When you were 17, what did you want to be?
I wouldn't say that I knew. I knew that I was passionate about sports, and a career in something athletic sounded really good. But also, I always wanted to see the world. With synchronized swimming, from a young age I started traveling the U.S. a lot, and it just sparked my curiosity. I really wanted to go abroad, but I was doing sports so much that I couldn't even do a summer Europe trip or something, but the second I could get abroad I did.
I started [synchronized swimming] when I was seven, and I was just really blessed to grow up by an amazing club team. If you excelled and put your mind to it, you could be on an Olympic or at least national team track. It wasn't a sport that I immediately liked, but for me it became this challenge of not wanting to quit. The other girls started to drop like flies in high school because you're trying to get good enough grades to get into college (being from the Bay Area, it's very academic focused). So even though I didn't love the sport, I had made it so far, and my goal just became to do it through high school. The schedule was really intense, we were practicing 30+ hours a week, I had no social life. When I was 17, I went to Olympic trials, which was a milestone. It was like a mini career, a teenage career.
In the fall I did water polo too. I would go straight from water polo practice to synchro practice, barely keeping my eyes open. I don't even know if I did homework. It's all a massive blur, but I fell in love with water polo.
I started water polo when I was 15 - all the synchro girls would at least try water polo because we had the eggbeater down. So if we could learn a little hand- eye coordination we were aces, you know? I just immediately fell in love. I feel like it's my soul sport. I never maybe got as good as I could have been, but I just think it's an amazing sport.
How did you decide to attend San Diego State University?
Recruiting trips were coming up senior year, and the two best teams for synchro were Ohio State and Stanford. I think [Ohio] was the best at the time, and a lot of my really close friends were thinking about going. We all went on a recruiting trip together, a big game weekend against Michigan, they put us on the 50 yard line, first row. [It was a] beautiful time to be in Ohio in the fall, you're there with all your friends, they're taking you to all these cool athlete parties. But deep down I wasn't in love with this sport and I just had to face that.
So then I wanted to do water polo in college, and I went to Nationals one year in San Diego and I became obsessed with the city. I researched the best water polo schools in San Diego, and it was San Diego State, so that was that. Giving up synchro was hard, but my heart was out of it.
How did you choose your major?
It's such a young age to choose a major, but I'd seen people in college changing majors and taking longer than four years, and I made this personal pact that I was going to choose a major and get out in four years. [But] I really didn't know what I wanted to do. Both of my parents were business majors and San Diego State had a really good business program, so I got a business management degree, which was pretty broad. Now knowing the person that I am, half my brain is very business and I love the pragmatism, but I have a very creative side too which I wasn't as in tune with back then.
What I actually wish is that my parents had sat me down and said, "Hey, this is college, these majors will prepare you for a career in law, or this, or that, and these ones are pretty broad but maybe a more subject specific, and you might need to get a master's." I think if I could do it all again, it would be art history, graphic design, or history in general.
I studied abroad in Spain and that was my first time not in North America. I loved it so much and I knew I needed to travel as much as possible. I purposely chose Valencia, not Barcelona because I thought I would be challenged more with my Spanish, which I was. I was very used to the Mexican accent and I thought I had a good grasp on the language, but then I went to Valencia and it's like French/Spanish. I didn't progress as fast as I wanted to at that time, but I was okay with that. It was an amazing experience, and it validated how much I wanted to see the world
How did you get from college to where you are now?
In hindsight, I think I needed some decompression from sports and my very organized life up to that point. It might have looked like I wasn't career focused, but I just needed to unravel. So I was working in events in hotels, and it was fun, but my goal was basically work a lot, travel, work a lot, travel, and I did that for a long time. I would book one to three month trips and say, "Hey, I'm leaving. I'll check in with you guys when I come back, but..." They always asked me back, which was really nice.
And then in 2009, I took a trip to the Caribbean. One of my best friends was living there at that time, so my twin sister and I went out to the Caribbean and we were on this beach that you can only boat to, so there aren’t very many tourists. Beautiful trinkets and things washed up to shore, and we were so inspired. We just collected a ton of this stuff, and when we got home we decided to start a jewelry company.
It lasted about four years. Sometimes it would be all we were doing, but we still had our other jobs. We did an event with LA Fashion Week, we were working with stylists in LA, and it was super fun. Our stuff was really different. We called our living room a sweatshop.
Then in 2010, I was in Bali. My two friends had just gotten done with the Olympics, and this was our post-travel trip after we had been in China watching them compete. We went to this beautiful dinner and there were fire dancers and aerialists, but there was this beautiful pool and nothing in it. So we said, "Hey, do you want a swim show?"
So we just got into our hotel pool and threw this routine together, and it went great. We kept in touch with this hotel and this production company, and in the summer of 2010 I was going to go and perform out in Bali for the summer. We organized our lives for three months, ditched our apartments and jobs, and it fell through at the last minute. But we were hell bent on not staying in the States that summer. And then a friend of a friend said we could stay with her in Australia.
So I just go to this stranger’s house outside of Brisbane, who’s now one of my best friends. We had our jewelry company going, we brought all of our supplies out there like straight gypsy girls on the loose. We would just do little trunk shows and walk into boutiques, and we sold a lot of stuff. It paid for so much on that trip, which was awesome.
After my competitive aquatic career, I barely touched a pool for years. But then, when I moved to LA in 2011, a gal that I had grown up competing against said, "Hey, let's put a professional group together." There was a group in LA getting a lot of the performance work in movies, TV, and private parties. I had interviewed with them but we all just wanted to do our own thing. Four of us started this group and it went really well, we started getting amazing work. We were in a Lady Gaga music video, we were in the Entourage movie, we did really cool private parties where they made us sign NDAs.
How did you get into solar?
My aunt and uncle had gone solar, and they live in west LA and they always had these cute little parties in the garden of their house. I went to one and there was this guy who had been their sales agent for their solar system, and we became buds. I remember he texted me and said, "Hey, the office needs a lot of help. Do you know someone?" And I said, "Sure, I'll help."
At this time we were transitioning out of the jewelry, so I was in this gray area. I went in and this office was a mess. They’d had an established company in France, and they just thought they could come to LA and copy and paste the same model, but it's just not like that; there are different rules and regulations. I saw it as this opportunity to learn the industry, so I just made every mistake in the book and taught myself.
That company went under, but it was perfect timing because I had gotten this gig in Dubai to be a mermaid in the aquarium. We had mini scuba tanks on our backs, and we choreographed a show for the Dubai aquarium. I went to Dubai that summer for five weeks for the show, and then I traveled Europe and the Middle East for five weeks after.
When I came back, the main sales manager from that job was starting his own company, so he brought me on as his director of operations. That company went under too because we were just start-up style. The great thing was that I was working remotely for both of those companies, so I always kept this vision of looking for a travel job; that was always in the back of my mind.
And then from there I started working for my third solar company. It was a very solid company, and I loved it so much. But there was so much work to be done. They were still working out of manila folders, which I'm all about virtual...I mean, we're a solar company for God’s sake, how can we be printing like that? So I said, "I'm down to take this job, but once I launch this and get your company going, can I work from home?" And they said yeah.
So with everything virtual, I started planning my own work-travel trip for April, May, and June, the inspiration being going to AfrikaBurn with my friend who’s South African who does virtual work too. We started planning a three-month trip, and then I started seeing Remote Year other programs.
I had my interview with We Roam and it went so well. I'm a person who’s very feeling and intuition driven, and We Roam was going so many places that I was planning to go anyway, like Morocco, Spain, Czech Republic, Berlin. I pitched it to my work, and they were really cool. The one question they asked was, "How's the Wi-Fi in South America?" Since then, our company's grown amazingly; I have an assistant, and I trained her totally virtually, and I can't wait to meet her in person. I work California hours, and I’ve realized through this trip I'm a very adaptable person. Working 5:00 pm to 2:00 am does not bother me at all. I'm actually excited to go to Asia and start work at midnight. And having later start days inspired me to think about how else I want to fill my time, so I’m going back to school.
Looking back, what seems clear to you now?
I think that there is this American way of being of, "What's your passion? Is that related to your career?" But I'm really trying to convert out of that mindset, and think of it more as a bird's eye view like, "I'm traveling, I love my job, it's great for the environment and the world."
I watched this amazing talk by Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote Eat, Pray, Love, and her main point is that there are two kinds of people in this world: jackhammers and hummingbirds. She said, "I knew I wanted to be a writer, I was gonna do whatever I needed to do to get there.” Like a jackhammer. But she said, "Hummingbirds just kind of go around and populate the world." And I think I'm more like that.
I know it's cheesy, but I think just finding a way to stay balanced and be inspired is what I've realized is so important. We're not our highest highs and we're not our lowest lows, we're kind of like the space, the calm, in between. So just figure out how to get to that space and be okay with yourself, which will be a lifelong journey, but just be okay with the space.