After going on a group tour alone, I became obsessed with the idea of traveling solo. Four years of excuses (that often arose in the form of worries and cost) later, I finally booked my first real solo trip to Australia.
It was so freeing. I could literally do whatever I wanted every day. Sleep, hike, swim, surf, party. I felt so independent, confident and badass. When I shared my experience and encouraged other girlfriends to go, most girls were like “Uh, no. You’re crazy.” They had all these reasons not to do it. The biggest being fear of loneliness and safety. I was like craaaap, they're missing out on this amazing experience because it's new, scary, and unfamiliar.
That moment this travel coaching idea was born. GirlGoTravel gives girls the guts and confidence to travel solo through 1-on-1 coaching sessions and personalized travel guides (complete with safety and pre-trip tips). I also wrote an ebook that helps girls figure out how budget now, finance the trip and save money during the trip.
Who/What inspires you?
People. I love getting to know people in a real, honest way. I want to know how they grew up, what their beliefs are, what we agree and disagree on. Getting into that deep, vulnerable place with someone revitalizes my soul. I leave the conversation inspired by new perspectives, grateful for the meaningful experience and full of ideas. Hopefully the other person left the conversation with some mind-changing thoughts as well.
Travel tends to amplify this experience, especially if you’re traveling solo. Conversations abroad open your eyes and have the ability to shake your world. This is why I started a coaching business for traveling solo. By doing what makes me feel alive (coaching and traveling), I can inspire and help other girls have their own meaningful experiences.
I don’t leave my house without… turning off all the lights!
People would say that I am… wildly passionate and inspirational
The most important aspect of any business is… knowing your purpose and beliefs (customers will come when you have a firm point of view on something)
My favorite business book of all time is… The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau. It kicked my butt into gear and got me to focus on starting my business
How has being an entrepreneur affected your life? How did it change the way you think about life?
So I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur. I was always a thinker. Strategizing and perfecting the ideas and never doing anything with it. With GirlGoTravel, I still dwelled on it, but I finally made a website and showed it to friends and family. Getting feedback was more helpful than I realized. Understanding the power of feedback changed my approach to ideas. I can still think it through but I have to produce something. It’s the only way to feel progress, which motivates you, and to improve the first draft.
Is there one “rookie mistake” that new entrepreneurs keep on making? What is it? Did it happen to you?
We all know we need a community around our business so the first place we go is social media. Social media is free and where people are. However, I think we need to prioritize and think about how much time you invest in social media, especially if you’re a one-band woman like me. After launching I got really into my Instagram page and Facebook page. I got a lot of followers in a short time but it was time consuming. Then I thought, is this really the right way to invest my time and energy? What am I getting out of it? Am I getting clients? The answer was no, not really. I realized my real, potential clients lied in my email subscription list, which I had put in the back burner for two weeks. Social media distracted me from my real fans and potential clients. Although I still have all those pages, I prioritize my time and energy now.
What is failure?
I hate the word failure. Failure is a fear built up by society. It’s a powerful notion used in the wrong way. It reinforces the pressure to be perfect, successful and number 1. People associate failure with themselves being a failure rather than a thing they did failing. Because of how people talk and think about it, it stops them from trying new things and putting themselves out there. Failure should encourage the exact opposite.
I think we need to start talking and thinking about failure differently. There are a couple ways to think it:
Disconnect yourself from failure. Instead of you being a failure, make it about your product or idea. Remove yourself from the issue. It’s about it not you. Doing this makes it easier to get over the hump and find ways to fix it..
Change the idea of failure to failing. Failure feels like it’s the end, but failing doesn’t. Failing is part of the process to greatness. When your product, idea, or attempt fails, it means something was off that you can change. It presents the opportunity to learn something, change your approach and make it better.
The only way to be a failure is to not try. You learn the most when you make a mistake but if you never try then you can’t learn. Give yourself the chance to try, fail and learn.
If you change the way you think about failure, then you open yourself up to so many opportunities. You open yourself up to be kinder to yourself, to doing things you love, to taking chances and seeing where life takes you.
What are some pros and cons of having (OR not having) entrepreneurial parents?
I My Mom is a teacher and my Dad did odd jobs growing up so I wasn’t really exposed to entrepreneurism growing up. Starting this side business came with plenty of growing pains. My Mom fully supports me doing it but she gets nervous about legal and financial things, which is legit. Sometimes it made me nervous too but it the end it made me take steps to protect my business and myself. Having entrepreneurial parents would’ve made this journey a lot less scary and tough, but then again I like that I had to figure it out myself. I’ve learned so much through the process and feel better off for it.
Christina Salerno is a former professional Rockstar (seriously!) turned expert in Individuality, Mindset, and Creativity for people who think differently, break the mold, and are too extraordinary to fit into typical boxes. As the Founder of Living Quirky, and a Leadership Coach of Secret :: Lightning, her mission is to help you harness your innate superpowers and carve your own path to fulfillment. Through deep internal reflection and real world playful experiments, she pairs science + mysticism in order to awaken a more fully alive way of being.
How did your past experiences (school, work, childhood, family etc.) help you get to where you are today?
I took a very unconventional path as I never went to college and instead have learned everything from real world experiences, hustling to learn on my own, and surrounding myself with amazing mentors. The world is filled with opportunities to experiment and fail and create your own version of life. Insight means you have clarity and then you take action which is very useful. Outsight is when you may or may not have a sense of direction, but the clarity comes from experiences out in the world. And, those outsights can be quite powerful.
Is entrepreneurship something that anyone can tackle? What is the most important thing to consider?
Yes, I believe anyone can tackle entrepreneurship. However, do you WANT to is the real question to be asking. Being entrepreneur takes a willingness to try and fail and try and fail some more. It takes creativity to think differently and make outrageously bold actions. It takes commitment to growth and embracing all of the ups and downs. It is hard. You may not want to do those things. You can absolutely still find incredible organizations where your entrepreneurial spirit can thrive without having to do it on your own.
What are some ways of motivating yourself in times of doubt? Do you ever feel like giving up? Why do you keep going?
I like to look at my path like a river. Sometimes there are white water rapids, and sometimes there is still water. Sometimes there are boulders in the way, and sometimes I get stuck in the mud of the river bank. The feeling of wanting to give up tends to happen just before a breakthrough. It’s often showing an important message or change of direction for you. I keep going because I can’t not keep going. I owe it to myself and the people I can serve powerfully to take a nap, breath deeply and listen for the quiet voice which tells me how to find my way through the moments of doubt.
Is it important to set goals or is it better to just “go with the flow”? What is your strategy?
I have a philosophy of mixing structure + flow. Too much flow and you’re flailing all over the place. Too much structure and you make too many assumptions and have no space to adapt to the unknowns. It’s important to have anchors of structure, and then deliberate space for serendipities. When you begin, you can’t possibly know everything. So, instead of trying to figure it all out in the beginning, get out there in the world and intentionally challenge assumptions and make space for pivoting in the moment.
Is it important to dream big? What is the big dream for your business?
Yes, we must dream big. If you’re trying to solve a problem you can accomplish in your lifetime, then it’s too small. However, know what is also doable NOW. Dream big and at the same time start with where you and the world is and the things can you focus on first. My dream is change the way we see our differences. Instead of hiding who we are because we might be criticized or even killed, we see each other’s individuality with compassion. We love our selves and each other more fully and feel deeply connected and fulfilled. I create this one person at a time.
I founded a startup, AUKERA, that promotes access to opportunities and the empowerment of youth. We have designed a closed, social networking platform that facilitates both, academic and professional development, while also providing the option for students to connect with independent education consultants and counselors.
What is the most surprising thing about being a female entrepreneur?
The camaraderie. I’ve found female entrepreneurs to be extremely collaborative and supportive in nature- always trading advice and offering support whenever one’s in need. While we may lack the same intergenerational role models as men, it’s nice to know that I can look to my left and my right, and feel lifted up by my peers. That kind of support is rare and extremely powerful.
How did your past experiences help you get to where you are today?
I was a teenager that would have benefited from AUKERA. As a sophomore in high school I was told I had to dance - I was a professional ballet dancer - because my parents couldn’t afford college. However I was a strong student and had I applied to schools at 18, I would have gotten in based on merit and been awarded a discounted rate based on need. Now a Columbia alum and founder, it’s my goal to highlight these types of opportunities to students.
Do you think you want to start other businesses in the future or do you want to keep growing this one as long as possible? What is the dream?
For now, my focus is AUKERA and taking it from an early-stage startup to a sustainable company. However, my dream is broadly to build and invest in tech-based, business initiatives that promote e-solutions to the opportunity gap; primarily those in ed tech and recruiting/admissions technology.
Is it important to set goals or is it better to just “go with the flow”? What is your strategy?
You need a bit of both. It’s imperative to set goals and adhere to deadlines, however, you must be able to adapt. Sometimes - most times - things don’t work out the way you think they’re going to, but that doesn’t negate the fact that every turning point has value. My strategy is to take a moment; reflect, process the experience, then move on more informed. You are an amalgamation of your experiences and in some ways so is your business. Resilience and perseverance are key for any entrepreneur.
Why did you become a member of Dreamers // Doers? How has the D // D community contributed to the success of your entrepreneurial journey?
I met Gesche in July of 2015 and her energy and enthusiasm were contagious. While I joined as a member of the team, I decided to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams by starting AUKERA, much due to the inspiration of the community. I always say that life should be about stepping into yourself, not a role; and the Dreamers // Doers community gave me the support I needed to do just that: to be who I am and build the life I want.