“Lagom” is a Swedish word that translates to “just the right amount,” but in her time talking with locals in Stockholm, Amanda Gunawan found an even looser translation — “not too little, not too much.” This is the way the Swedish people Gunawan met during her trip define their lifestyle, and in talking with her, we came to find it’s her personal recipe for life, in many respects, too.
Seeking Inspiration Through Travel
Gunawan now owns her own architecture firm in L.A., but when she’s not studying the technical aspects of her chosen art form, she’s seeking out ways to become inspired. That, of course, includes traveling and learning about other cultures.
“I feel that with architecture, especially, it’s very important not to stay in your head too much. That’s my biggest problem anyways, so if I don’t get out then, what’s the design for?,” she explained. “I need to understand the world that I’m designing for, and I think travel helps a lot — basking in all of these cultures and understanding all of the different elements to it.”
Free Spirited And Career-Focused
Considering she was born in Indonesia and raised in Singapore, this notion of embracing different cultures came early for her. And with parents that split their time between the two countries, her sense of independence was formed from a young age, which explains her independent spirit and willingness to branch out into architecture on her own so early on in her career.
“The fact that I was kind of raised by one parent that was going back and forth [between Indonesia and Singapore], that cultivated a huge sense of independence,” she said. “[My parents] were very supportive, and they were very open to allowing me to go anywhere I want in this world.”
Fast forward to when she graduated high school and decided to come to L.A. to study architecture, work for an architecture firm and eventually, have the courage to solo and make a name for herself with her own firm.
“The younger you are, the faster your bounce back rate — you just have so much energy. You’re just ready, so if you’re going to go down this road, you might as well do it now. I had all of these opportunities that I felt like, ‘I can’t miss this.’ So I left my job and decided to start my own firm.”
The transition from architecture student to owning her own firm has been made easier thanks to the support she receives from her L.A. community.
“I really like that L.A. is just such a supportive community,” she said. “I feel like everyone is trying to do their own thing, so everyone recognizes how hard it is and the support you need for each other. So, everyone’s helping each other out, and it’s been great, honestly.”
Home Away From Home
And while L.A. may be her home base for now, she’s become accustomed to feeling at home anywhere she goes — thanks, in part, to her openness to learn about other cultures and also because she’s always sure to carry a bit of comfort with her.
“I always have all my favorite scents,” she explained. “I like the scent of tuberose, so I always have that with me — whether it be perfume or a candle, lotion, anything like that.”
And while Gunawan is no stranger to the stresses travel can bring, she recommends having a go with the flow attitude upon arrival to a new place. That — and sticking to whatever time it is where you are to avoid jet lag.
“My tip would be to not stress, basically. Let your body go with it,” she explained. “I landed in Stockholm at noon, which is really late at night in L.A. You basically just have to fight not to sleep all the way until about 8 or 9 p.m. Then you’re going to wake up at like 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. anyways, and that’s pretty ideal. Then, just keep the days going like that. And don’t be anxious about [feeling like you need to sleep]. Don’t be like, ‘I need to sleep! I need to sleep!’ You’re never going to sleep like that.”
Her fresh from the plane and on with your day attitude is part of the reason why she loves No Plans so much.
“No Plans would be my full on traveling outfit,” she said. “People normally wear t-shirts and sweatpants for the comfort, but you can have clothes that are comfortable and stylish, too.”
Plus, she points out — it’s “perfect” if you land and can’t check in to your hotel, have a meeting, but also want to be comfortable resting up on the plane. In other words, you could say No Plans is “not too little, not too much.”
She’s become a wise traveler — No Plans wear and all — but we’re also impressed by how much of a pro she is at home also. She’s found a great way to incorporate her travels into her daily routine, too.
She described her perfect night in as:
“Watching ‘The Office’ and cooking a nice meal with all of the new plates that I just got from my travels. I have this hobby of collecting plates.”
In fact — when it comes to cooking… she admits she’s a little obsessed. If the walls of her apartment could talk — they’d tell her she had enough cookbooks already!
“[My apartment walls] would probably always be nagging at me for my extensive collection of cookbooks,” she confessed. “I have a serious love for cookbooks, one I can no longer contain (literally). Those are one type of books that I believe should never be electronic. There’s just something about how personal it is, it’s like looking into the soul of a chef.”
Recipe For Life
Whether she’s traveling, staying in, Gunawan has a knack for feeling “at home” wherever she is, and she’s got the right outlook to help the rest of us achieve that, too. When it comes to stress from travel, she suggests “not too much.” When it comes to experiencing the world — “not too little.” And when it comes to cookbooks — well, you can never have enough.
Follow Amanda at @amandagnwn.