I’ll have something to look back upon at the end of 2012.

Now that we are settled in France, I can really focus on doing some of the other goals that I didn’t get a chance to do.

  • Mostly, I want to work on turning my multi-passions into a thriving business while also helping people realize their own dream of travel and living abroad. Especially people who have kids. I’ve noticed there is a lot of talk out there about single people travelling but not a lot of families with kids. There is a certain mystery about it and I want to help clear the air about how more people can do what we are doing.

If I can make a positive impact on the world while also providing for my family, well, that would be idea wouldn’t it?

  • I also plan to try to have more fun especially with my kids. I’ve been way too serious for the past 2 years mainly because I’ve been worried about money ever since getting laid off and running my own sleeping mask business.
  • Lastly, I want to build strong relationships with new friends, old friends and be more adventurous by doing, seeing and experiencing more things in life.

Your Turn

Tell me what went well for you in 2011 in the comments below and what didn’t go so well.

chasing the impossible dream we moved to France

We Moved To France: Mistakes To Avoid When Chasing Your Dream

chasing the impossible dream we moved to France

If you’ve decided it’s time to chase that elusive dream of moving abroad congratulations, and good luck. It won’t be easy going against the grain. Here are 5 mistakes you should try to avoid when chasing that dream you once thought impossible to achieve.


Achieving a dream means not listening to that voice in your head telling you it’s impossible. If we all listened to that voice than nothing great would ever be achieved. The four minute mile was impossible at one point and so was a flying airplane.

My dream although not as grand has been to live in France. That dream fizzled after college when my career started to take off and when my children were born. It just seemed so impractical, unrealistic and foolhardy. There were always reasons why it could never happen until finally one day my husband and I decided to go for it. It wasn’t the most optimal time almost like having kids. You’re never really ready but you make do and make it work.

Along the way we learned a lot and made heaps of mistakes which you can benefit from. Here are some tips I learned while chasing the impossible dream.

Update: we have been living in France now for 5 years

View Larger Map  << For Now We Live In Marseille France>> 

Since  October 5th 2011, me and my three children have been living in the south of France in a city called Marseille. Blake my husband, stayed behind to tie up some loose ends for a month but he is with us now.

1) Be prepared to work hard

You’re probably wondering how we did it. To that I say a lot of hard work, planning, preparation, sacrifice and time. We wanted to give up a few times and other times it just didn’t seem possible. Immigration and visa laws can be complicated and the bureaucracy is tiresome.

  • We didn’t have cushy jobs lined up.
  • We didn’t know anyone who could help us in France
  • We did it after being unemployed for several years living on our savings and cutting back on all our luxuries.

Despite all the hurdles and obstacles we continued forward with our goals. It was risky but it was worth it. I feel alive, I feel inspired, I feel like I can do more. Best of all I feel happy. Everyday is like one big adventure.

2) Don’t procrastinate

Don’t fall into that trap of believing you have to wait until retirement to live in the momentWhat I find annoying and interesting about our journey over the last few years is that when my husband and I had great jobs in silicon valley with a comfortable lifestyle. We just trotted along through our life in a ho hum manner.

Don’t get me wrong, life was good but it was somewhat ordinary. Back then, I measured myself based off of career success and money. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I find myself wondering why I just drifted through life day after day without trying to achieve more dreams and accomplishing more outside of my career? Why did it take something big ( 2 job losses and long term unemployment) to shake us awake from our life which we seemed to be sleepwalking through?

“No risk no reward”

I’m not sure why I (we) waited. Maybe living comfortably doesn’t inspire greatness. We’ve accomplished more during our time of hardship than we ever did when we were living a safe and comfortable life with great jobs.

3) Safety is an illusion

Don’t put off your hopes or dreams because you are afraid of losing your safe comfortable life. It’s riskier to NOT go after your dreams because you risk your happiness.

I lived the life I thought I was supposed to live. College, career track, marriage, kids, 2 car garage and the burbs. I made all the safe and practical decisions I was supposed to make. We thought we were safe but we still ended up unemployed and in a very dicey situation.

4) Don’t try to get approval from others

I once knew someone who wanted to join the circus with his wife. I thought they were crazy for wanting such a frivolous thing. What annoyed me the most was  they were not moved or swayed by any of the negativity or disapproval. They  pursued their dream despite it.

Be prepared to deal with naysayers and don’t let them get you down or sway you. It’s your life and your dream. You have to do what makes you happy.

See also- How to deal with naysayers and tell you friends and family you want to move or live abroad

5) Don’t give up

Your dream is counting on you so don’t give up. It feels better to have tried and failed than to have not tried at all. It won’t be easy but it will be worth it. Just remember “Winners never quit and quitters never win”


The year prior to moving to France we lived like semi nomadic vagabonds and stayed with family and friends, some old and a few new. I want to thank them. Thank you for opening your home to us. Thank you for your hospitality. Thank you for your generosity and kindness.

Thank you Chambers, Elders, my aunt Huguette Andre, Rolfe / Levac, Elders / Shupp, Dickinson’s and couchsurfing hosts.

It made for an interesting year and we loved staying with each and everyone of you. Now pack your bags and get over here and stay with us. We have Brie and red wine waiting for you. And there is a great Bistro around the corner from us.

Video showing what we travelled with for one year before moving to France

Back when we were transitioning from our comfy suburban lifestyle and before we decided to move to France, we had no permanent home for one year. Here is a look at how much stuff we travelled with.  


In case you are new hear and don’t know our story, here’s a recap of our situation. It’s very, very, very condensed…..

After losing our jobs in California and being unemployed for a couple of years, we left our home in search of jobs on the east coast in August of 2010. We ended up selling a bunch of our stuff and putting the rest in storage until we could find jobs on the east coast. We set up camp with my aunt in Montreal for most a year looking for jobs.

We occasionally made the journey to see my husband sister in Maryland, about a 14 hour drive.  In this video I show you what our family of 5 travels with.

To get you up to speed: here are a few should read.

Why we decided to leave California

Breaking The Mould: How We Decided To Move To France: 

Travel Dream Come True: We Moved To The South Of France For A 1 Year Family Sabbatical

Selfish, Courageous or Stupid? Use Your Savings And Move To France For A Year With Your Family!

Fail Fantastically: When Life Slaps you in the face, Smile And Slap It Back: DO IT!

“SLAP” That’s the sound of life slapping me and my husband in the face. AGAIN!!

We had no jobs, we were unemployed for over 2 years, and we just got notice that we need to find a new place to live. that’s just the tip of the ice berg.  I’ll explain in more detail in just a bit.

I should be huddled up in the corner holding my stinging red cheek crying like a baby. I should be worried that we can’t find jobs, and we live out of suitcases.

BUT I’M NOT! bawling my eyes out! In fact, I welcome a good slap in the face once in a while. LIke getting a cold glass of water to shake you awake.

Because every time life has lifted it’s mighty hand, I have learned how to better cope and become more resilient. In fact, it’s usually during these down trodden times that I actually make progress towards goals and dreams that have been on the back burner.

Life causes Inertia

I like to think of the blows that life delivers as wake-up calls, or check points. Without them, some of us (ME, maybe you too), would be caught in a terrible condition called Inertia, which I equate to being in Limbo.

INERTIA: in life is a state of being where you move neither forward or backward. You live almost without purpose.You can be unhappy or unfulfilled but things are not bad enough for you to want to take action to change things. So you stay in this constant state of dissatisfaction.

So Back to my story. It’s been a life altering 3 years that started a few years ago.  Prior to 2008, I was burnt out from trying to maintain my American Dream life.  But then something counter intuitive happened.  Dreams I never thought I would chase suddenly came to life. Made possible by a continued barrage of what seemed like bad luck.

Each set-back that life has doled out to me and my family has been used as a catalyst to improve our condition or achieve some positive outcome towards a greater goal. Goals that I thought I would have to wait for until retirement age like moving to France. (update we moved to France)

Below is a brief summary of each thing that has altered the very foundation of our lives and in it’s place the positive changes.

Face slapping timeline:





SLAP #1: Since late 2007: We (my husband and I) have each been laid off twice and unemployed for a total of 2 + years. Unemployment checks stopped coming bullet_go I start my own business making specialty sleeping masks from home. I’m working on a second business as of this writing.
SLAP #2: August 1st 2010: We left our friends, our lives and our home in California and moved across the country in search of jobs. bullet_go I’ve dreamt of moving from California to the east coast to be near my extended family. My husbands family is back east too. Our jobs kept us tied to our lives in California.
SLAP #3: August 1st 2010: We decide it’s prudent to cut our expenses by staying with my elderly aunt in Montreal while we do our job search. We pay her 1/7 what we were paying for rent in California (a good thing we did. ) bullet_go We cut back expenses by 80%. I have breathing room to work on my home business now that we have less bills. We also get to spend a lot of time and my kids get reacquainted with their family which we couldn’t do before when we lived across the country. It was too expensive.
SLAP#4:  September 1st 2010: Because my dad didn’t think to register my birth as a Canadian Citizen, I can’t put my boys in school in Canada so we homeschool 2 teenagers.  (so so hard) bullet_go Homeschooling has given me a better understanding of my boys needs. It also gave us the flexibility to come and go as we please rather than being tied down to the school year holidays. We get to visit sights, spend quality time together. BOND!
SLAP #5: March 2011: After 7 additional months of job searching while in Montreal, my husband decides to stop wasting his time looking for jobs all together. He spent several hours a day looking for jobs and drove to countless interviews, but no offers ever materialized. bullet_go My husband decides to pursue his own consulting business doing what he did in the corporate world.  He starts a software testing and QA consulting business.  In progress He is for hire people. And he’s good at what he does.
SLAP #6: August 1st 2010 – Present: Meanwhile, we live out of suitcases because we put all our stuff in a storage unit just outside of Boston 4 hours away from Montreal. (where we thought we would be living when we moved, but couldn’t find any jobs) bullet_go We discover that Boston is not the place for us to live. (NO OFFENSE BOSTONIANS). We decide we want to live somewhere where we can afford to enrich our lives and also work on our business. Long term travel to France is on our radar. One year or more. But we need to get our ducks in line and paper work straightened out.  This was a retirement goal but we can do it now while our kids are still young. Yeah! vive la France.
SLAP #7: April 2011: We need to leave my aunts home in Montreal, but have no idea where we are going to go. We are in between homes, all our stuff is in storage. we are waiting till after august to figure out if we can go to France so renting a home is out of the question and vacation homes seem to be way too expensive. bullet_go We way our options and decide to visit my husbands sister for a few weeks, then his brother. And maybe even rent an R.V. and visit all the beaches up and down the east coast of the U.S. and Canada for part of the summer of 2011. ROAD TRIP and beach bon fires here we come. We’ll see

Before 2008, I never thought I could do any of the things that my family is doing or planning. My Inertia kept me on track with the idea American Life even though I was burnt out and wanted to change. If it weren’t for the life altering events, I don’t know when or if I would have done any of the things I’ve done so far.

Don’t wait until life slaps you in the face to do something

Don’t wait till life slaps you.  If you are living life without purpose other than to work, eat, sleep and own things. If you are tired of waking up everyday and coasting through life with nothing to show for it other than a hectic schedule then

STOP! Take action.

Climb mount Everest, Go to japan, learn to salsa, take up kick boxing, start a new career. Do more with your life than just barely living it.  Do something that is fulfilling so you can live a life with no regrets. You don’t have to take great risks, you can do it smartly but do something for god sakes.  Anything but stand still.

It’s worth the effort to try, even if you don’t succeed, at least you will have tried and don’t have to wonder ‘WHAT IF?”

Good luck. Leave your comments below and let me know what dreams you have been putting off, what fails have lead you to your successes…….

How we ended up living in France with our three kids

How We Ended Up Living In France with Our 3 Children

How we ended up living in France with our three kids

The path you take when you finally decide to move to France will be unique to you and your circumstances. Our decision to move was set in motion by the great recession and unemployment followed by a series of circumstances. Here is a brief look at the events leading up to the final decision that made our move to France possible.

Move to France: We never thought we would or could until…

Although living in France has always been a dream of ours, we never actually believed it was something we could achieve any time soon. Our lives, our mindset and the golden handcuffs of our jobs kept us chained to our perpetual lives. Lives that were good by most people’s standards maybe even great. But for two people like Blake and I who had itchy travel feet, life seemed a little mundane. Each day melted into the next and each day looked like the previous day.

We worked, played, ate, slept and took the kids to school. Rinse and repeat with the yearly 2 week to 4 weeks off for vacations.

We lost our jobs-The Catalyst!

laid_off gave us the balls and courage to take the next stepIn 2007 my husband and I both lost our jobs during the Great recession– the worst to hit since the great depression of 1929.

We didn’t know it at the time but everything changed that day and
getting laid off would be the catalyst that set us in motion towards moving to France. It would just take a while to get there.

Between 2008 and 2010, we bounced between unemployment and working at a couple of company’s which laid us off as well- something that was not all that uncommon in Silicon Valley. Only now, it was harder to find a new job and some of our friends couldn’t find work at all or took on whatever job they could find.

Being unemployed does something to you. Yes it scares you financially but it can also force you into a situation to do things you would never do if you had a full time job or do things you never knew you were capable of doing. At least, that is how it was for us.


“We started to worry”. It’s not cheap living in the San Francisco bay area and the life we created required 2 high paying jobs to maintain that lifestyle. We knew we had to do something. Rather than stick around and deplete our savings, we decided this was our chance to make our exit, cut our losses and get a fresh start on the east coast. Something we always wanted to do to be closer to our families. The east coast also was appealing because the cost of living was much lower than the San Francisco Bay area. We thought in the least, our money would last longer in a less expensive area.

We left our home and our friends behind in California

In 2010, we had had enough and left California for good but by that time we had not planned on moving to France YET!

Instead we planned on bouncing between my family in Montreal and Blake’s sister in Maryland while we looked for work around the Boston area. Once we found work, we would rent a house and settle down.

Strategically speaking, Boston was in the perfect location. Not only was it in New England near the water, but it was also directly located between my family in Montreal and Blake’s family in the states. It seemed like the perfect place for two ex silicon valley workers like us to look for jobs, settle down and start new lives.

Or so we thought!

We changed our mind-set: lived like vagabonds outside of social norms and it changed us

For a year we carried on this way, living somewhat unconventionally as a semi nomadic family of five. We carried only what we needed with a few extra things for each of our three kids: small toys for Catherine, a skateboard, guitar, etc. We shuttled between our two homes family homes in Montreal and Maryland every few months in a big green Toyota Tundra Pick up truck.  The rest of our things or what was left of them were in a storage unit somewhere in Massachusetts. 

We were breaking the mould big time and It felt strange. Even though we were doing what we thought was right, I felt a little guilty living the way we were thanks to a North American upbringing where it’s implied that there are certain lifestyle conventions that we should all try to achieve. (Some people call it the American Dream). If you break from that mould then you are doing it wrong or hurting your children and family.  At least that’s the sense I got.

To make matters worse, it we were spinning our wheels looking for jobs that didn’t pan out, didn’t exist or didn’t pay enough.  Both Blake and I became disheartened, stressed out and in some ways a little desperate.

Something strange or interesting happens, depending on how you look at it, when you are backed into a corner , hit rock bottom or run out of choices.

We decided to do move to France or at least try

Our situation made us get creative and we started looking at options outside of our comfort zone. That’s when we entertained the idea of moving to France for a year. Both Blake and I had lived abroad before meeting one another however neither of us had any experience living abroad as a married couple let alone with three children in tow.

We had discussed it before however there were always road blocks. We had jobs, a house, lives and friends. But now, all those barriers were gone. Our stuff was conveniently in storage. We could go anytime now so why not? Money! That’s why. 

We worried about money and how we could afford it

We had already overcome the idea of living unconventionally but like any normal family, we had concerns about money and how to pay for our trip.  After brainstorming, we came up with some possible scenarios.   We knew that if we could somehow manage the money part than we would be one step closer to making our move to France a reality.

  1. Use what we have: Make our current rental income and savings go as far as possible.
  2. Freelance: Earn money by leveraging our skills and strengths by freelancing or consulting. This would give us the ability to earn money anywhere we land. 
  3. Find jobs in France. (almost impossible, we tried this and it never panned out because we are not EU citizens).
  4. Upgrade our skills: Believe it or not this blog is a way for me to keep my skills updated should I ever decide to return to the workforce. I write, I promote, I troubleshoot, I create all my own graphics. I do it all. You can hire me to help you if you like.

Obviously we overcame all our obstacles because as I write this we are living in France.

What’s my point in sharing this with you?

We all have our own set of circumstances, road blocks or whatever it is that is stopping us from making our dreams come true.  Sometimes it takes an unfortunate event to make us break from the mould.

Why wait? 

If you really want to do something don’t let your fears stop you. Don’t let other people tell you how you are supposed to live. If you think it is a good idea or the right thing to do than do it. It may take you a while but eventually you will get there and you will not regret it because anything worth doing takes work which makes the victories of your success so much sweeter.

So there you have it. What issues are you struggling with? What’s stopping you? 

Why we left California

Why We Decided To Leave California: Before we moved to France

Why we left California: before we decided to move to France

Why would anyone leave life as they know it behind in order to start over somewhere else?  We all have our reasons for the things we do. Here are some of ours that eventually lead up to our decision to move to France.

Back story

The decision to leave California was slow in the making and quick in the coming. What does that mean? Annie and I, both with East Coast roots, had been talking about moving East for several years. Recent vacations had been to Montreal, Quebec City, Washington D.C, and Annapolis.

Meanwhile, every now and then we’d read in Outside Magazine or some similar publication write an annual article about “The Ten Best Places to Live.” Here are a few recent examples:

As I noted in my previous post about lifestyle design, California no longer appealed to us. So the seeds for change were there, but they had not yet started to grow.

The Catalyst To Leave California

Then, in the Fall of 2007, the company where Annie and I were working had a lay-off.

The lay-off package was very generous. With a bit of frugal living, we had about a year’s cushion of money. Using COBRA we continued our family health insurance through Blue Shield.  We used the time to travel, including an extended vacation to Paris and Edinburgh.

The Decision

We worked on projects that we never had time to before.  Annie began to prototype some ideas for her business, and she was now able to formally launch it. The result was Le Neko Noir ( – Cute life inspired handmade sleeping masks.).

With this, Annie decided she never wanted to go back to working for someone else. She wanted to run her own home based craft business, and also be at home for our three kids. I fully supported Annie’s decision, but it meant the loss of a six figure income.

So what happened?

Time Off Gives You A Chance At New Perspectives

The year off clarified a few things for us. We liked having our time for us, and not for some other company. If possible, we did not want to work for someone else. We liked to travel. We liked hanging out together. We wanted to continue to live this way. This meant moving. But,

we had to decided where we wanted to move.


We were opening Pandora’s Box, and it was going to be fun, hard, crazy, and rewarding.

Store coming soon Dismiss