You must be hungry and by hungry, I mean ready to do whatever it takes. It is commonly known that the US has the worst paid time off, labor laws and that folks on a salary are expected to work way more than 40 hours. Do it — this is how you climb the ladder. Once you have paid your dues it gets easier and the financial rewards will be there. If you are shy of hard work, America is not for you.
Is the American Dream still alive? If you speak to many of the immigrants we spoke to, who came to this country with nothing but grit, resilience, and a dream, they will tell you that it certainly is still alive.
As a part of our series about immigrant success stories, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nikki Webster, a travel writer who covers how to travel while grinding a day job and travel without breaking the bank. She covers hotels, cruising, and off-the-beaten-track experiences. She is particularly fond of Florida and writes extensively about the state. She flies around 60,000 miles per year and has visited 54 countries, 50 states, and six continents.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Contrary to how Americans think that English people grow up in mansions in the countryside. I grew up inner city on a council estate which is the equivalent of the projects here in the states.
Not one single person in my family on either side has an education. All were working class, borderline poor. My paternal grandad was a semi-professional boxer who spent every penny gambling or drinking. Leaving my grandmother at home with four hungry mouths to feed. The stage was set early for what would be a repeat.
My early life was no picnic. It was plagued with alcohol addictions, physical abuse, divorces, and mental illness. Experiencing this has shaped who I am. I will not tolerate violence. I am an advocate for anyone with mental illness and an advocate for any woman being abused. I also have a soft spot for people that struggle with addictions, but I must be careful here as I personally cannot be involved with addicts.
Over the years, our living situation improved financially, and we eventually made it to a decent neighborhood, but we were still inner city. A city that I would eventually take away any remaining youth and propelled me into adulthood at an early age.
Everyone in my family is divorced and married several times except for one uncle.
Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell us the story?
What triggered me is I had a government job at twenty with no education. By all accounts I was living the dream considering where I came from.
A friend of mine had a job at a hospital separating plasma from blood and she too was making good money at twenty with no education. The company she worked for offered to pay for her to go to University and guaranteed her a promotion upon completion. She turned it down.
I distinctly remember the conversation to this day. It was essentially “I am already good.” I am already set, and this was at twenty. This is a common working-class mentality that I grew up around.
I knew that my future would be similar if I did nothing about it. Can you imagine settling for status quo at twenty?
I had tons of potential and I knew it. I had done so well in school (before I quit) that I had been offered a full ride to a private girl’s school. I turned this down because I did not want to play tennis or wear the mandatory uniform. I do not really regret this as I would not be where I am today. However, I do wish that I had the same instinct and intuition that later years brought. In theory, I would have been even further along, but the environment was not right for me in England.
I was coming out of a toxic relationship at the time when I became motivated. I was blessed with instinct. I knew that if I stayed the future was grim. I would eventually marry someone I did not love, have children all to gain security or perceived security. I had no interest in this at all.
In fact, when I looked around at all the examples and influences, I could not identify one person that was living how I wanted to live. And almost every girl I knew had at least one child and was raising their kids without the fathers. Or was in unhappy marriages that helped them move up in class. Most of whom are now all divorced!
Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?
My parents wanted me to go to Australia as we have distant family members there (who left for the same reasons I did). My parents tried from early on (around 15) to get to me to consider immigration. I think they too knew that history would repeat it is self if I continued in the same environment.
I wanted to go to India or America and chose America. I came here to go to school and that is exactly what I did.
It was terrifying for me; I was just turning 21 and had taken a long gap from education. It was also the first time I would be on my own with no safety net.
I was street wise but naive. Early on I envisioned a couple of years of partying vs. study and hard work. This illusion was crushed very quickly as I soon realized it is all in here in the US.
It forced me to be independent. Fortunately, I am social and made friends easily. This led to me meeting my husband very quickly (a year in) and we are still together 26 years later.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?
Well, that would have to be Brian my husband who has been there through thick and thin from the start. Finding love and knowing that someone has your back makes a huge difference. His family also provides me with a sense of family, I do not feel alone.
I also have a huge group of friends any many of them have shaped me personally and professionally.
Another person who deserves credit is a prior manager Linda Moore, who is a close friend to this day. She was the one that propelled my career and took what was raw talent and made it corporate worthy. She took me under her wing, coached me, advised me, and encouraged me to take risks that I would not have done otherwise. Linda was also able to reach me where I am at, a rare talent that most managers do not have. I owe my corporate success to her😊.
When people believe in you or tell you what they see — you believe in yourself.
So how are things going today?
Fantastic, never better. Last year we built our dream home on a lake in the city limits of Orlando. We are still married… still happy and we love our life. Brian owns his own pest control company. I work a corporate job; I am a Director in a fortune 500 company. I have been with the same company for over 20 years now and I run my own website.
I started my own website www.britonthemove.com for the sole purpose of creating long term passive income in preparation for retirement. I have been in corporate America for a while now. And, while the company that I work for is wonderful I do not want to be grinding till I am 65! So, I made changes to prepare for the long haul. Passive income will provide this and when the time is right, I will make the changes I need to.
Now, working a demanding corporate job and running a website is a challenge but I outsource a lot of the work on the website or do the work over the weekends. This is another example of where hard work will pay off!
We travel extensively, we boat, we entertain all the time. We live in the moment — and my goal is more of this sooner!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I co-parent my cousins’ twelve-year old child. I also provide for him financially. Over the years, he has lived with us several times. Now we have him a couple of weeks a month.
His home situation is not ideal, and it is critical for me to provide him with the right examples and teach him the things that his parents cannot. This way he will have the tools and the chance to break the cycle.
He and I travel a lot together, we dine out all the time. Most importantly we spend time together and when he is around, he is the #1 priority for my husband and me.
I feel a huge responsibility to make sure that another one in my family blood line makes it — despite adversity.
You have first-hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you suggest improving the system?
- It is all one-sided in the systems favor. For example, if you send in a change of address as required and it is certified they can claim that they did not receive it. And even though you can prove it — it is irrelevant. This has resulted in me having to pay for specific filings more than once even though they did receive the required documents and sent correspondence to an old address. This needs to change; they need to hold accountable for their mistakes.
- In general, the staff think they are above all. I have met a couple of nice employees, but most are rude, ignorant, and appear appalled by immigrants. There is no sense of trying to help you. It is common to be treated like a criminal and talked down to. It is very intimidating. So, I would say change the expectations of how they treat people and hold them accountable to treating all with respect. Treat everyone as you would want to be treated.
- The filing fees are astronomically expensive. Sure, the system must be funded however if people are going to contribute to this society creating barriers has the opposite effect. This is partly why so many people are illegal.
Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.
- You must be hungry and by hungry, I mean ready to do whatever it takes. It is commonly known that the US has the worst paid time off, labor laws and that folks on a salary are expected to work way more than 40 hours. Do it — this is how you climb the ladder. Once you have paid your dues it gets easier and the financial rewards will be there. If you are shy of hard work, America is not for you.
- Surround yourself with people you want to emulate. Not just financially but in the sense of overall lifestyle. Whose life would you like to live? Seek them out and learn from these people.
- Do not compete with people or get caught up in the chase for material things. This will all follow if you work hard and smart. And long term you want to be able to buy nice things but not before you can afford them. My first nice car was 10 years ago — a Ford Edge. For years people have been egging me on to buy a flashy car simply because I have a high paying job. That is just not who I am. A car is a means of getting from point A to B. And I do not lease! My point here is I am not going to go broke on a car to keep up an appearance (or to compete). I also do not finance toys! We saved up and paid cash for our boat.
- Be true to who you are. Do not compromise your beliefs or try to be someone you are not. Be authentic! It takes less mental effort and when you are yourself you will perform your best.
- Take accountability for yourself. You hold the keys, no one else.
We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?
- Our new President has restored my faith in the country for sure. The Trump era was dark and corrupt. I felt we were heading into communism. I did not expect Biden to win, so the fact that the country voted him in tells me we still believe in democracy.
- Community still thrives in America. Despite any division, communities still unite when needed. For example, if someone has cancer everyone will pitch in to help with the kids, make meals, run to the doctors. Time and time again, I see communities come together when faced with awful life circumstances. It is ironic, because in many cases in America its dog eat dog. However, I have experienced many examples where differences are put aside under the umbrella of doing the right thing.
- Education is no longer the main path to success. As much as I support education it has become a check box to say that you were in the club and made it. A barrier for many talented people to join the big corporations. Unless you are in a field that requires education like medical or legal — it is becoming a thing of the past. This is a good thing, many of the most successful people do not have a formal education beyond high school. And much of what is taught in universities is rarely used on the job. Not to mention, funding of education is one of the biggest scams ever. The government funds it upfront, then sells your loan!
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Well, there are few:
- Richard Branson — Richard Branson overcame dyslexia and is now one of the most successful businessmen of all time. Not as famous in America as throughout the rest of the world but he is one of a kind. If you have never experienced a product from Richard Branson, you have not lived. I have been a long-time fan back to the days of the brick-and-mortar Virgin stores. Now, I fly Virgin whenever I travel to England. Let me tell you — everything Sir Branson does is 1st class. Even in Economy on Virgin Atlantic is like flying business class. I have also flown Virgin Australia — flawless. And I have stayed at the Virgin hotel in Chicago. Sir Branson has the Midas touch, everything he does in on point. Lastly, he is known for putting his employees first.
- Anderson Cooper — I consider Anderson to be the voice of reason in a world full of lies! Some will disagree but I will have followed him for years and he is factual. For me, this is integrity. He is also a humanitarian; he uses his voice to promote change and I really admire this. Lastly, despite being born into a Vanderbilt life he is self-made!
- Cutis Jackson — 50 Cent. I think he said it best. “He did not go to Harvard but the people who work for him did”. Successful people surround themselves with successful people. They also hire the people that can do the things they cannot. This is a man who came from nothing to a rapper, businessman and of course now he is the “King of Instagram.”
- Nicky Jam — He moved to Colombia because he needed a new environment to overcome challenges and to pursue his career. We have different stories but share the same motivation to move. I have experienced many of the challenges he had growing up. I am inspired by how he reunited with his mother after 20 years and was able to forgive.
- Oprah Winfrey — I am sure that everyone has Oprah on their list. Perhaps the most inspiring woman of all time. The obstacles that she has overcome and prolific, the odds were against her from birth and yet here she is — a modern day Mother Teresa. Outside of her business success, I am always inspired by how much she gives back and the charities she chooses. I also think she is brutally honest a trait I think is critical.
FYI — Bill Gates would be on my list, but I have already met him!
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!