Inspirational Woman: Johanna
Every month on the 18th, I celebrate the strong, intelligent and kind women in my life.
This month, meet Johanna, a rock-star mom with a very cool background. Her love for travel, food and culture will make you want to plan your next trip today!
18th Style: Where are you from?
Johanna: OK so a little bit everywhere! I grew up in Belgium, went to International School in Waterloo (yes THAT Waterloo), moved to the US (shout out to NJ!) at about the age of 13. The next big move from NJ was to Fairfield, CT (Fairfield University) for college, but essentially I was always trying to get myself to NYC or Italy.
After graduation I was lucky enough to get an internship in Brussels for a hotel company. That internship lasted 4 months because it ended up morphing into a job, 4 years later, I ended up moving back to CT with my then fiancé (now husband).
We stayed in Fairfield County for the next 12 years until about 2 years ago we moved to Orange County, California. What a change, wow – all of it. Food, people, temperature, landscape, pace of life.
18th Style: You’ve been at home with your kids for the past seven years. How did you find the transition? What can you share with other moms about the decision to stay at home?
Johanna: I’ve been home about 7 years now. It was a tough decision but one that I literally thought about every day twice a day after having my twins. I planned
for it mentally but after a year you finally get into your stride and then the planning has to lead to new planning.
I felt like planning physically and financially is most peoples focus, but it’s the new “mental space” that takes the most getting used to. By mental space, I mean going with the ebbs and flows of the day, the hurry up and wait, the ‘wears it all hat’, the fix it all, and manage it all.
It really was taking on the emotional lives of your children 24/7 without being able to go hang at Starbucks during lunch if the office was just getting too much. Like anything you gain and you loose, but it all comes back to you when the time is right.
18th Style: How do you spend your kid-free time?
Johanna: The way I relax is by doing things and traveling: mostly classes (creative, sewing, cooking) and art lectures and tours. When I was single and kid free, I followed museum shows across Europe.
As a family, we still try to explore by doing things and of course eating our way through the cultural highlights, local and far. Why not?
18th Style: Do you have a favorite blogger?
Johanna: I have so many different interest this one is hard – but I can narrow it down to two:
Jamie Beck of @annstreetstudio is the profile I constantly search for and look for updates on. If you can’t get to Provence for the next year and want to see what the local market highlights are, this account will take you there. For me, she embodies the ‘authentic’ Instagram: great photography, a glimpse into her life, honest commentary on the ups and down on the life of a creative. And if she photoshops her photography, chances are she is showing you EXACTLY how she does it in Stories.
She is not an ‘over poster’ on Instagram but that’s what I like. And she’s good at putting out some hard to ask questions about what brands are really looking for when they hire ‘influencers.’
She stays true to her passion of great, unique graphic design, and it doesn’t hurt that she works with some great brands like Bentley and Breitling. She still publishes on her blog, which I like, since sometimes we need an editorial with great writing to get the vibe across.
18th Style: Who inspires you?
Johanna: This one is hard – I have no heroes, I talk about this with my kids all the time. Inspiration to me varies. Sometimes it comes from a place and sometimes from an event. I would say travel is most transformative for me.
18th Style: Who inspires your style and what’s your favorite store or brand?
Johanna: I am still trying to get the hang of 75 degrees all year around here. I have a hard time layering in cottons. I am used to layering in wools! If I had to choose three brands I couldn’t live without (in order of importance) they would be Birkenstock, J. Crew and Gucci.
I mean, I could live without Gucci, but it’s the one reminder that I can’t be in Birkenstocks’ 24/7. As for inspiration, I am still addicted to magazines and W is one I have been getting for years. I love the fantasy of the editorial shoots.
18th Style: How would you describe your style?
Johanna: I would say still trying to work it out? Yikes. I do like unique pieces (sunglasses, etc). It took me two years to finally be in a city that had a boutique that sold the sunglasses I was dying to try on because sometimes you want the boutique experience (@valleyeyewear).
My SIL (who is Swedish and very style savy) is my go-to for a lot of “where can I find…” advice.
18th Style: As we all know, life is a journey and presents many challenges . What advice would you give your 20 year old self?
Johanna: The advice I would give without hesitation: Keep traveling and keep going.
18th Style: Favorite place you traveled to and why? Feel free to share more than one.
No matter how many times I try and introduce a new destination, Italy always loops back around. We’ve been a few times and every time we have a great trip. We walk a ton, eat a ton, see friends and we have always been lucky with great tour guides – this really is my main focus when booking a trip.
I try and find private tours and obscure museums, manage our time there so the kids don’t loose it, and segway right into a snack or treat. To me discovery is all about time management: having the time to discover and learn BUT also making sure you know when to leave before the disco ball drops.
We have also been lucky enough to spend time in Stockholm since my husband is Swedish. It’s a great way to get immersed in a culture and traditions, and of course trends. Every time we go back there’s something new to discover. Its an underrated city with GREAT coffee and food. The Swedes know design: style, packaging, fashion, music, you name it.
HOWEVER – let it be known that I will not be giving up on going back to Cairo and Luxor. The kids keep asking and it’s really one of those surreal places that I have always wanted to go back to.
18th Style: Do you have a favorite quote or saying? If yes, would you mind sharing?