My Story

Like millions of immigrant stories, my family fled to the United States with nothing after escaping Vietnam communists in 1979. We were known as “Boat People.” The journey encompassed starvation, dehydration, and four pirate’s assaults while crossing the vast South China Sea in a dilapidated boat. Eight months and five refugee camps later, my family was sponsored by a Lutheran church in a small town in Minnesota.

There is a common misconception that problems are solved once refugees settle in a new country. Where one problem is solved, others begin to emerge, causing silent anguish. It is in the newfound silence that the trauma begins to unfold.

My story is a narrative of an adolescent girl who grew up in a family filled with obligations and responsibilities while navigating a volatile society. I was determined to shatter the glass ceiling,
to overcome the challenge of living a life torn between eastern traditional culture and contemporary western teaching. It was challenging growing up without strong roots in either

I plowed through life without giving a pause moment to reflect. I worked hard to graduate from Villanova University in 1988. I was unstoppable as I began my 17-year career as a medicinal chemist, where I held several patents on various drug discoveries.

Courage prompted me to take the biggest risk by walking away from a secure, sheltered life in the corporate world. I volunteered to be laid off and started a business. I had no experience nor background in entrepreneurship. It was scary, but I know I needed to stop settling and take control of my life. Beginning a new direction was shaky, but the newfound freedom inspired me to create the opportunity to thrive.

Slowly, I began to exit my safe, comfortable zone. I learned to speak, ask, and decide to choose what actually aligns with my core principles, desire, and purpose. Life is a learning process. The more I knew, the more I felt the need to learn. The idea of limitless possibilities began to infiltrate my thoughts. No one should settle for less than they deserve.

The newfound outlook carried me through when the housing market crashed in 2008. I did not go bankrupt. I came back even stronger because of the opportunities I created for myself. I asked for business. Over a span of 10 years, I collaborated through networking to operate a successful high-end window drapery business located in Pennsylvania.

The business was doing well and prospered, but once again, I felt my purpose had shifted after our son left home for college. After 35 years in Pennsylvania, my husband and I uprooted and moved to Florida to pause, reflect, and pursue our new passions. We knew that walking away from a high-paying job and a prosperous business would set us back financially, but we also realized we were unwilling to settle for a life that no longer serves our purpose. In this time of reflection, where I sought to forget my refugee journey, but the story would not be quiet. It wanted to be told.

In 2019, I shared my story on the TEDx stage. It made me vulnerable. The experience lifted the burden of the well-kept silence. My heart told me it was time to set free of the sinking boat.

In Sept 2020, I published my first book, “I Did Not Miss the Boat- Memoir of a Vietnam Hoa Refugee,” highlighting my personal struggle to overcome the trauma of war, poverty, and social isolation.  I learned that fitting into the American mainstream does not guarantee emotional happiness unless I deal with my past, make peace with my identity, and accept who I really am in a multicultural world.

I have always been grateful to have the opportunity to experience the freedom and abundance my parents worked so hard to provide. I am humbled to say that my memoir is a small representation of how adversity can inspire opportunities in life. It is my privilege to share my influential teachers, generous families, and moments of profound inspiration with my audience.

I am thrilled to say the memoir is well received, and the message has touched many people who responded positively. Click here to read the book reviews.  The book intends to provide strength and inspiration for readers to find triumphs in their own tragedy.

Through the years, I helped raise awareness for domestic violence victims, mentored homeless people. I have also used my voice to raise awareness for cultural differences, poverty, and social isolation to help bridge diversity gaps in this modern society.

Currently, I serve as a board member for Together for Good- Refugee Film School, a non-profit organization to support refugee students in Malaysia. Nothing gives me more joy than being able to help others to rebuild their second chance in life. As a transformation coach, I love seeing how my clients break through their silence with confidence. It is gratifying to witness how they rediscover their brilliance to excel in their lives. To live their truth and speak their voice, practicing courage to set them free so they can live a vibrant life of no regrets.

As a speaker, I bring the message of hope to women’s associations and organizations through presentations virtually or in person. I believe when we have the courage to reclaim and explore our potentials, we ultimately create and attract opportunities to further fulfill our personal and professional lives. Living an exciting life of passion and purpose.

Click on book below to purchase.


My Advice

1. No matter how difficult your challenges or how dire your situation seems, you have the power to navigate your own way through. You are the only one who can exercise that power.

2. Hope and prayers alone are not enough. You need to proactively take action and believe that faith will be your guiding light to get you through the difficult times.

3. You don't have to settle just because it's easy, comfortable, or because of someone else's expectation. It's never too late to live your truth, speak your voice, and do what you love.

4. Don't stay small or play safe! Dream big, live large because you will spend the same amount of energy either way. Whatever you think will expand and manifest, so why stay small?

5. Have the courage to ask when you need help. Receive the life abundance with an open mind, a grateful heart. Then generously give back, contribute and pay it forward to serve the people behind you. Kindness is a great gift when we can recycle it.

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Lea Tran Speaker & Coach


My typical customer

I work with (individuals and organizations) women who want to get out of their ruts to
ignite their passion, conquer their fear, be truly free to live a vibrant life of passion and purpose. I speak to inspire people to get out of their comfort zone, be unstuck, be free to live the colorful life they deserve.

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What an inspiration you are Lea. I love number 4 of your advice. Live large and dream.