Recently I’ve been writing about how creating goals, both in sprint form (what you want to achieve over the next days, weeks and months), as well as big audacious bucket lists of life-changing dreams, can change your life. I know, because it’s beginning to change mine.

You need to be careful though. I’ve realised that there’s quite a difference between setting goals and having bucket list dreams. One operates from the head and requires a far more action-orientated approach. If you’re not careful you’ll quickly feel deflated and exhausted trying (and failing) to achieve them all. The other comes straight from the heart. It’s a softer process and needs time. I’m trying hard to focus on the heart, but it’s not easy when you’re a head person.

A new addition to my bucket list, and definitely coming from the heart, is to begin a year long, once-a-month ambition, of trying out different Air BnB’s around the country – predominantly ones where you stay in the homes of owners who are there to host. I want the experience of staying with people you can chat to and get to know their stories.

The idea began with a simple dream of just getting out and about and doing something different each month. Something that doesn’t cost the earth, yet provides an exciting change of scenery, widens your outlook and offers some connection with the people involved. I’ve been recovering from a serious knee operation and my world has shrunk considerably over the past four months. This, I felt, would open things up again — a little step towards integrating my life back into a world of adventure.

The first was to be a short trip, literally 30 minutes down the road. Yet it was so much more than that, oh boy. And very quickly this has grown into something altogether much bigger and ultimately more profound than I’d expected. In just three days and two Air BnB’s, I’ve had conversations and experiences that have not only been incredibly enriching, they’ve also been inspiring and heartwarming. Just a few miles from home, yet it’s opened up a world of witnessing dreams and possibilities, facilitating incredible connections and life-long memories.

You see, over these last five years, I’ve come to realise how important it is to have, and realise, dreams. And in order to create a life of dreams, wonder and fulfillment, I also believe it’s important to work on ourselves. To observe, grow and understand who we are in order to create a life of purpose and meaning. If we are here for such a short time, I think it’s incredibly important to continually ask ourselves how can we make the most of our time. When we begin to understand ourselves a little better, we’ll ultimately find our way to being of service in some way — whether that’s amongst our own network of friends and family or change-the-world-type-behaviour.

Personal growth comes in many forms. And doing this Air BnB exercise has reminded me how I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that changing our environment, and in particular, moving to live in a new area, opens us up to the potential of leading a totally different life. Not necessarily better, who knows, but just to experience a totally new way of being. This comes with an important caveat however, if we’re not happy and satisfied within ourselves, moving just moves the problem with us, it doesn’t fix it. More likely, we’ll forever be chasing our tail, living outside ourselves, hoping that if we change something, we’ll be just that little bit happier.

I’ve not moved house, I’m just playing at it. And it’s resulted in a fascinating weekend that has not only been about witnessing people creating and living out their dreams, it’s also been about experiencing first hand how different our lives can be according to what environment we choose to create for ourselves.

I’ve been utterly inspired by the two women we’ve met these past few days. The first lives in a beautiful Surrey sanctuary that can best be described as living on set with the Durrells (I love it! Sunday nights, BBC1). Not only has she built her dream home, but her love of animals has lead her to create a world she is utterly fulfilled by, and absorbed in. She has actively chosen to create a life of saving animals and sharing her piece of Eden with them. Indeed, they all serve to co-create it, seemingly in thanks to her generosity at saving them all from their former pitiful existence. Right next to her house is a stable block with three horses, one of which roams freely in the garden. Wandering around are also lucky flock of saved ex-battery hens, two dogs and two inseparable turkeys who were saved from our dinner plates last Christmas. It was an oasis of happiness — of people and animals grateful to have found each other and blissfully living out their days co-existing and enriching each other’s lives. The turkeys cooed, constantly seeking cuddles and attention, something I’ve never experienced before and I’m not sure I ever will again! The horses wandered right up to our front door each morning and the hens, along with the two little dogs, would wander in, having a nose around to see what their new guests were up to. I found it an incredibly healing place to be. Literally, just be. The tenderness of our host to so openly share with us the world she had created will remain with me forever.

Our host’s relationship with us, and with her environment, was transformational. You see, there are two types of relationships in life. One is transactional and the other is transformational. The former tends to be short-lived. You’re in them for what you can get out of them, end of story. You give very little of yourself, or what you give is only for what you can get back. When people operate from this perspective, their worldview is so narrow that they can’t see outside of it. If they don’t quickly get what they want, they move on and look elsewhere for it. Transformational on the other hand, is when people act from a place of gratitude, abundance and generosity. As the best-selling author and inspirational entrepreneur Joe Polish once said:

“The world gives to the giver and takes from the taker”

Everything in this special place was operating from a place of transformation. In just a short time, it had shared more with us than we could ever have imagined.

So, in reading this I ask you to consider yourself and the life you’re creating.

What are your dreams?

Are you living them?

Is your environment what you’d hope to create for yourself in this life?

Is it fulfilling not only to yourself, but to all those than inhabit it and those who visit it?

And are you operating from a place of transaction or transformation?