Hi! my name is lena
I offer customized workshops & retreats, design & development for travel programs, and intercultural inclusiveness coaching to help purpose-driven schools, organizations, and businesses provide transformative experiences that open minds and hearts. Participants will learn, grow, connect with others, and develop skills to contribute to a more inclusive world.
So, how did I get here and why do I do this work?
My whole life has been leading me to this...
I was a serious bookworm as a child. I was so drawn to the possibilities presented by a story. An opportunity to be transported to another time and place, another reality. A glimpse into someone else’s perspective and experience. Reading was a way to escape, and at the same time, a way to live wholly and fully in the present moment. Reading was, for me, what travel would eventually become.
I was also the daughter of two Greek immigrants, raised in small-town South Carolina, USA. We visited our family in Greece nearly every year. Growing up between these two cultures and identities allowed me to realize from an early age that what we believe and how we behave is largely shaped by our cultural context. I had always been fascinated with understanding human behavior, and I became especially interested in the role played by place and culture.
I took a gap year before graduate school and spent several months in Tanzania as a volunteer English teacher, where I was confronted with the harm done to local communities when unqualified volunteers from the Global North try to “help” people abroad. This caused me to deeply reflect on my role in the world, why we truly seek out these kinds of service experiences, and the ways in which colonialism continues to live on in new forms.
I later earned a Master’s degree in Cultural Anthropology with an additional Certificate in International Development Studies in order to cultivate a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the things I’d seen and experienced across cultures.
In my spare time outside of work, I began facilitating retreats for student groups. Some of these retreats were for cultural organizations who wanted to start the school year with a close-knit community and a clear vision, strategy, and plan for their responsibilities throughout the year. Other retreats were for groups preparing to volunteer abroad, where we addressed all of the above in addition to intercultural communication, mindfulness in volunteering, and responsible and ethical engagement with local communities.
I knew I wanted this to be the focus of my work. I also wanted the freedom to design and create on my own terms while having the flexibility to live a more location-independent lifestyle. I put in my notice at work and started preparing to travel long-term while building my own business.
My fascination with people led me study to Sociology and Psychology in university. I soon joined my university’s “Cultural Exchange Community,” where domestic and international students could live together. I had an absolutely beautiful, eye-opening experience getting to know so many different people from around the world, and my interest in travel and intercultural engagement continued to grow.
During this time, I also spent a semester abroad in New Zealand. The people I met and the courses I took opened my mind in ways I never dreamed possible. I deeply questioned everything I had been taught to believe, and I began to discover who I truly was outside the chains of cultural conditioning and social conformity.
Eventually, life led me to a non-profit social enterprise working in experiential education and leadership development. While based in Asia, I designed curricula and facilitated leadership programs for some of the best international schools in the world.
After returning to the US, I began working at a major university in Florida. In this role, I collaborated with students and cultural organizations to plan and facilitate intercultural programs and events, taught courses on deepening self-awareness and building meaningful community through intercultural engagement, and traveled abroad with students on a cultural immersion program.
And so here we are…
My work integrates my academic and pedagogical background with my skills and experience in curriculum development, program design, and facilitation in order to create transformative experiences that facilitate self-discovery and personal development, cultivate intimate human-to-human connection, and prepare and empower participants to engage with cultural communities effectively and respectfully.
I look forward to connecting with you.