We chatted to Lex Weinstein ~
a conscious traveller who has a wealth of experience
from a life well lived on the road
(all while taking Spell pieces along for the ride for years!)
Follow us through jaw dropping Kaua’i, Hawaii
as Lex shares her top tips to travel consciously
Would you still want to travel if you couldn’t take a camera with you?
In the age of social media, this simple question is a compelling one. For a conscious traveller, there is so much to consider before planning a trip overseas, intention is the source of it all. Everyone feels the butterflies of a freshly booked plane ticket, the excitement of digging a suitcase out from the back of the cupboard, or the thrill of mapping out an itinerary in a new place. But what is it we are truly seeking? Travel can be an opportunity for us to gain experience, insight, cultural awareness and of course, cool photos. But how often do we ask ourselves what we are returning to the places we expect so much from?
Two years ago, I called an old friend from Uni who I’d heard had moved to Kaua’i. After several trips to O’ahu over the years, this was a decision 10 years in the making. For whatever reason, I intuitively felt that Kaua’i was a place that required an invitation. But after, let’s say… a less-than-awesome political election in the U.S., I was desperate to use travel not only to find refuge, but pour my heart and hands into something that was bigger than me, that truly made an impact and cultivated healing and nourishment. I asked my friend if he knew anyone who needed volunteers on a farm. With no more than a few months experience tending to gardens, I was fixated on immersing myself in the sea and the soil. Sure enough, he explained to me that his girlfriend had converted their family’s 5 acre property into a small organic farm, and they invited me to come pitch a tent. I stayed for half a year and continue to return regularly for sustenance of all kinds. This time around, I invited my friend Sarah Brady, a California based surfer and environmentalist, fiercely advocating against nuclear waste at San Onofre. I knew she would appreciate the way nature takes precedence on the island. Vivian Kim, a friend and beautiful film photographer, has spent the last 6 years back and forth from Kaua’i to California, and also happened to be on island. We couldn’t wait to link up.
It was a special week focused on treading lightly and sharing our favorite places. Vivian showed me her favorite off-the-beaten road with stunning views and a sacred Hawaiian fish pond. I took the girls to a waterfall walking distance from the farm with dramatic cliffs dropping into icy blue tide pools. We made meals fresh from the garden and surfed until the sun melted into the ocean, lighting the sky into a gradient of firey hues. One of the girls living on the farm also worked at the Princeville Ranch, and took us for a spontaneous but stunning afternoon of horseback riding against the backdrop of the North Shore mountain range. Every moment of every day felt like a dream, filled with intention and admiration for this beautiful land.
As we lived out our daily rituals of toting take-away containers, picking up trash, weeding and harvesting, I began taking note of all the ways in which someone could give back while on the road, often with a simple sense of awareness and shift in perspective. All it really takes is abiding by the same principles you would if you were a guest in someone’s home.
Here’s 7 tips for how to be an advocate for conscious travel:
1. Be aware of your footprint
Travel as though you have to carry all your trash home with you.
Come prepared – make sure to pack reusable bags, a water bottle, takeaway containers, coffee mug, cutlery, and reusable straws. It sounds obnoxious and totally insane, but so is the fact that the plastic we use for a matter of minutes can take 1000 years to decompose. Your great, great, grandchildren will thank you!!
Have energy awareness – picking up trash, opening doors for people, being extra patient, smiling…these little things make a huge impact on the energy you bring to a space. Are you flustered or rushed, unaware or entitled? Make sure you take responsibility for the energy you carry with you.
Be aware of your digital footprint – influencers, are you drawing attention to an area/community that can truly facilitate a sudden spike in popularity? Social media is an amazing tool for connection and sharing, but are you asking before you take photos when appropriate? Are you geotagging sacred/secret spots, or honoring the space with authentic intention? How are you expressing gratitude to the people that facilitate you ticking boxes off your bucket list when they themselves may not have the privilege of that dream? Feel free to ask your gut, the locals, the land, and the energy that minds it how you can be of service. The message will be answered with more clarity than you might expect.
2. Be aware of your intentions
Before going – ask yourself, “why do I want to go?” Is it to discover and learn, or because “travel represents freedom” according to new social standards? Check your ego before boarding the plane, make sure it’s serving you and not the other way around. Cool photos and “likes” can actually steer you towards more insecurity and away from the present moment, but authenticity on the road will always prove to be a loyal compass.
While there – again, ask yourself, “Am I giving as much as I’m receiving? Am I leaving this place better than I found it?” Sometimes, we give back out of guilt or because we feel we should. Other times, unconsciously, we want to help but end up imposing our way of doing things on others because we assume we know best. Be aware of these common missteps. Instead, find something that interests you and offer your strengths. In doing so, make humility your travel companion and listen more than you speak. Just ask! Provide an extra set of hands where needed and take direction with grace. Using travel as an opportunity to be of service and grow, self educate, listen, and express gratitude can create a powerful and transformative experience for everyone involved.
3. Stay on a farm instead of a hotel
Spend little to no money on accommodation while contributing to a community’s local ecosystem, connecting with the land, learning how to grow food, eating from the garden, meeting new people and getting local knowledge of the area.
Airbnb can be a grassroots go-to, but it’s also ruining communities. In almost every place I’ve visited this year, locals are being pushed out of their homes as the competitive rates of vacation rentals skyrocket. Try WOOF, GrowFood.org, Work Away, or ask friends! You never know.
4. Shop at second-hand book stores, flea markets, and op shops
You can score one of a kind pieces and learn so much about a community by rummaging through their unwanted items (aka your treasures)!
Read books about the history of the place you’re visiting while being immersed in the scenery, language, and cuisine. Understanding the cultural context of an area can cultivate an understanding of the people and add depth to your connection.
5. Eat smart
Support cafes and restaurants that source local produce, get snacks from fruit stands or farmer’s markets, and take advantage of the bulk section at the grocery story for nuts, dried fruit, granola, etc.
6. Power down and prioritize
Designate tech-free time (and stick to it).
Allow gaps in your itinerary for authentic moments. Make time for people that might push you off schedule. The spontaneous events that fill in between plans often end up being trip highlights.
Do regular gut checks and deep breath pauses to assist in the overwhelming amount of decision making needed when traveling.
Keep a journal and document even the most seemingly insignificant moments. It will help you appreciate the small stuff and you will be shocked at how fun and not boring it is to read through when you’re back at home in your normal grind!
7. Embrace silence and stillness
Spend time alone – listen to the sounds of the area, it provides a way of learning that sharpens perception and actually helps to retain memories. Plants, animals, and land speak, are we listening? Often we forget to pause to look up at the star filled sky. Communicate with the subtlety of nature and the forces around you by being still in its presence. Understanding ourselves and how we perceive nature allows us to better understand our impact, our needs, and our intentions.
Musings & Model Lex Weinstein
Joined by Sarah Brady
Photographer Vivian Kim
Surf shots captured by Sarah Lee
Seen in Wild Thing and Oasis