Thrive on Campus//

The Dream Nomad Life: Conversation with Celinne Da Costa

Traveling the world full-time changed Celinne's life — and inspired her to do the same for others.

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Born to a Brazilian mother and an Italian father, Celinne Da Costa moved to the United States to chase the American Dream when she was young. She went to the University of Pennsylvania and landed a prestigious corporate job after moving to New York City. But she wasn’t living the life she wanted; she was checking boxes. Finally, Celinne could no longer tolerate the deep dissatisfaction that was building up in her life, and decided to make a change for the better. She travelled the world on a low budget, lived in strangers’ houses, and fell in love with building real human connections that made her heart full. She is now a life design coach running her own six-figure business and living her dream life.


Why did you quit your corporate job?

I was born in Italy and moved to America when I was young. Growing up, I have always felt like an outsider. As I was growing up in the U.S., the concept of the American Dream started to grow on me. The mentality of working your way up the ranks and getting that corporate job pushed me to the point where I started to believe in it. I thought that I had to do this and that in order to be considered “successful”. I ended up checking all the boxes of a conventional success list. I went to ivy league school, and worked for one of the top agencies in NYC. Eventually, I realized that the American Dream is not what I actually wanted. I was just repeatedly told that it is what I am supposed to want. It never felt right to my heart.

If your heart wasn’t satisfied, why did you still stick with it?

I always felt like this was what I was supposed to do and how success is measured. “OMG, you went to ivy league!” “OMG, you are in this amazing corporate job!” I made the mistake of making my choices based on what I believed would validate my place in society. I would make these choices that I thought would be the right thing, but not what I actually wanted. I never actually listened to what I truly wanted.

How did you figure out what you truly wanted? What did that process look like?

It’s quite the journey because you don’t just wake up one day and realize your new values. But for me, it’s like a domino’s effect. I decided that I was unhappy and actually admitted to myself that this is not the lifestyle I wanted, I still had no idea what I wanted, but all I knew what that I didn’t want this (the NYC corporate life). The second I decided that the life wasn’t what I desired, I just can’t unsee it. I could either be miserable about it, or I could do something about it. It started a journey of self-searching because my old values no longer served me. I let go of them and started the process of creating new values. I had to get out of my comfort zone and constantly ask myself: What do I want? It’s also about trying a lot of different things. I left New York because a city life just doesn’t work for me. It’s also important to embrace the fact that I don’t always have all the answers.

You travel a lot. Did changing your environment help you find your new values?

For sure. If you really want change, something has to change. A lot of people say that they want change, but they still go to their job and do the same things in their routines. Nothing is actually being modified, in those cases. Sure, you could start journalling for 5–10 minutes every morning, and that might bring some changes. But if you really want to experience an enormous change, then the change you make has to match up to the amount of change you wanted to see in your own life. It also depends on your appetite for risk-taking. If you hate your job, just change your job and go from there. If you don’t like where you are living, then move. You have to be uncomfortable because that is when changes take place.

Has risk-taking always been in your personality? Or did you pick it up after you hit rock bottom with your old life?

I believe that courage is a muscle. So risk taking has not always been in my personality. It’s an appetite that I developed. For you to win big, you have to risk big. But in practice, what I have seen and experienced, is that when you talk calculated risks, it pays off huge. The first big risk I took was quitting my job. And after realizing that the risk turned out very well for me, I took another risk. But once I took a reckless risk and I realized it did not work very well for me. So as I was taking risks, I started to understand the difference between smart and mindless risks. I realized that taking thoughtful risks can actually transform your life in ways unimaginable. Also, every one measures risks differently, so everyone has to figure out their own way of effective risk-taking.

Tell me more about your traveling. What has changed over time?

When I first started traveling, it was a journey of self-discovery. I was really trying to figure out what was it that I wanted. It was right after I quit my job, and I travelled with a minimal budget. I went with the flow wherever I went. I journaled everyday and there was a lot of room for me to explore heavily with strong intention. The beginning of my traveling was self-centered, and I just flowed from one place to the next. All of that was great — I had personal freedom, time freedom, and location freedom, which was what I wanted. The only piece missing for me was financial freedom.

Now, with my travels, I have more responsibility. I am building a business bigger than myself. I still do spontaneous adventures on the weekend, and I go on a lot of adventures, but there is an extra level of responsibility. I am simultaneously building something bigger than myself, while still designing a that I love.

How did you decide to become a life coach? What were some challenges building your business?

Coaching picked me. I didn’t choose coaching. As I was traveling and telling stories, I happened to also help my hosts tell their stories. I was also figuring out my personal brand, and I realized that I was doing it really well. I really enjoyed it, and I realized that I could get paid for this! I started offering coach consultation and people were getting huge results from my help. As I started building a business, more people started coming to me. My biggest challenge is I didn’t know how to build a business. But this is not an excuse, because I built this 6 figure business with no foundational knowledge all within one year. The hard part was educating myself and dealing with the emotions of not knowing what I was doing but doing it anyways. A lot of people wait to do something until everything is perfect, but if you want to build something, you have to just do it and educate yourself along the way. I spoke to different experts, I hired coaches, and I just talked to people who are experts in their fields.

How do you deal with uncertainties?

The first step is to create some structure while also allowing room for flexibility. As human beings, we actually do need a routine and some structure. For example, when I said I wanted to travel the world, I made a plan and list. I ended up not sticking to all of it, but having that initial structure helped me make bigger decisions. If you don’t plan anything out, you will always get blocked at the first level of things. The second piece of advice is to not be afraid of asking for help. The second I don’t know something, I identify someone who is an expert in it and I ask them to share their knowledge with me. Be strategic. Don’t just blindly ask for help, but ask them for resources. Third, approach every problem as if there is a solution. If you think there isn’t a solution, it either means you haven’t done the work to find it, or because the problem is just not important enough for you.

What advice would you give to college students who are figuring out their lives?

Our generation is incredibly impatient and entitled. We live in a generation with social media, and the environment we grew up with has made us fall in love with instant gratification. I see this happening all the time when I talk to younger entrepreneurs who want things to happen the moment they invest themselves in it. One of the important things we have to learn, and I am going through this myself, is that we need to be more patient.

The corporate route is the easy way. You get free training in a “safe” environment. Entrepreneurship is the hard way. It is worth it, but it is not easy. To make it more practical, here’s the advice: First, develop your mindset. Statistically speaking, your first company will fail. Having the emotional endurance and resilience to accept failure is key. Second, you need to actually create things. If you want to create a company, get up and do it. The actual act of starting businesses and learning how to run them as well as being emotionally equipped is what makes you a successful entrepreneur.

Instead of thinking, do. Be okay with failing. It’s going to happen at one point.

How do you help your clients identify their values?

A lot of my work is built upon story telling. Everyone has a story they tell themselves: who they are, why they do what they do, and why they can’t do certain things. Everyone has a certain story and what I do is help them reflect the stories they are telling themselves. I help them edit their chapters. Everyone has a story they currently live with, but they also have an ideal story that they can envision. I help them move from their old story to new story by helping them eliminating excuses that are holding them back. I help them understand their WHY and their values.

A lot of times, in both life and business, that are against our values. That is what makes us unhappy. For example, if you really value human connection, but you spend all day sitting behind a computer crunching numbers, of course you will hate your life. If your passion is to drive information from data, then you will love sitting behind a computer and hate talking to people all day. As soon as you align your work and lifestyle with your values, you become really happy.

Have you met clients who have trouble coming up with their ideal story? Or is it something within them that you can pull out?

It’s in them. Sometimes people cannot imagine what their stories look like because they do not know what their values are. But once they start thinking about their values, they will start coming up with their stories. One of the things I fundamentally believe is that everyone has a story to tell. And that story determines their reality. I help them figure out their story and make their reality as close to the story of their heart as possible.

Rapid fire questions:

1. What are your top three values?

  1. I believe that human connection is the most powerful currency that we can possibly have. Being vulnerable, being open with one another, connecting with each other. The number one telltale sign of happiness is the relationships you have in your life. That’s why I’ve built my business around human connection, and that comes through in my personal life as well because it allows me to have incredible personal relationship with different people.
  2. A second value is self-awareness and self-discovery. I believe that all the possible answers we are seeking for are inside of us. We have to be willing to lean in and look within ourselves. I spend a lot of time.
  3. The third thing is life design. We have absolute control over our lives, but we just to be willing to put in the effort.

2. What’s one piece of advice that you live by?

Nothing will change if you don’t take action. You can have the most powerful philosophy and vision, but you need to take action to turn it into reality.

3. What’s one piece of advice you would give to your 18 year old self?

Be more patient. Be more patient with myself. I spent a lot of time worrying how my future would turn out, and I did not trust myself enough to know that I would eventually pull through. I was having a breakdown about how I will make money, and someone said to me: You need to trust your potential. I wish I believed in myself.

4. What’s your favorite pastime hobby?

Reading. I’m super nerdy. And going on crazy adventures with strangers. I love saying yes to adventures. I would go to a random waterfall with strangers and I really believe in always saying yes to cool, fun things.

5. What’s your favorite book?

The Alchemist and Cloud Atlas.

6. What do you do in times of doubt?

I doubt my doubt. When I have doubts, I will sit down with myself and ask myself: How likely will this actually happen?

7. Who are you, and what do you want?

I am a human being having a spiritual experience. I want to live the life I have been given, and when I look back on my life at my deathbed, I want to be able to say that every single moment was absolutely worth it. The good and the bad. No regrets.

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More on Mental Health on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis

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