Wholehearted Wednesdays with Cassandra from The Quirky Pineapple Studio: Going International and Deciding To Move To Another Country
Hi Cassandra! Tell us a bit about yourself and The Quirky Pineapple Studio.
Hey Molly and Wholehearted Women! (: I’m Cassandra. I’m originally from Virginia, in the USA, but I’ve recently packed my bags and moved back to Spain! I now live in Madrid with my boyfriend and am working full-time at The Quirky Pineapple Studio.
Before coming back to this little mediterranean country that won me over, I worked full-time at a large environmental engineering company, as a Training Coordinator. And before there, I was graduating from college in 2014, moved to Spain and taught English for two years. While working full-time as a Training Coordinator, I finally started making the money I needed, to invest properly into my blog. It’s been my big dream to become a full-time blogger since the age of 13!
Now, The Quirky Pineapple Studio is a full virtual studio providing copywriting, content creation, and brand/blog strategy services for the fierce, creative souls in the tourism and hospitality industry. I work with small business owners, entrepreneurs, and side-hustlin’ divas to help them hone in on their voice and visuals, to create a strong community that results in higher visibility and profits. My goal is to develop The Quirky Pineapple Studio even further, to create more in-person events in my new home, and possibly retreats in the future. The Quirky Pineapple Studio is my space to invite guests in, to share, learn, and grow from one another. I believe that everyone has an inner fierce diva that is waiting to shine!
When we first met online, you were a travel blogger living in Washington D.C. What’s changed since then?
I feel like so much has changed since we first met online! It’s honestly been a whirlwind these past few months, I don’t even know where to begin! I think we met when I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my blog, The Quirky Pineapple. I had been working at my full-time job for a few months and knew that I didn’t want to be at this position forever. I also had this gnawing feeling and elusive thought floating in the back of my mind that I was not meant for “Corporate America” and instead was supposed to do something else.
I had just started offering and marketing blogging strategy sessions and portrait sessions to my audience! My short term goal was to start making at least a small income with my blog every month. I think that’s when I subconsciously made the decision to switch from being a lifestyle and travel blogger to an online business owner (aka entrepreneur)! Since then, I buckled down hard core on my goal of making money with my blog, and decided to work on rebranding myself in a different way.
Now, I’ve completely rebranded/launched The Quirky Pineapple Lifestyle & Travel Blog to The Quirky Pineapple Studio. It was a HUGE change, and half the time I kept thinking “WHAT THE HECK AM I DOING, WHY AM I INVESTING SO MUCH MONEY?!”. Really, every time I went to invest on something to improve my website and invest in my business, I thought to myself that I was crazy and if this didn’t work out, everyone else was going to KNOW I was crazy!
The rebranding process started late May, when I was journaling and free writing my ideas for what The Quirky Pineapple was, what it could be, and where I wanted to take it. Everything I wrote talked about having a “studio” or a space to invite people to come and enjoy a good conversation, heartfelt connection, and have fun while they were at it! Also during that time, my boyfriend and I were trying to figure out what our next steps were going to be since we had been dealing with long-distance for almost a year. Then on top of that, I found out I had two ovarian cysts that would later require surgery at the end of September.
I think those two factors were a big push for me to rebrand my lifestyle and travel blog and instead create my own business; one that could go with me wherever I wanted to and I could work with whomever, as long as we both had Internet. I didn’t want to worry about taking PTO for my recovery time after surgery, or worry that I had to fill out forms that would make sure I wouldn’t get fired during my recovery time. My boyfriend and I also didn’t want to be in a long-distance relationship anymore. One of us had to make the big jump, and it made more sense for me to move than for him to come here.
So, that’s where I am now! There were LOTS of other small details that went into this grand culmination of what’s been going on - but those are some of the big factors that led me here! As I’m writing this, I’m currently sitting in my new apartment in Madrid and have successfully launched my new website, the Quirky Pineapple Studio Launch Party & New Beginnings, and successfully packed all of my belongings into 4 suitcases and unpacked it all. WOO!
It’s been hectic to say the least!
Recently, you announced that The Quirky Pineapple Studio is going international and you’re moving to Madrid, Spain.
(Side note: I’m so excited for you!!!) When did you know that this is what you wanted to do, and how has the transition been like for you so far?
That’s a great question! I think I always knew that moving to Madrid was something I wanted, but I couldn’t accept it. I feel like I had to go through everything else I did this past year and a half before knowing it was the right time to go back.
To be honest, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to move back to Spain at all. After being there for two years and teaching English through the Spanish government, I left Spain feeling really discouraged, lost, and annoyed with the country. During my last year there, I felt EXTREMELY lonely even though I lived with my boyfriend.
We created a life together, but there was something missing. I wasn’t happy teaching English, I didn’t have a group of close friends I could turn to, and I also didn’t like dealing with the small town Spaniards who constantly made jabs at my appearance, being Asian. I was really excited to move back home and start a full-time job, make real money, and finally be able to make larger purchases or invest in something like my other friends had.
Clearly, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, because as soon as I started my full-time job, I knew this wasn’t what I was meant to do forever. It took me MONTHS before I finally accepted and made the decision to move to Madrid, and be with my boyfriend. We went back and forth for a long time. In the beginning, I said I would move back by Christmas of 2016. Then we pushed it back to May of 2017. During the month of May, I found out I had a health condition that required surgery, which wasn’t scheduled until the end of September 2017.
So, my boyfriend and I waited, and I continued to work at my full-time job, save money, and work on The Quirky Pineapple Studio as a side-hustle. Then we said after the surgery, I’d move back in November 2017 which then turned into December 2017. It’s been a long time coming, but I think my boyfriend and I had to go through ALL of that to make sure this was the right choice and that both of us were in a place where we felt ready to take on this next adventure!
So far, the transition has been quite bumpy! Moving during the month of December is no joke, especially during the holiday season! My boyfriend had to find an apartment for us, while all I could do was pick ones online. He had problems in his full-time job, requiring him to look for something else, I decided to resign from my full-time job and was wrapping up a rebrand launch for the Quirky Pineapple Studio, and then we both had to pack our things (separately) and prepare to move. All this change before the New Year? HAH! We are slightly stressed and overwhelmed, but still excited to finally start a life together, and for me to take the TQP Studio full-time!
Has your past travels helped you with this transition? Do you think it would be different if you weren’t previously a frequent flyer?
I think my past travels have definitely helped with this transition. I would be WAY more scared and nervous moving to a different country indefinitely, if I hadn’t previously lived there or visited before. If I weren’t previously a frequent flyer, I would most likely be even more stressed or anxious for this upcoming move; but I feel a lot calmer and excited for the transition. The nerves are still there, but they’re good nerves, because I’m excited to get settled and start on work through the Quirky Pineapple Studio!
Another thing that makes this transition a bit easier is that even though to some it can seem like I’m moving abroad for love (which is pretty true), I can still maintain my independence because I’ve lived in the country before, know a good amount of people, and can speak the language. That was a big factor for me when deciding to move back abroad indefinitely. I don’t want to be a burden for my boyfriend and constantly rely on him for everything. The fact that I have made connections with people there, I feel a lot better. Clearly, I’m a control freak and a Type A personality, so I never want to feel like a burden on someone or dependent for too many things (anyone else feel like this?!).
Any advice for those who want to live abroad? Where should they start?
My advice for anyone who wants to live abroad is DO IT! If you are able to make the leap, without any constraints, I would recommend it in a heartbeat! It’s an eye-opening experience, and one that truly humbles you. If you do decide to take the leap, my one biggest advice is to ALWAYS keep an open mind and make sure you understand what “ethnocentrism” is before you go abroad.
If you don’t know what ethnocentrism is, here’s a basic definition (cited from my trusty old dictionary.com):
evaluation of other cultures according to preconceptions originating in the standards and customs of one's own culture.
Basically, this means comparing your culture to someone else’s and wondering why their culture isn’t like yours. I try to be conscious of this, as well, but there are times where I evaluate or judge someone else’s culture from the standards of my own, saying that “my culture’s way” is the right way and this new culture I just experienced is doing it all wrong. THAT IS NOT OK. It happens, but it’s good to be aware of it!
If you’re not sure where to start to move abroad, there are so many different resources online these days. I recommend doing your due diligence on these programs beforehand, to make sure they’re not just a scam and will provide you with a wholesome experience. If you’re from the United States, like I am, then there is also the option of having a “Holiday Working Visa”!
Look for different travel blogs that offer plenty of resources and blog posts, use Google, and try to compile a list that you think fits with what you want. But, I guess I should say before all of that, be clear on why you want to move abroad in the first place and what you’d want your experience to be like. That should help you decide on which type of program you’d like to go in to.
One thing I’ve always loved about you is that you actively proclaim being a feminist.
What does being a feminist mean to you in 2017/8? ...
Yes! I don’t think I understood what being a feminist meant, or if I even was a feminist, until I took a sociology of gender course at my university. From there, I felt like my entire perception of gender, race, inequality, etc completely shifted. I started questioning EVERYTHING, and forming my own opinions on areas that I felt so called to, like immigration, socio-economic situations, sexuality, etc.
Today, the word feminist has picked up so many meanings. There are “woke feminists”, “pop culture feminists”, feminists who use the term for their own commercial and monetary gains, “white feminists”, etc. It’s actually exhausting to see so many variations of something that to its core meant creating a system of equality for all people, no matter your gender, race, sex, socioeconomic background, sexuality, etc. (At least that’s what I learned in my sociology class).
To me, being a feminist in 2017/18 means fighting for the people who feel as though they don’t have a voice, who don’t have the same privileges as I do, and creating opportunities for them. It’s not choosing what those opportunities will be, but it’s presenting them with a different idea or teaching them about a different way to look at things. All of that stems from education, having open conversations, and being kind. There are a few phrases that I will always return to when it comes to feminism - which help keep me in check when I think about my own privileges and trying to create change or inspire others:
“There is a little bit of an oppressor in all of us.”
“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different than my own.” - Audre Lorde
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” - Desmond Tutu
To me, it’s always about giving someone the resources or presenting them with the opportunity to achieve more than I could.
Two things I wanted to talk more about this year are patience and trust, especially when it comes to entrepreneurship and starting your own thing.
How long did it take to get to where you currently are, and did you always believe that things would work out? ...
Oh gosh, I am such an impatient person, so this is an interesting question. I’ve wanted to become a full-time blogger since I was 13 years old. I’m currently 25, so that’s over 10 years! I probably had the “entrepreneurial” gene passed down to me, because both of my parents are business owners and almost all of my aunts and uncles also own their own businesses.
It’s taken me over 10 years to finally step up and decide to pursue the Quirky Pineapple Studio full-time. To be honest, the entire time I was setting up this business, I kept thinking “Is this going to work? Am I going to fail?”. I had a lot of tried and failed blogs, a lot of tried and failed business ideas, and even a moment when I was part of a MLM Company trying to make money on the side. None of those worked for me because they were never things I was interested in.
The few business ideas that really worked were things that were crafty, involved working with people, and teaching them something about blogging, living abroad, events, etc. That’s where I tried to find my zone of genius so that I could create the best services that will help people in the best way that I can.
I’m not sure I always believed I would finally be pursuing my own business and creating a location independent lifestyle for myself. I’m actually in disbelief because I’ve been saying it for so long it just became something that “Cassandra wants to do”, but never tangible enough for it to be grasped. I think a lot of my success now comes from the fact that I’m a stubborn woman who clearly won’t take no for an answer. I also have a habit of once I set my mind to something and determine that it’s MINE, then I’m going for it full force.
An important aspect I’d like to mention is that I trust in my passion of blogging, writing, working with people, events, etc (all the things I love) enough, to get me to my next level of success. I also trust the fact that I’m not the type of person that will let myself “fail” because I was acting lazy or capricious. So when you talk about patience and trust, I think it’s most important to trust your gut (because clearly my gut was telling me that I can do this) and be patient with the timing.
If it doesn’t feel like a good time, like you’re rushing and feel anxious, listen to that. It sounds so silly to say “you’ll know when the right time is”, but if you listen to your intuition a little more - then it’ll guide you in the right direction.
Thanks so much for letting me interview you, Cassandra! One last question, what does being a wholehearted woman mean to you?
I love this question! Being a wholehearted woman to me means giving back to my community in some way. It’s taking all the resources I have, all the connections, and more and giving it to others who may not have the same opportunities I do. I think being a wholehearted woman is handing someone else everything that I learned so that they can go out there and be better than I ever could have been.
Being a wholehearted woman also means having an open mind, a kind heart, and welcoming others when you see that they are struggling to “find” their place.
Rapid Fire Q’s:
A woman who inspires you:
Ooh, can I list three? The three women who inspire me the most are my mom, my aunt (my mom’s younger sister), and my grandma on my mom’s side. They are the three women I’ve seen do so much with whatever they have but still offering to do even more for others. They’ve shown me what true kindness and selflessness looks like, taught me to step up and claim my voice and show people that I’m HERE, and have also taught me to care for others.
They’re all sassy, feisty, and very short (I think all three women are 5’ tall). Despite how petite all three are, they are NOT women to be messed with and they will make it VERY clear when you’ve overstepped their boundaries.
Nugget of wisdom you’d like to share with other women:
Hm, the best nugget of wisdom I’d share with other women is that you are f*cking strong, independent, and fierce.
It took me a long time to realize this about myself, and there are still days that I don’t feel this way, but it’s so true. If you’ve found your way to Wholehearted Women and are trying to do more, be better, and somehow help people along the way, then you already were strong, independent, and fierce before I even told you so.
You are fierce and powerful and although some days you may not feel like it, I know there’s a spark inside all of us and an inner fierce diva that’s waiting for the right moment.
Best book you ever read:
Oh, this is really hard. Is it bad to say that I don’t actually read a lot of books… It sounds bad. I do want to read more, though! I used to love mystery novels, but lately I’ve really been into a lot of self-help books. I don’t think there’s a “best book” I’ve ever read! If anyone has any recommendations on a book I should read next, I will gladly accept your recommendation.
Country you’d like to visit:
I think every time I’m asked this question, I immediately say NEW ZEALAND. I’ve been dreaming about visiting New Zealand for over two years now! Then, the itch got really bad when I actually met Kiwi’s who were in Spain teaching English and they talked about their history, the culture, and the beautiful landscapes. I’ve wanted to do a Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand for a while (which I still can, until I’m 30, I think?). My plan is spend at least 3 months there to travel, learn, and immerse myself!