Katie Warner. Gratitude. Travel. Magical Work.

05/13/2016 12:30 pm ET Updated Aug 01, 2017

Katie Warner is one of the most intelligent, kind, beautiful and magical person I ever met. She is truly open, she lives life to the fullest and our friendship is very important to me. I asked her some difficult questions, and these are Katie's answers...

All photos from Katie's personal collection

1. What is behind your success? Can you tell me something that nobody knows about you?

The secret behind my success is honesty and open communication with my clients. As much as I love travel, it is ultimately the vehicle for what I find truly important to me, which is human connection. I know my clients appreciate the extra mile I go for them, as well as the fact that I am up front and transparent from day one by setting realistic expectations and not trying to convince them that I am a miracle worker. On the other hand, I love the love that my clients show me for “working my magic” to make their bucket list item or once in a lifetime experience extra special.

Something that nobody knows about me: I got my dog Sake, as a 5 week year old puppy, 9 yrs, ago. Two days after this cute little pup was gifted to me, she embarked on her first trip with me and has traveled with me most of the time, ever since. However, when I do leave her, whether it is just for a couple hours or for an extended period of time, I make her give me a kiss on the nose. The funny part is that she knows when I’m leaving and whether she is going on the trip with me based on whether her overnight bag is next to my luggage.

She gets very sassy if she doesn’t want me to go and will refuse to give me a puppy kiss, thinking that if she doesn’t give me a kiss I won’t leave. The part no one knows about me is that I have actually never ever left her, in the 9 years we’ve been together without getting a puppy kiss, no matter how long I had to wait.

2. What is happiness to you?

 That is a hard question. . . haha I think if I had to boil it down, happiness is something I have always struggled with putting it into words.

But I know without a doubt what happiness feels like. I think anyone who has experienced true happiness, whether it was for a fleeting moment or for those lucky ducks who have found the way to live a purely sublime life on a regular basis, they all know what it feels like, and I believe the general consensus is that it feels so incredibly amazingly euphoric, that you never want to ever stop feeling that way if you can help it.

I think that’s why it is so hard to explain, because words can’t even begin to give justice to what true happiness feels like. That feeling, is what happiness is to me; and trying to get to that point and staying there is what I strive to do every day of my life - whether it is through meditation, being present in the moment, working on projects I’m passionate about, being around the people I love, or just living life to the fullest. I’m pretty sure it’s a combination of all of those things.

3. Can you tell us a surprising story about your amazing project, Lucid Routes? What is behind the image?

The thing that surprises me the most about Lucid Routes is our organizational structure and how organic the company culture came into being. I’m not completely surprised, considering one of my best friends is my director of HR.

When I was trying to come up with an exit strategy for leaving my career in law and transitioning into creating a startup in travel, she worked very closely on helping me discern what I wanted the core values to be for this, at the time, unnamed concept. She also helped me think long-term about how I would like the company to grow and what I would like the company culture to look like.

One thing that was really important to me was that I always wanted to continue to have a close relationship with the client. I also wanted to stay away from spending a large amount of time managing people. That was one thing I hated about practicing law. At some point, I actually stopped practicing law, and was merely managing a team of people, which was NOT why I decided to become a lawyer. It was also a big source of the burn out and why I decided to make a career change. I wanted to make sure to prevent this dilemma moving forward.

Sandy and her company, PassionFruit Consulting, was instrumental in designing the perfect organizational chart for Lucid Routes. Today, we consist of a team of that is exclusively consultants and independent contractors. Sandy taught me that “no one is ever going to work as hard for your company as you will.” I think the lawyer in me found the one loophole to this statement. The exception is when that person owns a consulting company that specializes in that field. As a small startup, we love to brag about the combined experience that our team has. I know that there is no way we could have secured the caliber of experience and talent through a traditional hiring process, we simply do not have the resources to do so.

Our entire team works 100% remotely, and we can proudly say this works. At no point in time has the entire team been on the same continent at the same time, much less the same time zone. In fact, I believe there was one time four of us were in the same place at the same time and that was a big deal. Another interesting fact about the Lucid Routes team is that we are an all women team. This was not planned, but rather, developed organically. We are not opposed to inviting men to the Lucid Routes team, but until this point, we seem to have a group of bad ass #ladybosseswhoalsolunch and we are super proud of it.

Behind the Lucid Routes Logo: We actually put a lot of thought into the logo. I was fortunate enough to have a great friend, Matt Fedor,who was very experienced in creating logos. He told me, that great logos are ones that are easily replicated, whether it be by a kid scribbling in a notebook or a street artist using your logo in graffiti. “if you ever see that, then you know you have made it as a brand.” Matt was adamant about having a logo that was easily recognizable, but also easy to sketch by the average person... “think about the Mc Donald’s Golden Arches or the Nike “swoop,” everyone recognizes that, yet almost anyone can at least attempt to sketch it . . . that’s what you want to aim to do as a brand.”

So from a design standpoint, those key influences were what we kept in mind when coming up with a design. However, before we could even come up with a design we had to come up with a name, look and feel for the brand. I have always been a big dork, fascinated with maps of all types. I particularly loved the metro maps, they reminded me of the time I lived in Spain. I loved all the bright colors and how the maps themselves seemed to look like pieces of art.

When we started Lucid Routes, before we even had a name, I started thinking about what would differentiate us from other companies out there, and one thing I really wanted to focus on was the authentic experience, the ability for the traveler to really experience a destination like a local. When I started thinking about that, I started to think of all the places I had lived. There were always the places the tourists went and THEN there were the local or “underground” spots. Hence, the name Lucid Routes came to fruition.

Lucid Routes is your map to the underground, to the best kept secrets, hidden gems and local spots. It is your backstage pass to the places you have always wanted to go and experience, but never knew even how to begin to plan or execute something like that. Lucid Routes is also a bit of a double entendre. We chose to pronounce the word “Routes” like you pronounce “Route 66” because that is also how you would pronounce the word “roots” for a tree, which are also under the ground.

4. What is your best memory from a trip?

To understand one of my best memories from a trip, you have to first understand how I grew up. As a child, my parents used to have a world map in our family room. Whenever we had a family project about our ancestry or were studying a particular country, my parents would point out where in the world that country was located. Each evening before dinner, my parents forced us to endure the nightly news. They would always show us on the map where in the world each incident or news story occurred.

When there was a change in a political regime, my mother, who is a teacher, would pick up a new map at the teacher supply store and replace it with the old outdated map. Before tossing the old map out, my father would show us how the map had changed.

Growing up in the 90’s, this actually happened on a relatively frequent basis. I specifically remember one night in elementary school, it was the day the Berlin wall fell. My father sat me in front of the television and told me that it was important that I watch what was happening because he wanted me to be able to say when I was older, that I remembered when the Berlin wall fell. In the subsequent weeks after the wall fell, we learned quite a bit in school about Berlin and the beginnings of a thawing cold war.

My family had a tradition each year that we would buy a Christmas ornament that represented something that happened that year. I had learned in school that one could purchase a Christmas ornament made of a piece of the wall, and the proceeds went to some non-profit. We decided to send off for one of these ornaments. Unfortunately, our piece of the wall never arrived.

Fast forward to my college and law school years. I was now living abroad in Europe, taking advantage of summer vacations and the benefits of dual citizenship. I decided to do a bike tour throughout Berlin with some friends. One of the stops was an area where the wall had not been torn down, and had instead been given back to the local artists.

We were able to not only touch the wall, but take a small piece of it to keep. I still remember that like it was yesterday, it was such a powerful moment and one of the most moving travel memories I have.

5. What is your biggest struggle right now?

My biggest challenge, and in fact, my New Year’s Resolution for this year was to get better at life balance.

My company and what it stands for is something I am so incredibly passionate about, and sometimes I forget to live my mission and walk the walk. I can only help and inspire people to cross things off their bucket list, if I am doing it as well.

Embarrassingly, I have caught myself at times putting off those dreams for another day. Sometimes it is because in the moment I feel that if I just accomplish this one task or responsibility then tomorrow I can do what brings me joy.

Other times it is guilt or fear associated with doing something that seems too indulgent in lieu of the more prudent approach. The problem with these rules of logic, is that if you think that way, there will always be a task to do, and then one day you will wake up with years of yesterdays filled with nothing but empty promises of deferred gratification.

What I have tried to do to combat this struggle is to force myself to cross off at least one bucket list item each month. That way, by the end of the year I have accomplished at least 12 items that are either important, fun or meaningful to me.

6. What is your biggest dream?

My biggest dream is that I want to eventually set up a foundation that supports scholarships for individuals and groups doing meaningful bucket list items, particularly when it comes to sustainable travel, voluntourism or helping facilitate fulfilling the wishes and dreams of the terminally ill and dying, regardless of age.

7. If you could have one thing in the whole world, what would you want most?

This may sound kind of silly, but the majority of my travel has been as a solo traveler. I am so incredibly thankful for the experiences I have had, and how it has opened my eyes and caused me to grow in ways I would have never grown, had I not been on my own.

However, I do think there is also something special about traveling with someone you care about and having a collection of experiences with that person or group of people. I think moving forward I want to have more regularly shared experiences of traveling with the people who are most important to me in my life, instead of keeping those two worlds so separate.

8. What is your greatest gift to the world?

I think my greatest gift to the world is that I have a big heart, and my sense of empathy. My friends have a saying that I “love to fall in love a 100 times a day,” and I can say that statement is pretty accurate. It brings me so much happiness to see other people happy and doing things that are meaningful to them. While it is certainly a bit part of how I operate my business, it doesn’t entirely apply to travel and what I do for a living.

Sometimes it’s something as simple as going to sunset yoga with my friends and having dinner afterwards, to hear what is important in their lives.

Other times it may be a random act of kindness for someone I will never see again. It’s pretty simple, but I try to wake up every morning with the intention that if I choose love and happiness, everything else will fall into place.

9. Can you recommend us a holiday destination for this year, please?

Absolutely! Cuba is the place to go in 2016. The country is so diverse, from the historical streets of Havana, to the small towns, such as Vinales, tucked into the beautiful countryside filled of Tabaco and sugarcane, to the pristine beaches and cenotes that line the country’s coast. Currently for Americans, there are still some hoops to jump through. They must secure a People to People visa at least 90 days ahead of time to travel legally to the island. However, with the proper amount of planning and a knowledgeable travel advisor, the process is relatively painless.

For more pics and information, please follow Katie on Instagram & Twitter.

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