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6 Ways to Live a Life of Passion and Adventure Right Now

“Life is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing.” ~Denis Waitley

I remember dreaming for years about living abroad. First it was Italy so that I could discover my roots. Then it was Fiji because it seemed like the furthest place from Los Angeles (which I actually did, but only for two months during the summer of 2003).

After Fiji, there was an eight-year gap that was full of college and Corporate America. My daily routine involved waking up early, working all day, and studying all night. As I’m writing this I can picture myself a year and a half ago, sitting in my office and gazing out of the 20th floor wondering what it would be like to live in another country.

Then one day I chose to stop dreaming. Instead, I chose to start planning.

I was fed up with my inability to take action and go for what I wanted. I gave myself eight months to save enough money, plan where I would go, and tie up any loose ends.

My goal was to live abroad for a year.

I worked two jobs, sometimes three, so I could save enough money for the school loans and credit card bills I would still have to pay while I was gone. I had no social life, but I knew that I was working toward a life-changing experience. 

I wanted to get over the fluency hump in Spanish, so I looked into countries in Latin America. I also wanted to give back, so I looked into volunteer opportunities.

In September of 2011 I quit my job and moved to Costa Rica.

I volunteered for two months teaching English at a local school in a poor neighborhood. It was rewarding beyond belief. Then I spent a month getting TEFL certified so I could continue my travels and make money teaching English along the way.

Suddenly, panic struck. In December I thought the money was going to run out and I would have to go home.

As fate would have it, two weeks before I was due to leave, a friend told me about a job opening at a local company she had just started working at. She knew my background was in marketing and social media, and they just happened to have a Social Media Manager opening. I interviewed and got the job!

Then, as fate would have it (again), the Director of Communications quit the day I started. After the initial shock, I decided that my journey didn’t end there and applied for her position.

That same week I became the new Director of Communications for a multi-million dollar company in Costa Rica. What?!

It hasn’t all been great. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. Through those mistakes, though, I’ve come up with these 7 life lessons that you can use whether you’re living abroad, wanting to live abroad, or just wanting a new adventure.

1. Just do it.

Just pick up and move if you want to move. Just put your resume out there and start interviewing if you want to find another job. If you want to write a book, just do it already!

Will it be easy? Maybe, maybe not. Will it be rewarding? Absolutely.

Do what it takes to prepare. The point is to actually take action rather than just planning it in your mind for months or years and constantly making excuses as to why you “can’t” do it.

2. When faced with sink or swim, choose swim.

The way that people drive in Costa Rica is a cross between Mission Impossible car chases and Motocross (jumps included). I came from Los Angeles, and most people think that L.A. has the worst drivers. Not so much.

If you don’t swim, you crash, or you cause an accident to happen and you put yourself and others in danger. You must drive like a maniac, and you must get used to it. You must swim.

This obviously goes for any cultural differences. First observe, then learn, and then swim. It’s always more fun to enjoy the culture from the inside.

3. Erase expectations from your mind.

When I thought of Costa Rica, I thought of white sand beaches, constant sunlight, and beautiful sunsets. What it actually is for me: living a mile-high in a rainforest, constant clouds (and rain of course), and really cold. I’m not sure they could be more opposite.

What I have gained, though, is a newfound love of nature. I used to be so scared of nature growing up because I’ve always lived in cities. The only nature I knew about was in scary movies, and you know what happens to people in scary movies when they’re out in nature!

Maintain an open mind. You never know where life will take you, and for what reason.

4. Make mistakes as often as possible.

When speaking Spanish, I was scared I would say something incorrectly and that people would make fun of me for it. Then I realized I’m never going to learn by being quiet and only speaking Spanish in my head. My vocabulary and fluency have grown immensely since making that decision.

When doing something new, it’s best to just get out there and start making as many mistakes as you can. You will mess up, and people will correct you, and you will learn.

5. Live in a constant state of wonder.

When we move somewhere new or start at a new job, our world is full of excitement and wonder, right? Everything is so cool! You tell all of your friends and family all about it.

Then, as time passes on, it starts to become more normal. The excitement fades and the wonder disappears.

Even if you have lived in the same area or worked at the same company for a long time, there are still wonders to be discovered and exciting things to see. Try to put on some wonder-glasses, and attempt to see your “same” world as a whole new world.

You’ll be amazed by what happens.

6. Stay in touch with those you love.

It’s really easy to get caught up in a new adventure and forget to keep in touch. However, I’ve learned that it’s so important that family and friends know that I’m always thinking about them and that I miss them. Plus, it always feels so good to hear their voice and see their face through Skype.

If you asked me a year and a half ago what I thought I would be doing, this would have never even been on the radar. It’s not until we take the leap of faith (with a bit of planning) that we really reap the benefits.

It hasn’t been all great things, and there have been some big struggles along the way, but in the end it always ends up better when you go for your dreams.

What’s your current adventure? What else would you add to the list? Please share it in the comments!

Photo by Drewski Mac

Avatar of Jeffrey Friend

About Jeffrey Friend

Jeffrey Friend is the founder of Small Steps | Big Changes, a site that takes a unique look at Life, Work, Relationships, Health, Personal Development and Happiness, and illustrates how the Kaizen philosophy is used to turn small steps into big changes for all areas of your life. Connect on Facebook & Twitter.

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  • Vijayalakshmi04

    These are some amazing insights you’ve shared here Jeffrey! I can see how I can have a life of adventure even without travelling out of my city, let alone alone go to another country! thank you for sharing your experiences!

  • Phil Bennett

    Does your company have any openings for a web programmer/developer? I share a goal of living aboard as well.

  • Nicole/TheMadlabPost

    Although the driving analogy you made sounds adventurous and scary at the same time, lol, your “I realized I’m never going to learn by being quiet and only speaking Spanish in my head” can be applied to so many different experiences…with an underlying point that we won’t truly live or explore new worlds if we’re constantly stuck in our heads rather than getting outside of ourselves and exercising those thoughts, whether it is communication (speaking Spanish) or other things.

  • Kendra Kahoku Steenhoek

    Another great article Jeff! You continue to inspire me!

  • Colleen Luckett

    Wow, this is so timely! I’m in the same boat right now, as I’m working on getting to Japan to teach English (or whatever else comes up). I got my head out of the clouds and started planning. Thanks for these tips!

  • Erica Lilo Ainsworth

    passion & adventure! two of my favorite things! loved reading this article, best of luck!!! I have always dreamed of making a difference in the world, particularly with helping to take tigers off the endangered species list and working with children in a poverty stricken country…. I plan on doing so this year :)

  • Shauck11

    Jeffrey, this is the exact dilemma I’m currently in! This article really made my day and gave me hope that someday soon I can “take a leap of faith” like you did! Thanks do much for you inspiring words : )

  • Selena Aponte

    On a recent trip to Spain, I fell in love with the people and culture of this society (so much so that I cried on the transatlantic flight back to the US). I contemplated living in this region of Europe and what I had to offer in conjunction with my skills. Although I am of Puerto Rican decent, I am extremely shaky with my Spanish. The people were helpful which boosted my confidence, but to ever become an ex-pat would be a dream come true. My vision on where I’d like to settle after grad school may become clearer after visiting a few more places, but what you have accomplished (a leap of faith) is admirable. And by assisting others, the retribution far outweighed the struggles you’ve endured. Bravo, and keep going!

  • lv2terp

    Wonderful and inspiring post!!! Thank you for such wonderful tips! I love the part also when you said…”Try to put on some wonder-glasses, and attempt to see your “same” world as a whole new world.”…GREAT! :)

  • JeffreyFriend |

    Thank you! Let me know how it goes with your new set of eyes where you live, it’s an amazing (new) world wherever we go…if we look for it ;-)

  • JeffreyFriend |

    Thank you so much! You’re going to be blown away by how true that really is

  • Jules

    I am thinking of starting a business from home making soap. I have a son who is very disabled and this has stopped me from pursuing several dreams. I have lots of self doubt about my ability but your post has made me realise that I can do it! Through planning, making mistakes but mostly bringing adventures to me seeing i am limited to my son. Thank you!!!

  • Adrian

    Sir it’s like you are talking directly to me,,,,,smile, because u are brilliant. Thank you!

  • Livetobeinspired

    Thank you so much for all the inspiration. I work and travel. A few months ago I met someone and fell inlove. He had to leave a week ago and I have been burrying myslef in my work trying not to think about him. Reading your stories and tips have freally helped me to try and move on. There are so many things I still want to do with my life and that I am going to do. Thank you.

  • Skdicke

    I can not get enough of the positivity here! I’m currently on day 4 of job searching and have stressed myself out to the moon and back. This morning I woke up and remembered that this is a challenge and a positive opportunity!

  • JeffreyFriend |

    Thank you Selena! It’s amazing what happens when we put ourselves into new worlds, especially very “foreign” ones where we don’t quite understand the culture, or even the language sometimes. I really hope that you find a place to explore after graduating. Nothing is permanent, and you always have time to discover new things – but it’s also always best to do it…NOW ;-)

  • JeffreyFriend |

    BINGO!!! That is so well put Nicole, I love it! We tend to be in our heads for so many reasons. Fear of being wrong, fear of sounding stupid, fear of not being liked, etc. Overcoming those (seemingly) small fears is so crucial to our growth. Love it

  • JeffreyFriend |

    That’s perfect!! The strength and abilities of our minds absolutely blows me away on a daily basis. By changing our perspective, we can either live in happiness, or live in negativity. It is 100% our choice every moment. I love that you CHOSE to see the challenge and opportunity, and I’m 100% confident that it will have an affect on the outcome of your job search.

  • JeffreyFriend |

    Wow I’m really sorry to hear that :-( But I’m happy that you have chosen this new perspective on this situation. It’s really important to process your feelings rather than hide from them through work and “busyness” (trust me, I know). Through the processing you’ll be able to make more sound decisions with this next portion of your life, rather than allowing the past to creep in there and influence decisions. I hope that made sense?

  • JeffreyFriend |

    Lol, smiling! I’m happy I was able to help :-)

  • JeffreyFriend |

    Wow, that’s seriously inspiring Jules. Seriously. It’s truly amazing what happens when we make small (strategic) steps toward our goals. We arrive there SO much faster that way, rather than trying to make big strides and failing time after time (I’ve done that way too many times). I want you to make a plan, break it up into small steps, and do those SMALL steps every single day until you reach your goal. You can absolutely do it no matter what the situation.

  • JeffreyFriend |

    That’s awesome to hear! What will be even more awesome to hear is when you actually take that leap. I talked about taking the leap for a solid 8 years before I actually did it. Don’t wait, it’s not worth whatever “reasons” we make ourselves believe. I have met people who just go for it (without money) and find their way. I’m not suggesting that (I’m more of a strategic planner), but I am suggesting that you START the process now. NOW.

  • JeffreyFriend |

    Hey Erica, that’s so cool! I have a friend in Thailand who helped elephants (so jealous), and I know a ton of people helping children in the poverty-stricken areas here in Costa Rica. If you want any suggestions let me know (email [at] I want you to do this THIS year. DO NOT put this off, because one year turns into 8 (in my experience at least).

  • JeffreyFriend |

    That’s awesome! One of my best friends is in the JET program right now! Asia is definitely the place to go to teach (that’s what everyone was saying when I got TEFL certified). I have another friend teaching in Thailand and looking for her next opportunity. I know it’s a really long process sometimes, so starting now is definitely key. Good luck!

  • JeffreyFriend |

    Thank you Kendra!!!

  • JeffreyFriend |

    Hey Phil, we don’t right now, but check out these sites for options abroad:, and

  • Sedi

    thx you for the inspiring post. well my dream is to pursue a carrier in arts. I love drawing and painting but I have studied English literature and I work as an English teacher. As I was afraid of doing the job so I chose to start teaching. At first I really liked it. I loved teaching teenagers but later I felt I am not good at it. recently I have stopped teaching coz I did not feel motivated and I have almost lost my confidence. I do not know what are the steps I should take to achieve my dream.

  • Nelson

    By reading your article I learned from your experience that if I never try and fail I will never gain knowledge, improve or accomplish my goals. I feel connected with the topic because as an immigrant from Mexico I truly understand the complicity and difficulty of leaning other language than your own. during my process of learning English I been struggling with the talkative part of the language, and one of the reasons are that I’m not a social person and that I’m afraid that people laugh about me, another reason is that people around me don’t have any common things to talk about or I just don’t feel any interest of talk with them, so that’s why I used to keep my mouth shut, but then I realized that in order to accomplish my goals I have to fail sometimes, and learn from it. I really think that your posts and articles serves as an inspirational way for all the people that need to think positively and clearly just like me =). Thank you!!

  • Ele

    Thanks Jeffrey,

    As a social media manager myself, I know I’m only working toward my goals because I can utilize my marketing skills in anything I do. But my goals seem so distant. Probably because they are to open my own restaurant, bakery, wellness center, yoga studio, to teach elementary school…

    I don’t want to make the mistake of saying “screw it” too early in my career, but what’s the point if I’m not 100% happy? Gotta make moves, even if small ones for now.

  • JeffreyFriend |

    Wow Ele, I know EXACTLY where you’re at right now. Have you heard the term “analysis paralysis”? It’s when you don’t do anything because you’re thinking too much about it. I, like you, have many many goals in this life – and in many different areas. The best advice I’ve been given regarding this is that you just need to start with ONE. Meditate on it, call it into your life, look for the signs….then take action. Fear will come, and then you choose.

  • JeffreyFriend |

    Hey Nelson, that’s so true! The worst feeling is wondering “what if?” What if I had talked with that person instead of being shy? What if I had started verbally practicing English 6 months ago, rather than being nervous or scared that people would laugh at me? I know that last one because that’s what happened to me. I also have fear that people will laugh or make fun of my Spanish. But the truth is that people WANT TO HELP. When they see that you are trying to improve your English, they will help you. Tell everyone you talk to that you are trying to improve your English, and to please correct you if you say something wrong.

    Then JUST START TALKING. Make as many mistakes as you can = that’s how you learn. Once you start taking this approach, your English will improve SO MUCH, and in a short amount of time. My goal is to be speaking fluently by July 1st, 2013. What’s your goal? Make a real and attainable goal (yet stretch yourself PAST what you think your limits are) and go for it. You will start out a little bit shy and scared, but within a month (or maybe even just a couple of weeks) you will get over that fear and smile when you make mistakes…because you’ll know that you’re on your path to English fluency :-)

  • JeffreyFriend |

    Hey Sedi, why can’t you do another job AND pursue a career in art at the same time? I know a lot of people who do this. They work the job that pays the bills, and they create their art (their love) when they’re not working. The key here is that you don’t get stuck doing that job forever, but instead ALWAYS keep the goal in mind of transitioning from the job to a full-time career in art once you start selling your art and making enough money to quit your job. You may also want to look for a job that is more in-line with art, and where you’ll be surrounded with like-minded artists. Good luck Sedi!

  • This American Girl

    Wow, I could not relate more to this post. One year ago I decided to start traveling the world and began my journey in Costa Rica. I planned to return to grad school to pursue becoming a designer, but the more I traveled the more I began to realize I was already living my dream. I started blogging about my travels a few months ago and today wrote a post about having the courage to follow your dreams: It is something that I am working on, letting go of the fear of not having money or needing to pursue a certain “acceptable path”. Thank you for your wisdom! :)

  • iamwhitelotus

    Un enorme abrazo desde Costa Rica ;)
    Me llenó de motivación y alegría tu artículo.
    Muchas gracias.

  • anand

    breezy words and breezy story.. ! I felt the nature when reading your beautiful post.. Life of pi part 2.. !

  • Monica D.

    Thank you for your inspiring post! I was in Costa Rica over the summer last year doing humanitarian work and your post reminded me of the reason I went, to accomplish my dreams of helping others and to continue to help others !:)

  • Rachel Fasig

    Would you mind stopping by and reading my post that I wrote today? What are your suggestions for people who desperately want to make their passions and hobbies into a career but need to pay the bills in the meantime? I touched on this, but would also love your opinion.

  • Renee Cormier

    Love your blog! Great minds think alike. LOL!

  • Anastasia

    Indonesia, can be one of your choice; good luck;
    Guys, you are so cool!

  • Jeffrey Friend

    Thank you Renee!

  • Jeffrey Friend

    Wow Monica that’s awesome! Where in CR did you go?

    p.s. Felicidades that you made your dream a reality. Now that you’re on this side of it – you know that anything truly is possible. Truly.

  • Jeffrey Friend

    Anand, that is honestly a comment I take to heart. I try to write in a way that is fun, interesting and easy to digest – so I really appreciate you saying that.

  • Jeffrey Friend

    Hola! Muchísimas gracias! Todavía estoy en Costa Rica, en San Pedro :-)

    Me da sonríe que le gustó el artículo!

  • Jeffrey Friend

    Hey Camille, your blog is amazing! I love your story, and I love that you’re still on your adventure! Your guide to Puerto Viejo brought some memories of Rockin’ J’s, Bread & Chocolate, the bathwater ocean and the Caribbean vibe. Love it

  • Jeffrey Friend

    Hey Ele,

    I revisited your comment and have something more to share:

    You have what I call “I’m a superhuman and am capable of so many things, which damn way should I go?” syndrome. It’s a tough place to be because with so many interests it’s really difficult to choose. I really envy those people who know exactly what they want and how they’re going to get it. But in the end I prefer our way, full of discovery, uncovery (can I make up that word??), and understanding in a way that can’t be taught.

    Good luck with your restaurant-bakery-wellness center-yoga studio-elementary school journey!

  • Jeffrey Friend

    Thank you Anastasia! Awesome name by the way

  • Andrew Mosh

    I would appreciate it if you would give me credit for the photograph you used in this article. My full name is Andrew Maciejewski and the image is from my flickr account. Thank you

  • J

    I’m 19 years old with a whole lifetime in front of me. I have no idea why I’m writing this right now but I’m I need a way to let what I’m thinking out… My whole life I planned on joining the military but now I don’t know if that’s what I really want to do. All of my friends are starting college and so am I. Some of them are moving away from the town that we all grew up in and going to big universities which I think would really cool, while others are staying in town and going to the local community college which is what I am doing. Lately I have just been thinking that I need to leave though. Not just go to school but I want to go on adventures… I want to see places I’ve never seen and meet people that I have never met. It’s not practical though, right now I can barely afford school, I’m going to have to take out student loans when I have absolutely no idea what I want to do. You know it’s been more than just thinking about leaving I feel like I have to or else I am wasting this precious gift of life that has been given to us, and it’s driving me crazy. This summer I went on a cruise to the Grand Cayman and Cozumel Mexico. That trip was the most adventure I ever had. I went scuba diving and saw a whole new world under the water… I met people from different parts of the world. It was an incredible experience and it opened my eyes. I don’t want to stay in the same place forever. I feel like I have to experience new things and now I’m just trying to think of ways to do this. I’ve thought about backpacking across Europe or hitch hiking across the states. I know if I do this though I wouldn’t be going to school or working and what would people think of me. I don’t even know how I would be able to do any of these things with the little money that I have saved up from working my part time job. I’m just looking for advice from people who have or have had the same mind set as me. If I don’t fulfill these desires will they go away with time or will they just keep eating at me?

  • tauerba

    Just found this. Great read!

  • Anonymous

    Hi, I’m not sure if anyone reads this page anymore, or if it’s even active; but I’m just so lost right now. I could really use some advice. My story’s a bit of a cliche so I’m gonna keep it as short as possible! I’ve always been ambitious. My heart literally aches for excitement and adventure and passion.
    I’ve always known I would open my own business, I just weren’t sure what; so I decided I would move to Australia, figure it out from there. (I live in England) Anyway, a friend who I had knew had moved there on her own and it just seemed that since the day she did her life has been absolutely amazing. So, I said I would go, then typically, I met someone. A little older, but this person (who’s now my partner) is exactly like me in everyway, ambitious etc. However, he already had his own business so I decided to put Australia on hold and then we would go together. A year has past and believe me, it’s been one of the most difficult years ever. Long story short, my partner dissolved the company as any money that was made went to staff. We hadn’t been paid in over 6 months! I’m only young and this for me was very hard to adapt to, this isn’t what I wanted. I wanted to be out, and I don’t mean ‘out on the tone’ I meant out exploring the world. Things are just starting to pick up now and my partner and I are starting new jobs this week running a brand new office for someone. I suppose, I just can’t help but be in fear that everything will go wrong again and we’ll be broke or even worse, be back to square one. Like I said, I am young and the last year I have watched my social life and my perfect body flush down the toilet! (Weight gain) I don’t mind this because it’s fixable, but I can’t take another year, and I don’t know what to do? This post may sound silly but this is my life. I need some advice.