Ok, let’s start with a bit of housekeeping. Boy has it been a minute since I last Sphynxed. In case you don’t know, I publish weekly over at Peaceful Dumpling and frequent the Gram (did I really just write that?) on a regular basis. So, if you want more, I suggest heading over to either of those.

My life is akin to a whirlwind these days and unfortunately I am simply unable to update this blog as much as I’d like. I’ll be a PhD candidate in a few months too, so the excuses will no doubt continue then *sob*. However, I’ll be moving abroad, so I imagine there will be at the very least a sprinkling of Third Culture Kid anecdotes in due course. Not to mention some nerdy science talk about brains and stuff. I’m really selling myself here, aren’t I? Stay tuned.

Something I talk about a lot in person and across the internet is my absolute loathing of hormonal birth control. After all, it stole nearly a decade of my life from me. I’ve previously called it “man’s last exercising power over women” and that belief still rings true. I think it is an abomination that young women aren’t better educated before interfering with their endocrine systems; that we hand over the most sacred, core part of ourselves to an industry that tells us we are dangerous, baby-making machines; that we’re told the problems we’re having with our menstrual cycles are best masked with synthetic hormones instead of being tackled head on -nevermind that they’ll just sit there dormant ready to cause problems later in life…

I’ve been through some horrendous stuff as a result of taking the pill, as you’ll shortly read. But despite it all, I don’t think I’d change it. I love the woman I’ve become, but I do wonder what I could have done with all that stolen time; where I might be if I hadn’t had my mental health affected in the way that it was. God damn do I want things to be different for the next generation of young ladies, so no one has to live the lie I did. I write this in hope.

I so desperately wish that society had been different when I was an eighteen-year-old packing my bags for university. Even prior to that, I wish that the school curriculum in the US and UK where I grew up hadn’t failed me so. Why did no one properly teach me about my menstrual cycle when I was 12 and getting my period for the first time? Why was I led to believe that once a woman gets her period, she’s a baby-making machine? Why did no one tell me that actually, I was only fertile for a small window of the month? Why did no one tell me how important diet was for my endocrine system? Perhaps if I knew what I needed to at the time, I wouldn’t have gone in to the GP to request that fucking pill when I was 18. I went because society told me that that was what responsible women my age did. And responsible I was.

I was in and out of the doctor’s office that day in a matter of minutes and looking back, this horrifies me. “Do you have a family history of DVT or breast cancer?” are not sufficient determinants as to whether the pill is right for someone. Not even close. But it’s all I was asked. So off I went with my first prescription.

So, I’m 18 and I’m popping the pills and heading off to university in a new town with my bags, my books and what felt like adulthood neatly packaged behind those little foil blisters. I remember thinking to myself that I felt like a real woman for maybe the first time. I was taking responsibility for my fertility (or so I foolishly thought) and prioritising my studies.

Then things got weird.

I should have been out and about socialising, but instead I was withdrawn and anxious and spent a lot of time hiding away. To put things into perspective: I’ve moved around a lot in my life and I’m a really outgoing person. This was unusual behaviour for me. On paper, my first semester of uni was a really exciting time, but all I wanted to do was escape to somewhere else… be someone else.

After taking that goddamn pill for a few months without any real reason to (my periods were never a problem and I definitely wasn’t getting frisky), I simply didn’t collect any more from the pharmacy when the pack ran out. In a matter of weeks, I started to feel myself come back to life. Thankfully, I got the chance to enjoy a really great second half of the school year, a fun summer abroad and fulfilling first semester of my second year. Then I met a boy who quickly became a boyfriend.

Back to the doctor’s I traipsed, asking to be put on a different pill because of how badly the Microgynon had fucked with me. He obliged and hooked me up with Marvelon.

Ah, marvellous Marvelon. It seemed to do the trick. The relationship was a trainwreck waiting to happen, but I was definitely more sociable and, you know, in love. Things were pretty good, so I quickly forgot about the pill. Like many women, I swallowed it mindlessly day after day on autopilot. Every morning at 7am. For the next 7 years.

Less than a year after I started taking Marvelon, I began experiencing sharp, stabbing pains in what felt like my ovary. Whenever I’d contort my body while doing yoga or getting sideways and sweaty, the cramps would come. They were unbearable. I mean, we’re talking pass out on the cold bathroom floor when you get up to pee in the night unbearable. Having your housemate discover you with a towel half-pulled over you that you’d used for a blanket because you couldn’t make it back to bed unbearable. There was blood loss too, when I had one of these attacks and I’d be left doubled-over, physically unable to stand up straight for up to 48h afterwards.

I headed to the doctor again and again and again and after trying an elimination diet (because we initially thought it was something wrong with my digestive tract rather than my ovaries) and pressing him about the abnormal bleeding, he finally sent me for an ultrasound that revealed a cyst on my right ovary. It was about 5cm in diameter.

I got scheduled for a laparoscopy during the summer before my third year of uni was due to start. Bear in mind that this is like core data-collecting time if you’re a keen student like me, who wanted to get her disseration sorted ASAP. It was savage having to take time out for surgery, but such is life.

The surgeon did a fantastic job and I don’t have any scarring, so I’m eternally grateful. But I’ll never forget sitting in the follow-up appointment and having him tell me that it was really important that I stay on the pill for the rest of my fertile life because “it’s an excellent way to minimise your risk of developing another cyst, which you might be prone to“.

As you can probably imagine, after the ordeal, that guidance from a medical professional embedded itself deeply into my subconscious. The pill became like water: an essential that I would never be able to live without. (Apart from, you know, baby-making and the on-set of menopause.)

My relationship ended and I stayed on the pill. I met a new dude and a few years went by. We were happy for a while. We moved in together. Then things took a turn for the worse.

I went for an annual pill check-up and the nurse noticed the “old fashioned” pill that I was on and recommended I switch to one with a lower dose. “It’s probably for the best“, she said, “You’re only young and will probably want kids someday, so it’s a good idea if we reduce you to a lower dose.” She sent me home with Loestrin-30 and away I popped.

It wasn’t long before I spiraled into a deep, dark depression and it’s crazy looking back now that I didn’t put two and two together and realise that this turn had coincided with the pill change. But there we go. Hindsight is a funny thing.

I spent a year or two moping around, oscillating between desperately unhappy and numb to the point where thoughts of suicide crossed my radar more often than not. I’d walk the walk and talk the talk, working, socialising and taking care of the fort, but all the while I felt like a complete shell of myself. Again, that pining like I’d had with Microgynon at the tender age of 18 to be somewhere else…someone else.

It’s hard to describe to people who haven’t experienced pill-induced brain fog quite how bad it is. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I can only describe it like being sat in a tinted glass box looking out at the world. No one can see you and you can’t interact with any of them. As you sit there, you question who you are as a person; as a woman. You wonder why you feel so emotionally unstable; why you can’t seem to get to where you want to be; why you feel so disconnected from everyone – even those closest to you.

I went to therapy. We talked about my past. Some of those conversations helped me tackle other, unrelated demons in my life. But for the most part, I spent a lot more money than I really needed to, trying to fix a girl I was breaking on repeat, each day I drugged myself with that pill.

Twenty-seventeen rolled around and I decided to do a year of mini, month-long challenges rather than vague and unattainable new year’s resolutions. This changed things in a pretty big way for me. I was on a journey to my most authentic self, trying to eat better, look after my body and take care of my mental health. Naturally (thankfully) I came to the realisation that the pill I was taking (which I now began to suspect might be the source of my anguish) was perhaps the most inauthentic thing I could possibly be doing to myself.

Let’s think about it: the pill puts our bodies into shutdown; throwing into disarray an effective endocrine system that evolution has taken hundreds of thousands of years to perfect. It floods us with synthetic compounds that interfere with over 150 bodily functions. Because that’s just it; it’s not only the reproductive organs that are affected. There’s our digestion and our mental health and our skin and our cardiovascular system and just about everything else, all because we’re terrified we’ll get pregnant every time we have sex? Or because some doctors shamefully think the solution to heavy periods or PCOS is hormone shutdown rather than looking first at diet and lifestyle?

We only make an important change in our lives when the worst case scenario that might result seems less bad than the reality of the current trajectory. For me, ditching the pill was exactly that. I really didn’t want to get pregnant, but it got to the point where I’d rather possibly find myself with child than live another day as a shell of myself. So I bid it farewell.

Ditching the pill can be really overwhelming, even when intuitively it feels like the right thing to do. I started slow, did my research and utilised some incredible resources. I prepared myself for what might happen to my body as it detoxified itself of the synthetic hormones I’d been pumping into it for years. I prepared myself for how the dynamics might change in my relationship. And then I sat back, tried to relax and armed myself with lots of nourishing foods and skincare as I waited for the hurdles to make themselves known.

I was surprised by how little time passed before I started to feel more like myself again. My relationship was falling apart due to unrelated issues, but I was starting to notice a new confidence budding within me and intuitively knew that this was the start of the rest of my life.

Time passed and the skin eruptions started. Painful, cystic acne that I’d never had before began scarring my face and leaving me self-conscious. I am a swimmer and so being bare-faced is a part of the deal. It was tough having the confidence to stand tall and do so, but I knew it would eventually get better.

I’ll mention that this is the point at which many women go back on the pill. I honestly don’t blame a single one of them. If you’ve experienced years of glowing, clear skin and suddenly have to try to navigate being an adult woman dealing with acne, I wouldn’t be the first to tell you that it isn’t great for your self-esteem. But I persisted.

The months rolled by, my relationship ended, my sex drive reappeared and I looked in the mirror and saw a woman looking back at me with knowing and integrity. For the first time in my adult life, I knew who I really was and what I wanted. And for the first time, I wasn’t scared to go and get it.

In the past year, I have changed my entire life beyond anything I could have ever imagined for myself and I dread to think what kind of hole I’d be in if I hadn’t made that decision to ditch the pill those 18 months ago.

The skin issues have passed, along with most of the growing pains. These days, I pause for a moment most mornings and thank the universe that I made that decision way back when to get to know myself. And I thank myself for sticking with it while my body navigated the chaos.

If you’re thinking of ditching the pill, there are numerous amazing resources available to help you get through the crazy. I recommend starting here. And please do not hesitate to get in touch if have any questions. I am totally here for you girl.

From the bottom of my heart, I want you to know that life can be so much better than how things are right now. The universe is just waiting for you to take that leap of faith and get to know your real, authentic self.

Photo by Paulo Evangelista on Unsplash

It’s a funny thing: age. The fear of getting old permeates society like a virus and it’s truly atrocious. It’s horrid for men and women alike. You spend all of childhood itching to turn 18 or 21 or whatever other age is considered “adult” in your part of the world and then within a few years you’re desperately clinging onto that youth for fear of wrinkles, shriveled ovaries and dying alone. I’m kidding, guys…

I turned 28 yesterday and I’ve had a merry old time reflecting on my twenties thus far. The cringeworthy clothing choices, the poor decisions, the loves and losses and the hilarious adventures around the world have all shaped me into a woman I’m pretty damn proud to put out into this mental society as I perch here typing this. I still walk the earth without the foggiest idea of where I might end up, but I’m a little better equipped to deal with the setbacks these days.

The first time that I can recall having any sense of dread about turning one year older was my twenty-fifth birthday. For some reason that one seemed like I was suddenly getting old. (I speak about this like it was many years in the past; I’m aware that this was just 3 years prior, guys. I know…)

Twenty-five seemed like the year that I was supposed to have my shit together: be the epitomy of success and happiness intertwined into one big, sickening, chunder bucket. By twenty-five we’re supposed to have found the one, be climbing our career ladders, be earning at least a little money and be thinking about buying a house. My reality is that I spent more time moping around my apartment suffering from depression as a result of hormonal birth control than living it up. The year came and went in a blur of blubbering.

Fast-forward three years and I’ve come to realise that all of those aforementioned expectations were utter insanity. However, we live life, we hear things, and our subconscious becomes adulterated with thoughts that are not our own, even though we adopt them as such nonetheless. Society expects things of us and we of it. Only, you’ve got to ask: who actually are these elusive men and women ticking all the boxes? Because I have friends around the world and I sure as hell haven’t encountered any of them!

I’m closer to thirty than twenty and I no longer get asked for ID when I buy booze. I have bills and responsibilities and an actual grown up job. I can no longer stay up all night partying and head straight to work without injecting caffeine or hiding in the cupboard to take a nap. I spend more on my skincare now because the dewiness needs a little helping hand. I don’t care if I look like I’m wearing a potato sack on a night out: I prioritise comfort.

But I also have more confidence than I did back in the days when my skin looked radiant without any sleep and I had the world in the palm of my hand. I’m more savvy and give less of a crap about going to buy groceries in my pyjamas. I would rather be alone than date someone who wastes my time and energy. I still dream (and I dream BIG), but a pearl of wisdom tells me that I probably should try and build up some savings soon and I definitely should prioritise sleep if I want to be a capable, functioning human in my waking life.

It’s a pity that we get so caught up on aging. The fear still lingers somewhere within my bones, but I’m very aware of it now and working actively to dissipate it. It’s hard when we’ve got a market saturated with angi-aging products and images that tell us that young is most beautiful, but beauty is such a complex thing and truly in the eye of the beholder. I look at twenty-one year olds and some of them are physically glowing, but have they learned what I have? Probably not. And can they hold a conversation as well as my friends in their thirties? Almost certainly not.

To all my friends in their late twenties and early thirties: I want to tell you that it’s all right if you’re climbing a career ladder that you aren’t sure is for you. It’s fine that you’re frustrated that all your friends are getting married and popping kids out and you’re nowhere near finding anyone you want to spend more than a drunken night with. That sensation you feel pushing at the walls of your chest to get out and see the world before it is burned alive is normal. And yes, it’s fine to spend the money you’re saving for a house deposit on that adventure of a lifetime instead.

None of us really know what we’re doing. All we must do is try our best and make the best decision we can in a given moment, based on the information we have at that time. Some will lead down paths of opportunity and abundance. Others wont. But that’s the only way to learn and then do better, isn’t it?

I’m twenty eight and I now know what I like. Also, importantly, I know what I don’t like. I no longer waste my time on people who can’t give me what I want. I am happy to have those uncomfortable conversations around taboo topics, if others are willing to engage in a constructive discussion, but I no longer give an ounce of attention to those that leave me feeling sour. I’m single, on the cusp of changing career paths and sometimes told by older generations that I’m far too opinionated to ever have a chance at being a nice, young lady. Tis a shame that some feel this way; can’t they see that I’m only trying to get shit done and save the world?

To all my friends approaching thirty: we are smarter and wiser than we were at the start of this decade. We’ve learned heaps about ourselves and others and the world that – trust me – we will put to good use in the years to come. We have the tools to make the world a better place and are still allowed to have a sense of adventure and wonder. It’s time to grab life by the balls and tell anyone who wants to stamp on our dreams that they can go do one because we deserve nothing but magic.

I spend an awful lot of time thinking about food. From what treats I might whip up for a friend’s birthday to how I can use up an obscene quantity of [insert fruit here] that I bought discounted at closing time, cooking and eating are sacred pursuits in my books. My idea of downtime consists of attempting a recipe that’s been on my radar and thus far remained out of reach. A creative challenge, if you will. Or a stroll around the farmer’s market scouting out the freshest and juiciest. And to me, the best part of family time is the pot-luck style weekends we spend together where we each prepare and share something with the clan. Food is life and life is glorious.

There’s an additional set of rules that I play by though, as well as navigating a never-ending sea of deliciousness. They are as follows: sustainability is key and maintaining excellent health paramount. The non-compromisables are:

  1. Ingredients purchased must be naked or housed in minimal/recyclable packaging
  2. Ingredients purchased must be organic and/or local wherever possible; ideally both
  3. No meat, no dairy

I straddle the fence on:

  1. Honey: I’ll allow it if it’s local and/or organic
  2. Eggs: I’ll eat them occasionally if they’re from chickens who live in my neighbourhood, such as those that belong to a friend
  3. Sugar: I am a baker through and through, so I don’t treat it like the devil. I simply keep a check on how much I consume because I’m also trying to heal my endocrine system post-HBC

But something has been on my mind lately; something that worries me so. As I scrutenise the faddy food vibes of the times, I realise that there’s an undeniable impetus in our collective gravitation towards ‘clean eating’ or ‘superfoods’ as if they alone will be our saviours. As I’ve just mentioned – I have rules too, sure. But I worry when I see and hear food being treated as something that has a defined good and bad side. As if devouring a donut is akin to dancing with the devil.

An obsession with healthy eating (formally known as orthorexia) is an interesting one. Give it a cursory glance and you might wonder how on earth it could be a bad thing, but take a closer look and you see that it’s an addiction no better than any other. How can you expect food to save you if your entire body is riddled with anxiety swimming around every mouthful?

Have you seen that coconut oil is now considered akin to poison by Harvard scientist, Karin Michels? I mean, the statement is a little attention-grabbing in my opinion, but Michels highlights the important point that coconut oil does indeed contain 86% saturated fat, which is approximately 1/3 more than butter. And what do we know about consumption of saturated fats? They increase our risk of heart disease and stroke. The word butter is synonymous with obesity these days and coconut oil, well: the lean, mean millenial. But really, when you break it down chemically, it’s all much of a muchness, yet coconut oil has a remarkable cachet that fools consumers into believing that it can do no wrong.

These findings conflict with earlier studies that suggested that coconut oil may lower the risk of heart disease. We also known that it boasts antimicrobial properties which are excellent for the body. But to be treated as a panacea? That’s where things start to fall apart. Why is it that we’re so credulous?

Just as we want our skincare to miraculously perfect us, so too do we want our meals to cure all ailments and help us achieve the kind of perfection that we are exposed to every day via social media, television and the occasional glossy magazine. Unachievable perfection is the thing to strive for. We’re told that it’s real and well within our reach, if only we juice one more jug of greens.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I am a firm believer in the healing powers of food. A big vegetable soup sorts a cold right out and a homemade pesto pizza offers soul food not quite like anything else. But it’s foolish of us to think that eating well can compensate for other areas of our lives that need changing. It will also not help heal of all the inflammation one experiences by panicking that one too many grams of fat or sugar might have been consumed that day. All that stress, all that cortisol in the body, well….no amount of avocado-quinoa-kale salads are going to counteract that.

Optimal health is a multi-faceted state of being that depends upon adequate nutrition, but also mental and physical wellbeing. We know that stress leads to disease. Our lives are busy and they always will be. But if we’re not allowing meal times to be enjoyable and indulgent experiences because we’re too worried that what we’re eating might verge on dirty, we’re missing what’s there; what’s sacred: an opportunity to relax and enjoy ourselves, hopefully in good company.

I also wonder this: why is food getting all the attention? Am I the only one that thinks it’s just a little bit silly that we see no issues with continuing to pollute our seas with ton after ton of plastic and our air with an array of noxious fumes, cut down our rainforests and flood our coastlines and somehow focus all of our attention on what we eat as though it will somehow rectify the deeply unhappy state that we – as part of a collective organism that is life on Planet Earth – find ourselves in? Woah, took a dark turn, right? I don’t beat around no bush. If that’s what you’re after, probably better to go check out one of those clean-eating bloggers who will tell you that green juices are the answers to all of your problems.

Holistic health is the only approach to our wellbeing. True wellbeing. And part of what we need is an environment that is clean and supportive. In its current state, it is blighted; on bowed legs and desperately in need of the respect it deserves. As long as we continue to exploit it as we do, we continue to hurt our health. Yes, no matter the amount of fad foods that we force-feed ourselves. Glyphosate, a decline in bees, air pollution from all the VOCs, microplastics, light pollution, noise pollution…and we think that the quinoa will save us? It’s time to wake up and take a look around. If we spent half as much time on environmental preservation as we do obsessing about our daily juice, we might have a real shot at saving ourselves.

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

 

 

The other night I watched Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution (available on Netflix). It’s a feature length documentary all about modern-day hook-up culture and the way that it is, essentially, destroying a generation. I could not recommend it more. It’s hard to stomach, but a glaringly-obvious call for change that every man and woman needs to see.

You might not be a college student on a spring break sexscapade, but you are without a doubt influenced by the social pressures placed upon you as a man or woman. This documentary does an excellent job at highlighting the ways that we’ve created our own culture of sexual violation and violence, objectification and isolation. We’ve let this happen to ourselves. So, we can keep complaining if we like, about how boys will be boys, but we are a key driving force in the proliferation of the problem as long as we continue to support this current paradigm. Big changes desperately need to be made; huge!

None of us should have to grow up faster than we are ready to, but the reality is that most of us do. We might come from a broken home that requires us to parent ourselves or younger siblings while we’re still just fledglings. We might have found ourselves mixed up in the wrong crowd in school that seemed to cause things to spiral out of control in the blink of an eye. And before we know it, we’ve been given an identity and a place in this world without actually having had much say in the matter at all.

So let’s talk about sex and sexual identity, because what we learn about sex while we’re growing up will shape our subconscious for the years that follow. If we are constantly bombarded with a negative perception, this will permeate into our lives unless we become conscious of it and try to fix our relationship with it. We learn this stuff from our family, friends, pop culture, social media and the ample supply of pornography that saturates the world.

Ladies: do you remember the first time that you realised you were being looked up and down like a piece of meat? I mean, you probably don’t remember the exact first time, but you might recall the sensation of suddenly getting boobs or hips and the creeping self-consciousness that ensued; that sudden awareness of your self and how you looked and how others noticed you that made you stop and have to think about whether you were doing things right and worse, if you were good enough.

And it never stops.

You go through life and the older you get, the less of a shit you give if you’ve got any sense. You realise that you’re enough as you are and that there are far more important things to spend your time on than frantically dilly-dallying over your appearance. But the cat calls and the male harassment never goes away and on a bad day, it can really feel like the nail in the coffin. For who are these men to make us feel like prey items? Who are they to be so disrespectful as to treat us like objects? Do they not realise we are humans with feelings, deserving of respect? No, clearly not.

But who made them that way after all? Are these men born with it in their DNA? No, of course they’re not. It’s a learned behaviour. And where does it come from? It’s comes from the messages that seep into their subconscious via popular culture. These are the same messages that tell me that in order to be successful, I must look like [insert female pop artist here] and prance around barely-clothed. That’s how I can become a great woman.

[I read the above once over and I sort of sound like a ‘SEX IS BAD!’ religious fanatic and I promise you, that could not be further from the truth. My opinion is that our relationship with sex and the way we define genders is terrible in today’s society. That’s what I’m getting at.]

Within each of us are both divine masculine and feminine energies. Men generally embody more of the former and women, the latter. The divine masculine is focus and strength and logic. It is the quest for improvement and truth. It is reason and survival and loyalty. The divine feminine on the otherhand is nurturing and gentle. It is healing, wise, patient and emotional. It is intuitive and expressive. Polar opposites meet somewhere in the middle and an excellent, balanced human is made.

So how did it get this messed up, then? Was it Playboy? Was it MTV? Was it the Bible?! Does finding the source of blame even help us move forward? I think it’s all much of a muchness, to be honest and if it’s improvement that we seek, then focusing on the past in too much detail might not necessarily get us anywhere, anytime soon.

As Libertated quite rightly points out, we live in this tragic time when women are seen as things to conquer by many men and women see each other as tough competition for who can turn the most heads. It’s as though the men are all captains of their own sports teams and the women in a giant cattle pen of sorts, left powerless; their fate in the hands of the guy that might just pick them.

Fuck. That. Says. I.

We need to realise that sex is a vessel for more than physical gratification, because we sure as hell don’t seem to realise it. At its most sensational, it is a tangible expression of emotional connection. And it does all kinds of crazy stuff to our bodies (crazy good). But at its most destructive, it serves only to numb us temporarily, from whatever inner turmoil we’ve got going on.

When sex, or rather, conquests, are used as something men hold over one another to decide who embodies the most masculinity, it is a cruel, waste of energy. And when women compete to be the top choice of said men, it is an inauthentic isolation from sisterhood. We’ve got ourselves so caught up in worrying what everyone else thinks that we’re missing what’s there. Sacrificing fulfillment of our own needs and joy for the sake of pleasing others? And it’s all very bizarre because surely those that love us would not want us to find ourselves in that position?

The plot thickens.

We have a deep desperation to be somebody; the best type of somebody. One that’s adored and epitomises one or other of the genders that we feel we resonate most with. That’s what it really comes down to: acceptance. Only, our perceptions about what defines the genders is incredibly out of whack. The day we start allowing each other to be the people that we actually want to be, rather than the people we feel we ought to be will be the day that we stop with all this bullshit.

The problem with this whole hook-up culture is that it means we’re missing what’s there. We’re suffering an unimaginable loss of genuine connection with one another and it’s wreaking havoc. The entire point of life is to follow your joy and make meaningful connections with others. Every positive memory you have has a feeling signature attached to it that your moments shared with other people created for you. But if we’re missing the opportunity for connection, I truly fear the repurcussions long term.

An unhealthy balance of energies in men and women is what is causing some men to think it’s OK to treat women as objects; like cars they can buy. It’s a constant effort to try to get the one that’s the most attractive, until boredom strikes and then it’s back to the barrel. And when women aren’t seen as people on the same level, terrible things can happen and a lot of unnecessary pain can fester. When we are treated like posessions, our subconscious makes us question our own self-worth. If the messages women are bombarded with from popular culture and their peers are ones of superficial qualities deemed vastly more important than things which truly matter, we begin to believe them. And that’s a sad day for everyone. There is nothing more fierce than a woman made to feel empowered and nothing more courageous than a man who encourages it.

 

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.