Travel Concierge Lauren Quinn, Owner of Bromelia Rio, Takes Travelers Through the Wonderful World of Brazil
Many people wouldn’t dream of picking up their lives to move to a country where they don’t know anyone, the language, infrastructure, or politics and start a business, but that’s exactly what Lauren Quinn did.
In 2014, the 35-year-old world traveler from Los Angeles was getting restless again after landing in San Francisco for a few years.
Lauren, who is used to “living out of my comfort zone,” she said, had lived, studied, and worked in London, New Delhi, Paris and the South of France by the time she temporarily settled in San Francisco enroot to Argentina. Argentina became a distant goal, but not South America.
Four years ago, she packed up again. This time heading to Rio De Janeiro where she founded Bromelia Rio: Brazil Travel Concierge, a travel company that offers travelers bespoke and personally curated travel experiences of Brazil.
Brazil can be very challenging for even the well-traveled for the same reason that makes it so interesting, said Lauren. It’s Brazil. The country isn’t focused on major chains hotels, restaurants, or shops. Its public transportation system has its own unique logic that Brazilians understand, but is completely foreign to foreigners. Brazilians aren’t as focused on technology, so smartphones won’t aid in helping travelers get around and English isn’t spoken widely.
“When you’re here it’s a very exotic experience because a lot of music is Brazilian, the food is Brazilian,” said Lauren. “Everything that you have here is extremely authentic.”
Lauren’s goal is to “translate the idea of the culture” and help travelers “fully indulge” in the “real culture” of Rio and Brazil. She provides her guests as much or as little hands on curation and guidance as they want while providing insider tips on the best the city and country have to offer from beaches to restaurants to things to do, so travelers can get the most out of their trip.
She’s also created 21 unique tours of Rio that are guided by about 20 different local experts discussing everything from architecture, astronomy, underground fashion, and more. All tours are offered in English.
“It’s a way to get non-touristy, for lack of a better term, ‘off-the-beaten-track’ access to the real side of life,” in Brazil, she said, noting that the goal is not to “stand in line for a point of interest in the tourist book.”
“We want to offer the opposite of a cookie cutter vacation,” she continued about travelers who use her travel concierge services. “I work alongside local Brazilian experts in various areas who offer something a little bit different and a little more local.”
“We want to be drinking at the local dive bar – that’s what we like,” she said.
It’s very important to Lauren that her guests leave with a “very complete feeling,” she said, so they can feel the passion of the country.
She also offers guided tours throughout Brazil taking guests to Iguazu Falls, the Amazon, and São Paulo, better-known destinations as well as offering off-the-beaten-track explorations of the country. She takes guests to the small colonial town Paraty that is between Rio and São Paulo and the charming fishing village of Buzios, which has been named one of the 10 most beautiful places in the world, among other destinations.
All Over The World
“I got this hunger for the world,” said Lauren, whose adventures around the world began through a study abroad program at the University of Santa Barbara.
Her first experience as an expat was in the south of France when she was 20-years old.
The experience of living abroad captivated her. Desiring a completely opposite experience from Europe after her program ended, she remedied it by moving to the Himalayas to learn Hindi for several months. She stayed in India moving to New Delhi, where she volunteered for a civil service organization, before moving to another part of Europe again.
“I was just following my soul,” which, in her mind was a rational path to take, said the self-proclaimed life-long traveler. “I was really desiring culture, something that I really hadn’t experienced a lot of growing up in Southern California.”
San Francisco was supposed to only be a stopover on her way to Argentina to learn Spanish, but the City by the Bay’s “do as you will attitude” caused her to pause.
“What caught me was this feeling that in San Francisco you’re so supported by your community to be whoever you want [to be] and do whatever you want,” said Lauren, who canceled her flight to South America. “Whatever crazy thing you wanted to be your fully accepted. It was so normal that no one thought twice about it and [it] was beautiful to me.”
Lauren had lived abroad for many years at that point that while her passport said she was Californian, “I didn’t feel Californian anymore. I had a little bit of an identity crisis. San Francisco was a beautiful conduit back into the states.”
San Francisco satiated her desire for a rich, diverse creative culture, but that all changed four years later when the itch to travel returned and San Francisco was changing dramatically: the city’s soul was mutating from creative to techie.
“I wasn’t feeling as creative or inspired as I used to be,” Lauren said. “What was once avant-garde, became very cookie cutter to me.”
“I was feeling a lack of the artistic community that I was used to. I found that down in Brazil,” said Lauren, who was an executive assistant for former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown at the Willie Brown Institute, his political policy Institute, for nearly a year and she bartended at a whiskey bar at the time, she said.
Brazil was especially appealing as the tech industry was teetering on the edge of exploding again with the startups moving into San Francisco pushing out the creative people. Gentrification continued to spread and evictions rose reminiscent of the dot com era of the late 1990s and the high cost of living made the city unaffordable for many people, especially artists and activists.
“I was really thirsty [to be] … interacting on a soul level. I needed more for my day-to-day interactions with people,” she said knowing that it sounded cheesy, but she was drawn to Brazilian’s “very strong sense of human kindness and human compassion.”
“When I came here something just took me, so I just literally left my holiday. I went back to San Francisco. I packed my bag and I turned around and I came back,” said Lauren, who found her location in Rio while on vacation.
She also foresaw an opportunity with the summer Olympics heading to unruly Rio and very few Brazilian’s who spoke English or any other foreign language. The travel business that had percolate in the back of her mind over the years suddenly seem viable.
“I had always wanted to start a business working with tourism, but I never had quite found my location,” said the former speechwriter for international ambassadors.
“I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t speak the language. I just said this has got to work. It felt right,” she said.
Not knowing how to speak Portuguese, having no personal connections, knowledge of the ropes of the business or political system, or much of anything at all didn’t deter her.
As a collector of languages, mastering three, getting by in one, and eyeing her next lingo tango, learning Portuguese wasn’t as challenging for her as it could have been.
She already spoke English and a couple Latin-based languages – French and Spanish – unlike Hindi, which was a challenge for her, she said.
Not only was Hindi a completely foreign and challenging language to learn, many Indians speak English. They immediately identified her as American and spoke English rather than Hindi.
However, she concurred the language enough that, “I can be charming at a farmer’s market” and she can be respectful to the taxi driver.
“My learning languages is because I want to get into people’s boat. I want to understand, ‘Why you do what you do?’ and the only way to do that is to look at the world from their eyes,” she said.
It was also important for her to “fully integrate” in to life in Rio to create her travel service and promote it from a “very sincere standpoint,” Lauren said.
“That would only happen by eating the food, speaking the language, [and] making new friends,” she said.
Within about two months, Lauren was able to pick up enough Portuguese to negotiate contracts and organize workers, but three years later she’s still learning and believes, “I’m going to make mistakes for another decade,” she said.
Four years later she has a thriving business. Travelers find her through the Bromelia Rio website, Facebook, or through articles about her and Bromelia Rio in a few major publications
An estimated 70 percent of travelers who take her up on her 30-minute complimentary travel consultations book some or an entire Rio or Brazil vacation with her.
Her team and she have led hundreds of tours a month helping thousands of travelers’ experience Rio and various destinations in Brazil, Lauren said.
“Everyone wants to go to Brazil, but few people actually do it,” she said.
That might be changing as the Zika scare is fading and Brazil’s electronic visa launched at the beginning of this year, Lauren noted.
“It can be a really extremely rewarding trip,” she said.
Book your next Brazilian adventure with Girls That Roam Travel. Contact Heather Cassell at Girls That Roam Travel at 415-517-7239 or at email@example.com.