Elaine is a rare gem who always pops and sparkles! She truly glows from the inside out, and is one of those X factor women that always catches your eye – whether she is running the North Korean marathon in a tutu, sailing into uncharted waters in Antarctica, or playing with newborn sea turtles in Mexico. Not only is she stunning, but her sense of humor, warmth, intelligence and insightful nature make her a superb friend and a talented travel blogger. Follow Elaine’s travel stories on Toovia and on her blog Bee Adventures. We hope our conversation with Elaine will inspire you to be bold, take risks, and keep exploring yourself and the world more in 2016!
How would you describe your aesthetic taste?
Colorful, funky, innocence with a hint of sexiness.
Do you have any fun stories about your sense of style?
When I was in grad school at Columbia studying biomedical engineering I would go to the lab in these really fun Betsy Johnson dresses and high heels. I had so many Betsey Johnson dresses and Diane von Furstenberg dresses! When you are in a lab, you aren’t required to dress a certain style as long as your toes are covered, but for some reason scientists always dress in something very casual or boring. I never liked that professor look, so I just always was myself and always dressed up.
What kind of research were you doing?
Daring and adventurous people who are never afraid of taking risks.
You wear a lot of dresses, skirts and even tutus! Where did your cute, girly side come from?
Since I was a child I have always loved dresses, and I think its because my Mom always liked to dress me up like a little doll. My Mom is a very strong women and a bit of a Tomboy herself, but she liked to dress me up in a very feminine style even though no one else in my family was very into fashion. Growing up there were buckets and buckets and buckets of stuff animals and dolls in my room. And I named every single one of them. So I think the experience of always being dressed up and being surrounded by these toys that were colorful and child-like really shaped my style.
You are a world adventurer! What do you love about travel?
I love foreign, unknown places! Travel is the best way one can grow into a more complete and fearless person. I also have learned so much about myself, the Elaine I would never known if I have lived my entire life in Taiwan!
“I like to challenge people to be out of their comfort zones.”
Tell us about your most exciting travel adventures – any juicy stories?
My sailing trip in Antarctica! It is truly one of the most amazing places on earth. When you are in a boat with 11 other adventurous souls who love dangerous situations for one month… you can imagine just how many juicy stories there are! The whole group went from strangers on day 1, to family on day 25. Some even went through a few enemy-lover cycles! We saw hundreds of whales, thousands of penguins, many seals, dolphins and even orcas. I even wore a penguin onesie there trying to mingle with them! Our biggest scare was when we hit an iceberg right outside of the Chilean military base in Antarctica… the entire trip could totally be a movie. But Antarctica is really just so amazingly beautiful and peaceful, and I hope it can stay unpolluted and pristine!
How has travel changed your sense of fashion?
Travel has truly changed my style. I used to read a lot of fashion magazines and blindly follow what they told me, but as I experienced more of the world and more of myself I realized that mainstream fashion doesn’t really suit my energy. The brand ends up wearing me. My energy can’t be defined by one brand or one style. I tend to pick little cultural pieces from different countries and then mix and match as I go along.
I always buy a few pairs of earrings when I travel to a new country. I love to get inspired by all the different patterns, textile, and styles that I don’t get to see in western media. For example, I bought this beautifully woven silver full length skirt in a small Inka village in Peru. It consists of seven layers of fabric and one shinny outer layer with the most beautiful and traditional Inka patterns I have ever seen. I paired it with a simple black strapless satin top and wore it to the San Francisco Opera Gala opening. It was a smashing hit and was so different from everyone else.
Is there a favorite piece that stands out from your travels?
There was one long evening gown I bought in the grand bazar in Istanbul and this dress was very Mediterranean, and very elegant. I bought the dress and then this wonderful big, fat man who turned out to be a tailor just took it and started tailoring it exactly for me, and within one hour it was perfectly fitted for me body! I wore the dress at a Gala back in America and I felt so unique and really stood out from everyone else.
You have lived in many cities including Paris. What do you love about Paris?
First of all Parisians don’t care about what other people think. A lot of them don’t give a shit about what other people think. They don’t say things just to be nice. They are straightforward and you never have to guess what they really mean. They also have so many different styles and I just feel really comfortable being myself. Right now I would love to live in Paris again… the food, the beauty, the relaxing lifestyle, and the care-free attitude.
When you travel, what items are always in your suitcase?
My stuffed turtle! She is my most loyal companion and is the best pillow when I sleep on airplanes or trains! I also always bring a versatile dress – the kind that you can wear in many different styles. It is a must have for a fashionable girl who is a light packer!
Do you have any naughty indulgences?
YES!!!! Chocolate right before sleep… even if I have brushed my teeth (!).
How did you become interested in alternative lifestyles?
I grew up in Asia, and my parents always expected me to be a certain way – to have a career, make money, buy a house and get married. I started to realize there is more than one way to live a life. My parents only wanted the best for me, but I really communicated with them that I would be a lot happier on my own path. Living in New York City changed my perspective. I met so many interesting, friendly warm people that opened my eyes to new possibilities. I started to learn that “should be” does not exist in human relationships. Everyone is different, and sometimes you have different expectations, different views on life, or different things you want to explore. Then I got introduced to all of these new ideas, and it opened up a lot of new ways of thinking about career, life, love…everything!
A lot of women have self esteem issues and have a hard time accepting themselves. How did you develop your confidence and your strong relationship to yourself?
At the end of the day, the most attractive quality is being yourself and not changing yourself for someone else or for society. I get insecure sometimes, and realize that it is totally natural to start to question myself at challenging stages of life. As I have faced certain challenges I have stopped being a people pleaser and stopped changing myself in relationships to please the other person. I have had to learn those boundaries within myself and embrace who I am. Why do you need everyone to like you? You only need that one person to truly like the real you. Appealing to the masses is not what you should be aiming for. One is enough!