Changing your work-life to welcome more freedom and fulfillment is a process and a journey. Here, every month, we will share stories of women who are doing it. Real stories, real transformation. This is a virtual treasure chest -- full of the challenges, struggles, lessons and insights of others -- which you can use to enrich your own path.
This month’s featured “woman on purpose” is Lauren Amber Quinn, a former Mayor Willie Brown’s assistant, speech writer for the Ambassador of Egypt & Whiskey dive-bar Bartender. She’s currently running Casa Bromelia in Rio de Janeiro - a Travel Concierge & Villa on Ipanema Beach.
Describe the big shift you’ve made in your work-life. What led you to that change?
I used to go to an office every morning, crammed into a crowded bus, full of anxiety about what had to be achieved before 5 o’clock. This left me feeling "soul-less", lost in the repetition of fulfilling someone else’s dream. Living life in a box never was my style but the push to start a business under a palm tree was hard to find. A few years back, I travelled South America for half a year to work on my Spanish but decided to visit Brazil and check that box on my life’s list of must-sees. When I stepped off that plane, something stepped into me. I was in a country full of people that lived from their soul. It was on my 32nd birthday, and I finally said enough is enough. I’m moving out of my comfort zone, into fear but onto the road of my dream life.
Two years have passed and this California girl has begun two businesses in Rio de Janeiro. Casa Bromelia is both a Brazilian travel concierge and a villa to stay on Ipanema Beach. Now I wake up every morning, put on a bikini under a short colorful dress and begin a day where I take care of both other’s needs and my own. My output ends up being much higher because I adore what I do. But this didn’t just happen like that! It took a shift of inner priorities for me. I had to sit down and see what I really wanted from life and what consequences I was comfortable living with. When I chose to move to Rio de Janeiro, I had to let go of things that were very comfortable and that I worked very hard for. But that former life wasn’t serving my current needs. And yes, while I could have lived that former life longer, I knew that in the not too distant future I would reach that point of desperation and sadness for taking the easy road.
What were you most fearful of in making that change?
I left a situation where I was the expert in the language, the culture, my job. I moved to Brazil without knowing anyone nor speaking the language. This is the 4th country I have moved to outside of the states in my adult life. However, all of the others had some vehicle which helped me assimilate (i.e. college, a job, or a partner I moved with). At the time, I moved to Brazil. My anxiety was through the roof imagining that I would fail with what I told myself I would do. My saving grace was that I purposely chose to ignore any personal analysis involving ‘WHY’ I was doing what I was doing and just keep going forward. I lead with 100% of my heart, knowing that if I believed my dream was already happening and started living my life as if that change was my truth, then success would have no choice but to follow.
How is your experience of life different now?
I moved to Brazil because I was lacking certain life skills that I felt were fundamental to my happiness. I wasn’t achieving them at my job that was ‘pretty on paper’, nor in a city that put such a high value on the ‘individual’. So I chose to integrate into a culture that naturally possesses the skills I desired. In Rio, I have learned (without a choice really) to go slower, to find fulfillment with less, and focus on the essentials of life: the sea, the song, the love, and the family. I still wage battle frequently with my American, organized, get it done yesterday self; but, the energy and calmness of the entire society around me is a constant reminder to let go of that struggle. I was always one to stop and smell the flowers, but that is simple to accomplish when you have designated a 2-week vacation with no outside stress factors. My deep craving before I moved, was to remember this every day. And although one may now live in a tropical paradise, stress and pain still exist. I accept now that I am who I am no matter where I am in the world. Change comes from within. Today, I am benefiting from the teachings of the Brazilian culture in the ‘Art of Letting Go’.
What’s your biggest concern in this moment?
Maintain the balance. Working for myself, I find it difficult to put limits on my time. There were months where I saw the ocean from my bedroom window, but never touched my feet to the sand. It is a daily mantra to remember that while physically my surroundings have changed, my mind needs to keep up. The beauty of Brazil is the simplicity and traditional way of doing things. I go to the farmer’s market to get my fruits and vegetables, the bakery for bread, the butcher for meat and the cafe for local coffee. It is warm, so we jump in the ocean frequently to feel good throughout the day. Brazilians also love chatting, so friends will stop by your house every single day to say hello. What I am trying to say is that life’s little details take more time here. But that is exactly the point, these details ARE life! My goal is to accept life as it is and make the appropriate time to feel fulfilled in all aspects.
What are you most excited about going forward?
Last year, I began to expand the brand of Casa Bromelia to include a Rio Travel Concierge. So many visitors to this city leave with a plastic experience and do not have access to Rio’s vibrancy. Think: ‘Underground Samba parties’ and ‘Stepping onto the page of a local’s life’. This year I have been featured in Esquire & Elle magazines as Rio’s go-to-gal for cultural immersion. I thrive off the process of getting to know my guests and tailor-make a trip that meets their expectations. Whether that be chatting with locals at hole-in-the-wall classic bars & finding rustic beaches or seeing the Christ statue from a helicopter and drinking champagne on a rooftop bar. I adore facilitating their real life fantasy of Brazil and creating a space for them to share, explore, heal, relax and be inspired.
If you could travel back in time, what’s one piece of advice that your current self wishes that you could tell your former self?
Don’t worry about what might happen tomorrow. It prevents you from seeing what is happening now. I wasted so much time and energy imagining how I could find solutions to problems that never ended up happening. I’d give a little piece of Brazil to my former self and remind her there is an art of letting go.
Originally from California, now based in Brazil, Lauren is the creator of Casa Bromelia a Rio de Janeiro Travel Concierge, & International media acclaimed Rio cultural specialist. She has lived in India, Paris, London, San Francisco, L.A. & Brazil; but she thrives off of tropical beaches, good food and conversation at a local’s watering hole. You can follow Lauren and Casa Bromelia through her Facebook, Casa Bromelia Rio Tours' Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, and website.