Born into a Lebanese family in the Scandinavian-infused world of Minnesota, Rami Zeidan never felt connected to his environment, a feeling that was heightened by the early death of his mother. “I lacked a sense of belonging, so I became passionate about the problem of feeling disconnected,” he says. “And for me, the solution was rooted in creating accessible travel, enabling people to journey to places where they don’t feel judged.” This sense of mindfulness did not always come easy to Zeidan, but by uniting people through new experiences, he has found connection and purpose in his own life.
At Life House we always partner with area influencers—chefs, artists, DJs, and the like. We use these folks to create locally rooted experiences for our guests. In Southern Florida, with our two hotels there (Life House, Little Havana and Life House, South of Fifth), you have an environment that is filled with historic neighborhoods, great narratives, and open-minded individuals.
Meaning to me is not something that can be forced or contrived; it has to be organic. For our community of guests, we generate meaning by creating spaces with authentic culture, design, and cuisine. This makes for organic interaction, spaces where people can step out of their comfort zone and interact. Also, for me it’s not just about creating meaningful experiences, it’s about making them affordable. I am really focused on driving down cost so as to make these experiences accessible to many people.
I’d spent a lot of time in Miami, so I knew the hotel market well. Still, I came upon both properties randomly. One was this historic hotel in Little Havana. It had just opened but had been developed poorly and needed more work. So I said to the owner, “Stop spending money and sell it to us! And he did.” A lot of the small-hotel owners have no idea what they are doing and are so beat up by the time they open that they are only too happy to pass the torch. South of Fifth, meanwhile, was the only Tudor-style building in South Beach. I loved the architecture, how rare it is and different from the usual Art Deco stuff, but also that it is far enough away from the noise and glitz and glam of the tourist stuff. It spoke to me. And it happened to be for sale. That’s the real challenge: There are a lot beautiful, perfectly located buildings in the world, but they have to be for sale. Otherwise, you can’t do much!
There’s a psychologist from Toronto named Jordan Peterson who is known for his studies about how human beings find meaning in their lives. It seems that there’s a high correlation between taking on responsibility and having a meaningful life. For me, that responsibility lies in hospitality and managing a team. Peterson’s studies also show that wealth doesn’t create real meaning. This philosophy underpins the Life House brand.
Yes, I meditate at least once a day, usually in the morning. It helps me be more reliable and not so flakey, which is something I still struggle with—the people who work for me can attest to that! In fact, I work a lot, so anything that takes me out of that environment is great. I’m a big runner and Miami is great for outdoor running. I run one marathon a year. I also played soccer when I was younger, first in Minnesota and then on a national level, until I got injured.
My brother passed away about five years ago. He was on his bicycle and got hit by a motorcycle. About 15 minutes before the accident, I texted him and he wrote back, “Ok, xoxo.” I’ve kept the text. I also have his cell phone with his last messages to me. That is my most-prized possession. I actually got a tattoo of xoxo on my wrist to always remind me.