AUSTRALIA

I had been to Australia before, but never to true Australia, the remote communities where the Aboriginal artisans live and breathe, and who better to take me there than the brilliant photographer, Russell James, who is Australian, an artist and pure of heart. It was the journey of a lifetime. I could write for days about the landscape alone, starting with the most gorgeous beaches and cliffs and rock formations I’ve ever seen. But it was the people that got to me. I came to truly understand their sense of culture, born and still deeply rooted in their ancestral lands, and how they express themselves.

I met artisans who create with their hearts and hands some of the most amazing pieces. I was introduced to elders, like Donny Woolagoodja, a “custodian” of culture, who invited me to experience sacred burial sites. I met Olive Knight, a warm and wonderful woman of the “Stolen Generation” who has played a large role in protecting Aboriginal youth. (Olive gave me my ‘skin’ name; I am ‘Nangala.’ Russell is known as ‘Jungala’ which makes him my ‘skin brother.’)

I visited schools and met the most enchanting and beautiful children. I worked with natural healers, and I traveled to hospitals – including one in Perth that I was supposed to visit and discuss our UZIT program, only to instead fly in early as a patient. I had broken my arm walking out of cave that held the remains of an Aboriginal tribe, some thousands of years old. The universe always has plans of its own.

In many ways, this was a journey of connecting the dots, and here was the most incredible connection of all: we met a man working with our friend, elder Richard Walley, on developing a Fire Tree fragrance/oil. His name was Steve, and I liked him immediately. He has long gray hair and sadly, also has cancer. It turns out he worked on my first fragrance with my husband Stephan all those years ago! Steve showed me Stephan’s original bottle, which he had in his home. We spent a very special night, talking of the past and of the future, as well as our mutual desire to preserve culture in Australia and world wide.

HAITI

For me, Haiti is where all the initiatives I care so passionately about come together; preserving culture, securing the health and well-being for people and the education of the children who represent their tomorrow. The journey of my two worlds – design and philanthropy – picks up in Haiti. Haiti speaks to my heart. It embraces everything we seek to accomplish at Urban Zen and the vision for Haiti is simple: help Haiti help itself by utilizing and organizing its artisans, natural resources and production potential to create business models that can be properly marketed and distributed throughout the US and Europe. As an American designer and businesswoman, I have a good sense of what makes a product desirable to the western consumer. My trip to Haiti was in follow-up to a previous visit with the Clinton Foundation which focused on the opportunities for creative business development. This trip was about working with the creative communities and helping them in anyway I could. Haiti brings out every emotion you have – despair, compassion, love and hope – as well as the excitement of what’s possible with some heartfelt connection and creative collaboration.

To read the complete blog entries from my trip to Haiti, go to UrbanZen.com

THE SOUL OF AFRICA
When you think of Africa, you think animals. I’ve gone on safari and, believe me, it was breathtaking. Yet I must tell you, it’s the tribal people you have to go and see. Last summer, I went with friends, including Calvin Klein, to Ethiopia. We traveled deep into the bush and met the most amazing tribes. Tribal people have their own rituals, songs, and dances. They’ve got their own rules, their own way of being one with the land and each other. As a visual person, I fell in love with the embellishments – the body paint, the elaborate beading, the headdresses, the plant and earth-dyed colors and textures. Yet appearances aside, it’s their spirit that got me. Optimistic. Friendly. Welcoming. And the children! We’d be swarmed by kids wherever we went. Many of them had never seen what they looked like, so I took Polaroids and gave them to the kids. I can’t begin to describe their joy. Traveling and discovering little known cultures is my passion. I can’t wait until my next adventure. More Africa. China. Russia. The Nile. More India. And I’m dying to go to Papua New Guinea and really discover the East. The adventurer in me is always seeking the unknown. And the clock is ticking….
Photographer Credit: Sonja Nuttall

THE SOUL OF AFRICA

When you think of Africa, you think animals. I’ve gone on safari and, believe me, it was breathtaking. Yet I must tell you, it’s the tribal people you have to go and see. Last summer, I went with friends, including Calvin Klein, to Ethiopia. We traveled deep into the bush and met the most amazing tribes. Tribal people have their own rituals, songs, and dances. They’ve got their own rules, their own way of being one with the land and each other. As a visual person, I fell in love with the embellishments – the body paint, the elaborate beading, the headdresses, the plant and earth-dyed colors and textures. Yet appearances aside, it’s their spirit that got me. Optimistic. Friendly. Welcoming. And the children! We’d be swarmed by kids wherever we went. Many of them had never seen what they looked like, so I took Polaroids and gave them to the kids. I can’t begin to describe their joy. Traveling and discovering little known cultures is my passion. I can’t wait until my next adventure. More Africa. China. Russia. The Nile. More India. And I’m dying to go to Papua New Guinea and really discover the East. The adventurer in me is always seeking the unknown. And the clock is ticking….

Photographer Credit: Sonja Nuttall

BALI | BLISS ON EARTH

Como Shambala Estate, Bali

There are resorts, and then there are personal retreats. Como Shambala Estate in Bali is a retreat for the senses and your well-being. It’s where the serenity of the East meets the comfort and luxury of the West. Every desire is met and answered to perfection. The Estate is owned by my dear friend Christina Ong (who introduced me to the paradise of Parrot Cay too.) All of Christina’s hotels are nothing short of spectacular because she truly understands what people want and need – especially those of us who live highly active and often stressed lives who are looking for some calm in the chaos. Shambala means ‘the sacred place of bliss” which about sums up the Shambala experience. Built into the mountain, the environment is completely private and soothingly peaceful. It’s luxury lies in its simplicity of design. You are at one with nature, like you’re sleeping in an Indonesian tree house with your own private outdoor oasis. The cuisine, based on “living foods,” is healthy and delicious. And there is every kind of Eastern-style fitness and therapy you can imagine – yoga, martial arts, stone massage, Indian head massage, reflexology, Taksu, Tai, acupuncture, etc.  On 23 acres, Como Shambala is a 15 minute drive from Ubud, the cultural hub of Bali. Highly personal in its approach, this is a retreat you come and do as much or as little as you like. You can explore the Estate, the island or simply stay in your room and breathe in the quiet of nature. It’s truly my idea of heaven. You leave refreshed and inspired – and your visit becomes a part of you – until the next time! 

For more information, visit Como Shambhala online at: cse.como.bz