Downtown author details the book that took her around the world
Kai Oliver-Kurtin | Downtown News
Downtown resident Aimee Cebulski recently published her first book, “The Finding 40 Project,” a collection of over 30 interviews with women around the world who reflect on what it means to turn 40. This two-year project took Cebulski to 10 countries, and ultimately turned out to be the impetus for her next professional project.
Downtown News: What was your inspiration for writing “The Finding 40 Project?”
Aimee Cebulski: The idea came about two years ago when I was with a group of my best girlfriends. We were in the car after celebrating my friend’s 40th birthday in wine country, and were discussing what we would do for my birthday – which happened to be next out of our group. I realized I didn’t really care about what I was going to be doing, but that I was much more interested in learning what 40 means to other women around the world and whether it was a significant milestone to them.
DTN: How did you select and locate the women whose stories are featured in your book?
AC: I was really focused on finding women who were right around 40 or who were about to turn 40, because I wanted everyone to be at the same point in their life. Then I sought out countries or cultures that I was particularly interested in, and looked for travel opportunities that were inexpensive. I also worked with a charity called PCI Global that has offices all over the world. I used their connections to help find women in other countries who I may not have otherwise had access to. Sometimes it was completely by accident – they were staying in our hotel or I met them through a community connection that I made upon arrival. And sometimes it was on-the-ground detective work. I also used social media and connections with friends.
DTN: What did you learn about women in other cultures while compiling this book?
AC: I’ll tell you what was really reinforced for me – where you are born matters. Although we have a variety of problems in the U.S., our quality of life is unlike any other place. Being an American woman, I won the birth lottery. I’m afforded rights and freedom … and until you travel to another place where women are under oppression, you don’t truly appreciate it. [But] I also learned that women at 40 around the world face the same kind of pressure – whether it’s me in San Diego or a sommelier in Italy on the other side of the world – we both get pressure because we’re married but don’t have kids. There are a lot of common issues no matter where you are. And everybody worries about money.
DTN: What did you learn about yourself while completing this project?
AC: What I learned about myself at 40 is that there are still so many opportunities available to me. I saw what other women are doing at this point in their life, and I know I still have time to pursue a passion or issue that I feel strongly about. On a personal level, I spent a big portion of my adult life overcoming my fear of flying. This whole project was a final reassurance that that fear is now behind me. Fear is not going to stop me personally or physically.
DTN: What advice would you give women who are approaching 40?
AC: Go for it! With many of the women I interviewed, a common theme was regret. They almost always had a dream that was put aside, or something they didn’t do for themselves that they’d been thinking about. When I first contemplated working for myself, my dad said to give it a try and see how it goes. He said if it doesn’t work, then I could always do something else. That was the best advice I’ve ever received in my life. So whatever it is, give it a try.
DTN: How were you able to fund this travel project?
AC: I launched two Kickstarter campaigns to raise funds for the book. After the first campaign flopped, I launched the second specifically to pay for the first print run and production costs. As a result of this experience, when an opportunity came up at Wiley Publishing, my agent suggested that I might be the best person to author their “Kickstarter for Dummies” book, which I have now finished and will be coming out June 4. My travel for “The Finding 40 Project” was paid for out of pocket. I’ve been running a boutique public relations agency for 15 years, and also do freelance writing. For this project, I traveled with my husband on the cheap. Sometimes we were the only ones in our 40s at the hostels! We also used frequent flier miles and reward points to fund our travel.
DTN: Will you be doing anything special with the proceeds from this book?
AC: Once every quarter, I will donate 10 percent of my royalties to PCI Global to support women in empowerment and education programs. The funds are donated directly to the program development teams in various countries.
“The Finding 40 Project” is only available online through Amazon.com or at Cebulski’s website, Finding40.net. “Kickstarter for Dummies” will be available at all area bookstores and online retailers. For more information about PCI Global and what they do for women around the world, visit pciglobal.org.
Kai Oliver-Kurtin is a local freelance reporter who also works full-time doing social media marketing for the U.S. Navy. She enjoys covering events, restaurant news, culture and entertainment. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.