Back To The California Coast

Below is an extract from our new book with New Heroes & Pioneers, to be released just in time for Christmas. You can learn more about the project and order a copy by clicking here.

Enamoured with foreign landscapes and the promise of escape, it is difficult to resist the romance of distant shores. Some of these yearnings may remain idle, little more than wanderlust-infused daydreams, while others are enough to see us journey into the unknown. Yet, as glorious as the new and undiscovered may be, once we have explored a destination (living like a local and venturing beyond the tourist trail), it’s not uncommon to find that there are certain spots we can’t help but return to. While first encounters are marvellous, following a pathway back to the familiar can be just as inspiring.

Photographer Virginia Woods-Jack has visited the Californian coast on many occasions, enthralled by its natural wonders and soulful inhabitants. Seeing her depictions of Venice Beach, with its laid-back surfing vibes, and the mellow scenes of the Encinitas area, it’s not difficult to imagine why.

From her first visit to these glowing shores, Virginia felt like she was coming home; somewhere she hadn’t been for a while that was familiar nonetheless. With the beauty of the scenes and the calm of the people observed remaining constant, each visit was a reminder of that first encounter – a chance to once again capture smiles, soft light and rolling waves. However, Virginia’s lens was also drawn to the subtle changes in the landscape, the shifts in mood and colour that arose with the turning seasons. Over time these changes helped bring the setting to life, elevating it from mere ‘holiday destination’ into something alive and ever-evolving. And so, with each return Virginia asked herself the same question – what would life be like if this was truly home?

It is by revisiting certain destinations that we are able to reflect on the pathways we have chosen: where we find ourselves, where we have been and who we wish to be. From here, far from the constraints of the everyday, we can do more than recall fond memories or sate our inner vagabond. We can instead focus on the minute, appreciate the altering patterns and perfection of nature and plot future journeys surrounded by a setting that remains strangely familiar. We know the scenes before us will transform before we return, and we might too – the sense of possibility forever promising.

Words by Yvette Edwards and photographs by Virginia Woods-Jack.




Aro Hā

Translating to ‘in the presence of divine breath’, Aro Hā is a health and wellness retreat sure to inspire, invigorate and surprise.

Something has gone awry in our modern world. At a time when so much exists to make things easier, how is it that everyone seems so terribly busy? Somewhere along the way we’ve lost the art of taking a break, of disconnecting, of being in the moment. So when I discovered Aro Hā, a wellness retreat nestled in the sun-kissed mountains south of Glenorchy, I began to wonder – could this be the antidote to our increasingly frenetic lives?

Despite Aro Hā’s promise of quietude, I found myself hesitant to go. You see, I was a bit of a wellness sceptic. Perhaps most of us are, an unfortunate side effect of that aforementioned busyness. But, as with most things in life, if you give the unfamiliar a chance, it will repeatedly surprise you.

As it turns out, such nervousness was unwarranted for it’s remarkably easy to embrace the Aro Hā routine. Each morning I woke for yoga to the sound of a Tibetan singing bowl, while stars still filled the late-autumn sky. The view from the studio’s window – through which you can spy pre-dawn clouds hanging over Lake Wakatipu – may make poses wobbly but such faux pas are understandable. Readjusting for a better view of the sunrise is sure to complicate the downward dog of even the most experienced yogi.

Then I’d hike – uphill more often than not but wondrous nonetheless – before restoring my aching limbs in the Aro Hā spa. While this space may come with Nordic overtones when it comes to design, watching a trio of cows graze on a nearby hill while soaking in the outdoor plunge pool, you can’t doubt where in the world you are. Afternoons are filled with pilates, meditation, dynamic playground sessions (where you break a sweat moving to mighty fine tunes) and, the pièce de résistance, a daily massage. There are also classes in the kitchen, an open space where culinary questions are encouraged, flavours delight and edible flowers are grown in abundance.

Which brings me to the meals; colourful, nutrient-rich creations that demonstrate just how artful raw, vegan cuisine can be. Capable of keeping my penchant for cheese, caffeine and alcohol at bay, everything here tastes a little bolder and looks a little brighter with as many ingredients as possible grown on site.

Such repose and splendour wouldn’t be possible without a remarkable team. The friendly, knowledgeable staff – their skin aglow and their energy limitless – are a testament to the Aro Hā lifestyle; and the most glowing of all is Co-Founder Damian Chaparro, for whom Aro Hā is more than just a labour of love. He’s built a hideaway that showcases the environment (this luxury, eco-friendly complex simply couldn’t exist anywhere else) and remains on site to guide guests through their experience. He cares, smiles and informs, and acts as if every personal discovery is the first he’s been privy to.

Encouraged to abandon technology and lose track of time, I experienced periods of euphoria, followed by moments of exhaustion, somehow arriving at the end of my six day escape at a restful, more accepting place. For you see, odd things happen on retreats. You’ll probably cry and you might not know why. And if you do, the cause will seem far more conquerable come morning. And while the experience may lead to a physical change, what’s fascinating is how open you become, how much you’re willing to share. At Aro Hā you scale mountains, cross lakes, hike along icons (the Routeburn Track is as stunning as everyone says), dance blindfolded and embrace your inner child, leaving with a sense of calm you may have never thought possible. Scepticism be damned.

This piece appeared in the New Zealand issue of Lodestars Anthology – you can order a copy here.

New Zealand Outtakes

At Lodestars Anthology magazine we adore our travelling contributors. Every issue we are sent beautiful words, images and illustrations that inspire wanderlust and remind us just how many talented folks are out there creating in the world. One of the biggest challenges however is selecting just a few of the images sent to us – we may be given 30 shots from a photographer, yet we only have 6 pages to fill. So, we’ve decided to share some of the unpublished gems from our latest New Zealand magazine, which you can buy here … along with Liz’s editor’s letter. Yet again, proof that digital and print can work rather wonderfully together. 

I must confess, this is the part of the magazine I always face last – a final cathartic hurdle before breath is held, pages are approved and a new issue is sent into the world. And while I am writing this, yet again, when all stories have been submitted, it explores an idea that occurred to me early on in my Aotearoa tour; an odyssey that took in as much of the South Island as time and geographic limitations would allow.

I wondered in those early travelling days what I should dedicate this editor’s letter to – how to best define the mood and grandeur of this great island nation. I could have waxed lyrical about its beauty (the work of a dramatic past and pioneering spirits), its residents’ creativity, or the friendliness that accompanies every interaction. There was food, wine, landscapes and adventure. But, after spending a few days around the north-east coast, none of this seemed quite right.

In November 2016, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Kaikoura. And, while New Zealand is a country well acquainted with geological instability, this was different. The township of Kaikoura is renowned for its whale watching, coastline and community spirit, yet five months after the incident it was the ravages of the quake that stood out. There was a quietness, with tourists scarce and many buildings abandoned – in some cases the structural damage was immediately apparent but in others it was difficult to fathom why their doors remained closed. Locals described how they’d been cut off from the rest of the country (the highway from Christchurch had only just re-opened and the road north to Marlborough remained impassable) and the heartbreak felt when the bumper summer season they depended on simply didn’t happen. It couldn’t. No-one could get there.

With this part of the South Island continuing to dust itself off, I took a moment to consider why I am so drawn to travel. While it may be a mode of discovery, the chance to see unchartered terrain and encounter icons, it also comes with a sense of purpose. In places like Kaikoura, damaged through no fault of their own, the one thing we can do as travellers to aid their recovery is visit. If we are lucky enough to be able to see the world, and willing to do so, we should take in these communities, play our part and, more often than not, find something remarkable in the process.

So book your New Zealand ticket – as the following pages will attest it’s a staggeringly magnificent place. Not only will this county soothe your soul, leave you speechless and make you yearn for more, but I know a town that will thank you for it.

Images by Angela Terrell, Evi Ritter, Virginia Woods-Jack, Liz Schaffer and Georgina Skinner.

Watergate Bay Hotel

Review by Renae Smith

We were surrounded by views of pebble paths disappearing into green hills eventually dropping off to the near-endless blue ocean, and as we reached another rise in the road our destination, the Watergate Bay Hotel was nestled nicely overlooking the surf beach of Watergate Bay. For the next few days, we would get to know the North West of Cornwall a little better.

Kids bounded out of doors in front of us as we arrived and checked-in. Barefoot and smiling ear to ear, parents slightly struggling to keep their pace, we watched as they made their way down to the beach, knowing we too would be heading down the same path for surf lessons at Extreme Academy.

After we were fitted with wetsuits, the friendly instructor went through the lesson with the group and, with my husband taking up the challenge while I photographed, I timidly dipped my toes in the water and was surprised to feel the warmth of the sea. With the sun dancing between the clouds, I watched as the group hit the waves, one by one eventually up on their boards riding all the way into shore.

After an afternoon in and out of the sea, hunger was at the forefront of both of our minds, so after a quick shower, we returned to the beach to enjoy a burger at the Beach Hut. Perched just up on the end of the beach we had a great view of the late afternoon surfers endeavouring to catch as many waves possible before the day’s end.

It could have been the slight wind coupled with the sounds of the ocean, or the fact that we had both wrestled with the waves earlier in the day, but that night we slept heavy, waking recharged and ready to explore. 

Having noticed a path directly opposite the entrance to the hotel, we thought it would be a great walk to tackle before breakfast. Behind us with every step, the hotel slowly disappeared from view and once at the top of the walk’s peak, we paused to take in the views of Watergate Bay with the town of Newquay in the distance. The route continued to wind around the cliffs and it wasn’t long before we had worked up an appetite and decided to head back for breakfast.

The array of fresh fruit, pastries and eggs on offer made my mouth water but my eyes locked on the waffle maker in the corner and I got busy deciding between the choices of sweet or savoury toppings.

After breakfast, we retreated to the main restaurant/bar, the Living Space, where we would spend the next few hours until my treatment in the spa. To what I thought was going to be a pedicure the therapist informed me she had a full body massage scheduled. On giving me the option of either one, I felt a slight pang of guilt as I thought of my husband who, having had his surf lesson the day before, was probably more in need of it than I. But how I could I say no to such an indulgence? An hour later any tension that I was holding within my body had melted away – indeed, it took me a few minutes to steady my legs. I felt more relaxed than I had in a long time.

With the surf beach below and plenty of activities on offer at the hotel, we felt spoilt for choice when it came to filling the days during our stay. However, more often than not we found ourselves opting for a more relaxed pace, reading on our balcony or having a drink in the Living Space before heading to Zacry’s for a more formal dinner. Whether it be to recharge, take up an activity or explore more of Cornwall, we’ll definitely be back.

The Art of Travel

Liz on the Tea & Tattle Podcast

People are drawn to beautiful images and writing because they’re a mode of escape and inspiration.

Lodestars Editor and founder Liz Schaffer talks to Miranda Mills on the Tea & Tattle ‘podcast for discerning women’.

Spanish Shapes

It may be an utter cliche but, well, it’s true – photos really do say 1,000 words. We thought that with this post we’d keep things simple and let the photographs of Tom Bunning speak for themselves and, while the combination may seem odd (Andalsuian ponies and the roads of Mallorca), we clearly just have a thing for Spanish shapes.

You can see more of Tom’s work here – and in the pages of Lodestars Anthology of course!

“Keep close to Nature’s heart … and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” John Muir

For more of Tom’s work visit

The Collective

As fans of travel, collaboration and fellow creatives we’re thrilled to be taking part in The Collective Europe – a tech-free conference in Barcelona where editor Liz will discuss the joys and challenges that come with growing a business organically. We had a chat with event organiser Anique Coffee (who is clearly in possession of the best name in the business) about what inspired her to get The Collective off the ground and what guests can expect from October’s inaugural event. If you’d like to get involved a few tickets are still available here – and the code LODESTAR20 will get you 20% off.

What can people expect from the event?

The Collective is a four day, retreat-style conference where creatives, entrepreneurs freelancers and innovative professionals of all kinds come to learn how to take their brand or company to the next level. 

The Collective is the first of its kind in Europe, unique and unlike any other professional conference or community you’ve been part of before. We engage and empower professionals in an interactive environment through collaborative and hands-on sessions, where knowledge is shared and inspiration is abundant. We aim to help attendees find their path and navigate their professional journey through unique seminars from experts in their field, hands-on creative workshops from artists and makers, and with innovative tools to bring professionals to the top of their game. Our members believe in community over competition, and lean on each other to get better and grow their businesses.

What inspired you to create The Collective? 

The Collective originated from the need for support and mentorship for the thriving and growing community of entrepreneurs, innovators, freelancers, creatives and startup lovers in Europe and around the world. Many times, these people work on small teams at small businesses or startups, or have no team at all and consider themselves solo entrepreneurs. So they are just that – solo, alone. Yet, they crave a community of like-minded professionals who provide support, mentorship and tools to help grow their businesses or provide inspiration. This same theme is the reason we see so many co-working and co-living events and businesses springing up all over the world: they are remote communities where people can go work amongst others and glean support and inspiration. We saw the need for this type of community for this audience, and also determined that there weren’t many options for in Europe, if any. 

Also, we wanted to provide an inspirational, professionally challenging, and semi-remote event for people to enjoy a tech-detox for the weekend. Upon arriving at The Collective, attendees will take their last selfie and turn in their phones to enjoy a weekend without technology, allowing them to disconnect in order to reconnect with themselves, each other, and nature. All this in an environment where community rules over competition and inspiration is abundant.
Can you tell us a bit about your own creative background?
I was born in the Marshall Islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but grew up in the United States in Florida. During college, I worked for the NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their Creative Services Department as a project manager, graphic designer and photographer. After college in Florida, I started a small corporate identity and branding firm, which is what ultimately took me to San Francisco in 2012. That company was sold and then for the past five plus years, I was living in San Francisco, pursuing a career in Marketing and Entrepreneurial Ventures with tech startups in Silicon Valley. After the iconic startup burnout, I looked for a new adventure, outside of the crazy commute and startup cubicle life. Now, I’m in Barcelona, solely focused on The Collective.
Why have you chosen to hold the even in Barcelona?
During my old life as a tech marketer, I traveled to Barcelona for the three consecutive years in October for a huge tech trade show called VMworld. I LOVED the city and always enjoyed my time here. Last October, I traveled to Europe on my first ever solo trip and stopped by Barcelona to visit some friends. This visit was different. I was at the height of my professional burn out and was extremely attracted to the slow paced lifestyle. Who doesn’t want delicious coffee around every corner, Spanish wine, and siestas? But more than that, when you just scratch the surface, an entire world of creatives, entrepreneurs, and small businesses is exposed. The startup culture is still young here, and the entrepreneur mindset is still being fostered, but Barcelona is the perfect place for it. The weather is amazing and it attracts an incredible international community of people. What’s not to like?
What makes The Collective different?
The Collective Europe offers small, interactive workshops where the workshop leaders are down on the same level as the attendees – there is no hierarchy in this way. Leaders are there to break down the attendees needs, share knowledge with immediate feedback, provide guidance and act as a mentor for attendees. The leaders are present during the entire conference and enjoying the conference as an attendee themselves when they are not teaching.
More to that point, a strong bond is created between everyone at the event. The main goal is to create a community that lasts far beyond the event. The semi-communal living, shared meals, shared experiences and remote aspect of the event creates a strong connection between each attendee, along with a sense of healthy vulnerability through this unique experience.
Have you been surprised by the level of support you’ve received? 
Yes and no. Yes, because this is a brand new concept in Europe. There is no other company doing this yet here, so its incredible to see the feedback from folks who are visiting our sites and buying tickets. In addition, this is a brand new company, logo, everything! So the brand awareness was non-existent when we started. Now, things are growing so quickly and its been surprising to see the interest and support we’ve received.  No, because we started this company to solve a problem, to serve a need, within this community. People were asking for an experience like this, different than any other professional conference, and craving a community of like-minded creatives and professionals. You asked, we listened.
Can you talk us through some of the workshops and events? 

We have speakers from all different backgrounds, industries and professions who share our ethos of community over competition and want to share their knowledge with others. They were all strategically chosen to provide our attendees with a well-rounded roster of speakers. 

The idea is that attendees can get a bit of everything; from Kendall Beveridge of Facebook, Product Marketing Extraordinaire with a deep knowledge of advertising due to her agency education and experience; to Matthew Manos, Founder of a socially-conscious, design agency, verynice, who can not only share stories about the startup life, but also share his model on how to give away half of your work for free to support nonprofits and more. 

We also have speakers who are sharing tips and tricks on how to implement a fruitful social media strategy (Teressa Foglia), how to document travel and turn your passion into a full time gig (Liz Schaffer of Lodestars Anthology), how to publicly speak about your brand with confidence (Jessica Leijgraaff) and charisma, how to create a brand that people love and feel connected to their experiences (not products) by Chupi, and more! 

Then, we have hands-on creative workshops from amazing artists and makers, including Earl of East London, brilliant candle makers with an interior home line, woodworking with Lindsey, and screen printing with Gillian Henderson of OhMyDays from Dublin. When your brain needs a break from the learning, you can opt for a hands-on workshop instead. During these sessions you’ll get your hands dirty – you’ll MAKE something tangible, but you’ll also get to rub elbows with some amazing entrepreneurs and hear their start up stories. 

We are also offering morning yoga and meditation from an amazing Irish yoga instructor Liz Costigan and many, many more! You can check out all of our confirmed speakers on our Speaker page