Last year, Patagonia contacted me about participating in a series of events about ‘women in activism’. I felt excited. To me it meant that I was being recognized as an ‘activist’ for the planet because of the choices I’ve made in my own life to cause less harm and use my voice to spread awareness about environmental issues. They gave me the liberty to shape some events to share my own ‘journey to activism’. I decided to also celebrate the lives and choices of other women living passionate lives for a better world too, and invited ladies local to each venue in Hawaii, Santa Monica, Cardiff, Atlanta, and New York City to come talk a bit about their ‘journeys’. It took a while to track these ladies down and coordinate the events, but meeting each of them and learning their stories more than made up for the time and travel it took to make these events happen! Each of their unique journeys reminded me that all of us have a calling in this lifetime and special opportunity to serve ourselves and the world with our individual desires and talents if we chose to follow our hearts and passions! Since there were many people who couldn’t attend an event, I wanted to share the intro speech I gave at the events, some photos, and a bit about each of the amazing women who made these events so special.
I’m not a natural when it comes to public speaking—in fact I get anxious for weeks in advance. But when it’s for something I believe in, I think it’s important to lean into fear for both for personal expansion and for the positive cause! So this is what I said:
“Good evening everyone. Thank you for your presence tonight, and thank you to Patagonia for hosting this event and supporting my voyaging dream for over 10 years. Tonight is a celebration of choices, especially the ones we make that align with our dreams and values—because we’re fortunate enough to be able to make those choices, and because they expand us into greater and greater versions of ourselves. So tonight is about reminding ourselves of the importance of re-connecting to our inner compasses and making choices that move us towards those moments when we get the feeling that we’re exactly where we’re supposed to be in life.
At the start, my surf voyaging dream was self-centered. I wanted to surf remote waves without crowds, but living on the ocean, befriending people of other cultures, and depending on strangers in foreign ports gave me a very tangible understanding of how interconnected everything really is. I saw the same small environmental crises happening all over the world and I was frustrated that I couldn’t do more to help. It’s so easy to feel discouraged and overwhelmed and negative about the state of the world today.
I decided that the only way that I could guarantee change, was to change myself. So I tried to focus positively on what I could do individually everyday to make a more positive impact on the world. I tried everyday to become a better person, educate myself on the issues, and make more responsible & sustainable choices that reflected my understanding of indivisible nature of our universe. I was really proud when Patagonia asked me to take part in this tour about Women in Activism because I realized that just by changing my individual habits, I was having a significant positive impact on the world.
It’s not always easy to make choices from the heart when they go against the norms. It’s easier when you have a support system of people who love and believe in you. I want to give a shout out my family and friends and my network of sisters around the world who make me feel that as long as I keep choosing from the heart, I can’t go wrong. It’s important to surround yourself with people who support your dreams and your happiness, and also to be that person for others.
So tonight I want to create a climate of sister & brotherhood—a safe zone—for us all to acknowledge and nurture our true desires, even if they seem selfish in the beginning, because I believe they are leading us to more self-love, connection, a better world, and an understanding that we are truly unlimited when we live from the heartspace.
Learning about other people’s journeys gives me more courage on my own path, so I’ve invited inspiring examples of ladies who have actively made choices to follow their curiosities and passions here tonight. I’ve also invited a yoga instructor to lead us in a few breathing and seated yoga poses, since yoga, meditation, and breath-work have been instrumental to me for finding direction in my life when I’m not sure which way to go.”
We then did some group yoga in our seats—a bit of breathing to get centered, then some individual or partners stretching to promote unity and cooperation. Next I showed my new short film titled, Steer with Your Heart. This 18-minute documentary by Teva Perrone will premiere online here in August! When the film wrapped up, we did another stretch and then invited the ladies up to join in a panel discussion to talk about their individual stories, moving beyond fear, the benefits and challenges of living their passions. I wish I had recorded all their answers for you, because they were all so brilliant and inspiring, but here is a brief bio of all of them so that you can look them up and check out their inspiring work as you’d like:
Journeys to Activism at Patagonia Honolulu, Hawaii
Ashley Lukens is the Program Director for Center for Food Safety in Hawaii. Her work focuses on issues of human and environmental health as they relate to the food system. She is actively fighting GMO testing in the Hawaiian Islands and advocates public involvement in local politics along with supporting the movement for smaller-scale organic farming. She is also a founding member and the Vice President of the Hawaii Food Policy Council and continues to teach Political Science courses at UH Manoa and UH West Oahu. Follow her journey on Instagram @ashleylukens
Jen Homcy is a former Marine Scientist turned reclaimed woodworker. Her start up, Found Wood, diverts valuable Hawaiian grown hardwoods from the dump and creates heirloom pieces for homes and living. Using lumber from trees that have been removed for development and salvaged from the chippers of Hawaii’s tree trimmers, Jen describes her pieces as “Where art meets function.” Follow her journey on Instagram @foundwoodworking
Haunani Kane is an apprentice navigator aboard the Hōkūleʻa World Wide Voyage and a PhD student studying Geology and Geophysics at the University of Hawaii. Honoring her Hawaiian heritage, Haunani’s chief focus is on past and future impacts of rising sea levels upon Pacific Island communities. Haunani also volunteers at the Polynesian Voyaging Society, where she assists with the development and training of crewmembers for Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia’s ‘Science at Sea’ projects. Follow her journey on Instagram @hihaunani
Lauren is native to San Diego but is currently teaching Happy Back Yoga on the North Shore of Oahu. She feels that sharing this form of active therapeutic yoga with the island is her passion and guiding people through healing themselves is her purpose. Her passion for healing and people come through fantastically in her courses. You can check out her workshops and weekly schedule on her Instagram @serenebeing or email for privates firstname.lastname@example.org.
Journeys to Activism in Santa Monica, California
A Santa Monica native, Anna is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the 5 Gyres Institute. Their mission “S.E.A.” or “Science. Education. Activism.” has led the effort to research aquatic plastic pollution and find solutions for plastic-free oceans. 5 Gyres empowers people to become leaders in combating the global health crisis of plastic pollution . They have led 16 ocean research expeditions, succeeded in passing the first ever state microbead legislation, and restoring habitat with international beach clean ups. Follow her work on Instagram @5gyres.
Shayna Gladstone is a global organizer, transformational facilitator, sustainable farmer and co-founder of Earth Journeys and NuMundo. Both organizations promote personal and planetary transformation. While Earth Journeys empowers change seekers to cultivate lifestyles that regenerate the mind, body, soul and planet through transformative journeys and earth-based education, NuMundo connects people to meaningful experiences to facilitate personal transformation and accelerate the development of impact centers. Follow her journey on Instagram @earthjourneyscollective and @nu_mundo
Peggy is legendary for her role as one of the primary females in the surfing & skateboarding movement in the 70s in Venice Beach, California. You may remember her part in the film, Dogtown and Z-Boys. Through her passion for surfing, she fell in love with cetaceans and began painting them. Peggy founded the Origami Whales Project in 2004, combining her love for art and cetaceans. Since 2004, the Origami Whales Project has worked to raise awareness concerning threats to dolphins and whales. She mobilized thousands of concerned citizens across the globe and created a “Curtain of 38,000 Origami Whales”. This large-scale public art project was exhibited throughout the world and served as a powerful visual statement and memorial for the thousands of individual whales killed since the 1986 ban on commercial whaling.
The evening’s yoga was led by yoga specialist, Casey Stroud. When Casey found yoga in 2009, her heart was set afire by yoga’s simplicity in cultivating profound physical and mental awareness. She earned her ERYT 200 and RYT 500 Yoga Alliance certifications under the tutelage of Sigrid Matthews, Noah Maze, and Matt Schwartz. Along the way to becoming a yoga teacher, she discovered AcroYoga and Thai massage in 2012, which blew the lid off of her already delighted mind, body, and spirit. She dove deeper, garnering both Level 1 and 2 certifications from AcroYoga.org, and taking multiple Thai Massage trainings. Her ability to maintain a beginner’s mind, even as her physical practice may look nowhere near beginner, keeps her offerings accessible, encouraging, and full of love. Follow her journey on Instagram @c_l_s
Journeys to Activism in Cardiff, California
Leah and her sister Talitha founded 9 for 17; a student organization at UTSA and Princeton University. 9 for 17 promotes veganism as a solution to meeting 9 of the 17 Global Goals of the U.N. for a more sustainable and loving world. The organizations chief focus is to feed the hungry in local communities a sustainable diet of fruits and vegetables and work to change nutrition and education policies in the hopes of a better world. By one person going vegan, 9 out of 17 of the UN’s Goals for Sustainable Development can be met, including: zero hunger, good health and well-being, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, responsible consumption, climate action, life below water, life on land, and partnerships for these goals. Follow their awesome journey on Instagram @9for17
Surfer, humanitarian and a personal hero to me for her relentless efforts to empower underprivileged youth, Emi founded Beyond the Surface International at just 18 years old in an effort to bring equal opportunity to all youth. Her non-profit now funds organizations and community programs in 18 locations around the world using surfing, art, and digital media for youth empowerment, community development, environmental education, and ocean literacy initiatives, while addressing issues such as conflict, poor health practices, and lack of access to education. Check out some of her latest videos from her Coast to Coast initiative here! Follow her journey on Instagram @beyondthesurfaceintl
A surfer, action sports lawyer, humanitarian, and clean eating enthusiast, Becky recently co-founded Changing Tides Foundation with her best friends, Anna Santoro, Leah Dawson, Leane Darling, and Jianca Lazarus. Changing Tides will visit and produce media highlighting positive causes and organizations around the world in hopes of bringing attention to their work and facilitating everyday travelers with opportunities to serve these groups along their travels. I’m honored to be a board member for this organization and look forward to helping them grow this network. Website coming soon! For now you can follow their journey on Instagram @changingtidesfoundation
The evening’s yoga was led by Britta Rael. When Britta lost her mom to colon cancer in 2006, she made a conscious choice to shift her lifestyle to eat organic, homemade food and to be more intentional about using and loving her body. She has since studied and practiced hatha yoga, sports medicine, outdoor mountaineering, partner acrobatics, slackline yoga, ocean swimming, massage therapy and a whole slew of other movement modalities. Her intention is to share the deep healing that yoga—as a complete system—offers because of its “potential to catalyze enormous positive change in my community.” She believe this change begins with the individual, through personal transformation, then expands globally as a result of real healing and connection to others. Follow her journey on Instagram @brittaraelyoga
Journeys to Activism in Atlanta, Georgia
Carolynn is a fellow vegan, private chef, and urban farmer with Freewheel Farms. This small-scale farm looks to connect people with farmers and offer the highest quality foods in the Atlanta area. Through her work as a chef, Carolynn works to educate and inspire her clients to eat healthier and more sustainably. Freewheel farms exemplifies the importance of developing strong local economies and producing food on a human scale in an effort to support thriving community based food systems. Check out a tour of the farms here. And follow her journey on Instagram @adatewithfigs and @freewheelfarmatl
Chicago native Charisse M. Williams earned her BA from Cornell University before attending Northwestern University School of Law, where she received her Juris Doctor degree. She has over 20 years experience working in the nonprofit sector. During that time, she has served as a program staff member, Director, President, a foundation Program Officer and has also held many volunteer, board and advisory board positions. Over the course of her career she has worked with diverse populations including incarcerated youth and women in outpatient drug treatment. It was her passion for the role of the nonprofit sector in addressing complex social issues that led her to found Charisse M. Williams Consulting in June, 2015. Her enthusiasm for yoga led her to earn her yoga teacher certificate, and she now teaches yoga classes and workshops around Atlanta, including Beginner’s yoga at Kashi Atlanta on Sundays at 10am. She works to bring joy and a sense of humor to her classes and make them accessible to all abilities and bodies. She loves to experiment and is currently collaborating with cellist Okorie Johnson on yoga classes featuring live cello accompaniment! Follow her journey on Facebook at Charisse M. Williams Yoga
Journeys to Activism in New York City
Alexis Krauss is the Co Founder of Beauty Lies Truth, an incredible online community dedicated to educating consumers about the ingredients in personal care products and promoting sustainable and non-toxic skincare. “The beauty industry needs a makeover,” the immaculate website claims. She and her co-founder create content from ‘#DIYBEAUTY’ to ‘#BEAUTYBULLSHIT’, challenging social norms and redefining what it means for women to feel beautiful. Alexis is also the singer/songwriter from the popular band Sleigh Bells. Follow her work on Instagram @beautyliestruth
Shaney Jo Darden
Shaney Jo is the one and only founder of two hugely successful non profit organizations: Keep a Breast Foundation and Non-Toxic Revolution. Through art events, educational programs and fundraising efforts, the Keep a Breast Foundation helps to eradicate breast cancer by exposing young people to methods of prevention, early detection and support to ensure long term health and well being. Branching off of Keep a Breast Foundation, Non-Toxic Revolution also works to inform, educate, and inspire young people in a revolutionary way against the dangers of toxic chemicals in the environment and food supply, especially those linked to breast cancer. Shaney Jo is a boss!! Follow her work on instagram @keepabreast @nontoxicrev
Debi’s experience traveling the world as a competitive longboarder in her early twenties stoked her passion for working toward a sustainable and resilient future. Now Debi is not only a consultant to the United Nations, but an educator and researcher at Columbia University where she mentors Masters students working to improve the quality of life for people around the world. A deep believer in participatory problem solving, Debi directs applied learning initiatives for SIPA’s Masters of Public Administration in Development Practice program, where she guides early- to mid-career practitioners in sustainable development and climate resilience. Committed to education, youth empowerment, public health, and social justice, Debi paves new ground every day in the fight for a better world! She also writes for people working to make the world a better place at www.on-practice.com. Follow her on journey instagram @d_spindelinski
Caitie Rowe made a courageous leap from her position as the Global Marketing Manager at Hurley to being Global Operations Director for the non profit organization, Waves for Water. Her mission is simple, but powerful: ‘Get clean water to every person that needs it.’ How does she do it? By working on with world leaders and strategic partners who take a no nonsense attitude toward making global change. She’s happy to be using her energy and talents to help alleviate worldwide clean water access issues. Some of the nonprofit’s most recent projects include earthquake relief in Ecuador, Nepal relief initiatives, and the Flint water crisis. Follow her work on Instagram @wavesforwater
A special thanks to Laura Rubin with Left Left Right Consulting and All Swell Creative (Instagram @allswellcreative) for helping organize the NYC event, and inviting my mom and I for a wonderful weekend at her home in Montauk!
Here’s some other great moments from the tour!