We had the good fortune of connecting with Allie Lai and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Allie, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
That’s complicated because my background usually begins with the question “Where are you from?” To me, that question used to make me unravel my entire life story to the person inquiring. So, to get a better understanding of my background, I am Chinese American and a Third Culture Kid (TCK) adopted from China, moved to seven different countries, two different states, and have been to over 60+ countries all before the age of 26. My parents brought me home to New York City before we moved to Jamaica, Malaysia, Western Samoa, Germany, and back to New York City. I later moved to Taiwan and then Hong Kong as an adult and recently moved to San Diego, California during the pandemic.
A Third Culture Kid is someone who lived in different countries and was raised in different cultures other than their own and their parents. To put it simply, there’s our parents’ culture, host culture, and other cultures. We’re just in the middle absorbing it all and becoming an intercultural walking melting pot of diversity. However, to make the introduction short, I say I’m from New York City.
Living a peripatetic life in developing and developed countries allowed me to immerse myself in different environments and surround myself with people of various backgrounds and cultures. I learned valuable life skills through my experiences and I believe it gave me the ability to adapt to new surroundings and situations easily; how to be flexible; how to be empathic; how to interact with a diverse audience, and most importantly how to build relationships wherever I go. Through those experiences, I realized that I want to help and give back to the community hence why I currently work for a non-profit organization.
As a content creator, I realized the impact I can have on my community through my travel experiences. As I continue to travel, I’ve become empowered, discovered a new sense of independence, came to peace with my identity, and met amazing people who positively impacted my life. My experiences, travel failures, recommendations, and adventures have inspired me to share my story with others in hopes that it’ll help and inspire them during their travels. If it wasn’t for the experiences I’ve gained while travelling and living in different countries, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I currently work for San Diego’s largest multi-purpose human services agency. The nonprofit organization helps individuals and families from lower income communities improve themselves through several social service programs and helps develop children and families through empowerment, education, and wellness programs. Although I’m uncertain if this is my final destination in my career, it was definitely a bumpy ride to get to where I am today. I learned a few lessons along the way that I would like to share.
My career started before graduating college. I had a set plan for what my career was going to be. I mapped out all the steps I would need to take in order to achieve my long term career goal, I attended guest speaker seminars, career counseling, and engaged at networking events with people in my chosen career field. However, when the time came to apply for jobs, one of my advisors gave me a pamphlet with a job description to move to Hong Kong for a year and become part of an English tutor program at a university to encourage an English-speaking environment on campus through various activities and services. I decided to apply at the last minute and had no expectations of getting accepted since only 5 people from around the world are accepted into this program. I almost missed my interview because I got kicked out of the classroom I was in at the last minute! I ended up getting the job and moved to Hong Kong after graduation. Lesson 1: Take the risk and go for it.
While in Hong Kong, I still had my original plan in mind and I viewed this experience as a stepping stone for international work. After the year was up, I remember panicking because the plan I was so dedicated to for the past 4-5 years was going out of focus. My experience in Hong Kong changed who I was and my idea of what I believed was the path for me. I came back to the United States with no direction, worked several temporary jobs in different industries before working part time at a small nonprofit organization that prides itself in the preservation and education of traditional and indigenous performing arts from all world cultures. In addition, I volunteered for another nonprofit organization that helped teachers find resources for their students and improve academic outcomes. I ended up putting my original goal on the back burner and turned towards my newfound goal of working with nonprofit organizations that impact the education field on a national or global level. Lesson 2: There’s no set path. It’s okay if goals and interests change.
Coming home with no set plan and straying from the steps I laid out for myself was extremely difficult and mentally challenging to accept. Not to mention, moving in the middle of a pandemic to the opposite coast with no plan and having to reset was another mental obstacle by itself. I hurdled myself over the idea that it was okay to not have a set plan, to not know what to do, and I had to overcome the mentality that it was normal to figure life out as you go and each experience brings you closer to knowing what you can do. I changed my perspective and learned to dip my toes in different fields to figure out what I was good at, what interested me, and how I could apply those skills and experiences to the next job. To this day, I’m still uncertain of what my future holds or what career path I truly want, but I feel like I’m one step closer to figuring it out. In addition, I was able to spend a few months focusing on content creation and became interested in digital media marketing. Lesson 3: It will be okay. Everything will work itself out.
Those few months focused on creating content, brand, and building a digital community started as a creative outlet and a way to keep memories and experiences, similar to a photo journal. During COVID-19, I became more serious about content creation and I met people with similar feeds as mine. My creative outlet soon became a way for me to help other people explore the world through my experiences. I started microblogging on my captions and some of the comments I received mentioned that my content was relatable, inspirational, or encouraged them to want to travel. I thought this would be an amazing way to share my suggestions, opinions, and recommendations and encourage people with ideas, and be more courageous in their travels. Having people interested in what I had to say became a reason for me to continue to go out, try new things, and document those experiences to share with my community. By sharing my life and experiences on social media, I felt like I inspired other people to leap into the unknown. Lesson 4: Sometimes taking a break triggers new passions and interests.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Day 1 – she would arrive in the afternoon. After settling in, we would walk around Hillcrest, the neighborhood I currently live in. Go to Better Buzz for some lattes, walk on the suspension bridge. Have dinner at King’s and Queen’s Catina in Little Italy and end the night by exploring the rest of Little Italy.
Day 2 – Go to Breakfast Republic or Great Maple for breakfast/brunch. Head to the zoo for most of the day and go to Scripps Pier at La Jolla beach to walk around and watch the sunset before going to Dunes (New Zealand eats) in North Park and to brewery hop. for the night.
Day 3 – Go on a hike either to Ho Chi Minh Trail, Torrey Pines or Potato Chip Rock and spend the rest of the day at the beach in Imperial Beach.
Day 4 – Introduce her to Liberty Public Market Place (a food hall) for lunch, then head over to Old Town to explore. Head over to North Park and take a picture with the “Welcome to San Diego” mural, walk around North Park during the day for murals, wall art and to Pigment, an extremely cute boho plant shop, and head over to Stella Jean’s Ice Cream before heading back home.
Day 5 – Go to Orange County or LA for a day trip. Including Carlsbad Flower Fields.
Day 6 – Head to Balboa Park for the first half of the day, head home to rest and then go to dinner at Grandma’s BBQ, RakiRaki Ramen or any other restaurant in Convoy and then head to Realm of the 52 Remedies (a speakeasy) in Convoy.
Day 7 – Get a late breakfast at Rustic Root, head over to Seaport Village to explore before renting bikes and riding up to Point Loma. See Point Loma Lighthouse and the tide pools if there’s enough time before riding back down to Seaport Village. End the day by exploring downtown and head over to Lumi’s (rooftop sushi bar) for dinner.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My parents and partner encouraged and supported me in every decision I’ve made.
My friends that I’ve made through life and through my online community. They’ve become a pillar of support and pushed me out of my comfort zone, especially with my content creation goals.