Trouble Finding Your Passion? Start a Bucket List!

What are you passionate about?  Not sure?  Create a “Bucket List” that includes things you’ve always wanted to try or do.  You never know…one of those items may be what you are destined to do with your life!

Too many people wait until a certain time in their lives before they start pursuing their dreams.  Why do they wait?  There are various reasons:  “I want to wait until I get married”; “I want to wait until my kids are grown”; “I will do it when I retire”, etc.  Sometimes these “reasons” are really excuses.  START LIVING NOW!  Don’t wait until a certain event or milestone happens.  We never know when our last day on Earth will be.  Why not make the most of the time you have?

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Single?  Do not wait until you find that special someone.  Fill your life up with things YOU want to do in the meantime.  That means you’ll bring some fabulous stories to your next relationship.

Have children?  Don’t wait until your kids are grown.  Inspire them to want to live a fulfilling life as they observe you pursuing your dreams and taking chances.

Don’t wait until you retire!  In this economy, who knows when that will be!  Start your bucket list now so you can have an awesome retirement filled with things you love to do and places you want to visit.

The great thing about a bucket list is that it helps you to visualize what you want to do and take action when opportunities arise.  Groupon and Living Social have deals everyday!  This is how I fulfilled my dreams of skydiving, race car driving…and in January, a trip to Iceland!  Best part?  I am able to achieve my goals on a shoestring budget!

I am a long ways off from retirement and still waiting to meet Mr. Right.  But, you know what?  I’m happy!  Everything isn’t perfect.  There are times when I feel like I’ve failed at life…especially when others make insensitive comments.  However, instead of punching them in the throat taking it personal, I force myself to remember all of the things I’ve accomplished from my bucket list.  I didn’t get here overnight.  In fact, it wasn’t until my recent trip to Bali (another bucket list item) where I learned how to meditate properly and use yoga to control my mood.  And you know what?  My imperfect life is pretty fulfilling as I’m living, learning, dreaming and exploring!

So…join me in making an awesome bucket list!  I promise that you will love the feeling of trying new things.  Some you may enjoy…others you may not.  That’s the beauty of bucket lists.  It’s like shopping for dreams 🙂

Need inspiration?  I’m addicted to the free iPad app “iWish” which provides inspiration in the form of photos, quotes & maps as well as allowing you to create your bucket list electronically.  I also recommend Bucket List Living Magazine.  Follow the directions below and use the coupon code “3free” for a free 3 month subscription.  Let’s start living the dream!

What’s been on my bucket list?

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How to Use the Bucket List Living Magazine Coupon

  1. Go to “App Store Downloads on iTunes”.  Search for Bucket List Living Magazine.
  2. Download the free app by tapping the FREE button.
  3. Tap the INSTALL APP button.  You will then enter your Apple ID Password and click OK.
  4. When the magazine app is finished installing tap the OPEN button.
  5. Permission to send new issues and push notifications from Bucket List Living Magazine is requested.  Choose OK.
  6. Tap the SUBSCRIBE button and then the CURRENT SUBSCRIBERS button.
  7. Enter the coupon code into the account number box and tap the CONTINUE button.  After you enter the code you will receive a notification that you have subscribed successfully.  Tap CLOSE. (The current issue should begin downloading in the background.)
  8. A VIEW button will appear below the current issue, tap it to begin enjoying the magazine.
  9. You will have access to any issue published during the trial subscription period.  At the end of the trial period you will retain access to any issue downloaded during the trial period but will be required to pay for any subsequent issues.

Hey! How Can I Travel Like You?

20130601-113254.jpgI like to think of travel as a close friend.  Someone I look forward to spending time with…and can’t wait to see again soon!  Many have asked me how I’m able to travel the world like I do.  So, I thought I’d share my journey.  If you want to travel the world…you can do it!  You don’t have to have a certain background.  Just a belief in yourself, determination, faith and a sense of adventure.

Most of the time, I’m asked “What do you do?”  It’s an innocent inquiry as to how I am able to travel to so many places.  I’m always so tempted to answer by saying “I’m an adventurer, explorer &  globetrotting travelista!”  But, while I consider that WHO I AM, it’s not the job title on my business cards…yet 🙂

So, what do I do?  I am responsible for compliance for a global company.  I know that seems really general but it isn’t really important as to WHAT I do…but more importantly, HOW I was able to transition from a job with absolutely no travel into finding one that allows me to explore the world.

I started out working in the legal department of a credit reporting agency.  I did absolutely NO TRAVEL.  Well, I did get to drive 23 miles from Atlanta to Alpharetta.  Woohoo!  Four years into this job, my mother suggested we do a family trip somewhere overseas.  We decided on Italy, booked the trip and headed off.  For those of you who have read my Roaming Thru Rome post, you know that is how this blog started. That is when I caught the travel bug.  I had such a phenomenal time.  While the post focuses on a lot of the hilarity that ensued, it wasn’t until my brother and I were walking around the Ponte Vecchio in Florence that I stopped and said, “I need a job that will pay for me to see the world.” I realized then that I had been missing out on so much.

After my trip, a friend suggested I read The Secret.  This book really helped me to shift from viewing my current circumstances in a negative light to clearly identifying what I wanted to do next and speaking that into being.  I can be Debbie Downtrodden, Negative Nancy & Pissed Off Patty all rolled into one sometimes.  I figured it was time for a change 🙂 So, I created a vision board with photos of international cities I wanted to visit and words that described my wish to find a job with overseas travel.

My desire to see the world was born in Florence.  That was July 2007.  In October 2007, I received a call from a recruiter asking me if I’d be interested in a compliance audit position.  I had absolutely no audit experience.  However, the company was looking for someone with a law degree to focus on certain legal-related audits and felt that I could easily pick up the audit piece.  To be honest, I wasn’t all that interested.  Then, the hiring manager called me and told me he had just gotten back from a month-long trip overseas to Italy, the Netherlands, Finland, France, Ireland, etc.  At this point, all I heard was “international travel.”  I was sold!  A few weeks later, I was offered a job with my current company.

It didn’t start out with the international destinations that I dreamed of.  Here I thought I’d be flying off to the French Riviera.  When, in fact, during the first 2 years, my only “international” trips were to Mexico City and Toronto.  Mostly, I had to travel to places like Louisville, Mississippi since my boss called dibs on all the interesting foreign destinations.  I was not feeling that.

As planning was underway for the 2010 calendar, a few things happened.  First, my boss was promoted out of our group and into another business.  Second, I spoke up and became aggressive about being assigned international audits.  Everything then fell into place.  I spent 70% of my time in 2010 in the UK and Europe.

At that point, I realized that I needed to figure out how to become a specialist in compliance areas that would require international travel.  It takes time but those baby steps help build the foundation to get you where you want to go.


But the best laid plans sometimes have unforeseen pitfalls.  My company sold its European business in 2012 and I was then promoted into a compliance position within a business.  While the business segment had a sub-business that had international offices, I was assigned to the domestic sub-business.  Which meant ZERO international travel.  I was devastated.  I didn’t want to drive around the southeast to mills!  But, I dusted myself off and put together a new plan.

That meant talking with sister companies that had international offices as well as having a frank conversation with my new boss.  Sometimes, you just have to put it out there and tell them what you want.  I was clear that I wanted to focus solely on international-related matters.  Not just because I love travel, but because I’m intrigued by international business.  The nuances of laws and regulations between different countries keeps me on my toes.  Turns out, my new boss didn’t care for international travel so I was blessed to be able to shift into a new position where I am now responsible for compliance for our international business.

So, how do you get to travel internationally for business?  Here’s a few suggestions:

  1. Work for a global company.  This will allow you the opportunity to gain access to the international offices.  Think about joining a capability group (i.e. compliance, IT, law, etc.) that will allow you to work across the organization with multiple business lines.
  2. Work for a consulting firm.  This could be a law firm, forensic accounting…whatever firm offers services to companies.  Companies hire consulting firms to conduct investigations or independent audits in various areas (i.e. anti-corruption, data privacy, antitrust, anti-bribery, anti-money laundering, etc.).
  3. Research job qualifications on LinkedIn.  This will help you to figure out what skills are most often listed for positions that have international travel.
  4. Leverage your transferable skills.  This will allow you to change careers.  Maybe you are in IT and know a lot about data privacy due to the various restrictions that need to be in place when setting up email accounts for international employees or transferring data to the U.S. from other countries?  Look to join a company in their Privacy group.
  5. Become an Agent.  If you have a background in sales, this would work for you.  Typically, Agents sell goods on behalf of a company.  Find a global firm and talk the hiring manager into letting you handle a foreign market.
  6. Be fluent in another language.  You will see that most international positions prefer to hire someone with language proficiency in the countries they will be interacting with.  Knowing another language gives you a competitive edge! Companies will see that they don’t need to pay for an interpreter to go with employees or consultants to foreign countries.

heart-intuitionThese are just a few suggestions to get you started.  The biggest piece of advice I can give is to surround yourself with positive people who can encourage you when you start to doubt if it will ever happen.  Think optimistically and know that you will find a way to travel the world.  Create a vision board; tape Post-It notes with motivational quotes next to your computer screen; and start living like the job is already yours!

If you have more advice to add to the list, I’d love to hear it!  Thanks for reading and good luck!

All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m Ready for My Close-Up

To quote the 1950 film, Sunset Boulevard, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”  What woman doesn’t want to do a boudoir photo shoot and be all glam & sexy?  I started out buying this package with the intent to lose all this weight and be like, “BAM! How you like me now?”…but, that didn’t quite work out.  Ha!  Rather than reschedule the shoot (again) until I can look like Skeletor from HeMan, I realized that I was focused on the wrong thing.  I have historically taken a Nation of Islam approach to weight loss…by any means necessary.  Be it Atkins (staying in Phase 1 forever), starvation, weight loss pills, being a workout fiend…you name it, I was doing it.  The problem was I couldn’t maintain the “extreme measures lifestyle”.  Even when I lost a lot of weight (and in some cases, maybe too much), I was never satisfied.  I always found something I needed to improve.  Something that was imperfect.  What I saw in the mirror wasn’t what other people in reality saw when they looked at me.  All I saw were all of my failures, insecurities, baggage, failed relationships, bad decisions, etc.

When I told my best friend that I thought the leather seats in my car needed Botox because they were cracked from all of my weight sitting on it, she told me to put the crack pipe down.  If only.  I mean, couldn’t she see that if I was on crack then I’d be skinny?  Now, I may be trying to steal her dvd player for a “weight loss hit” but I’d still be thin!

I have been caught up in the “industry” standard of beauty for so long, I can’t remember a time when I was ever satisfied in my own skin.  I felt I looked more like Ursula the Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid than Princess Tiana from Princess & the Frog.   I would covet the figures on magazine covers that sold me a faux reality based heavily on airbrush & illusions.  I thought, “If I eat 3 beans a day, I can look like that!”  But it never happened because I’m just not built that way and there came a point when my sanity broke thru the haze of phentermine & 2-a-day workouts & I realized I was miserable AND hungry. I wanted a biscuit and could care less about skinny jeans.

Then it hit me…it’s okay to be “imperfect.” I figure that if God created me this way, then I am perfect in His eyes and that is all that matters.  Now, am I trying to look like Precious and run off with a bucket of chicken?  No (although some chicken does sound good…focus Nikki).  I am just taking a smarter approach to weight loss and changing my mindset.  I eat what I want in moderation and workout.  I am focusing on pushing myself beyond my preconceived limits (both mentally, physically and emotionally).  In the here and now, I decided to strip myself bare & accept myself as I am.  By allowing myself to be photographed like this, I am telling myself that it is okay to be me.

I’m not Naomi Campbell thin (and my iPhone 4 cost too much to throw at someone…they can get my old Motorola).  I’ve never had the figure of a supermodel and I want a bowl of ice cream just thinking about being a size 0.  The only way I will ever be that size is to smoke crack and meth with a side of smack.  Healthy for me is being a size 8/10 and having a some junk in the trunk…to keep me warm in the winter.  I have decided to define beauty for myself as I strive to get back to that size.  I am committing myself to living a healthy lifestyle and seeing how far I can push myself in certain physical endeavors (i.e. marathons & triathlons).

Honestly, I’m just trying to be happy with myself.  To that end, I figured I’d release my poorly hidden diva (because y’all know I am the first one to jump in front of a camera) and get my photo shoot on. I can pick out plenty of things I need to work on but I choose to see someone who doesn’t look half bad.  So, I’m not going to make excuses and say the camera added 20 pounds, because as Shakira would say “hips don’t lie.”  I’m just going to continue on my journey and look as fabulous as I can until I reach my destination!

I know this has felt like a “Dear Diary” entry but there is a key difference…Holly Hobby isn’t on the cover and my brother isn’t trying to crack the code to spill everything to my parents during dinner.  Special shout out to Sarah at Sarah Esther Photography who handled the shoot.  She is FAB-U-LOUS! I really cannot say enough great things about her.  Sarah is so creative & her work is phenomenal!  In fact, she is photographing my brother’s wedding this summer.  Girl’s got skills!  She’s also running another boudoir photo special so definitely check her out!

Without further ado, here are a few pics from the shoot (which were shot at the W Hotel in Buckhead).  Thanks for listening to me share my hangups and entertaining my vanity!

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