When you were 17, what did you want to be?
Knowing that you were going to ask that, [I’ve been] thinking a lot about it, racking my brain, texting my parents, and when I was 17, I don't think I thought that much past what I was doing that weekend and getting [the] grades I needed to go where I wanted to for college. I don't think I had the foresight.
When I was younger, I always wanted to be a teacher. I loved my teachers, and I really liked school. It just seemed like, "Oh, I want to be like you, which means I want to be a teacher." And my mom was a teacher. But by 17 that had fallen off the radar.
How did you decide to attend University of Arizona?
It's funny because, applying to colleges, my parents were really adamant that I go out of state, so I applied to a lot of private schools in California, a few in Texas, University of Colorado Boulder, and then the U of A. Then [I] didn't get into a lot of the private schools that I applied to. I went to Boulder and toured it, and was thinking that's where I would go, [and] was pretty set on it.
Then, when it came time to decide, although a lot of the kids in my graduating class went out of state, my best friends were all going to the University of Arizona, and my boyfriend at the time went to the University of Arizona, and I panicked. My parents were not having it at first, but at the end of the day they're very much about me making my own decisions. I ended up going to the U of A, which, ultimately, ended up being a really great choice for me.
How did you choose your major?
I majored in Latin American studies, with an emphasis in history and sociology, and then I minored in business. I'm really lucky because my parents, my dad in particular, always said, "Your major doesn't matter, just study something you're interested in," which I think is really different from the message other people got.
I started my freshman year in psychology. And then I thought investigative journalism was really interesting. I remember talking to my dad about it, though, and he said, "But you don't like to write." And I thought, "That's an interesting point, and probably something to consider" [laughs]. Then I took an Intro to Latin American studies class, and I loved it. It was so interesting. It was a side of history that I hadn't really focused on in school, and I found it so fascinating.
At the end of the semester, I remember the professor stood up and said, "If you enjoyed this course, we have an amazing Latin American Studies Department here. It can be a really interesting major. You can go a lot of ways with it. Come talk to me if you're interested." So I went and met with the director of the Latin American studies department. And I just said, "Okay. Why not? I'll be a Latin American studies major." I think there were 10 of us in my graduating class.
It ended up being such a great choice. I really enjoyed the classes I took. After I made that decision, I decided that I wanted to study abroad that summer, so I applied for a program in Barcelona. I lived with a host family and traveled a little and just had an amazing time. I came back knowing that I wanted to go again for a longer period of time.
Within my major, they require that you spend a certain amount of time studying abroad in Latin America. I had heard amazing things about Buenos Aires, so I decided to apply to the Universidad de Belgrano.
I hadn't heard back [from them] before the beginning of the semester, but my study abroad counselor said, "Oh. It's fine. Just go down there. It'll be fine." I guess I didn't think anything of it because I bought a one-way ticket down there. I think she told me, "Once you get there, there'll be other people who need housing. You'll figure it out. It's fine." I got there a week before classes started, and I checked into a hotel. I still hadn't heard back about if I'd been accepted. I went to the admissions office at the school, and they said, "Yeah, sure, you're in." I told them I was looking for housing, and they just kind of looked at me like, "Good luck with that." I thought, "Oh, okay. I guess I'll wait until school starts so I can find some other people who maybe need someplace to live too," and I extended my stay at the hotel.
The first day of classes came along and everyone was there with their study abroad program. They were all in little groups, and they already knew each other. I started talking to people and everyone already had places to live. So I realized I had to figure this one out now.
I went on Craigslist, and I started emailing people using Google translate. I emailed this woman who lived half a block from my university, and she had three extra bedrooms that she rented out. I had my own bedroom, my own AC unit, which turned out to be very rare and much valued during the summer months. Our apartment had a pool. Ultimately, it ended up being a really good thing, although it was pretty stressful for the first two weeks I was down there, trying to figure that out and maneuver in Spanish. I was there for six months, and I fell in love with it. I traveled around. I went to Brazil and Chile and southern Argentina. Then I came back and finished my senior year.
How did you get from college to where you are now?
Throughout college, I thought maybe I wanted to go to law school and do something with human rights. That's a big emphasis in Latin American studies, the atrocities that have occurred throughout Latin America. But I knew I would take some time after I graduated, no matter what I decided to do next.
When I was a sophomore in high school, I did a summer program at UC San Diego. I took a college course and lived in the dorms and had the most amazing time. When I graduated, I didn't know what I wanted to do, and my dad recommended that I apply. So I spent six weeks living and working at UC Santa Barbara, taking high school students to Disneyland, and supervising them at their dances and stuff. It was fun.
After that, I went to New York to visit some friends. I was supposed to stay for five days, and I ended up staying for two weeks. I loved New York. So I flew back to Arizona, packed two suitcases of stuff, moved to New York, and signed a lease.
I got there and I didn't have a job. I remember the first day I was walking around, this girl approached me and said, "Hey," and just started talking to me. If I had lived in New York even two weeks, I would not have stopped to talk to a stranger on the street because you learn very quickly to just ignore it. But it was literally day one or two so I said, "Hey. What's up?" And she asked me if I wanted to be on a game show. Long story short, I ended up being on a hidden camera game show called Money From Strangers, and I won $2000. When I got the money, I bought a ticket to Thailand with it. That was my first trip to Asia.
The next day I printed out 50 resumes, and I had gotten a list of recommended restaurants. I was in the Meatpacking district, and I walked past a high-end Levi’s store, and I just popped in and starting talking to the guy there. He asked, "What are you doing?" and I said, "Oh, I'm walking around looking for a job." He said, "We're hiring," and I gave him my resume. That day, the Levi’s store and the restaurant that I went to both called and offered me a job.
I took both jobs, and I spent three months working seven days a week. After three months, I decided, "Okay. I'm sick of working seven days a week. I want a job that I'm more excited about and has more of a career path." I was searching for travel stuff because I love to travel, and I found an opening on LinkedIn for a luxury travel company based in New York, Absolute Travel. I didn't even know jobs like that existed.
I remember I applied online, and I just had a feeling that I needed to go in. I printed another resume and showed up at the office at 9:00 am on my way to work. There was no one there yet. I said, "I'm here for the job. I applied online, but I just wanted to come drop off my resume." I got an email a couple hours later that said, "This is the last day of interviews, but if you can come in at 1:00, we'll interview you." I interviewed on Friday, and I went back in on Tuesday, and then they offered me the job. It happened really fast.
I started as an assistant, and then I moved into sales. We planned comprehensive private luxury trips, and they wanted us to have the firsthand destination knowledge so I got to travel a ton. We would go on trips, stay in the hotels, take the tours, eat at the restaurants. I went to Thailand, Cambodia, Nicaragua, which was incredible. I went to the Maldives and Dubai. I had an incredible two-week trip to Peru with my mom and my best friend and her mom, which was really special.
We were only international travel, focused on much longer trips. But there was returning clientele who really wanted us to book shorter getaway trips as well, and that wasn't something that we were offering. It was actually the perfect segue for me to get into sales. I ended up becoming our luxury island specialist, going on weekend trips to the Caribbean.
I'd been there about four years, and I was just ready to get out from behind the desk. I loved New York City, but I wanted to travel more. I wanted to be abroad again. I just had that itch. Right around the same time, Nathan [Yates] and Sean [Harvey], [We Roam cofounders] who I was friends with, approached me and said, "We have this idea. We’re starting this company." Neither of them had booked travel or had travel experience, but they thought it was important to have someone on the team with a travel background.
I knew right from when we started talking about it that this sounded really interesting. It was hard because Absolute Travel had been such a great job for me. I loved the people I worked with. But they understood and wished me nothing but the best.
Once I left my job, I had a couple months in New York just being full-time We Roam. At that point, it was just Nathan, Sean, and me. It's funny because, at my old job, if I had a question, this is who I asked and this person would give me an answer because there was a method. But I realized really quickly, if I had a question there was no one to ask; we just had to make a decision about it, which was exciting and terrifying at times.
I went down to South America on a scouting trip to Buenos Aires. It was the first time I'd been back since studying abroad there, which was really special. After that, it was really just a whirlwind of packing up my apartment. Then I went back to Arizona for a short period of time and then down to South America where we started the trip. It all happened very fast.
Right now I'm splitting my time between program lead and director of travel operations, which, at times, is two full-time jobs. I’m looking forward to being able to really dedicate myself to the operations side of things, and also being there to support our other staff. At this point, We Roam is my baby. I think we all feel that way because we're so small. We all put so much into it. This is the foreseeable future, growing this for We Roam.
Looking back, what seems clear to you now?
I think it’s important to visualize what you want and truly believe that your goals are possible. One of my favorite quotes is from Paulo Coelho's, The Alchemist: "When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." I think that is absolutely true, if you're following your heart and believing in yourself and the outcome.
I've been really, really, fortunate in the path that I've taken. I think part of that is because I've had my parents and people in my life who were really insistent on me doing what made me happy and what I found interesting. That led me here. Not focusing on what is everyone else was studying, or climbing this ladder. Just looking for things that I liked has led me to where I am now, which, I think, is a really exciting point. Focus on things that you enjoy. Try not to worry too much about how it looks down the road. No matter how you envision things, it'll be different. Also, look for paths that could lead you to remote work, and then call me.