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This Travel Guru Turned Her Motto "Can't Stay Put" Into A Full-Fledged Career

Workin' Girl

Some of the best life experiences happen when you let go of fear and embrace spontaneous change.


Planning gives way to simply living, and questioning is quieted by a go-with-the-flow mentality. For Lauren Miller, founder of the lifestyle brand Can't Stay Put, the most memorable moments occur when she's hitting the road.

“I have this fearlessness and I am an extroverted person and I know how to connect with people very well, and the connections lead to these awesome experiences that you cant really plan—that aren't commercial," says Lauren.

And she's not lying. Her jaunts have led her to the hoods of Brazil, tobacco farms of Cuba, hot springs in the deserts of Chile, and to classrooms of South Africa—and those are just the moments she chooses to share.

But Lauren's journey starts not with her worldwide excursions, it starts three years ago on the top floor of her California apartment, where after 12-hour days working as the Event and Marketing Manager of a fine-dining restaurant she would come home and record videos voicing her frustration with working in an industry that she had no interest in. Sure, she made good money. But what good are dollars when the lifestyle that you're living doesn't make sense? Lauren got tired of asking that question, and even more fatigued with faking that this was a life that she desired.

“I knew I wasn't living or walking in my purpose," says Lauren. “I wasn't doing what God put me on earth to do, and I was just at a point where I was very frustrated just trying to figure it out."

On her 25th birthday, Lauren took a trip to Maui and prayed that God would reveal her purpose, promising that she would run 100mph even if it came at the expense of her own comfort. The answer didn't come that day, but when she returned to the states she put in her notice at work anyway—no plan, no direction, but also nothing to hold her back.

In celebration of her transition from the job that was no longer fulfilling, she returned to the place that inspired her leap of faith. This time, she got the answer that she was looking for just three months prior in the bamboo forests of Maui.

Maui, Hawaii

“God was like, 'you need to figure out how to do this. You need to figure out how to inspire people through your experiences'," says Lauren.

“This" turned out to be the thing that Lauren had been doing all of her life, but failed to realize that her purpose was rooted in her passion. Since the age of five, she had been jetsetting across the world. There were the monthly trips back and forth between Atlanta, where she lived with her father, and D.C. to visit her mother, who at the time was appointed to a position under the Bill Clinton administration. There was the fact that she bought her first Delta SkyMiles ticket at the age of 11, and that she had a passport before she could even fully comprehend what having access to the world and to different cultures truly meant.

But like many, Lauren didn't imagine that something that was her norm would one day become the platform to help others embrace their true selves. At Howard University, she studied Biology and minored in Chemistry, believing that being a doctor was what she was supposed to do simply because she was good at it. But by senior year, she could no longer ignore her instinct. “You have to really have a heart to want to become a doctor. It's not a profession that you do because you want to make a lot of money."

Iceland

After graduating, she took a year off and moved to Nebraska—following a boy, of course—before attending a master's program in business at Wake Forest University, and then moved to California to work at a family-owned restaurant. Even then, the travel bug didn't die. “I would always incorporate [travel] into my life because it was just my life. And the year I turned 25 is when I got that itch; 'Yo you've got to figure this out!' Because I was yearning for more purpose."

After quitting her job she broke her lease, moved her items into a friend's basement, and promised to cook and clean during the times she was in town in exchange for a place to sleep. She had the passion, but no plan. Later that same week she ran into a life coach, but with no money in her pocket, the only thing she had to offer was her commitment. “He said a lot of people say they want to change their life, but they don't want to put in the effort and the work and I would much rather you not waste my time than pay me," says Lauren. “I was like well I don't have no choice. I quit; I'm out here."

"A lot of people say they want to change their life, but they don't want to put in the effort and the work."

It was one thing to confess her dreams, but to put action behind it would take a greater level of sacrifice. After coming up with the name Can't Stay Put, Lauren had her first big hurdle—funding her launch trip to Southeast Asia. “I changed my screensaver on my computer and my phone, everything and I was just engulfed in it and I put together a proposal and sent it out to people trying to raise money or trying to get some type of intelle on how to really make this work."

She was hit with countless no's from friends and family who questioned her decision to abruptly quit her job before receiving a $2,500 yes from a former client who saw her vision just as much as her diligence. “It was one of the best days of my life because at that point I had never really worked on something that I didn't know was going to work," says Lauren. “I think for a lot of young people, there's no guarantee. We all want to be a boss and growing up, you hear about whatever you put your mind to you can do, but you don't really test that."

She also had the commitment of a former colleague and high school friend, who passed up three job offers in order to travel as Lauren's photographer. Seven thousand dollars later, Lauren took her first Can't Stay Put trip through Thailand, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Cambodia, and hasn't stayed put since.

Lauren will be the first to tell you that that answers aren't always in the plan, but in the process, and that too much planning can impede action. Since launching Can't Stay Put she's discovered that the brand isn't solely about travel, but about encouraging others to create the life that they want to live against all odds. As a self-proclaimed inspirational explorer, travel is just the umbrella under which she spreads her gospel.

“When I first started this money wasn't on my mind. It was like I know I can help people, and that's been the overarching theme: How can I use this to help people? How can I speak life into other people's dreams and make them feel just as fulfilled as I did just to get out here and do some shit?"

"How can I speak life into other people's dreams and make them feel just as fulfilled as I did just to get out there and do some shit?"

Of course money did come and so did new opportunities. Brand partnerships, life coaching sessions, speaking engagements—Lauren has become a voice for those wishing to live fully, but afraid to leave comfort behind. “For a lot of people our age, we don't really understand what sacrifice is; we don't really understand what real work is. When you give something up it's going to be uncomfortable, and you have to be okay with that and know that you're doing it for a reason. I knew that if I didn't want to have a regular life I was going to have to do some irregular shit."

By no means is Lauren sugarcoating the journey. It's a lonely road to being an entrepreneur, and even more isolating when you're always on a plane heading to the next destination. Seeking solace with fellow travel entrepreneurs like long-time friend Zim Ugochukwu of Travel Noire, helps to remind her to embrace every part of the journey.

Great Sand Dunes, Colorado

“Before I set out I knew there were going to be times where it was going to be hard as hell. God is not picking on you. This down time is not specific to you, that's just a part of it. All of the things that you want God is going to give it to you, but you need to prove that you deserve it and that you're worthy of it. If you don't let it deter you or break you, you're really worthy of these amazing things that you said that you want."

It also helps to know that her sacrifice—moving from couch to couch and sometimes not knowing if she'll get more than one meal a day—is touching the lives of those who she inspires. “I'll get an email from somebody saying how I've changed their life, and I'll end up crying like thank you, you don't understand that you were sent. You think that you were just telling me how grateful you are but you were sent because I needed to read this at this very moment because I was just in a bad space."

“I have pity parties," she admits. “But you may have one or two drinks at the party and then you have to go. You can't stay. You can't stay at the party."

To live a Can't Stay Put lifestyle isn't easy, but it's worth it. With each destination—each new adventure—the traveler is planting the seeds of success in the minds of those who desire to make the impossible possible, and that's an experience that can't be captured on camera.

For more on Lauren, follow her on Instagram.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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