One of the reasons I travel is to meet people from all over the world. It is a beautiful thing to meet strangers who you can instantly connect with and share stories, ideas, and moments with. Traveling is an opportunity to step into another culture, look into others’ lives and customs, and be inspired and learn from what you see.
By introducing you to Lucía and women like her, whether it’s other small business owners or solo travelers, my intention is to shine a light on the essence of what it means to live fearlessly. The women I am featuring in this series are personally inspiring to me, and I hope they ignite something within yourself that aligns you with your truth and gives you the push to start living a life that is inspiring to you.
To me, there is nothing more inspiring than those who follow their passion and fearlessly chase their dreams. Meet Lucía Cobian, a beautiful example of a woman crafting her skill in the form of homemade backpacks and handbags all made with local material.
At only 24 years old, she built her own business, La Chola, and is a central part of a small community in the village she recently relocated to in pursuit of turning the vision of her brand into a reality.
Originally from a suburb of the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires, she now lives in Tilcara in the northern part of Argentina, which is near the border of Chile and Bolivia in the Andes mountain range. She’s been living there for a few months.
HOW IT BEGAN
Before she moved to Tilcara, she was studying fashion design at the University of Architecture and Urbanism Design in Buenos Aires. There she began producing jean backpacks and her friends loved it so much that they started ordering and buying them from her. That’s how the brand La Chola began in 2013. “Chola” is the name of indigenous women in Bolivia who wear the traditional clothing. The traditional clothing inspired some of the looks of her creations. La Chola is also the surname of her aunt, who has always inspired and supported her through everything.
In 2016, she went to Jujuy in northern Argentina as she was curious about the weaving technique found in this region. The next year, she took a weaving course and that’s when she fell in love with the area…the mountains, the magic, the people, their traditions, their culture, all the materials, the colors, the techniques, everything! She completed the course and learned a lot of new techniques and improved her skills.
STARTING HER BUSINESS
In the meanwhile, she continued to return to Tilcara. She always found an excuse to come back to the place she felt such a connection to. As she finished her studies, she decided to move to Tilcara. She had the vision to open a shop based on what she learned in university combined with the skills she learned through the weaving courses.
“This is the magic that happens around here…when you have an idea you’re inspired by, the opportunities just appear. It was all very clear and happened quite easily.” She quickly found a storefront to rent for her shop and a home nearby. The only true difficulty she faced was other peoples’ opinions.
“You know these people who tell you, oh my gosh, what a project…very ambitious. You’re crazy! Have you really thought this through? Do you really know what you’re doing?” As she faced this, she took that not-so-positive energy and transformed it to motivation. She moved forward, believing in herself, her vision, and turned her belief in La Chola into one of her strengths.
“I wasn’t going to listen to them. I continued to do my thing and work hard. I knew that if I stuck with it, it would work out.”
La Chola is a shop, but even moreso, it’s the place where Lucía spends most of her time turning her visions into reality. She spends her days there at the drawing board, weaving, and carefully creating each product by hand.
The shop is also largely community-oriented. People stroll into the shop and watch her behind the sewing machine. There are many people stopping by the shop all throughout the day and into the evening, drinking mate (an Argentine tradition), hanging out, and this is how many new ideas come up as well. For example, a friend of hers recently stopped by the shop and brought wooden fruit boxes from the local market. He thought they’d be a great addition to the shop. She placed it on the wall as a shelf to display her latest product. A great new addition! They drink mate and chat, celebrating new ideas and suggestions.
This is how CJ from my latest ‘Inspiring Travelers’ series got to know Lucía. They came up with a unique “La Chola Tour” where CJ will take a customized backpack/purse hybrid and snap photos of herself with the product throughout her travels all around the world.
She also sells blankets, gloves, and socks made from llama wool and all sorts of handmade products crafted by local friends and craftsmen. She reminds me that all products in the store are made with love! This is her way of connecting with and supporting the local community.
What keeps her going? Simple. She absolutely loves what she does. She wakes up in the morning, walks down the street to the shop, admiring the Andes Mountains in the distance. She feels that she is in the right place at the right time doing exactly what she is supposed to be doing. She’s a radiant, motivated, and inspiring young woman who has set out to do what she loves and sharing that with her community!
Tilcara at dusk with the Andes Mountains in the distance. (Photo by CJontheroadagain)
THE FUTURE OF LA CHOLA
In the future, she aims to develop the products and create new designs for multipurpose travel bags and purses for all types of people.
She would love to expand her brand and open shops in different cities around Argentina or around the world. For now, it makes sense for her to be in the village. For Lu, living in the village is a deliberate personal and professional life choice. She has found her home there and people are more receptive and appreciative of her work than if she were in her hometown of Buenos Aires.
Her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs? Fiercely believe in yourself. Don’t allow outsiders or people who doubt you to bring you down.
“Do what you love. Do what you believe in. And do it the best you can. – Lucía Cobian”
You can follow CJ’s “La Chola Tour” through her Instagram on CJontheroadagain.
Check out La Chola products on Facebook and Instagram. Like and Follow La Chola on social media to follow her journey! To buy a product, you can message Lucía on these social media sites and she will send you a link with the order form, which is a common way of doing business transactions in Argentina. For travelers who are inspired by Lucía and her vision, she would love to post your photos with her products and feature them on her social media sites!
*Special thanks to CJ for her inspiration for this article and the effort she put into interviewing and translating. Thank you, soul sister!
One of the reasons I travel is to meet people from all over the world. It is a beautiful thing to meet strangers who you can instantly connect with and share stories, ideas, and moments with.
This is exactly what happened when I met CJ. There we were standing next to each other at the airport in Havana, Cuba, and as we began to talk, I immediately knew I made a friend. She’s independent, creative, and thoughtful, and all around awesome.
By introducing you to CJ and women like her, whether it’s solo travelers or small business owners, my intention is to shine a light on the essence of what it means to live fearlessly. The women I am featuring in this series are personally inspiring to me, and I hope they ignite something within yourself that aligns you with your truth and gives you the push to start living a life that is inspiring to you.
“I travel alone by choice. There’s always something to learn. That’s the whole purpose of this trip, and I’m very proud of that. ”
Charlotte-Josephine, otherwise called CJ, is 31-years-old and a native of Mantes-la-Jolie, France. She’s currently backpacking through South America and has been on this particular trip for 7 months. For CJ, this trip is all about meeting inspiring people, sharing ideas, and understanding herself and the world around her. She went on the journey without really knowing exactly what she was looking for, and after a few months, it all become very clear.
The purpose of her travels is to learn about herself and be okay with everything she learns. “You’re in this world alone and you’ll leave this world alone as well. And this is okay as long as we learn what it means to be alone,” she explains.
“I want to be able to feel okay with myself and feel good by myself, and if I get there, then I’m able to feel good among others, and I can make other people happy.”
As I met her, she had just come from Mexico where she started her journey. Six months prior, she spoke with the owner of a hostel and made plans to live and work there as a volunteer, yet as she arrived, the hostel was full of volunteers and there was obviously no need for her to work there. She waited around a week or so, feeling a bit uncomfortable and confused on what to do next. She was full of doubts and fears about the way her trip was beginning, even though she knew she had plans to go to Cuba soon after. That evening, she went on a walk with a fellow traveler from Spain, and he told her, “you know, all of these doubts and fears you have are not real. They’re in your head. If you can understand that and keep going, they will disappear. It’s not easy, but you can make it through this.”
From this story, CJ explained to me, “I learned that you have to be okay with these negative feelings, deal with them, and let them pass. At times I’ve felt so lonely and homesick during my trip that I all I could do was cry. And I told myself that it’s okay, you have to cry sometimes. You don’t always have to be happy. I accepted that things wouldn’t always be perfect, that I’d feel homesick, that I would feel like crying sometimes. You have to face these things, keep going, and you will learn a lot about yourself along the way.”
As I met her in Cuba, she was the one who had to be there for me. I came to Cuba without knowing that none of my American credit or debit cards would work and I didn’t have any cash at all. I went through a lot of panic and frustration in those moments. This is when CJ suggested we meditate together because I told her I practiced meditation. Even though we just met, she knew it was exactly what I needed. Her positivity and support during one of my worst experiences while traveling helped me gain my composure and figure out a solution when everything seemed to be going wrong. And for that, I’m grateful.
“I travel the world to meet people, to understand human beings better, to understand myself better.”
Far too often, we are made to believe there is only one path to “success”. There is, however, a growing realization that indeed, you can design your own path in this life. It’s not about pleasing others or looking outside of yourself for the right answers. In fact, there are no right answers. There is only listening and tuning in to what feels right to you. As CJ told me, she started her journey with almost nothing planned. When the time comes to make a decision, she turns to her intuitions and trusts that to guide her along the way.
Before she landed in South America, she traveled through Mexico and Cuba (where we met!). Once she landed in South America, she went through Argentina and Chile, and then decided to go back to Argentina.
“I felt that there was something there for me, and I was right!” She arrived and has stayed now for 2 months in a region called Jujuy in a village called Tilcara. She is living and working at a hostel in this village.
CJ isn’t exactly new to the nomadic life. She has been traveling since she was a baby. Her father is from Syria. Her mother met her father in Germany. Since she was young, her mom sent her to stay with families in Germany where they didn’t speak a single word of French. From then, she had to learn to be adaptable and understood the importance of learning other languages.
As a teenager, she traveled all over Europe and then she started working with kids at holiday camps and that brought her to the United States and other countries. For university, she studied in Sweden for 6 months, and she’s been on the road ever since she graduated.
She’s been traveling full time for over 10 years now! She did stay in France for 2 years, but before that, she would never stay more than 6 months in the same place. She goes backpacking around the world, stops a while at a place she feels called to and works for a while until she’s ready to hit the road again. Another way she affords to travel is through volunteering…she works at a place and they provide food and accommodation.
“I just travel. It’s my way of being and my way of living.”
Though she is falling in love with each place that she goes, she is very excited about going to the possibility of going to the Middle East after South America. She wants to learn Arabic because she wants to connect with the people in each country she visits. “If you don’t speak the language, then you can’t connect with the locals, so I have to learn Arabic!”
Upon Returning Home
One has to be comfortable with the fact of having to go back one day. CJ is planning on going back to her “happy place”, Marseille, in the south of France and possibly open a hostel. Through this, she can continue to share her love of travel with others. “When I close my eyes and I think about France. I can see it…walking through the streets of Paris, drinking wine and eating cheese with my friends and family, taking a train to the south of France. And..just wow. That would be a great conclusion!” People tend to have a hard time with the idea of returning home, but it doesn’t have to be like this. Instead of feeling resistance or dread about the end of a trip, make this a part of the journey. What have you learned about yourself…your likes and dislikes? When have you most felt that you are living in alignment with your Truth? How can you incorporate your passions into your daily life? This is what it’s all about, my friends!
If you’re interested in getting in touch with CJ or following her travels, follow her Instagram account, CJontheroadagain.