Interview MIKHA M.
Date MARCH 2021

      Human, designer, world wanderer and plant lover Tee Tran on the meaning of home and stepping out of her comfort zone.

Tee is a first-generation Vietnamese American currently residing in Melbourne, Australia. The bio on her site reads “While I'm alive though, I want to work on making little differences that hopefully add up to a lot of good by designing with socially conscious companies, volunteering with nonprofits, and writing about mental health.”

Tee was born in Fountain Valley, California, but when she was a few months old, her family moved to San Francisco where she grew up. “After graduating university, I spent 5 years living in Berlin and Amsterdam. I'm now in Melbourne where I have been calling home for a little over 2 years.”


HOME San Francisco © Tee Tran: I took this photo on one of my last trip home in 2018. I was fighting jet lag and couldn’t sleep, so my sister and I drove to corona heights and watched the sunrise. It’s a beautiful spot in SF where you have an overview of the entire city.

“The hardest part about moving around so much is constantly saying goodbye.”

LFV: What challenges and learnings have you experienced in terms of living, and working in Melbourne?

T: I grew up in the States, have family in Vietnam, spent half a decade working in Germany and The Netherlands, volunteered in Nepal and Kyrgyzstan, and now live in Australia. I started my life over many times. The hardest part about moving around so much is constantly saying goodbye. You’d think I'd be good at it by now, but the truth is that it gets harder each time. I’m no stranger to crying. I’ll cry about seeing people for the first time in years. And I cry feeling afraid that it’ll be years until I see them again. No matter where I am, I'm always missing somebody.


Tee in Practice © Tee Tran


Friends © Tee Tran

Breaking from the confining norms amplifies creativity; how does your experience abroad and the new culture influences you, and your practice?

T: My experiences in various countries has taught me to keep an open perspective and adapt to situations quickly while remaining modest — both as a designer and as a human. It taught me to step outside my comfort zone. That feeling nervous or afraid is usually a good thing. It means you'll learn something new about yourself. Cliché, I know. But it's true.

Sleepy Fren © Tee Tran

What gives you a deep sense of belonging?

T: The new friends you meet who become surrogate family, and learning to love in different languages.

What does home mean to you?  

T: It’s always been about the feeling that a place gives me. I have the privilege of doing work that is location independent, which has allowed me to visit around 50 countries in my lifetime. I can’t pinpoint why, but I start to feel very disconnected when I'm settled in one place for too long. It's both a gift and a curse. For me, it feels good to be on my own two feet: tucked away in pockets of unknown places ironically feels like coming home to something familiar in a country I haven’t explored yet.


Ninh Bình, Vietnam © Tee Tran


Shan State, Myanmar © Tee Tran


Fez, Morocco © Tee Tran

What’s your favourite song, book or artwork for recalling home?

T: Youth Lagoon - 17. Aside from it having a nostalgic sound, it has some beautifully written lyrics that remind me of my teenage years dreaming of leaving San Francisco. “Surrounded by nothing But the nothing's surrounded by us But it's just me in my room With my eyes shut”


Chauen, Chaouen, Morocco © Tee Tran

What advice would you give to someone moving abroad?

T: Do it. If you’re scared, that’s a good thing. Whether it turns out to be a good or bad experience, you will ultimately learn something new about yourself.


Tee Tran is a designer, volunteer, and mental health ambassador. Tee currently lives in Melbourne, Australia and works as a freelance designer at Pitch.

Visit Tee's site to see her design work, and take a shot on reading her articles.

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