Life Stories Motivation USA

High Risk, High Reward

new orleans architecture

About four years ago, I was sitting in our unofficial office space, the café area of Whole Foods Tribeca, and decided that I would go big for Mother’s day. I planned on using my measly credit card points (saved up over the course of three years) to buy two plane tickets to go to New Orleans as a gift to my mom; high risk, high reward… at least, I hoped.

We both always had a twinkle in our eyes when talking about New Orleans. The thought of being surrounded by southern accents, perfumed foods, jazz music that flowed throughout the streets, and beautiful Spanish architecture; it all seemed so appealing. From the very beginning, the idea of Nola attracted us to take a financial risk, and book this four day trip to see if the twinkle was real, and if there really was something special about the Crescent City.

I cringed as I plugged in my credit card numbers to buy the tickets, but something told me the risk would be worthwhile; at least I would forget about the financial stress in a year, so no time like the present to book away. My mom’s reaction to my gift was out of a movie; she teared up (ok we are emotional Brazilians but my mom is tough and rarely cries) and squealed out of excitement, saying I was crazy because I was always so broke, but somehow found a way to buy us tickets to her dream destination.

new orleans jackson square

new orleans architecture

new orleans

Ever since that first amazing trip, my mom has used any of the tiny amount of time off to run away to Nola. Between working as a Nanny, a housekeeper, a painter, and a part-time employee at a retail store, she keeps herself busy. I have never known my mom to not work, or even to stay still. In fact, she’s such a workaholic, that I get anxiety taking naps in the house.

Why does so work so damn much? Partly because she came to the USA with her three kids, and raised us as a single mother on a laborer’s salary. The other reason is because my mom is one of those relentless dreamers; she dreams big and sets massive goals that would stop people dead in their tracks due to fear. Moving from Brazil to the States was by no means her only major risk; she went against her parents wishes and married a musician, she opened up a retail store with three kids, and somehow managed to raise us and build her brand, and later she moved us to the States to fight for better opportunities for our future.

mom in nola new orleans

mommy and me, awwww

She’s a hustler, which meant I had to be too, otherwise all of her sacrifices would’ve gone to waste. Similar to my mother’s life, my journey has been filled with insane risks; when I went to college with no savings, and knew I would face a mountain of debt, but I was determined to find a way to pay off the loans. Not living in NYC was NOT an option. I could’ve never imagined that the huge risk would’ve resulted in meeting Damon, and that we’d have our business of living our dreams as 20-somethings right in time for the loan payments to start rolling in.

And while you may be reading this and thinking “Jo, you’re young, you should take risks,” you’d be surprised how many  young people don’t.

In the wise words of Aaliyah, age ain’t nothin’ but a numba, and my mom clearly agrees because she’s still taking risks while in her early 50s. This not only makes me extremely proud of her, but gets me excited for my own high risk, high reward future; this woman’s strength is in my blood. Most people let fears of fighting for their dreams turn their lives into nightmares, and as my mom is showing me, that is by no means an option.

Her next huge risk will be moving her entire life to New Orleans to open up another genius business; a cultural center for people studying New Orleans music, and living and learning English. In short, those credit card points were well spent, and there really was something special about New Orleans.

She told me she’s done everything she could in Connecticut; her nest might be empty, but her mind is full of dreams waiting to be pursued. She’s the perfect example of how risk has no age limit, and that belief is the strongest tool to accomplish dreams. Of course she has fears, but as she told me, she’ll put those in her pocket and fill her chest with courage; the rest is up to the universe.

Taking risks is against human nature; it goes against the opposite stream of safety we’re born to follow. Luckily, when you start training yourself to take risks, you realize it’s like building a muscle.

You won’t ever learn or grow by staying in the safety zone, and you’ll never feel alive if you don’t start living, so get out there and take some risks.

new orleans street

So if you’re looking to start training your risk taking muscles, here are some small ways I got my risk workout in while in New Orleans:

A New Orleans trip wouldn’t be complete without a late night pub crawl down Frenchmen street. I was in a bar with my brother, and chatted up the bartender; gotta love Southern hospitality. My brother ordered another drink, and while I wasn’t ready to fully turn up, I wanted to get a tiny bit more just to have sip on while he got a new glass. I asked the bartender if he could put a little more into my glass, and he ended up filling the glass for no extra charge.

Harrah’s Casino was one of the first places I played slots and actually won money. Thankfully, the trend continued, and I cashed out with way more than I expected. Despite being painfully cheap, I pent $20 at the casino and made $70, only to lose another $20, and eventually made another $22.55. All in all, it was a major “high risk, high reward” moment.


While ring shopping to fill the void of my favorite ring that had broken the week before, I chatted up this nice Korean lady. The ring I wanted was slightly bent, but still beautiful. Due to its unnoticeable imperfection, she gave it to me with a $10 off discount, because I brought up the dent in the first place.

ring in nola

It’s not rocket science, but building the risk muscle doesn’t happen overnight, time to get cracking on some risky exercises.

Comment below if you’ve taken any risks in the past and whether it’s gone in a way you’d imagined.




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  • Kiara

    Ever since you started snapping your time in the French Quarter, my heart fluttered. My entire family is from Louisiana, and I’ve only been there twice in my life — once at a very young age and once last March during Easter. I miss it so much, my heart felt like it belonged there. From the morals to the creole & cajun cuisine I grew up with, I knew I was at home. I can’t wait to return to the most lively & upbeat city ever!

    • You’ll love it, I feel like I belong and there’s no real reason why, it’s just a magical place!

  • Kelly

    I took the dive and went on a two day trip by myself to Savannah, GA right after my last final of the semester. Five people knew I was going, and even less knew that it was by myself. The idea of traveling alone, especially driving far alone, was already risky. My parents could have found out and stopped me from doing anything, I could have been stranded in the middle of nowhere with a messed up car, or I could have gotten completely and utterly lost.

    But I didn’t get lost, my car didn’t break down, and my freedom hadn’t been taken. By the time I got to Savannah and explored all that I wanted, I was completely at ease with being alone and finding out what I liked to do when there was no one to worry about but myself. It was a short trip that helped me unwind from the stress of college and helped me reflect on my actions and choices. The risk was nerve-wracking, but the results made it worth it.

    • This is amazing, you’re totally right, all those fears could have stopped you, but they DIDN’T! 😀

  • I flew the nest and moved to London with 0 friends, 0 job, 0 money and almost 3 yrs later I’m still here! Still alive, not too broke, I’ve got wonderful friends from all over the world and overall I’m so glad I did it. It changed my life completely. I’m now a much more confident person than I was before I moved and I urge anyone to take the risk your thinking about because it will work!!!! Much love.
    Thanks for sharing this post Jo you’ve reminded me of how far I’ve come and all it takes is a little courage to get things going! Xx

    • YES! This is exactly why we bring up these topics, because we’re not the only ones, and it’s a beautiful thing! SLAY OVER THERE IN LONDONTOWN!

  • Marianne

    Omg I swear you almost got me teared up. This post couldn’t have met me at a better moment in my life. I’ve just finished university (and I’m lucky to be free of any debt, thanks to France and its (almost) free universities and to my parents’ support) and I feel like I’ve been on train tracks my whole life, never really failing at anything but also never really taking risks. Lately I’ve been thinking about going to the US for a few months, working in hostels or so to meet as many new people as possible, learn about everything I’d come across, visit cities and places, without deciding when or where or why. But at the same time I’m feeling scared. But I know I need that, I know I need to take some risks. I need to have small victories, and small failures. To make decisions and DO THE THINGS I WANT TO DO !
    And I’ve been thinking about starting my journey in New Orleans so talk about a coincidence ha 🙂

    • Girlllll, save them tears :)! Glad the post helped get you into the risk taking mindset! Comfort isn’t living, and taking risks helps you feel alive. Good luck with your travels, you’ll LOVE NOLA!