When my Aunt Marge was alive, I visited her as often as possible. She was eager to hear about my travels and recent adventures. Somewhere in the conversation, she would exclaim, “Oh, you meet the most interesting people.”

I totally agreed, of course.

While I have a long list of things I love about being self-employed, Meeting Interesting People is one of my favorite perks. People who are passionately engaged in what they’re creating are pilgrims on the road to Being More.

That may not have entered their mind when they began following their ideas, but it is a powerful bonus of creating and sharing their unique offerings.

One of the things I love most is watching a new business evolve. Although I hadn’t met her at the time, I still recall the email I got from Connie Solera telling me about her plans to leave teaching and create more art.

Her Dirty Footprints Studio has been responsible for helping women from all over the world get in touch with their creative spirit. Recently, Connie did two painting retreats in Oaxaca, Mexico and shared each day’s activities on Facebook.

I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who waited patiently for those lively posts that arrived every evening. Fearless Painting, indeed! Go see for yourself what these women produced.

It’s also fascinating to me how people find each other. I recently did a Skype call with Tiffoni Lewis and her husband Neil. They are building a fun mobile pottery painting business from their home near San Antonio, Texas.

A while back, Tiffoni’s father came to my seminar in Las Vegas. He later sent me a note saying he wanted to give her a gift subscription to Winning Ways newsletter. That led to an email from Tiffoni asking if we could chat.

When I was growing up, the people I knew were mostly those who lived in the same small town. Creating a business that involves travel expanded my horizons and my circle of friends.

Just this morning I had a message from Carlo Pescatori. I met this entrepreneurial Venetian when my sisters, brother and I rented an apartment from him several years ago. Last week, I had a message from Kathie Kelling in Phoenix who is planning a trip to Venice and was seeking advice. I promptly thought of Carlo’s place and sent along information to her.

Connecting people with each other is another fun perk of the Joyfully Jobless Journey.

This morning’s email also had a message from Patrice Wynne, a delightful woman I met on my trip to San Miguel de Allende in December. Patrice has a lovely textile shop that uses local talent to produce its’ products.

The shop, named Abrazos, Spanish for embrace, benefits the community in numerous ways including employing local seamstresses to produce the bathrobes, shirts, aprons and other colorful items sold in the shop.

Visit their site and read about their collaborations with museums including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts who are selling items from Abrazos in conjunction with exhibits of Frida Kahlo’s work and other Mexican artists.

When I was starting out in my seminar business, I offered a program on creating a mail order business. While I am enthusiastic about this sort of profit center, I wasn’t nearly so thrilled with teaching the class since it seemed to attract misanthropes. I removed it from my repertoire after only two sessions.

Of course, the internet has made it possible for people who don’t like people to run a business with no direct human contact.

That would never work for me.

As Caroline Myss so wisely advised us, “We evolve at the rate of the tribe we’re plugged into.”  Wishing you a tribe as wonderful as mine.

The first goal I ever set for myself was to never have two years that were exactly the same. I had found it frighteningly boring to spend my time going to jobs in the same place at the same time with the same people.

I wanted to welcome surprises and unexpected delights. Self-employment has made that possible in ways I never dreamed it could at the beginning of this journey.

Although much of my work is done at home, I’m always working on new projects and have found all sorts of ways to mix things up. Even so, the past week managed to surpass some of the others in terms of variety and pure enjoyment.

It began on November 14 when I joined my sisters Nancy and Becky in Santa Barbara for a splendid evening listening to author Alexander McCall Smith.  Not only was he the first speaker I’ve heard talk while wearing a kilt, his extraordinary storytelling skills kept us laughing for ninety minutes.

This was even more special since I’ve spent the past several months reading his 44 Scotland Street series. Obviously, I’m not alone in loving McCall Smith who is stunningly prolific. He also has something like 25,000,000 copies of his books in print.

The next day, my friend Judy Miranda fetched me and we headed to Phoenix for the second Fund Your Life Overseas Conference. Judy has an import business called Global Hand Artisans and is devoted to selling handmade goods she uncovers in places such as Guatemala.

Despite the long drive, it was great fun to catch up with her since we hadn’t seen each other for sometime. In the interim, we had both added some new stamps to our passports so we had many travel tales to share.

On Sunday, the 16th, the conference began and it was 2 1/2 days of non-stop talking and learning. I met old friends and made new ones. I talked to attendees from all over the country.

Equally fun was seeing speakers, some of them already expats, who shared great how-to information on creating portable businesses. I did three talks aimed at helping participants build their entrepreneurial mindset—something that’s as useful as a passport if you want to see the world and get paid at the same time.

We headed back to California on Wednesday morning after stopping for breakfast at the home of Judy’s friends. Judy had lived in Phoenix for many years and loves reconnecting.

As we were sitting at the kitchen table with Sarah and Larry Soller, I was surprised to discover that Larry was also an ex-Minnesotan. Even more intriguing to me was finding out that we were English majors at the same college at the same time.

Larry also was active in theater and spent many years as a college theater professor himself. Although he no longer teaches on a regular basis, Larry is active doing voiceover work and is an enthusiastic volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.

The entire week was a glorious reminder that the world is full of people who can enrich our lives—if we take time to find them and pay attention. Or as Caroline Myss reminds us, “We evolve at the rate of the tribe we’re plugged into.”

People who spend their days interacting the with same people over and over again often find it  difficult to open a conversation with anyone they don’t already know.

It’s always surprising, for instance, to watch a seminar room fill up and notice how few people greet their fellow learners. How could you not be curious, I wonder, about others who are about to share a learning adventure with you?

When we don’t reach out to others, we are literally ignoring the largest natural resource that we have—the potential of other humans. We also become less trusting and more cynical.

When we are genuinely curious about others, however, we may find inspiration when we least expect it.

A few years ago, a plumber came to make some repairs in my apartment. As he was fixing my dishwasher, I asked him if he worked exclusively for the property owner.

He spun around and said, “No! I own my own business.” I feared I had insulted him. He opened his jacket and showed me his t-shirt which bore the name and logo of his company as proof.

“So how long have you worked for yourself?” I asked. I expected a brief reply, but what I got was a fascinating story.

Lee had been studying veterinary medicine, he said, when his wife died in a boating accident. Since he had two young children, he found being a full-time student and caring for them too difficult.

When he dropped out of college, a friend, who owned a small apartment building, offered to give them a place to live in exchange for some handyman work. “That was the last apartment I ever lived in,” Lee told me.

He decided to buy a run down house, moved in with his kids, fixed it up and sold it for a nice profit. Then he did it again—and again.

Along the way, he decided to learn about investing and put some of his profits into the stock market. He did very well at that, too. Meanwhile, his plumbing/handyman business grew alongside these other ventures.

“Until two years ago, I didn’t even have a listed telephone number,” he laughed. “My business just kept growing by referrals and word of mouth.”

Then he looked thoughtful. “I guess I could retire, but why should I? I love driving around in my truck with all my tools. And I get to learn new things all the time. That thing I just did to your dishwasher? I’ve never done that before!” He was beaming as he made his confession.

That little conversation with someone who was so obviously joyfully about being self-employed kept me going all day. And I’m willing to bet that my genuine curiosity about Lee’s life made his day better, too.

Learning to be comfortable in the presence of strangers has benefits beyond merely making the day a bit more pleasant: it can have a positive impact on our mental health.

Psychologist Alfred Adler observed, “It is the individual who is not interested in his fellow men who has the greatest difficulties in life and provides the greatest injuries to others.”

Think about that for a moment and I’m guessing you can think of someone who fits Adler’s description.

Being at ease with a wide range of people is a skill worth cultivating. It can lead to opportunities you never imagined and to connections with people who make life richer.

Why wouldn’t you want to reach out when the rewards are so big?