Back in May I spent a solid three weeks in the US, connecting with old friends and getting some much-needed fresh air in my lungs. It had been a while and as such, I packed my adventure full to the brim with as many special moments as possible. It is by far my favourite way to travel; visiting friends or family in a destination that’s exciting to me. I get the comforts of home in a foreign place, a familiar face to contemplate life with and the inside knowledge of the best places to, well, do as the locals do.

I encountered a strange situation on this trip though; one that was entirely new to me and has stuck with me ever since. It was the act of sharing photos on Instagram without giving away the exact location. Because, who was I to disclose to the world a secret spot that I was fortunate enough to have been given the key to? Who was I to shatter the pristine and silent wilderness that had been entrusted to me by those who enjoy it as their backyard?

We live in a strange age where we can be connected to each other via social media every second of every day, if we want to be. With that comes great power, but also great responsibility. Primarily for our own sanity, of course, but also when it comes to maintaining that which is sacred.

Travel is a luxury that not all of us can afford, but there is certainly a growing number indulging in jaunts across the globe for work or pleasure. It’s one of life’s most wonderful gifts; experiencing new cultures and everything that delights the senses as a result of that. Travel is something that enriches our lives and makes us better people. It teaches us about others, helps to eradicate discrimination and gets us in touch with the natural world.

But as more of us travel and wish to excitedly share our adventures, there is a growing fear amongst some (now including myself) that those sacred spaces that hold enormous appeal are becoming fewer and fewer. Pristine wilderness untouched by the footprints, toilet paper and granola wrappers of man slipping through our fingers.

Are Instagram and Facebook to blame, I wonder? With each of us seemingly trying to outdo one another with the most beautiful and inspiring photographs of what are now iconic ‘wanderlust musts’ around the globe, are we propelling ourselves directly into that which will destroy the very thing we hold dear? I see photograph after photograph of Antelope Canyon and Joshua Tree and I realise that the chances of me getting to go to those places without a single tourist in sight are almost nonexistent. And that’s incredibly disheartening.

If you’re like me, you travel to get away from all the hustle and bustle; away from all the connectivity to instead gain perspective on what truly matters. My favourite moments in the world; the ones I hold closest to my heart and help me settle to sleep are those are those where I am truly immersed in the wilderness. There’s nothing but me and a couple friends and real, untouched terrain. With a growing population and many of those in power giving, well, not a flying fuck, about preserving these spaces, it then becomes, surely, my responsibility to protect them?

So adventure and share photographs, I did, but the exact location of some of these has remained inside knowledge. Is it wrong of me to think that the best spots in the world should be reserved for locals and those who happen to find them of their own accord? No, I genuinely believe not. It’s so easy to scour Google for the best places to eat, mountains to climb and beaches to surf, but can you really call it an adventure if a search online from your couch was all it took to get there? I hardly think so.

It’s only natural to want to sing and dance and shout about the most phenomenal places in the world. It’s why there are a thousand blogs and books written about the topic and a thousand more Instagram pages dedicated to it. But would it maybe serve us better to hold off a little on the exact coordinates? In this age of know it all, leave just a little something to the imagination? Leave a little mystery? After all, it might just make us talk to each other a little bit more and adventure a little further if it took more effort to get there.

I don’t ignore the fact that shining a big, bright light and lots of publicity on certain places has indeed helped them gain protected status. And that’s great and one of the pros of social media acting a vessel for the coming together of conservation enthusiasts. But travel all for the sake of getting the shot so you can show others just how great of a time you’re having? That just doesn’t cut it, in my eyes. You can’t really say you’ve been somewhere if you haven’t made that emotional connection with the place. I don’t say that to sound pretentious, believe me. I say that because I bet your bottom dollar that the next time you really go somewhere and experience the stillness and serenity of a land untouched by tourism, you’ll think of this. You’ll recall this idea of preserving sacred spaces a little part of you will experience the sensation that you don’t want the world to know about it. It’s the realisation that you don’t want to risk anything destroying it. And that’s okay. You go ahead and keep it sacred. I encourage you to do so. And I only hope that one day I discover it on my own so I can understand just how special it is and exactly how it made you smile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The loss of Anthony Bourdain this week hit my family hard. He was one of the few celebrity chefs we knew of back in the day, before this culture of celebrity chefs was really a thing. The charismatic and adventurous New Yorker put a solid two middle fingers up to any kind of health food fad or pretentious, showy, Hollywood sensationalism and instead let himself be immersed in what truly mattered: culture and cuisine.

Having grown up abroad, this resonated with me. The foods I was exposed to growing up – particularly in my early childhood in Morocco – have shaped the person I am today in many ways. I am bold, adventurous and forever on a quest to try new things. Anthony Bourdain spoke to that part of me. The explorer. And the part of me that is captivated by the Human Condition, as was he.

I remember watching episode after episode of A Cook’s Tour and No Reservations, fascinated as Bourdain would take himself around the world, trying the most diverse array of foods. He would laugh and ask questions and learn from his hosts and had this way of making those places commonly left off the map newly desirable locations for foodie enthusiasts watching from around the globe.

Although these days I eat in such a way that I try to minimise my environmental footprint, I still can’t help but have a place in my heart for what Bourdain stood for, underneath the surface; food as a vessel for the coming together of people. And food as an art form. Food as the medium through which a culture can express itself and tell its story. Even if those foods include a bunch of things that we know in this day and age we would be better leaving off the table to preserve a healthy planet. Much of the world eats what’s local and what has helped them survive for millenia. Those foods mean something, regardless of whether or not they fit into the current desirable paradigm of ‘sexy vegan cuisine’.

In much of the world, people have a far more intimate relationship with their food than those of us surviving on microwave dinners and single-serving fruit cups purchased and consumed on the go. In these places, food is an experience. Every moment, from the sowing of seeds or birth of new livestock through to the nuturing, harvest and preparation of meals, culture is comprised of the life cycle of food as a whole. We are who we are based on how we deeply we interact with that life cycle.

The headline came through this week that Bourdain had died by suicide and I couldn’t quite believe it. He was so full of life, so fascinating and had so much going for him. How could this be? What drove such a successful person to think this was the only way out? We’ll never know and I sure as hell have no place speculating.

Many people around the world commit suicide every day. That sentence makes it sound like I wrote that without emotion and – believe me – that couldn’t be further from the truth. But I must state the fact; they do. And the majority of those people won’t raise global alarm because they are everyday people with small social circles and their cases considered ‘ordinary’. But whenever a celebrity does it, it always makes the headlines and it’s easy to see why.

Celebrities appear to have it all, don’t they? The status, the money, the power. They’re at the top of the foodchain. They’re the people we should all look up to, right? They had a big dream, worked hard to achieve that thing and have the luxury lifestyle that most of us will only ever aspire to. Get rich or die trying, right?

So how can it be then, that these people with their perfect lives can fall down a cavern of darkness so deep that the only way they know how to escape is through suicide? Ding! You got it: their lives aren’t perfect. I know. It’s a revelation. In fact, the enormous pressure of feeling so bad when you’re supposed to feel the polar opposite can near drive a person to insanity. I’m no celebrity (chef or otherwise) but I certainly know at least a thing or two about feeling the unbearable guilt of asking the universe why you don’t feel better; why you don’t feel the sum of all the wonderful things that you can list about your life. Those things that, of course, you are grateful for. But somehow, those things aren’t enough.

I spent most of 2016 wanting to die. It was the only viable option that I saw for myself. The only way that things would get easier would be if I didn’t have to keep going at all. I felt a million miles from the kind of life that I wanted for myself and a ten-tonne weight bore down on my chest everytime I’d look at all the boxes I ticked which said, ‘hey girl, you’re doing better than most’ and felt an emptiness outweighing them all.

I sought therapy and reduced my work hours and those decisions were the catalyst that turned things around for me and eventually made me come off hormonal birth control which made me realise that that had been about 80% of the problem all along (read more about that here). And after all of it, when I finally felt my ‘Day 1’ of starting afresh, do you know what the most common response was, from the majority of people who knew me best?

“Wow, I never knew you’d been feeling that bad. You always seemed so happy.”

Some of us can hide ourselves under layer upon layer of responsible adulting that can create such an opaque mask over what’s really going on inside that even those closest to us wouldn’t be able to guess in a million years. We still go to work. We do the grocery shopping. We run our errands. We fulfill all of our familial obligations. We make jokes and we laugh sometimes. And meanwhile on the inside we are empty and lifeless.

It really surprised me that my sharing this newfound joy with others elicited such an unexpected response. In my head I had been a shell of myself. How could my closest friends, family and boyfriend not know just how low I’d felt this whole time? How was that even possible?

And then something like Anthony Bourdain’s suicide happens and suddenly it all makes sense. No matter how well we think we know each other, the truth is that none of us are mind readers. And so it is paramount that you ask questions and cultivate your empathy to try your best to step into the shoes of those that you love if you want to truly support them. And not just when they’re turning to drugs or alcohol or sex to numb the pain. Much before that. In the everyday.

These celebrity deaths, as heartbreaking as they are for everyone who’s lives they have enriched, are so vital in triggering a reality check for us all. They show  usthat celebrities are, well, people. First and foremost, they are humans with complicated emotions and brain chemistry and inner demons. You can have all the money in the world and a team of staff and great career prospects and plenty of vacation time, but you are not exempt from those demons that prey on us all. You are not exempt from trauma and heartbreak and loss and yourself.

I didn’t know Bourdain and which demons got the better of him in the end. Or well-known fashion designer, Kate Spade, who too was found dead in her apartment from suicide this week. My heart bursts with sadness for those closest to them and their millions of fans around the world. But I hope we learn from this. I do. May they get conversations flowing and may humanity change in their wake.

Photos via Paper City Mag, GQ

 

May has been and gone in the blink of an eye, but boy, what a month it has been! I write this from the patio of my new home, freshly returned from a spot of frolicking in the wilderness of Colorado and the Pacific Northwest. It’s a hard life, isn’t it?

It’s a weird thing coming back from your vacation to the unfamiliarity of a new home. Jetlagged and in desperate need of both a shower and the use of a washing machine, I knew not how to work the shower and scalded myself in my delirious state and my washing machine hasn’t yet arrived. It feels a bit like I’m still traveling; still on the journey. And I suppose I will be until I’ve settled in and made this bombsite feel like home. But in the meantime, I have a south-facing garden that is a heavenly oasis upon which to sip my morning brew. Life could be worse.

I digress! The subject of today’s post is an account of an important lesson I’ve learned. One I want to shout from the rooftops! Schooltime with Kennedy, if you will. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it absolutely has a tendency to lurk in plain sight; fooling us all. It’s the key to happiness; to fulfillment; to contentment. You’re dying to know, aren’t you?

I was stateside this past month visiting friends for the first time in a long time. It was much-needed after a very stressful couple years. So, we packed the trip full to the brim and explored far and wide, leaving little time for twiddling our thumbs. That suited me just fine.

If you’re fortunate enough to have done your fair share of traveling, you’ll likely understand what I mean when I say that some places call to the soul more than others. It’s never logical, either. It’s entirely emotional and mysterious and magical and shouldn’t be stared at too closely. A bit like the sun. These feelings guide us; in tune with our gut instinct and our sense of spirit that drives us from our very foundations, these sensations are to be respected. If you simply don’t like a place – even if you can’t quite articulate why – trust that that’s enough. You don’t need to psychoanalyse all of the sensations. The beauty of our incredible internal guidance system is that it can handle the wheel remarkably well, if only we let it. The struggle comes when we try to slip into manual override as though we know what’s best for ourselves (we don’t).

It’s impossibly difficult to follow your gut instinct 100% of the time, though I believe that it is in these moments that we faulter that most of our mistakes can be linked to. How many times can you recall saying to yourself, “I knew I shouldn’t have trusted him!” or “I knew I had a bad feeling about that car,” etc? If it’s anything like me, your response is “countless”.

If we all learned to follow our guts a little more and our brains a little less, we’d be well on the way to living happier, more fulfilling lives. The whole point of life; all we ever try to do (whether we’re consciously aware of it or not) is to follow our joy. These is no feeling remotely comparable to the immense satisfaction of feeling like you’re in the right place. Where you’re meant to be. It stimulates this sense of home or belonging that could never be matched by bricks and cement alone (no matter how physically beautiful the structure). Akin to the “flow state”, following your joy is the practice of choosing to pursue what feels good, because, well, it feels good.

It sounds easy right? It sounds So. Damn. Easy. But it isn’t. Especially if you’re not in the practice of doing this already. In fact, for most of us it is the complete opposite: a challenge that must be chipped away at, like Michelangelo’s David. Our brains tell us no, but our body is telling us yeeesss (#sorrynotsorry for that). If you’ve been raised to believe you’re a smart girl (or guy) who has always done the logical thing, you’re essentially on a par with a newborn baby in terms of life experience following your gut. Scary thought, huh? Although actually, the baby has an advantage, somewhat. At least they are starting with a clean slate. You might well have to undo years of terrible decision-making and face things like ending your relationship, changing careers or moving halfway across the world to get back on track with your soul’s desires.

But before I scare you off, let me emphasise that any trade-offs end up with you better off every single time. One hundred percent success rate, people! Suddenly it doesn’t seem so bad right? Any uncomfortable, intermediate stages of stress/anger/sadness/frustration are only fleeting, soon to be replaced by better-than-your-wildest dreams kinds of things. Alluring, huh?

The process for following your gut is incredibly simple really; you make all of your decisions based off of feeling rather than logic. It can certainly take some practice though, so here’s a good place to start if you really feel like you have no idea and are, like, totally overwhelmed by this potential lifestyle change.

  1. Start small. Rome wasn’t built in a day and all that jazz. Start with decisions as simple as which brand of lotion to buy, or which hot drink to order in the coffee shop. Practice the art of making choices that are totally in line with where you’re at on any given day.
  2. Get familiar with “the feeling”. If you’re totally out of touch with your gut instinct, a really easy practice to follow is taking some time out in a quiet seat or lying flat on your back. Place your hands to your solar plexus and then, allow your thoughts to drift over the following, paying attention to the sensations that arise in your body:
    1. Your pet
    2. Your partner
    3. Your child
    4. Your favourite vacation
    5. Someone who has let you down
    6. Something unjust going on in the world right now
    7. A time that you hurt someone

You’ll notice that there is a feeling signature assigned to each of the above. You can choose to articulate the emotions either aloud to yourself or written in a journal if this helps. The point is, notice the physical sensations that arise as you think through all of these different things. When faced with a new decision, our gut will echo these sensations. It’s important that we take note and pick the one that is uplifting rather than the one that causes that heavy, knotted sensation at our core.

Life is indeed much like Forest’s box of chocolates. You really don’t know what you’re gonna get. But making decisions that are aligned with our gut instinct will either generate more of the good stuff, or more of the bad. I know which one I’d rather. I encourage you to follow suit.

As I sit here writing this, the birds are bellowing from the treetops right outside my window. I just filled up the bird bath in the garden and there’s a magpie causing mischief and splashing most of the water onto the lawn. How rude (by rude I mean incredibly endearing).

I’ve just come in from a brief bask in the sunshine (the lizard that I am) and it gave me all the soul food that I needed to feel solace after a stressful day. It always does. It’s the one thing I can always depend upon to heal an anxious ailment or mental misfortune: nature. Night or day, rain or shine (though shine is my preferred flavour), it is without a doubt the best universal medicine.

I’ve got only a few weeks (by weeks I mean weekends) to pack my house up and move (for what I’m sure is the millionth time) and a short pause outside gave me the energetic reset that I was craving. Feet to soil, skin soaked in golden rays, hair hot on my head and sweat collecting on my brow. After having myself wrapped up in sorting, decluttering, organising, labeling, and some DIY maintenance, it was a welcome change of pace.

Did you know that it’s Earth Day tomorrow? I decided I’d make it Earth Weekend instead. Fuck it. The planet needs an extra day of mindfulness amongst humanity. I encourage you to do the same – celebrate with me – if you catch this on Saturday.

Over the years, I’ve done various “environmentally-friendly” projects or events on Earth Day and all have been lovely. From beach cleans to tree planting to wildlife surveying; you name it, I’ve probably taken part and got the t-shirt to prove it. But this year, it’s a bit different. I’ve reached the tipping point.

See, over the past couple of years, I’ve been making steps towards living more sustainably and consciously. These days, I make every effort within my means to try to do right by the planet in my lifestyle choices. So, this Earth Day for me wasn’t about deciding to suddenly stop using plastic bags or use less water. For me, the focus is on something greater; something that I read that’s been emblazoned onto my retina ever since my eyeballs soaked the words up last week. For me, it’s about health. My health, everyone else’s health and the planet’s health. Because believe it or not, it’s not a “new-agey” thing to boldly state that they, actually, are all connected. Let me explain.

I’ve been reading the most fascinating book on one of my favourite topics: economics & money. I think it should be on every person’s reading list and I could not be more grateful that it was recommended to me. It is Charles Eisenstein’s Sacred Economics (Money, Gift & Society In The Age of Transition).

There are few books I’ve devoured so wholeheartedly and even fewer that have offered such abundance of back-to-back revelations that leave the reader essentially dumbfounded and deep in contemplation with each page turn. If I had to recommend one book that I thought might change the world if the masses read it, this would be it.

But before I get too heavily into economics and the mere threat of it makes you go back to scrolling your socials instead, let me offer some food for thought from said aforementioned read. To put it into context, the book talks about how money transitioned from being a useful tool for trade between populations too large to know each other personally to becoming the driving factor (or really, the misconception of scarcity) behind all of our environmental destruction. Aren’t you sold already? Fascinating.

Chapter 3 covers the problems that come with property; our insatiable desire to own and the deeper meaning behind that drive. Man did not make the Earth, so therefore how can he possibly be entitled to claim it as his own? And deeper: what benefits come from owning a specific plot of land, for example, and thus binding oneself to a place that may not be able to offer what the soul needs as it grows? It serves only to further isolate us; from the persons we might only hope to become, each other and the environment.

In the few communities still attempting to live harmoniously with their surroundings, there is the line of thinking that ‘self’ includes everything else in that ecosystem: your family, your community, the flora and fauna. It is not a case of “I am healthy but my child is sick.” but rather, “My family is sick”. Likewise, a polluted river or forest surrounding that place that you call home calls for the statement, “My village is sick.” It is not something outside of yourself. Much like it would be ridiculous to be struggling with lung cancer and claim, “Oh, it’s just my lungs. The rest of me is perfectly healthy!” It is equally ridiculous to think that our environment as separate to us.

We’re too clothed, too immersed in our phones and too caught up dwelling on the past or anxiously deliberating over some future scenario too often to see the simplicity of life and what is essential for us to not only survive, but thrive. It’s awful and the real reason that we don’t take greater care of the planet. Over time, it has caused a gross detachment from that line of thinking that we are only healthy if our environment is healthy. We have completely isolated ourselves as if we are self-sufficient.

Only, we’re not, are we? We need clean air to breathe, plenty of plants to eat, clean water to drink, dark skies to sleep and biodiverse ecosystems to ease our anxious minds. These aren’t opinions. They are facts. Yet our actions continue illogically and with insanity in the opposite direction all for the sake of monetary gain and what we wrongly thing it will bring us: happiness and success.

The moment that we switched from communty-orientated to self-orientated is the moment everything went downhill. It should be that more for me is great because it then means more for you (Why would I hold onto excess to that which I need? Surely I would give away what I don’t need?) but we don’t see wealth distribution happen like that because no amount of money is ever enough. We don’t understand that our happiness and wellbeing is directly correlated to that of our planet as a whole. Imagine the mass bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef as brain cancer or deforestation of the Amazon as lung cancer and you begin to look at things differently; see the interconnectedness. Without them, their is no us. Are we not smart enough to realise this prior to it being too late?

I place before you two roads diverged in a yellow, smog-filled wood and I need you to take the one less traveled, because it’s the only one that will save us. You are a part of me just as much as I am you. Let’s do this for each other while we still have a chance.

I encourage you, this Earth Day weekend to shift your thinking outside of yourself and into your ecosystem. It is very sick, but you have the strength required to save it. Your actions, your opinions and your voice have undeniable power. Use them wisely.

 

I’ve come to realise something that’s really thrown me. And if you know me well, you’ll know that I live for this kind of stuff. I’m game for anything that turns my thinking on its head and forces me to reassess my perspective and where I stand. Because after all, what is life if not one big, long, lesson? Some parts more comfortable than others.

Let’s backtrack for a minute to last September when this all started. I took a month off social media and boy, was that a good call. You can read about it here, if you like. It allowed me to gain some all important perspective on why it was causing me so much stress; why I was oscillating between trying to convince myself I could handle it one minute and then wanting to run in the other direction the next. The lesson learned was simple, really. I was struggling because I’m a human. An imperfect, emotional human. And last I checked, everyone else using social media is human too (alien conspiracy theories aside), which must mean that the things I was feeling were being felt by everyone else too. More on that later.

The entire point of life is to experience joy and make connections. No, not the superficial kind consisting of follows and likes, but the kind where communication takes the form of body language and expression. The kind where ideas are encouraged and something beautiful churned out because two heads are better than one. Meaningful relationships where we see the bad alongside the good in a person and accept it; supporting them and understanding why they are who they are by really seeing them through walking a mile in his or her shoes.

But we’ve walked a dangerously sharp knife edge as we’ve let social media rule our lives in recent years, without really understanding that it cannot ever be a substitute for genuine, human interaction. It isn’t a supplement; It’s just another way that we can spend our time.

As soon as I realised this, I was freed. It was really that simple. I had wriggled free of its tight grip that had suffocated me for so long. That, and realising that it was a tool that I could use to start conversations and implement social change; a way of sharing my lifestyle and beliefs in the hope that I could encourage others to make different choices; choices that I believed were kinder to our environment. But don’t get me wrong; I don’t know all the answers and I openly welcome a discussion around anything that I post about. It’s how I learn. I’m self-assured, but at the same time I understand that I don’t know all the solutions and sometimes I am wrong.

When I came back from my month off social media last year, I also made a pretty huge life choice; I came off hormonal birth control that I had been taking for near on a decade. That’s a whole other topic (that you can read about here), but one that also fits into the puzzle. It allowed me to get to know my true self for the first time in years. Kind of a big deal. And in the process of transitioning from numb human to sprightly self, I realised that something else had been bumming me out as I’d been trying to “do” social media; I wasn’t really following those who inspired me. So, I switched my focus from brands and individuals who didn’t seem to have values that aligned with my own and I tell ya, it made all the difference.

These days, I relish the fact that I’ve been able to cultivate some really special connections with actual humans who are passionate about the same things that I am interested in. We encourage each other, educate each other and shine as bright little beacons in a world that often feels very dark and cold. It’s a world that feels like it can break you and beat you down and, well, win. And that’s why social media isn’t the problem. It’s the scapegoat.

The various avenues of social media have never been the cause of our anxiety, misery and loneliness as I’ve seen them portrayed to be and as I, too, believed. They’ve never been deleterious to our health. What we have been and continue to struggle with is our own shadows; the work that we need to put in for ourselves to be better, to heal and to succeed. We are a broken people raised by parents who never knew any better and brought up in an education system that does us no good. We are square pegs meticulously forced into round holes and we’re deeply unhappy because we have this yearning to be more creative than society is set up for us to live and thrive in.

We’re expected to be happy and have our shit together at all times. Because God forbid we openly admit that we’re not doing so great. God forbid that we ask for the world to cut us some slack and give us some breathing room. There’s money to be made and mouths to stay locked and emotions never allowed to see the light of day.

Only, time’s up, isn’t it?

Ah, yes. We’re at tipping point. In all aspects, from all angles, a paradigm long overdue a shift in a different direction. Because the world will keep on turning and technology keep on churning and there’s only one way to keep up: to wake up.

I look at social media now and I see it for what it is: a marvelous, beautiful, expansive tool that can be used to change the world for better. And I’m already seeing it: exponential growth in encouragement and cultivation of ideas and momentum continues to build each day. If you’re struggling, know that you too can learn to see things from a more positive place, but only if you put the work in first. We need to stop blaming social media for all of our problems and instead look in the mirror. All that social media does is highlight our shadows; those parts within us that need care and attention. It’s hard work and perfectly natural to want to turn the other way rather than put the effort in, but use those uncomfortable truths as focal points for where change needs to be made within yourself. I cannot encourage you enough. Only when you’re all right shining a light on yourself because you’re proud of who you are and truly want to encourage others to be their best selves and the world a better place will you feel comfortable using social media. 

Take the time off, do the work and come back stronger. You can change the world, but first you have to change yourself.