Out of the comfort zone : Featuring Emily Chen

Emily Chen on the right

Out of the comfort zone The Interview series with Emily Chen

I decided to dive deeper in the topic of getting out of the comfort zone by interviewing some of the most inspiring people I met personally or got inspired online because of their courage of living a life they love and that challenges their comfort zone daily. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did chatting with them!


After a very long break ( which included graduating from my Masters and becoming a yoga teacher among other adventures!!) , I'm finally back on this little corner of the internet and I couldn't be happier to be here.

As you may remember some months ago I've started a interview series to some inspiring ladies I met in the last couple of years, If you missed them out you can read more here and here for the previous two interviews.

Today's guest is a very lovely lady, Emily Chen, which I had the pleasure of meeting here in Paris few months ago when I was participating in this project called "The World we Want" , which I talked more about in this post  last year. She was part of the organization of the project in the US and she was starting a journey around the world passing also by Paris!

So let's dive in ......

First of all, tell us something about yourself, who is Emily Chen ?

Haha, that’s a BIG question! I can’t say that I know everything about myself, but I do know where I am right now and what motivates me right now.

I was born in Shanghai and grew up in the US mostly in the midwest. Because of the challenges we faced moving to the US, I became very passionate about global health, social justice and women’s empowerment issues.

I also was a very quiet and artsy kid. But I was raised in a very traditional immigrant household… so naturally I majored in Biology in university with the intention of being a doctor.

After two years of working in the healthcare system, I very quickly realized it wasn’t for me and I craved a change. I switched into start-ups because I was curious about it. I learned a lot about start-ups and entrepreneurship in the past two years.

But I’ve always been an artsy and creative kid. I’ve always loved my paintbrushes and Photoshop and design and art. I’ve always loved bringing people together over food. I’ll always be passionate about global health and women’s empowerment.

So that’s where I am now, trying to mix all three of those together and see what I get!—I’m currently doing freelance design, illustration and branding work as I’m currently traveling. And I’d love to do creative work (design, strategy) for a food or lifestyle brand that has very clear vision, mission, and process towards social impact.


What is your definition of getting out of your comfort zone?

Doing anything that makes me feel both nervous and excited — which can be a physical activity.

But I’ve realized the actions that take me mostly to that uncomfortable edge are more the things that I’m revealing/confronting from the past or the things I’m creating that are meaningful and close to my heart.

Putting that out there can be risky and scary — what if it’s not the right thing/time. What if they don’t like it… gahh, will they not like me?! Irrational, I know. But we all have these thoughts :)


Is there something you did in the past that looked very brave from the outside, but it was actually "comfortable" for you?

Moving. For me it’s easy to move… I’ve moved so much throughout my life. Sometimes I find it harder to stay in one place :)


When is the last time you did something out of your comfort zone? What was it?

Taking this leap and going into freelance design and illustration work. I’ve gotten some great reception and honestly wish I hadn’t let my fears of Not Enough let me start sooner. I am happy to be starting now. Each leap of saying ‘Yes’ to new work and a new client has been scary… but I’m learning that you don’t need to be 100% perfect to start.

Honestly where would we all be if we waited until we were perfect to start?!


Do you have some rituals / routines helping you build up courage in these moments ?

Yes, and this trip has made me pick up more grounding rituals. Traveling long term is great but also can get exhausting. It’s nice to be able to have a set place called home and not live out of a suitcase all the time. So since the exterior is moving and never the same, I’ve started creating more of a meditation practice and yoga practice so that I feel more settled within myself wherever I am or whatever new project I'm taking on.

Also, I would recommend a daily gratitude practice.


What are you secretly scared about? Something that may seem small in your daily life, but you know it would make a big difference in your life?

Raising my hand, asking for help, talking about myself. I feel like this comes a lot from how I grew up culturally. And also as working women we feel like we should always “ Have it all together” all the time (which is nuts! but that’s another conversation entirely!). But raising my hand, asking for help and talking about my work is so paramount to working as a creative, to working and freelancing. That’s why I’m so grateful for organizations like StartingBloc and Dreamers & Doers.

When the path is unclear, surround yourself with lovely people who have been there and can help you.


Last year you left you job in New York to go after your dream of traveling around the world, in this journey you did a lot of things out of your comfort zone. What is the step you're most proud of so far? And what was the motivation to finally take the leap?

Becoming more comfortable with myself and knowing I have a story to tell. It sounds odd but I feel like that’s what I’ve been the most proud of so far. The exterior has continually changed but I’ve become more confident and at ease with myself which has allowed me to let go of certain things and move into the direction I want to next. This is definitely still a work in progress… but now I’m realizing how much I need to prioritize it :)

The motivation to leave NYC has been there for a few years. The energy of NYC can be hectic and I realize now that it just wasn’t working how I was working. That compounded with me feeling stuck in my creative progression and also stuck and exhausted in confronting certain family issues that had been surfacing that year made me realize it was long overdue to take a break and take better care of myself.

My hard deadline was a one-way ticket I had booked so that I couldn’t keep rationalizing why I needed to stay is such a frenetic place—don’t get me wrong, I love NYC, I loved (and dearly miss) the people I met and the creative energy of the city. But now I only will go back in small doses :)

Wow!! Emily's story is incredibly inspiring and brave and I could resonate with so many of the things she talked about.

Like me she funnily found moving around so easily , even more than staying in one place, and I can see as well the power of understanding that balance is an inner work and it's independent from the external environment. And this is hard to build but so freeing at the same time because it takes you out of thinking " What if it's better someone else? What if I'll be happier and find my answers in the next destination?"

Now it’s your turn : What were the highlight of this interview for you? Will you apply any of these tips in the near future? Keep me updated in the comments below or social media so we can continue this conversation. 

With love and light,


Something more about our guest ....

Emily Chen's current location is Melbourne in Australia !

Connect with her on her beautiful blog : http://emcwanders.com/

Visual inspiration on her Instagram account : http://instagram.com/emcwanders/