Van Gypsy & Entrepreneur, Seattle, USA

Parallels between Nikki and me seemed so glaringly obvious. We are ex-New Yorkers (although I am always one at heart), adventure addicts, explorers and are curious about people. Nikki however has done above and beyond life of adventure by driving entire continent of south america in a van (with her bf and a dog). And did this before the hashtag #vanlife was invented. It's also inspiring to see Nikki move on beyond the van life to now organizing and excelling at her own business. It's great because when I check in with her, I always discover something new in the hopper. Hope you enjoy reading her insights as much as I have.

1. Name.

Nikki Levi

2. Where is your hometown?

State College, Pennsylvania but we moved around a lot when I was young.

3. What is your profession/career/title/self-label/designation?

Co-founder of an online e-commerce store

4. What was the journey like to get where you are (career wise)? When was the mental shift to start the journey?

I started my career as an investment and research analyst for an investment bank. It was a great learning platform, where I gained a lot of experience and knowledge but always understood that it wouldn't be a long-term position for me. From there, I transitioned to an operating role at a large tech company. Similarly, it was a great experience where I gained valuable knowledge and had the opportunity to work alongside smart, creative and driven people but always had an understanding that the role was a stepping stone and learning experience. When my then boyfriend (now husband) and I first started dating, we were both taking about our desire to travel - after a few short months together, we realized that fear of the unknown was the only thing holding us back. So, we left our jobs, bought a van, and traveled for almost two years. We were terrified of leaving our corporate careers at the time - in hindsight, those fears were irrational. When we got back to the US, we re-focused on our careers but recognized that the 'traditional' career and life path was not what motivated us - so we decided to bootstrap our own business!

5. What did you study in school?

Finance and Operations Information Management

6. How is your life different from what you pictured at 20?

At 20, I thought I'd be 'old' at my age - but I still feel young! But really, I live a more untraditional life than I expected, and love it! I never thought I'd step away from a complete focus on my career. Because of our decision to leave our corporate jobs, we had the opportunity to travel and see things we never imagined, and now we run our own business. I think I expected to be more 'settled', and have a house and steady job, instead we're not afraid of change or moving.

7. Biggest accomplishment since making the (physical/mental) move?

Learning to be confident in myself. Before we left to travel, we had a lot of pushback from people concerned about our ability to continue building our careers. After returning from our travels, a lot of opportunities remained open to us from our previous careers but many new ones opened as well!

8. What was biggest disappointment and plan to overcome it?

In starting this business there have been a lot of disappointments - from not winning some clients to realizing working alongside your husband can be really hard! My plan to overcome them is to continue growing a thicker skin, learning from my mistakes and putting my head down and working harder.

9. Advice for other women?

Don't ask too many people for advice, don't let fear stop you from doing something and very few decisions (career or lifestyle) are irreversible.

10. Knowing what we know now in current political climate, can women be "all that we can be" in today's world?

What is the way forward, as you see it for "feminist values"? I think every woman, man and person has their own definition of ''all that we can be" - for some it's being a mom, to others it's being a CEO and others, it's being both (or neither!) With that, I think we all have the potential to be those things but are not entitled to them. I think the way forward is to keep talking and discussing the challenges that society faces and to push for what we think is right for ourselves, our partners and the future generation.

11. Where in the world do you feel “tallest” (i.e. where is your happy place)?

Learning something new (mental or physical) or persevering through a tough patch (physical / emotional / business) and being proud of the end result. While traveling, I loved finding solutions and navigating out of bad situations - I think being creative and working with others to find a solution brings a lot of happiness.

12. What extra-curricular activities/hobbies are you most proud of? Why?

Running, biking, skiing, climbing, etc. I'm proud because I push myself in them and get stronger, faster and more confident. I love teaching myself new physical hobbies. I think it helps keep my body and mind young!

13. What do you want to be when you grow up? Future goals/challenges?

I want stay inspired and curious.

14. What fears are you still hoping to overcome?

The fear that I'm not good enough or the fear of losing.

15. Anything you'd do differently (if you had another go at life)?

Not have moved to Utah.

16. What inspires you?

Being creative, learning new things and being scared.

17. What are you hopeful about?

That my business is successful

18. What are some ingredients to a good life?

Passion, hobbies and love / friendship

19. What are you reading now? (what books do you gift most and what are your favourite reads?)

I'm reading The Lost City of Z. There are just too many great books! For those adventurous women: On the Road, Red Tape and White Knuckles, Unbroken.

20. Who is a “WOW Woman” in your life who inspires you (and why)?

My mom. She's the definition of passion, work ethic, perseverance and selflessness. She immigrated from Russia when she was 18 and put herself through college. She raised 5 kids, running her own business (in a male dominated industry) and never quits. She's a strong shoulder to cry on for a few minutes before she tells you to get working! Meanwhile, she was one of the few people that encouraged us to travel and take that 'risk' of leaving our jobs.

21. Where can others find you/your work (links to websites, blogs, etc.)?

We kept a blog to document our van build and travels.