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.”

It’s one of the more delightful bonuses of the entrepreneurial life that we not only can earn money as we travel, we also can be far more selective about our travels than those wornout corporate types whom we see dragging themselves through airports.

In Karen Rauch Carter’s Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life she tells how she used feng shui to add energy to her entrepreneurial travels: “In my single, more worldly days, I found a way to travel internationally three years in a row—with very little money.

“I  wanted to spend some time in Hawaii. Since I am a landscape architect, I decided to put some of my energy toward getting a license to practice there. That little bit of energy went a long way.

“I eventually flew over to take the licensing exam. At the testing location, I met an architect from California (also taking the test) who had a hotel project that needed a landscape architect. He said, ‘If you pass the test, give me a call’.

“Long story short—I got the job and had to go to Hawaii on business five times. Each time I was able to extend the trip a few days so I could tour the islands.”

Feng shui and creative thinking can give your travel dreams a big boost, of course. So can giving up the thought that you must always pay in order to go places.

“I used to believe that you needed money to travel,” says writer Gregg Levoy. “But one of the great astonishments of my life has been the discovery that you don’t need money to travel. You need enough credentials to convince others to pay for your travel.”

If you are being paid to see the world, it’s equally important that the work you are being paid to do is richly satisfying in and of itself.

Too many people have put up with toxic jobs for the occasional travel benefits. If working for the airlines or joining the military is your grandest dream, by all means go for it. If not, you’re making a bad trade.

Whether you’re doing research for a book you intend to write or buying jewelry to sell on eBay, your travels will take on a grander dimension if they’re an intrinsic part of a bigger goal. Here are some other tips for getting your travel bug fed:

* Build confidence at home.  You could plop down in Venezuela and offer your services as a Web designer for companies wanting an English Web site.

It makes more sense to figure out your marketing strategy and delivery system before you go by actually starting such a business in your own backyard.

While you may find unexpected opportunities in a distant place, at least part of your plan should include operating from your experience and confidence.

* Become really good at what you do. Your mastery will be as good as a passport for taking you places.

If you are a freelance anything  (well, almost anything) adding a portable profit center to your enterprises should be fairly easy.

Your clients don’t all have to live in close proximity so why not find some in an exotic locale? If you do, don’t be surprised if the fact that you’ve come from afar adds to your mystique and leads to even more clients.

* Develop your ability to spot opportunity.  You don’t have to act on every great idea you get, but you do have to open your mind to the fact that opportunities are everywhere.

Challenge yourself to find problems that need solving or needs that are unmet. If you are constantly on the alert, you will find opportunities that cry out for your attention. Get in the habit of thinking up ways you could take advantage of neglected ideas.

Once you begin to see for yourself how many possibilities exist, you will know beyond all doubt that you can find money-making opportunities no matter where you are.

If you’re willing to do the work to profit from them, you’re on your way to becoming an intrepid traveler with a well-fed (and grateful) travel bug.