Online mentor who travels the world says people can achieve their goals by taking action and persisting

The world is your oyster -- if you focus on what you need to achieve and don't get hung up on negative points.

Living her dream, travelling the world and earning enough to live on from one dedicated working day a week, Serena Star-Leonard is keen to help others turn their dreams into reality.

So often, she says, we get stuck on reasons which might stop us from reaching our goals, rather than constructively finding ways to overcome obstacles so we can achieve our goals.

She is the first to admit it took a few years to stop finding excuses why she couldn't leave her job and travel to South America. For years she would tell people this was her passion but do nothing about it. Year after year, people would ask Serena when she was going on her trip.

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The main catalyst to changing from a secure, well-paid job to travelling with minimal guaranteed income came when she left a "great job in IT" to be a business coach -- where she ironically worked longer hours for less pay -- as well as arranging charity concerts.

She also met and married John Leonard, who shared the dream of travelling to Latin America ... but still travelling remained a dream rather than a plan.

Then one day the couple were walking past a travel agent and saw the window display for trips to South America.

"We went in and asked what it would cost but, of course, to do that you have to give a date of travel," recalls Serena.

They nominated a date ... April 1 2012 ... five months into the future, and started preparing.

That was the scary part, says Serena. "We booked our tickets and freaked out, but we had set the ball in motion. We had five months to go or not ... but then if you are going to make a major change in your life, you should be at least a little bit scared."

They worked out how they could prepare best for the trip ... selling belongings, securing the best interest rate at the bank for their savings until they had to pay for the trip, telling family and friends they were definitely going. And they planned how to turn their passion into a profit, to provide an income to sustain their travels.

"If every day you do something to actively make your dream happen, you are opening the door for opportunity to come in," says Serena.

Some potential barriers to the trip becoming reality could be solved straightaway; others required creative thinking to overcome. "You can solve them because you are in that mode. Take care of the little steps and everything will fall into place."

Three years down the track this Hong-Kong born Kiwi is living the life. Ironically while she and her partner can earn what they need for cheap travel and accommodation by working one day a week as "technomads" (technology-enabled nomads) videoing, tending blogs and internet sites, business coaching and mentoring authors, they dedicate most of their week to non-paid work, in particular filming mini-documentaries about people who are making a difference in underdeveloped parts of the world, far from the tourist trail, for the www.fivepointfive.org point website.

"We work fulltime on fivepointfive but it not an income-generating site, it is our passion and we also have a team of volunteers helping us," says Serena. "We hope that by showing what these people are doing to the wider world, through the power of video, people will be willing to raise funds."

Also, to help offset travel costs, they make videos promoting hotels, travel companies and tours, receiving free travel and accommodation in return.

As she travels, Serena also mentors clients online and through Skype sessions. Part of that mentoring is asking clients to create bucket lists of things they want to achieve. Also she advocates filling out checklists ... assessing health, personal satisfaction, finances.

"This is to create a benchmark of where you are at. People get polarised on points of their lives, such as they don't have enough money or they haven't met the love of their life, and they get hung up on that. By doing the checklists they can appreciate what they have got ... a house, enough to eat and they can focus on what they do need to achieve. In six months they can look back and see how much they have achieved.

"The secret of success is taking action, people underrate that when it comes to a lack of money resources and time. Everyone has their plan. I have met people who are travelling with four young children; that situation brings so many challenges which would stop a lot of people but people can rise to those challenges, by taking action every day and making goals a reality.

"It's about creative persistence ... persist, persist, persist."

Back in New Zealand and Australia to catch up with family and friends and filming charity footage about the Just Zilch food surplus project in Palmerston North and an Auckland project where female prison inmates train mobility dogs, Serena and John have now started on the next stage of their world travels ... Europe for the northern summer and then Africa and Asia this year and next "and then we will come back to New Zealand and have babies", she says.

Her two books, based on her experiences, on how to succeed in 12 months "creating a life you love" and how to retire in 12 months, offer tips on committing to a plan to achieve goals, and learning how to problem-solve on the way to your new lifestyle.

The title of her first book, referring to retiring in 12 months, is a little tongue-in-cheek but also is about how she created the way she could work one day a week from anywhere in the world, harnessing the magic of a nomadic lifestyle.

And why the focus on 12 months, mentioned so often in her book and on her website www.in12months. com?

"I chose 12 months because you can change your life in 12 months. It is long enough to make major changes but you will not grow old in the process. Some things might take only two months, some others will take three years ... 12 months is long enough to do something."