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Meet Jacki Ueng of Ticor Title and Bohemian Vagabond Travel Blog

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jacki Ueng.

Jacki, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was born and bred in Los Angeles. I’ve always been fascinated with different cultures and food and it was in college that I learned of a whole Humanities Department focused on that: Cultural Anthropology. I majored in that with a minor in Philosophy. Months leading to graduating UC Riverside in 2006, the only immediate goal I had was to travel to India for several months. I can’t explain why, I just felt drawn to this exotic country that seemed so different than the US. I was obsessed with the visuals and stories I heard, I love the food, have many friends from that country, the colors and textiles and more… I needed to find ANY job to make $5000 so that I can travel to India. (and after.. figure out “what I’d do with my life”)

A month out of college, with several applications in various companies, restaurants, tutoring programs, etc., my mother recommended I go in for a Job Interview with Ticor Title Company in Glendale. She and my father are both Realtors of over 30 years now, though they never encouraged me to get into that field as it is commission based and very unstable. With nothing to lose, I went in for the interview. I was very open and blunt in our conversation, half not even wanting to be there. The two friendly Sales Managers asked why I came in: I said that I needed to make some money so that I can go to India, and my mom recommended I go in (things you DON’T say at an interview!). They laughed. They asked what I want to do with my life, I said I really don’t know, I just want to travel. They must have saw something in me, having managed Sales Reps for over 25 years: They gave me a job offer within 10 minutes as a new Account Executive to sell Title Insurance. The offer was a small base salary, an expense account and a commission structure. With a quick calculation in my head, I figured I could just work for 3-4 months and save money to go to India. Beverly Hills and Torrance were territories that were open. Loving a challenge and attracted to the glam, I boldly picked Beverly Hills to start. I had less than a two weeks training with successful Sales Reps in my office and a few days learning bout Title in the office – and I was on my own in this mysterious, flashy world of Beverly Hills Real Estate.

Traveling the globe has been on my mind every day since. It wasn’t easy being a 21 years old female, working in this wealthy area that was pretty foreign to me. Though I grew up in Los Angeles, I was in the east side of Hacienda Heights. With an eagerness to learn, to earn money and to travel, I began going to every single building in my given territory (which also expanded to Brentwood, Westwood, West Hollywood and surrounding areas). Every single listing on the directory that was Real Estate related: Real Estate Company, Escrow, Mortgage, Bank, Real Estate Attorney, I walked in and cold called in person. Basically, a door to door “saleswoman”. I was either let down politely or shouted at rudely by 75% of the offices I went into. I was pretty naive in some ways to think I had a chance walking into Real Estate moguls like Fred Sands office, asking to speak to him directly. I didn’t really care, I just wanted to travel. I was taught to go back to offices I was rejected from every single week until I broke them down. I visited Broker’s Open houses on Tuesdays and helped Realtors with Open houses on Sundays (granted I was commuting 1-1.5 hours from Hacienda Heights). That summer, I backpacked a week with four girlfriends through Costa Rica. It was the first time I had a taste of Travel Freedom. I was addicted.

I had traveled to a few countries in Europe and Asia when I was in High School and College with my mom, sister and a dozen other Chinese families on tour busses. I absolutely hated tour busses and I didn’t enjoy traveling with a group. But I did get a taste of foreign cultures and was absolutely addicted. A year and a half after working in the Title business (age 23), I got to go to India finally. I went for three weeks alone, with a backpack and Lonely Planet Guidebook. My friends had anticipated this and were very supportive. My parents were absolutely terrified. Young women traveling alone, especially in 2008, was just not very popular. Not in an Asian-American immigrant family, not common in American culture. Travel in the US is seen as a “Luxury”. Ut’s something that costs a ton of money, it’s something you do after you work the Rat Race for 40 years and go when you are retired on cruises – while wearing fanny packs and visors. My parents tried to bribe me to not go. They also thought that India would be so dangerous and in conversations, mixed it up with Iraq at times. Saying that I was going to a war zone. Nothing was going to stop me. I went, I started a Travel Blog so that family and friends could live vicariously through me day to day (and know that I was alive). (11 years later, in 2019, I would visit Iran for two weeks. I told my parents the day before I left, and they barely flinched. Just a simple “Be careful, it looks like there are tensions and threats between our countries. Have fun!”)

For the first few years in the Title Business, I went month by month wondering what I was going to “do with my life”. But I continued to work hard, to network within the industry, connected referrals, kept up with my email marketing and grew my business. I started making 6-figures by the time I was 25 years old and also bought my first property. By 2011, 5 years in the business, I became a top producer and had an A-Ha moment one day and realized that “This is my Life path”. I had pondered for so long if I wanted to “quit my job and travel the world”. Or if I would try to make income being a “full-time travel blogger”. Something kept me in the Real Estate and Corporate world – I do enjoy making money, as I have associated money with freedom. But this would only be the case if I had the freedom in TIME also. It would suck to make a ton of money but not have the time to travel or be with your family. With my income being primarily Commission-Based, I am free to make as much or as little as I put into it.

I have continued on with the Travel and Food Blog – BohemianVagabond.com with an Instagram account of 110,000 followers @BohemianVagabond. Youtube.com/JackiUeng and Youtube.com/AREAAnewsNetwork. I get invited to sponsored trips from Tourism Boards, Hotels, partner with PR Companies, and brands such as Airlines and Travel goods. But I don’t rely financially on this. Some people have found the balance between making money with their passion. For me, I continue working in Real Estate which I can’t say that I’m SUPER passionate about, but I’m good at what I do, I’m efficient, and I take the money I earn to Travel the World at my leisure. I take on Travel partnerships and projects when I feel like doing so, instead of relying on it. And I have several Non-profits that I support: Room to Read and Team Seva who’s focus is on early Education and Gender equality in some of the poorest areas in India and throughout the World.

Last year, I held a one day Real Estate seminar with 16 guest speakers on “Achieving Financial Freedom through Real Estate Investing”. My goal is just to encourage everyone to think outside that old-fashioned/middle-class thinking of “Work your ass off for 30 years, 40 hours a week, hopefully retire when you’re 65, then Travel”. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to live. But for balance, you need some money, and you need flexibility in time. If your job doesn’t allow flexibility to work from home or remotely, start investing in Real Estate or Stocks/Businesses that you understand to build passive income. I make a decent income but because I’ve learned the many products that Banks offer through working in Real Estate, I’ve been able to leverage financing for all my properties, which I own solely on my own with no financial help from family. I also encourage investing in Multi-family properties to generate even higher returns over single-family homes.

Now in 2020, I am 14 years in the Title business, 35 years old, with five investment properties that all generate cash-flow. I could potentially retire in a country with a lower standard of living if I wanted to. Who knows what the next few years will bring with this crazy pandemic and elections coming up. But I’m glad to have stayed in the Real Estate business (same company!) and I am grateful for my long-term loyal clients and continue building my passion project which is my Travel Blog. I’m traveling to 8-10 countries a year now, most passionately in the Mediterranean, Middle-East, and all over Asia.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
On the surface, it’s been a pretty smooth ride. But it has been an emotional rollercoaster. In my early years of working in the Real Estate field, I had to deal with a lot of uncomfortable situations with men and sexual harassment, as many other women do throughout their careers. I had older male bosses, who were fully supportive but couldn’t give me advice in that field. I had no female mentors and was left alone to fend for myself.

I had an expense account so I would invite any potential clients to lunch, coffee or dinner. I would realize 10 minutes into some of these appointments that the man sitting across from me took it more as a date than taking me serious for business. I began to read many Sales books written by women, I observed the behavior and aura of successful women and befriended some of them. We arranged quarterly meetups with other females in the industry and discussed topics like this. Sexual harassment and not being taken seriously because you are a young woman is absolutely not acceptable. Though we can do our best to educate professionals of both genders, the most control we have is how we respond to it. By the age of 26, I could confidently say that I rarely get hit on or am put in uncomfortable situations. It’s something about the way you carry yourself when you walk into a room full of men. It’s knowing how to control and direct conversations you’re having, even if you are there to try to win their business. Today, 70% of my clients are men because my focus is in Commercial Real Estate. I have great working relationships with all of them who have become good friends and allies. But it did take a bumpy road in my early 20’s to learn how I can fit in and protect myself at the same time.

As far as the travel blog goes, because I didn’t have traditional training in Journalism and Press, I have had to learn about expectations in dealing with partnerships. Travel Blogs are a new thing of the past decade. PR companies, Tourism Boards and companies are all still learning. Things will change going forward in 2020, and we have to continually adapt to changes and how we promote.

Please tell us about Ticor Title and Bohemian Vagabond Travel Blog.
My position is VP in Business Development for Ticor Title Company, a subsidiary of Fidelity National Financial (FNF) – a fortune 500 company. Industry nicknames us “Title Rep”. I specialize in Commercial Real Estate and do the most deals in Multi-family buildings and Industrial. I also do land, development, retail, office, medical but many of them are leases vs purchases and Title only ensures purchase transactions. I am also known to be a connector both in the Real estate profession and in life. Why not share resources? If there are some intelligent, effective professionals that I know, I want all of my friends to work with them.

Travel Blog at BohemianVagabond.com. I’m all about Travel, Food and Culture. Though I’ll always be a visitor, I try to blend in and learn life as the locals do. I’ll stay at guesthouses run by families or airbnbs usually costing no more than $30-40 a night (yes, even in Europe). I’ll ask where the locals eat, what they eat, what they drink, and love making friends. Oftentimes, new friends invite me out with their friends and that’s the best. I love exploring the nightlife of places too, it’s a different aspect of their everyday life. I will eat and try (almost everything) at least once. I am also known to go bit more off the beaten path and share perspectives and experiences more foreign to Americans. India is pretty foreign, but the Middle-Eastern countries even more so. Visiting Iran as an American tourist in 2019 (which you can read more about on my blog) has been an interesting topic with strangers and friends. Americans live in a such a bubble and media is controlled by large corporations, sometimes you get a much better perspective on a different country and culture through the eyes of Travel bloggers.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I can’t think of anything. All the struggle, mistakes, ups and downs has lead me to where I am today. I am proud of it, I own up to the scars – physically, emotionally and spiritually.

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