Stephanie Be:
Entrepre-traveler Extraordinaire




Stephanie Be in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates at sunset

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Picture boarding up to nine flights per week, running a business remotely, meeting hundreds of travel enthusiasts around the world and then circling back to Los Angeles to lead a technology startup.


What started as rock-climbing above the Dolomite Mountains with an indescribable sunrise led to a lifestyle of professional problem solving and opportunities. Stephanie Be ’12 is always ready for the next adventure. Born in East Los Angeles to Mexican immigrants, the fearless 28-year-old has defined her own American dream. An entrepreneurial spirit, a passion for travel and an array of UCLA experiences positioned Stephanie to travel and work across 42 countries and more than 250 destinations before founding her company BUENA.


Stephanie’s wanderlust lifestyle started at UCLA. Growing up, her family couldn’t afford to travel much. During her four years as a student, she focused her energy on volunteering for nonprofit organizations, was a Pi Beta Phi and a professional salsa dancer, and interned at top entertainment companies like Live Nation and AEG. But she yearned to travel. UCLA gave Stephanie the opportunity to study abroad and helped build her network overseas, where she got a glimpse of what international business would look like in the real world. She studied in Spain and Brazil for two summer sessions. Then, she exchanged her sorority membership dues to embark on a solo trip to Japan.


Despite having eight job offers lined up after graduation, she postponed her commitment to the cubicle to learn more about herself. She said, “At the time I was attending UCLA, taking a gap year wasn’t a part of American or Mexican culture. I was eager to challenge what society wanted me to do. I took the non-traditional route, and bought a one-way ticket to Sydney, Australia. My life took me in a completely different direction.”


In July of 2014, Be launched her award-winning personal lifestyle and adventure blog, TravelBreak – showcasing her passion for culture, community and travel. Although the company boasts more than 100 brand clients worldwide and more than 280,000 followers, the primary purpose of TravelBreak is to inspire others to step out of their comfort zones and manifest their dreams into real-life goals. TravelBreak and Stephanie’s popular Instagram @StephBeTravel offer travel itineraries, packing lists and photography tips. Readers can daydream about a week-long safari trip to the Serengeti and be enlightened as to why Abu Dhabi is the most fascinating city in the world.


Stephanie enjoying the view of the Serengeti from the comfort of her hotel pool at the Four Seasons Hotel

Serengeti, Tanzania

Stephanie frequently emphasizes that you don’t need to start a travel blog to take a gap year and work remotely. She adds that the life of a digital nomad isn’t always as glamorous as it seems: “Reality is that you’re working on vacation while others are on vacation. It’s worth it if you don’t have savings, but I recommend saving while working first. Then take a gap year or a few months - completely off - before getting back to work.”


As she immersed herself in different cultures and languages from around the world, Stephanie continually found motivation to promote travel and push the boundaries of her career as an “entrepre-traveler” in her parents’ attitudes and ambitions.


As she matured, Stephanie noticed the sacrifices and challenges her parents endured. Her father was an orphan, one of 15 children born in a small village outside of Guadalajara, Mexico. Education and running water were not accessible. Her mother, also a Mexican dreamer, gave birth to Stephanie just four days after turning 16 years old. Throughout Stephanie’s childhood, her mother worked, continued her education online and always encouraged her daughter to be a Bruin. “I remember my mom being there for me my very first day at UCLA. I get really emotional talking about this because as a teen mom, she forfeited a traditional college lifestyle to raise me,” she says. “She convinced me that I could do more in my life. This confidence to pursue my goals pushed me through the statistics. My high-school and hometown didn’t send many students to UCLA.”


Stephanie and her family take a travel break on the ocean

Stephanie's Family

As a first-generation college student, Stephanie credits her culture and upbringing with inspiring her to take risks, to teach herself new approaches to problems and to always challenge herself. “My parents were born into poverty, and I witnessed the lifestyle choices they made to grow socio-economically. I always thought to myself – if they could do so much with so little, what could I do with all of my UCLA resources?”


She could take on the world, so she did. She’s built herself a lifetime of travel, a voice in the media and a microphone in the Los Angeles startup scene.


The more Stephanie traveled globally, the more she developed a strong desire to change societal norms. While she stresses that working while traveling is not for everyone, she says it’s OK to put a career on hold. “It’s up to us to change the work-life balance culture in the U.S. Our country seems to be behind in this critical concept that other developed nations have made a priority. I think that half of American people don’t take vacation time because they fear being perceived as not hardworking. The problem with the American dream is this idea that you have to kill yourself to own nice things. This is the American dream I’m trying to re-define. Don’t kill yourself working for nice things, find balance between working smart and a lifestyle of experiences,” she says.


Taking a gap year enables young people to gain more independence and self-empowerment. However, Stephanie explains that a gap year has no age limit and that it does not necessarily have to be an entire year. For those yearning to pack their bags and leave their hometowns, she encourages UCLA alumni of all ages to travel domestically too. “There are tons of national parks across the U.S. to cover over a long weekend. Taking a road trip from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, for example, is considered travel. Traveling doesn’t have to be an international trip to Europe,” she says.


Stephanie poses in front of a sandstone rock formation in Arizona called

The Wave, Arizona

For Stephanie, one thing is clear: travel is invaluable to personal and professional development. Having circumvented the traditional path and been able to self-finance travel and her own business at a young age, she realized that there is a global community doing it too. “You can travel to a cheaper place and easily alternate between smart travel and budget travel,” she says. “Save money for a while, pick up a side hustle, cut unnecessary expenses and set actionable goals.”


The world is Stephanie’s office, and she’ll never stop traveling, but she has relocated to Los Angeles to focus on growing her business and making time for her family and college friends. That’s right, you can travel the world, but the Bruin community will always be home!


TravelBreak has a new focus on weekend trips for California residents, as her venture with BUENA takes up most of her weekdays. BUENA is a social discovery app, “swipe right on your weekend,” which can also be used when traveling. “My ultimate goal for BUENA is to get people to be more social in real life. It gives users a chance to explore their weekends, live in the moment, and put their social life in one spot.” BUENA also has a greater vision to solve problems in the travel and hospitality industries.


So what’s the next thing to cross off on Stephanie’s bucket list? She’s currently planning the first female-only Founder Meet Funder event to empower fellow women in business. She also serves on the advisory board for Visit California, the official board of tourism for the State of California. She’s been featured in Harper’s Bazaar and on CNN and quoted in the International Business Times. Having accomplished so much under the age of 30, Stephanie’s future might best be described like her ascent on the Dolomite Mountains: where breathtaking views are endless and so are the opportunities. 


Stephanie hangs off the side of a cliff of the Dolomite Mountains in Italy

Dolomite Mountains, Italy