Presenting: Lainie Liberti – from California Digital Media Executive to Globetrotting Mom on the Road
But this time,I was able to participate in the creation of a brand,and experience that process.I found myself fascinated and from that moment on,I began studying branding practices and techniques.For me,the act of branding took me back to my attraction to conceptual creation that intruded me as a young,idealistic artist so many years before.
The market fully crashed and in late 2001 I made a gutsy move: I started my own agency.
I was well liked in the industry and my design work was well respected,had been published and won awards.The years of client services came with many contacts,all of whom preferred to work with the smaller shops during the market crash.It was a time that relied on relationships and a time of growth.I started a small design agency with a writer friend of mine but after a year and a half,he decided to pursue his own writing full time.That was when I decided to take the agency from a design firm and specialize solely on branding.To make matters gutsier,in 2004 we positioned our agency as specializing on branding for green,eco companies,non-profits and arts organizations only.
It was a hunch that paid off,for jungle  became one of the first specialty firms know for green branding and communications.Our agency for the next four years became well known in the industry and respected as one of the pioneers of green branding as I wrote many articles on the topic and spoke at several conferences.Building a business from the ground up did come at a cost,however.The cost was the available time I had for my son,still the most important part of my life.
2.You talked about experiencing “burnout” from the typical rat-race lifestyle and the demands of daily life.What brought about this burnout and how did you come to make a radical decision to change your life?
When I first began branding,I was very passionate about it.I found a creative means to combine the conceptual exploration with visual communications,managing creative teams and crafting strategies.All very exciting and rewarding.And somehow,it didn’t feel as “evil” as advertising which sought solely to point out what’s lacking from an emotional perspective in their audience and promise to fill that emptiness with a product.In fact,the more I understood about branding,the more I despised advertising and the consumerist cycle it fed into.Working with green,eco companies and non-profits somehow gave me the sense that I was using my skills for good somewhere just outside of the consumerism cycle.But it was still taxing on my time and on my consciousness.
In addition to the creative work we were doing as a company,I also had the responsibility to assure invoices were paid by my clients,my staff had what they needed and new business was coming through the door.After eight years of running a small agency,the business aspects became my biggest challenge and biggest source of stress.And I realized,the stress did indeed take the pleasure out of the freedom I experienced through “creating” something I yearned to experience again.
Running a business took a toll on me.I realized I was working those 15 hour work days that reflected the craziness of the dot com days past.Now,Miro had grown up with the jungle  around him he was comfortable with participating in our meetings and being in the office among our team.But he still said to me more times than I like to admit,“Mom,you never spend anytime with me.You are always working.” And that was true and his voice had the power to break my heart into tiny pieces.
In 2008,again,the market took a turn.The California economy was crashing and as a result,our “bread and butter” clients started going away.These were clients we had long term relations with,some of whom were jungle ’s clients for the last eight years.Once again these external economic changes reflected an opportunity to change our lives,something I had become comfortable with.
One evening in September 2008,I was sitting with Miro in the office after everyone had left for the evening.I let out a sigh and looked at him and said “I don’t want to do this anymore…Let’s get rid of everything and find a simpler life,climb a volcano,plant a garden,live in the jungle.Let’s go have an adventure in the world away from this consumerist lifestyle and get back to what really matters.Each other and enjoying life.”
Miro bird watching in Panama
Miro looked and me and smiled and said “I’m in!’
..and that was all it took.
3.What was involved practically in changing your life? How did you go from being an LA-based advertising specialist to becoming a free-spirited world traveler?
It’s a simple as letting go.It’s as simple as making up your mind.
It’s as simple as setting your intention.
The nuts and bolts? Stop what you are doing,commit to it,then go through the process of selling or giving away all of your belongings and then follow through.Many people require more solid structure,research and research as a form of comfort,plan,plan,plan….Do whatever makes your feel comfortable before you leave,but then be prepared to let it all go.Just know,there is something to be said about perpetual motion.In other words,everything starts to fall into place once your intention is set.
Trust the process.
Trust the flow.
And yes,I assure you,it’s the easiest thing to do when the inspiration comes from inside of you.
Yes,that’s it.Trust that it will work out and guaranteed,it will.
4.How did your son cope with all this change?
In general,I think children are flexible and cope with change much easier than adults.Never under estimate the resilience of children.
If your connection is strong,this bond will be the foundation that allows you to move through anything together.Our bond has always been strong,therefore,we are the perfect travel companions.We communicate about everything on a deep honest level and respect each other’s point of view.I think that’s been the key.
5.What was it like to shed most of your belonging and your material assets?
Actually shedding our belongings and material assets was the most liberating aspect to the whole preparation experience.Letting go in the beginning was a slightly difficult,slightly identified with the the fear of the unknown.But soon after we began the process we realized how easy it was to give away or sell our “things” and just how good it felt to go through that process.It was as if shedding each layer released a tiny weight,preventing me from flying somehow,allowing us to take one step closer towards our journey,and this,we were excited about.
Interestingly enough,just after we had committed to our trip,I would have nightly dreams about getting rid of our things,like a butterfly breaking through it’s coccoon.The feeling of liberation was something I desired deeply and the anticipation of that feeling made the letting go process very natural to us.To witness Miro giving away his toys to his friends and other children,was so heart warming as well,and I felt honored I was able to facilitate his experience of giving and letting go.
I can’t express properly with words how amazing the feeling actually is,there are a dozen analogies I could us,one more visually or emotionally titillating than another,but until you go through the experience of getting rid of it all,it is meaningless.Do it and you’ll feel the exhilaration.
Riding horses in Cozumel,Mexico
6.So tell us about how your big journey started.Where did you go first and how did your first few weeks unfold? How was the transition from your regular middle-class life to your life on the road?
Miro and I did a trial trip first,as we explored couch surfing in Latin America.We took 6 weeks and explored Mexico and Belize.We adjusted quickly to being in a Spanish speaking country,learned the grace of being hosted,and Miro and I slowed down and and started enjoying time with each other.We had some amazing adventures,met more amazing people and discovered in those 6 weeks,we could do this together.
We tried out our new packs,our new hiking boots,our travel gadgets and travel guide books.It was our trail trip and that was just what we needed,time to get our feet wet and go back and make final adjustments.
For several months leading up to the trip,I was definitely stressed out,wrapping up details,dealing with logistics.I was about 15 pounds heavier than my ideal weight,my skin was broken out from stress and I was emotionally and physically exhausted.To make matters worse,looking as bad as I did,I actually felt run down.
So in that state,what were the chances of being booked on the same flight out of LA to Huston with an ex-boyfriend? And he was not just any ex-boyfriend either,he was my last long term significant other,the one I refer to as the love of my life,the one whom I painfully parted ways with just 3 years before.Was I over him at that point?
Don’t think I will ever be,but some say the best revenge is living well,and I knew I was on the verge of a huge life change,but looking the way I did I looked more like I was on the verge of a breakdown.
I was a grown-up,after all,so of course I approached him with my vulnerable big self.After a hug and a forced smile,I brought him up to speed on what we were doing.He listened to me and I could see as clearly as our boarding gate over his left shoulder,he did not think we would last on our new lifestyle for more than a month.He kissed me on the cheek,smiled and said “well…good luck” and I boarded the plane holding back the tears.I was given the opportunity in that moment to declare once again what we wanted,to exercise that decision and say goodbye to the old me.I knew I’d shed the pounds,my skin would once again clear up and I would feel less tired and stressed and wondered why I couldn’t run into him again then????
In hindsight,I have noticed when you declare you want something to the universe,a lot of times,the universe will provide the opportunity to make sure you feel the weight of your decisions in the process.This was one definitely of those cases.
Speaking of weight,Miro and I noticed on our trial run,that we packed too much,our backpacks were too heavy,and we didn’t use half of the travel gadgets we thought we would.We shed many of those things too when we finally left for our RTW trip a month later (after returning to the states for Burning Man) and on a side note,we were grateful REI allow exchanges as both Miro and I downsized from our original bags.
Lainie & Miro in the Botero Museum in Medellin,Colombia