Sienna Brown is Founder of Las Morenas de España, a platform that provides resources and experiences for expats and travelers worldwide. We talked to her about her journey to becoming a woman who wanders and fell in love with not only her business but genuine spirit in the process. Get into her interview below for commentary on knowing your why, expat life, and running a business abroad. Keep up with all things Sienna and LMDES on Twitter and Instagram!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you and where are you headed?
First, thanks so much for this opportunity! I’m so excited to share with the RXY community a bit about myself and to connect on a deeper level.
Me in 3 words? Passionate, optimistic and empathetic.
I’m Sienna and although I’m originally from New York… Spain feels like home. I’ve been living here for the past 4 years with plans on staying for as long as I can.
On a more professional note, I’m the founder of Las Morenas de España, a platform that empowers women of color to move abroad and create a life that they truly love. I also run communications for Sun and Co., a colliding space on the coast of Spain. Since moving to Spain, I’ve given a TEDx talk, spoken at various conferences, taught university students and so much more.
But most importantly, since moving… I’ve been serious about growing into the woman that I know I can be.
When I’m not working, you’ll probably find me sitting in the sun, cooking something delicious or having a deep conversation somewhere.
Where am I headed? I’m blessed enough to say that I’m extremely content with where I am now and I’ll be honest in saying, it’s been a journey getting here. So, what’s next? Let’s just say, taking everything that I’m doing now and elevating it to the next level while still living a balanced life.
You quit your job in NYC in 2014 and left your home to move to Spain. What fears and challenges did you face about your decision to become an expat then? Four years later and still in Spain, what can you say you’ve overcome?
Back in 2014, I think the biggest challenge that I faced when I first moved abroad isn’t what you typically think. My biggest challenge wasn’t finding work, an apartment or friends but it was truly getting to know who I was on my own, outside of the influence of others. When you move to a new country by yourself, it gives you a real chance to define who you are, outside of what you’ve been raised to believe.
Four years later; I’ll say that I’ve grown more personally and professionally since I’ve been here in Spain than I have in my entire life. Living abroad forces you to be resourceful, to think outside of the box, to step out of your comfort zone and with that… you learn and you grow.
Living abroad has allowed for me to become more entrepreneurial than I could have ever imagined. It’s also allowed for me to truly create a life that reflects my values and who I want to be.
What have I overcome?
Self-doubt. Toxic relationships. Getting upset over things that don’t matter. Losing sight of the bigger picture.
Should I keep going?
In the past 4 years, the personal growth that happens through the various experiences you have as an expat shape you into who you are but you need to put in the work. That’s the most beautiful part of the journey.
Why do you think travel is important especially for women of color? What do WOC stand to gain in knowledge and experiences from being an expat?
I think that travel is essential, especially for women of color because it provides an inside look to a life that we’re often taught isn’t accessible to “us”. Being able to experience different places, different cultures and different people allow for us to not just learn more about the world around us but also about ourselves. Travel allows for us to see that there is more to life than what we’re lead to believe is “for us” by societal standards in the U.S.
We often believe that we need to struggle in life to succeed but having impactful experiences abroad; outside of just the resorts… allows us to realize what life could actually be like if we let it.
Travel and more specifically, living abroad opens our eyes to imagine what it could be like if we created a life we don’t need a vacation from.
It takes life one step forward. Being Black and abroad allows us to be free, if we choose to be. It allows for us to realize the true impact and influence that we have on the world. I’ll be honest in saying that being Black and abroad might be hard at times and seem like an anomaly to many but the more that we do it, the more that we can use our various experiences and just our sense of being to change the perspective and stereotypes that so many other people and cultures have created for us.
Being black and abroad allows for us to be seen and to let our black girl magic shine, across borders.
What advice would you give millennial WOC who want to take the leap into expat life whether they want to run their own business or find their dream job abroad?
Know Your Why
Know your why. Know your why. Know your why.
No matter what you’re aiming to do; move abroad, start a company, find yourself, get your dream job… you need to put in the work to know yourself well enough to know your why.
When you actually do the inner work to figure out why you want to make the move, then everything else will fall into place. So many people do things because they’re running away from something, but if you don’t have your values in place… it will follow you wherever you go.
So, I encourage you to know your why, always remember that and then take action. When you know your why, it will guide you down the right path.
PS. I’m so serious about doing the work to Know Your Why; we created a 40 page free PDF to work you through the process!
Be Patient With The Process
Moving abroad and creating a fulfilling life is a process. Many people think that when you move abroad, it will be a breeze but it’s important to remember that life abroad is still life… there are things like taxes, paperwork, creating meaningful relations, etc. that take time, patience and energy. But, when the hard moments come up, always take a moment to put your life abroad into perspective with what your life would be back home.
When you’re patient with the process, it makes the journey that much more enjoyable.
Make An Effort
That might seem obvious but it’s so easy for someone to move abroad and stay in their comfort zone; speaking English, hanging out with only Americans, etc. But, I encourage you to make an effort to dive into the local culture and truly get to know where you’re at.
It’s one of the smartest things you can do when starting up a business and/or looking for employment abroad. When you have the meaningful connections with others (and you’re good at what you do), you’ll realize just how small the expat world is when it comes to various opportunities.
Don’t be afraid to go to the event alone, host small meetups, link up with people who share your interests.
When you make an effort it shows and pays off in the long run.
Founder of Las Morenas de España, a platform that provides resources and experiences for expats and travelers worldwide, talk to us about building a business in the travel space. What’s been hardest? What’s been the most rewarding?
I think the hardest thing for us over time hasn’t been creating and engaging a loyal audience but instead, we really needed to tune in and listen to what they wanted. Our first two years, we thought we were speaking to people who were already living abroad but then we realized that we had a huge audience who hadn’t made the move yet and wanted to learn how.
So, although we were this niche brand, we realized that we had demographics all over the world who didn’t just want to hear our stories, but learn how to create their own.
When we figured that out, everything changed because we could provide them with the content and resources that they truly needed.
That lead to us creating Limitless, our online course teaching others how to move abroad, find work and truly integrate themselves into a new society. It also lead to us hosting our LMDES Getaways; 5-day experiences in Spain allowing women to find a community of like-minded individuals and connect on a deeper level while also experiencing a different side of Spain and learning what life is like abroad.
What has been the most rewarding part? Being able to see the actual impact that we’ve had on the lives of others. Sometimes building a business can be isolating when you spend all of your time creating behind a screen but one of the most fulfilling feelings we have is when someone in our audience tells us how much we’ve positively impacted their lives or empowered them to take the leap for themselves. Each and every time that it happens, it’s a beautiful reminder of why we do what we do.
What can we expect from you moving forward and how can we best be of support?
What’s on the horizon is really beautiful. We’re actually going full-force in relaunching Limitless and the doors open on June 1st! Not only that but we’re going to be hosting a lot of free webinars over the next months teaching others how to successfully move abroad, find work and create a life they truly love.
Our first one will be on May 30th and we’re going to dive into how to secure work abroad! The best part is, is that anyone can register for free!
Later on this year, we’ll be bringing back Thrive, our professional conference in Spain where last time, we had over 120 attendees. And we’ll also be hosting our next retreat in Javea this December!
A lot is in the works and it’s exciting! I appreciate you asking how to best support, it means a lot. All we can ask for is sharing our resources with others who you know have thought about moving abroad or making a life change!
In the end, how do you want your story depicted? What legacy do you want to leave behind?
This is an amazing question. I want to be remembered as someone who empowered others to create a life that they love; not only through the resources and experiences that I provide but also by the way that I live my life.
I want to leave the world with the feeling that they can do anything that they put their mind to, no matter what their past is or where they live in the world. It’s about creating a holistic, sustainable lifestyle and staying true to who you are.
Just for kicks:
Favorite place you’ve been? Reunion Island; 2017. It was an experience that changed the way I viewed life. Everything about the island is magical. You drive through winding roads and experience waterfalls in the mountains, you walk on the beach and see pure joy, you explore volcanic regions and ponder existence. It’s one of those places that allows you disconnect and truly enjoy all that nature has to offer.
Must have item on a trip? A journal, hands down. I’m a huge advocate of documenting moments through writing and travel always seems to ignite a sense of creativity and emotions that you might not have in everyday life. When you journal during your travels, you’re able to look back and have a clear snapshot of where you were in life during that time.
The hardest thing about expat life? Definitely being away from family. I’m quite close to mine and so sometimes it’s hard to watch time go by, loved ones get older (and young ones grow up) and feel as if you’re missing the little moments. But, it’s also it makes expat life even more beautiful because you’re able to share new and different experiences with those that you love.