Anyhow, a bit of background info:
From as far back as I can remember, I've always had a fascination with technology and how things work especially computers. While I was good with them from a young age, it never really truly took form until I was 14 and my mum got the first family PC. Within the first six months of tinkering, finding my way around problems, I was already at the stage where I was the unofficial computer guy at school helping teachers fix classroom PCs, sorting out software problems etc. I had always has a fascination with hackers and was one of the first things I started researching when my mum got the internet.. it wasn't long before I was messing around with Trojans doing things I shouldn't be. I never really took it any further as I didn't really have the time alongside my other interests but I was satisfied with impressing my friends.
Once I finished school at 16, I was able to get my first job almost straight away as a Junior Technician for a decent sizes IT firm. While I learned a fair bit and initially enjoyed it, I became quite discouraged after quite a few of my older coworkers gave me a really hard time I assumed because of my age. Within the first three months, I quit the job and it left a bitter taste in my mouth about pursuing an IT career so I left it there.
Anyhow ten years on, that interest has been slowly coming back and I'm now at the stage where I want to pursue an IT career again sometime in the not to distant future. The passion for learning new stuff and tinkering has returned and I'm very eager to get started however I was hoping for a little guidance and advice from people on here.
Seeing as it's been, I've decided to start almost completely from the beginning to fill in all the gaps in my knowledge I have. The only things I'm confident in is my Windows OS (not server) knowledge and computer hardware so pretty damn basic. My first three priorities are to get some experience with both Windows Server, Linux and grasp a good understanding of networking to CCNA level.
Now my biggest problem is that I'm not much of a bookworm. I've always been a hands on kind of guy and learn much better this way. Now books are important and I've already got a few to go through like Odom's CCNA study guides however despite all the reading I plan on doing, I want to be practicing what I'm learning as best I can so I'm not just a walking book. Now I could go out and start buying some Cisco equipment and Windows Server OS etc however I'm fairly certain there are more cost effective solutions such as virtual machines and lab sims. Unfortunately though I don't really know much about that sort of stuff yet and was hoping some people could point me in the right direction.
Any info would be greatly appreciated.