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I Was Laid Off and Forced to Reimagine My Future

Surely you have seen the headlines...

The news you're hearing about around tech layoffs, has been my reality for 7 months. I worked as a tech project manager at a start-up company based in Boston, and I was laid off last June. It was the job that gave me the freedom to work 100% remotely.

When I first arrived in Brazil, I enjoyed working from home in a cozy, light-filled apartment steps from Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro. I reveled in the life of a digital nomad—literally working from anywhere.

My morning started with calls to colleagues based in the UK, then on to project status calls. By noon I was nearly pooped, and would take lunch at the beach or park. My afternoons were full of grind.

My workspace at my first apartment in Rio.

After I was laid off along with nearly 40% of the company, I was on a mission to get another job immediately. But after interviewing for a couple jobs, I realized that this might actually be my chance at an alternative reality that I craft for myself.

A significant reason that I came to Brazil, and found my way to Salvador, was to create community and build my travel business. When I reflected on that, I stopped applying to companies, and started working on my own business.

Previously, I was ashamed to tell people that I work in tourism and run a tourism company—even though it was true. In my eyes, I was not fully committed to my own venture. In my mind, I had one foot in the world of a comfortable salary, health insurance, and unlimited PTO, and one foot in existential uncertainty and income inconsistency. When my Brazilian friends that have found success in the local tourism sector would introduce me and tell folks about my company, I would shyly smile and change the subject.

At that time, I was still learning Portuguese and adjusting to living in Brazil; all I had were Instagram photos of my life in Brazil and mock-ups of itineraries...with no clients.

In the same month that I lost my job, something incredible began to happen once I reframed those events in my mind. Friends of friends, former classmates, and others in my network reached out to hire me for custom trip planning, others registered for my group trips here in Brazil, and others purchased the first jewelry that I have ever designed. After finding my website on Google, dozens of you reached out to learn about the value that I offer.

Posing with clients after a walking tour through the Pelourinho historic district in Salvador.

That's where I am now: back to believing that my work is viable, and that it will be (and is) profitable.

In 2018 at my old office in Washington, DC, I printed out a vision that I had written for my business and taped it to my desk; a practice that an entrepreneur friend taught me. Here is what it said:

I run a highly profitable self-care centric travel lifestyle consultancy that is my main income source, and I am a thought leader in the industry. I travel between the US and Latin America for business and pleasure. I experience an abundance of joy and self-awareness that exudes from my being, allowing me to give my time and energy generously, and maintain fruitful relationships with associates, friends, intimate, and business partners.

I would have never imagined a layoff that initially felt like a slap, would ultimately turn out to be a push toward my real desires.

The things I usually share publicly appear fun, and light. Simultaneously, things are precarious in life, and they must be acknowledged.

In that acknowledgement I release the pain and the shame, and take ownership of a reality that I get to craft.

Let me re-introduce myself:

My name is Ronnell Perry and I run a successful travel lifestyle business. I offer expertly curated itineraries that balance learning and relaxation, and are sustainably crafted to center and support Afro-descendant communities.

What vision do you have for your life?


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