This week’s Travel Rock Star is a Philadelphia local and author of the blog “The Art of Breaking Bread,” Laurie Satran. Her travel journey wasn’t one that was chosen, but one that was put in her path unexpectedly. Laurie was adopted in South Korea at 5 months by her family in New Jersey. From New Jersey she moved to Philly where she lived without doing much traveling at all. When she found a job with MTV’s “The Real World,” she began to spread her wings, having to travel with the show for two seasons in Austin and Key West.
When Laurie returned to Philly, after a bit of searching, she found the HOLY GRAIL of employment at IKEA. Originally, Laurie applied for a position that she did not land, but insisted they keep her in mind for other opportunities. Two months later, IKEA called with a job offer as web specialist in the marketing department. Jackpot! She had zero web experience but explained, “IKEA doesn’t only hire on your credentials. They hire based on potential they see you. They hire based how well they feel you’ll fit in with the company culture, then they give you the tools to develop.”
In Laurie’s first year, she worked in web content management, moved on to become the US social media strategy lead, then applied to the IKEA Backpacker program. With a need to change her surroundings, she was ecstatic to learn of her acceptance into the program and embarked on what would be a life-changing journey.
GL: Why did you fall in love with traveling?
LS: Falling in love with travelling wasn’t something I could control. It just happened. Meeting people, experiencing different cultures, tasting exotic cuisines, it makes you feel connected to the rest of the world. It makes you realize you are a part of something much, much bigger. I think the point I really fell in love with traveling was when I was given the opportunity to go abroad for work. The opportunity came at a point in my life when I absolutely needed it. I was going through a lot in my personal life, was feeling stuck and needed a change. Living abroad opened my eyes to what the world has to offer and allowed me to find something in myself and in other people that I had forgotten existed. I came home with a new sense of creativity, a new photography hobby, a ton of friends from around the world of different shapes, sizes, colors and flavours. And I was able to start a new life again.
GL: What is an IKEA Backpacker?
LS: The IKEA Backpacker program is a work abroad leadership development program for high potentials within the company. It introduces its participants to different cultures around the world, the global organization and different types of environments both in and outside of the workplace. I lived abroad for 1 year: 6 months in Amsterdam and 6 months in Älmhult, Sweden. IKEA calls the town of Älmhult the heart of the company. I learned a lot there while living abroad, I traveled every weekend and had some truly amazing experiences with great friends.
GL: How has traveling impacted your life?
LS: Travel opened my eyes and put things into perspective in a major way. I’m more open to different experiences and possibilities now because of travel. A few years ago I traveled to Southeast Asia and went to Cambodia and Vietnam. In both places the level of poverty was so overwhelming, I was stunned. In Halong Bay in Vietnam, the woman who rowed the boat I took to visit a floating school out in the bay made the equivalent of $100 a month rowing ten hours a day. In the Cambodian village I visited, the people there had to walk for miles just to get clean water. But in both places, life is simple and the people were happy. Everyone had a smile on their face and there was such a strong sense of community, it really wakes you up and makes you appreciate everything little thing you have.
GL: What are your top 3 must-have items when you’re on the road?
LS: My Camera
And of course I have to have lipstick 😉
GL: What is your favorite brand/shade of lipstick on the go?
LS: At the moment I’m loving the YSL Rouge Pur Couture Rebel Nudes Lip Stain line. I always carry that with me.
GL: If you could choose anyone in the world to go on a trip around the world, who would it be?
LS: Richard Branson! I have a total crush on him. He has the means to make any trip a great adventure and I’m inspired by his unconventional, entrepreneurial spirit.
GL: Tell us about one of your happiest travel experiences.
LS: Recently I went to Alanya which is in the south of Turkey. It was a happy experience because I didn’t really plan to go on this trip and didn’t do any research before arriving. I went into it with no expectations. All I knew was that it was a popular travel destination amongst the Scandinavians and my travel blogger friend, Steph Be of TravelBreak wanted to go and visit, so I went.
One day during the trip I needed to get to a store to get a memory card, so my friend and I decided to hail a cab. Well the cab started to take us in all these different directions and I was getting pissed because I knew he was trying to rip us off. I told him to let us out. Didn’t even know where we were but ended up hailing another cab. Well let me tell you, this cab driver ended up being our tour guide for the rest of our trip. Sometimes it’s the moments you least expect that you cherish the most!
The cab driver took us to an organic farm village that was in a valley deep in the mountains. The Turkish government subsidizes the village’s farm so that they can live off the land. We actually went into one of the family’s homes and had dinner. Here we are, in the middle of nowhere in some random Turkish village sitting on the floor with a family we just met playing with their baby. Meanwhile the wife is bringing us homemade cheeses and fresh tomatoes from the garden and layers upon layers of Turkish flatbread. It was absolutely the best meal I had in Turkey!
GL: Because your local to Philadelphia we have to ask. What Philly hidden gem would you recommend to a tourist?
LS: This might be boring but there’s an Armory on 23rd and Chestnut where the First Troop Calvary of Philadelphia has their clubhouse. The troop has a private museum upstairs that has all these historical works of art and military artefacts, I just think it’s interesting because I used to spend a lot of time in that area of the city and never knew it was there. Philly is filled with places like that. I have lived here 16 years and still believe there’s so much to explore. You go away for a bit, come back and your home is a completely different place and you see it in a different light and want to get out and explore.
One of my favorite restaurants would have to be Resurrection Ale House. Not a lot of people know about it but the food is delicious. There are these hidden/speakeasy type bars also throughout the city like the Randstead Room and Franklin Mortgage that have some of the best cocktails you’ll find in the city.
GL: If you discovered a brand new land, where in the world would it be and what would you call it?
LS: I feel like I have discovered a brand new land coming back to Philadelphia after a year abroad. There is a new feeling to this city. There is something really happening here. A revolution maybe. And I’m calling it NewPhillyland 😉
GL: Sounds great!
Now that Laurie is back, she works on all things IKEA media, including print, TV and digital marketing. Laurie says that coming back from her crazy journey to her current position has allowed for her to acclimate back to “real life” more easily. As a way to stay connected as a global citizen (and to ease her withdrawal after the end of her year of excitement), Laurie shares her travel stories and stories of other travelers’ on her blog, “The Art of Breaking Bread“.
In addition to her site, you can find Laurie on Twitter and Instagram (absolutely fantastic pictures) @LaurieSatran.