How Traveling Alone Completely Changed My Life

florence travel inspiration life changing freedom ochre and beige build your business legacy

What do you think of when Europe comes to mind? Fresh basil-topped pizzas and handmade pasta in Italy? Impossibly tiny coffees in Paris? Quaint architecture older than the United States itself?

I’d say all of the above!

Today, I’m going to get a little personal with you here on the blog and share the story that took me from a lackluster, passionless life to one that I’m excited to wake up to every day. Literally.

It started with asking my then-boss for a two-week vacation from work. It was the first time in several years that I’d ever dared to take so much time off, but one of my dearest friends and co-workers insisted that there was a big, wide world out there and I needed to see it.

She was right.

I took that first vacation to Europe in early 2017. It included stops in Switzerland, Italy, and France, and having spent most of my life in California and all of it in the U.S., these countries completely blew me away. (If you’ve been to Europe, was it the same for you??)

It’s also worth mentioning that I traveled alone.

Sure it was scary, and I was usually too shy to ask questions when I got lost, but it changed me. Being completely dependent on myself, making choices for me and me alone, and exploring wherever my heart took me — it was liberating and empowering!

But most importantly, I realized that up to that point, I hadn’t really been living my life.

“I can remember the exact moment, sitting under a tree in the Roman Forum writing in my little journal, when I thought to myself… I need to change my life.”

The only question was… how?

roman forum ancient ruins inspiration design 2000 year old city

The Roman Forum, a city of ancient ruins next to the Colosseum and the site of the epiphany that would change my life.

The best (and only) flight I ever missed

At the time of that first vacation, I was working 9-to-5 for a tech startup in San Francisco. My time there was extremely valuable — full of learning, personal and professional growth, and some really great people — but I didn’t feel passionate about my work. I felt pulled to pursue my creative talents on my terms. (I bet you can relate!)

So, fast forward a few months and I’d done something else completely out of character for me. I quit my job and traveled back in Europe, staying with some friends in a tiny village in Switzerland, working on a novel of all things, and pondering what to do next.

I had planned to stay for a month and even had a flight booked back to the U.S. But as the date of my flight loomed, I couldn’t shake this little voice in my head saying, “You’re not done here.”

I missed my flight. Intentionally. And I never miss flights.

“The day after I missed my flight, I met the man I love.”

The first thing I noticed about D. was his uncommonly bright spirit. Seems an odd thing to say, but his outlook on life captivated me from the start. Within hours, I discovered an even kinder heart, a sharp mind, a shared love of travel, and this crazy feeling that we’d known each other all our lives. (It doesn’t hurt that he’s Italian either!)

I knew in that moment that I had to find a way to stay, and after a few months of doing the long-distance relationship thing, I did. The next year, I officially packed up one suitcase and one backpack (I know, what kind of limit is that?!) and crossed the pond.

It was a leap of faith, and it’s true, this story could have had a sad ending. But two years later, D and I are still together, living happily in Switzerland and cooking up plans to travel the world together in 2020 (don’t worry, O&B will still be running at full speed!).

2020 Edit: 3 years later, we are not traveling the world (womp, womp), but we are married and back in Switzerland! 

ochre-and-beige-story-how-it-began

Yes, we’re mountain people!

Creating a Business and a Lifestyle you love

And, in the midst of ALL that, I started Ochre & Beige.

In truth, it ended up being one of those serendipitous things that happened when hard work met luck and all the experiences I’d ever had in my life. I loved writing (still do) and knew I wanted to make it a career. But what was I going to write about and for whom? I loved traveling and knew I wanted to be mobile. But how was I going to find a job that let me travel as much as I wanted?

I have to give a shoutout to Kate the Socialite, a good friend of mine, who recommended the interior design and home industry. She planted the seed, and one day a little light bulb went off in my head that said, “Duh, you studied design for years at Stanford University — of course, you could write for and enjoy this awesome industry!”

But — gulp! — that meant I would have to start a business. But hadn’t I already seen how it was done in my years at the startup, helping the company grow from 0 clients to thousands, 5 employees to over 30?

Yes, yes I did!

“For maybe the first time in my life, I didn’t analyze every little thing that could possibly go wrong. I dove into entrepreneurship, moved abroad, and mentally committed to succeeding.”

And somehow, I’ve succeeded. Blogging definitely helped, and yes, there was hard work involved (there always is), but it worked. I’m finally right where I’m meant to be. And that feeling — that sense of accomplishment, getting paid to truly help others, balancing work and passion and life — is one I have never felt in any job before.

What’s Next?

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know exactly where Ochre & Beige is going next, and that’s fine by me. I love the idea of having a business that can grow with me and my life. One that brings me freedom in every sense of the word.

And that’s exactly what I want for you, too. So if you’re a fellow entrepreneur — a designer of interiors, your business, and your life — I would love to support you. Leave me a comment below and let’s do what women do and lift each other up. 🙂

Xoxo,

Jaquilyn

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  1. Elizabeth says:

    I LOVE this!!
    You are so smart to listen to your inner self and go after what you KNEW your soul needed!! I can’t wait to follow you and D all over the world!!
    xo

  2. Mazuryk says:

    Wow, that’s an interesting story! Good for you!