This crazy, nomadic existence: Rosa Park of Cereal

Born in Seoul, Rosa Park has lived in Vancouver, Boston, New York, Paris, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Bristol and now Bath, where she publishes travel magazine Cereal with her partner Rich Stapleton. Rosa sat down for a conversation with Aerostorie about her routines while on the road, finding joy in planning and being at home in new places.

“It’s kind of nuts. It’s been 15 years since I left home and have been living alone since. I would say that trajectory after I left home has been quite methodical in the sense that I never move for the sake of it; I always moved because there was a reason for me to.

I was in Boston for university and I did a semester abroad in Honolulu then to New York to work and to get my second degree. Then I moved to Bristol to get my third degree and I ended up in Bath which is where I got my first job in England. I’ve been kind of going back and forth between Bath and Bristol for the last five years.

It’s like this crazy, nomadic existence. I would like to put my roots down somewhere but I have a feeling that I’m probably not going to [stay] in one city. I can picture myself living in-between two cities, like my parents did growing up, going back and forth.

It’s probably going to be somewhere in England. I can’t picture myself living anywhere else in the UK. I can picture myself living in California only because I have a lot of friends and family there — I can run there when it’s too rainy.

I think Vancouver is my home. I grew up in Vancouver for much of my adolescence and I think the place that you come of age is where you always feel the most connected to.

When I fly into Vancouver — when I land in YVR — I always feel like I’m home. It’s very strange, because I actually haven’t lived there since I was 17. 

I think that’s actually one of the biggest reasons why I like living [in Bath] so much is because of the quality of life. I’ve mostly lived in big cities and... I can see the pros and cons of living in London and New York; I can see the pros and cons of living in smaller cities. But it’s about what you’re ready for at a specific point in your life. Now that I’m in my 30s I don’t crave the excitement or the fast pace — the kind of stuff that you love about being in a big city. None of those things are big priorities for me anymore. I actually want to be somewhere very quiet and peaceful where I can have my own space and just doing my thing.

That’s the kind of quality of life that I’m looking for. In that sense, where I live is really perfect because the living expenses here are very reasonable, especially in comparison to the standards of London.

For me, [Bath’s] a difficult place to dislike. The only complaint that I can imagine people having is that it’s too small; it’s too slow. But those things really don’t bother me. The perfect way that I can describe it is: imagine you took a really nice, lovely neighbourhood of London and plopped it in Somerset.

Before I got into publishing I was working in marketing, so slightly different from what I do now, although actually there’s a lot of overlapping qualities that I’ve come to recognise. Ultimately you’re selling a product. No matter what you do in life, you’re selling something if you’re trying to earn a living out of it. 

I worked at an agency and then I went in-house with a bigger company. It was a very good experience, it just wasn’t ultimately what I wanted to do, which is why I moved to England. So I got my masters in English literature here, because who doesn’t like to read books?

When I graduated I knew I wanted to work in publishing. I was looking for different jobs and ended up taking a job with a local magazine in Bath. As it happened, when I was there, I actually helped the company launch a new food magazine.

It was a three person team launching this title, so I did a lot, which meant I learnt a lot. I guess subconsciously, without really registering at the time, it gave me the confidence to do the same for myself but in a different way.

The magazine that I launched couldn’t be more different from what we do with Cereal in terms of the working process, but I think what it made me realise is that it’s actually not that complicated to start something on your own. I think that there’s a lot of fear associated with things of that nature.

Most people don’t really know what they’re doing, so you just have to fake it ’til you make it. That’s the biggest lesson that I learned working there.

I’m a planner, I like to plan in advance. Obviously you have to be open to spontaneity and the idea that nothing ever really goes according to the way that you want it to. There’s so many last minute things, but generally speaking, I like to plan — I like to feel like I'm in control of my schedule. At the moment, I have travel plans for us pretty much until the end of this year...

Our traveling is actually increasing... The reason that it’s increasing is not because of the magazine; it’s because of all the other work that Rich and I do. I love traveling, that’s why I have a travel magazine! But it can be quite difficult to be on the road so much because it makes you feel like you don’t really have a life. You can’t take a regular class or have any sort of routine because you don’t really know when you can fulfil those obligations. That’s been a challenge for me and I try very hard to be here as much as possible, but it’s a silly thing to say when you run a travel magazine because that’s what you do for a living. 

At the moment I’m traveling about half the month. I can live with that balance...

At the end of the day I run a business, and you can’t run a business from your laptop on the road — you have to spend time with your colleagues and be in the office. So for me, it’s always trying to strike the balance. I know it sounds like I’m complaining — I’m not. It’s wonderful, but like everything in life, too much of anything can be very challenging.

Rich and I travel together a lot. I think in the last six months to a year we’ve been traveling more independently, because we both do work outside of the company that requires us to travel. So, maybe it’s like 70 percent we travel together; 30 percent we don’t. If I didn’t work with my partner I don’t think I would have a personal life, so I’m very grateful for that.

At the end of the day the most important thing — our number one priority — is and always will be the magazine, because that’s at the core of what we do and everything else surrounds it and kind of boosts or supports that. The reason that Rich and I do so much consulting work is for financial reasons. In many ways, if I could make the money that I needed to make just on the magazine then I wouldn’t do all those other jobs.

I would never compromise the integrity of our magazine or content because the only reason that we’re even able to get all of these other jobs is because of what we do with the magazine. People always approach us through the magazine, so you can never let the ball drop on the main thing that you produce.

I wish I could say that I have a routine when I’m on the road. I absolutely do not; I’m a mess. I’m just rolling along trying not to die from jet lag and the change in temperature.’

Richard is actually a creature of habit, so he has a very strict routine no matter where he is in the world. He constantly makes fun of me. I don’t really have a routine at home let alone when I’m traveling. I’m just kind of like making the most of things as much as I can; trying to sleep as much as I can. I think I pass out any time I’m stationary for more than 30 minutes. I’m really good at sleeping on flights unless there’s terrible turbulence.

The consultancy work that we do is very straightforward. Friends come to us and say ‘Hi guys, we like what you’re doing. We like the Cereal style. Do you think you can do something similar for our brand?’ and we talk to them and gauge their thoughts and what they’re trying to achieve. Because even if they want your style, they don’t want a replica. You need to cater it to their brand. 

We create content — be it photography, words, video, stories. We create something even more substantial in terms of printed product. We’ve created books and guidebooks for brands in the past. We’ve done events for them. It really runs the gamut. When I work for them, because it’s ‘Cereal’ working for this brand or ‘Rosa Park’ working for this brand, I don’t have to go to their office, I can just work from our office or at home.

Luckily, I have a lot of passports. It’s been easy for me to move around because I haven’t faced a lot of issues with visas or citizenships. However, it was a nightmare for me to actually get a working visa in England and I will have to renew my visa in a year and I’m not looking forward to that at all, because it’s like a 1000-page application. 

Every time you move you feel like you’re basically starting from scratch. Especially when I moved to England, because I didn’t know anybody and I'd never visited Bristol before I moved, so I really just took a leap of faith. 

The big thing for me is that I’m not really attached to anything, other than people. My friendships and my family — those are the anchors to my life, because  they are the only thing I have that’s very constant.

Everything in my life is so up in the air that it’s not very difficult for me to leave or move because I don’t get attached to places or things. The friends and family in my life will always be there no matter where I am.

If I want to move somewhere then I feel that way for a reason and I need to act on it, because I think there’s nothing worse than regretting.

I have a driver’s license in America, Canada and Korea. I have a bank account in Korea, America, Canada and England. I have to file, like, four tax returns.

The thing is, if you’re not willing to accept that, then you should never move. You should just stay in one place. If you’re going to do these things you have to be OK with all of the paperwork and red tape that comes with it.

I’m not the kind of person that can be super YOLO and be like, ‘oh, whatever is going to happen is going to happen’.

It comes with the territory and it sucks... there’s nothing worse than opening a bank account in England. It takes, like, seven years. I don’t know why, because it takes five seconds in Korea. I just think it’s kind of comical. I try to find humor in everything; all the differences between countries.

I always have a plan, because that’s how I was raised. My dad, when I was a child, used to always tell me that I needed not just plan A, but B and C.

Maybe what you want is plan A, but you have to be open to the possibility that that might not work out, therefore you need backup plans. 

So when I look ahead 10 years there’s an idea of what I want. Will that happen? I don’t really know but I’ll try my best to get there, and if it doesn’t happen I have things in the wings in terms of what I’d like to do. I think it’s hard because some people criticize people that over-plan. They’re like ‘oh, you’re not spontaneous, just go with the flow’.

You have to juggle both. I think there’s a very fine line. I’m not the kind of person that can be super YOLO and be like, ‘oh, whatever is going to happen is going to happen’. Although you do need that to a degree, because ultimately you’re not really in control of anything, but you try. 

In 10 years I hope that I’m still working in media in a creative capacity. I hope that I’m still in the industry, doing what I’m doing, constantly pursuing new projects in one way or another.

In terms of Cereal, I have a pretty good idea of what our next year looks like, so that’s very exciting for us. There’s lots of new things happening.

It’s similar remit, but on a bigger scale. And we’re constantly making our current product a better version than the one before. That in itself is very challenging and it keeps us very busy.

We are very, very small today. Aside from myself and Rich, there are four people that work with us. We all work in an office in Bristol and I think it’s a really nice environment. We are all around the same age. I think we all have very similar interests and I have a really lovely team, so I can’t complain. 

I don’t really want to grow too fast because I’d rather each person grow within their role and everybody have that kind of job satisfaction rather than me just hiring 10 or 20 people up-front. That’s not really my style of company management.

It’s really tough, because there’s two things competing. One aspect is: I need to make money and I need to take all these opportunities and capitalise on them. The other is: if money was not an objective, how would you want to run your company? So you have two competing ideals and you have to find the right balance because you can’t really go to one extreme to another or I think your company struggles.”