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.

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




Mount Takao

Photo essay by Lucy Saunders.

The climb up Mount Takao offered a beautiful escape from the 36 degree heat of Tokyo (when people say summer in Japan can be humid, they’re not lying) and the surrounding trees (illuminated as they were by dappled sunlight) provided welcome patches of shade. That said, even at this height the heat was blistering – which no doubt played a part in making the mountainside appear entirely isolated. It felt peaceful, almost timeless. There was a quietness that felt worlds away from the bustling city I had left only hours before.

I saw in the distance, swooping in the trees, a swish of white, like some mountain spirit celebrating the sun. Bug catchers were dancing around the tree trunks with their nets, sliding down the steep mountain slopes or clinging to branches as if it were second nature. I watched them for hours, enthralled by their agility, and they paused to show me their collections – beetles, butterflies, cicadas and moths presented in carefully selected boxes, handled with the upmost care.

There was something particularly beautiful about being in such a treasured, spiritual place and watching locals move through the setting as if it were entirely their own. Everyone I spoke to seemed to know one tree species from another, the name of each insect, where they sleep and exactly how to hold and care for them. They were also careful to ensure that they gave something back to the land each time it was kind enough to bestow a treasure upon them. Shrines and temples were found along my walk up Mount Takao and at each you could stop to pray – following the advice of smiling locals – taking part in an ancient Shinto practice that felt as old as these mountains. 

Shintoism is Japan’s indigenous religion – one that, rather than following a set ruler or doctrine, focuses on the concepts of purity and respect. There is a deep admiration for nature and its power, with the natural world being the domain of kami, deities that can take almost any form and add a sense of order to our somewhat chaotic world. They may be in a tree, stream or the mist itself.

These spirits watch over the humans of the city below, as they always have. And although it may seem to be a strange concept at first, when you sit and embrace these surroundings you can’t help but sense that nature is somehow watching out for you. Being in a natural location this powerful had a very interesting effect. You come to appreciate your place in the world anew. Indeed, even when I descended Mount Takao and returned to the man-made brilliance of Tokyo I couldn’t help but notice little pockets of natural beauty and, pausing to acknowledge their power, found that Japan felt more and more like home. 

You can see more of Lucy’s work on her website: or over on Instagram @lucyjanesaunders.


Words & photographs by Rhys Thomas

Growing up in south-west Wales, just east of Pembrokeshire, in ‘the sleepy town of Laugharne’, I was always restless. Playing in the woods may seem idyllic … until it rains and living a stone’s throw from a plethora of beaches might sound like paradise … until the 17-year old you swallows a little too much sea water mid surf.

But after living away from the area for the best part of two years, I started to yearn for salt air and open space – indeed, the fact that I no longer have that pair of shoes sitting in their permanently mud-topped-with-sand state in the utility room made me realise that something was missing. Home was calling. And so, craving the salt and the sea, I booked my ticket and set out on a jaunt along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.  

After an evening catch up with my parents (duty calls), I headed to Amroth, a small water-side village and the south-eastern starting point of the trail. I arrived at 6 a.m. to overcast skies, the pebbled beach only a few shades lighter than the charcoal clouds and olive green sea. Spying one couple taking a morning stroll through the village, I felt emboldened and set off upon confidence-boosting terrain. It didn’t take long for the world to wake around me – within a mile I was meeting walkers from the opposite direction, exchanging ‘good mornings’ and being sniffed around the ankles by their dogs (for the right reasons I hope). 

Eventually I reached Saundersfoot with its bustling harbour and quiet beaches. It was here that the wind picked up, carrying the salt that I love. Continuing through woodland full of wild garlic and pine tree, I took a moment to savour these earthy scents. Turning the corner and reaching sea level, my next destination revealed itself. Tenby’s charm is in its cobbled roads, dainty cafes and community spirit – but it’s Tenby Harbour that I found most beautiful. Quite possibly one of Europe’s best beaches, it is surrounded colourful terraces (one of which has featured on Grand Designs) and boasts a lifeboat station that stretches out into the sea. I chose to pause here, put my camera to good use, and indulge in some breakfast at The Mooring on High Street. 

Tenby felt perfectly secluded and my second day of walking was filled with equally peaceful finds. Having made my way as far as Barafundel Bay, I spied families picnicking on the grass and sand while admiring the time-and-water-worn cliffs. Continuing up into the hills, greenery took over as the path disappeared into the forest, taking in lily ponds and lakes. A few miles on I stumbled upon (and might well have missed if I wasn’t in the know) St Govan’s Chapel. This curious, heartwarming piece of architecture was carved from the cliffs in the 12th century and the view of the sea through its window is absolutely awe-inspiring. The site was deserted when I arrived so I stayed to watch the sun descend, the waves crashing below while gulls socialised above. I can see why people would carve through a cliff to make such a place and thank them, 900 years on, for their efforts. 

Diverting from the coast slightly I came upon St David’s Cathedral, located within the UKs smallest city, which bears the same name. The cathedral honours the patron saint of Wales while the city offers cafes and views aplenty. Nearby is Abereiddy Beach, the penultimate destination on my journey – the final stop being the creative town of Cardigan where I celebrated the end of my hike with a meal at Pizza Tipi. Abereiddy Beach and its ‘blue lagoon’ are hotspots for those with a penchant for extreme sports. Red Bull hosted a cliff diving event recently and the site is always full of hobbyists kayaking, surfing, swimming and cliff diving the hours away. I realised here that this area is frequented by people who have chosen tranquility over city madness. Everyone I encountered was kind, caring and humble, and clearly in love with their little corner of the world. And so they should be. 

I vow to return home again soon …

You can see more of Rhys’ work here.

Loch Lomond

As lovers of literature, escape and Scotland in general we were delighted to come across a new series of literary guides for travellers from I.B.Tauris. When it comes to independent travel, with a dash of history, these books are sure to inspire a spot of creative wanderlust. Below is an extract from Garry MacKenzie‘s guide to Scotland, a delightful read that explores the literary allure of Loch Lomond. We’ve run it with a selection of images from our own Scotland magazine – oh to return to those bonnie braes! 

Jules Verne, the famed French author of Around the World in Eighty Days and Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, loved Scotland and even claimed Scottish ancestry. He set three of his lesser-known novels in the country. The earliest of these is a fictionalised account of his own travels in Scotland in 1859, a work that lay forgotten for well over a century before being rediscovered and published in France in 1989. In 1992, Janice Valls-Russell’s English translation, titled Backwards to Britain, was released. Verne’s impressions of Scotland are narrated by a character named Jacques Lavaret, who travels with a friend from Edinburgh to Glasgow and then on to the Trossachs, visiting landmarks such as Arthur’s Seat, Glasgow Cathedral and the Necropolis. Jacques, like Verne, is passionately excited about being in Scotland, to the extent that he even waxes lyrical about a steam-operated sausage machine in a Glasgow butcher’s window: ‘“What a people,” Jacques exclaimed. “What genius to apply steam to charcuterie! No wonder the British are the masters of the world!”’ Upon reaching Loch Lomond, the two travellers sail from Balloch, on the southern shore, and Jacques can’t help being reminded of ‘his favourite novels’, including Walter Scott’s Rob Roy, and anyone seeking similarities between Verne’s writing and that of Scott will and them in this description of the loch:

The first, overwhelming impression of Loch Lomond is of countless delightful islands of every shape and size imaginable. The Prince Albert weaved its way between them, skirting their rugged outlines and revealing a myriad different countrysides: here a fertile plain, there a solitary glen, elsewhere a forbidding ravine bristling with age-old rocks. Ancient legends clung to every shore, and the history of this land is written in these gigantic characters of islands and mountains.

The large area of Loch Lomond, and its position on the Highland Boundary Fault, mean that it feels less like a single body of water than like a series of interconnected lochs with changing characteristics. At its southern end it’s broad and surrounded by fields and parkland. As Verne points out, there are numerous islands, some of which are inhabited and many of which can be visited on boat trips. The south of Loch Lomond is busy with yachts and jet skis; on a sunny day the villages and pubs on its shores are filled with Glaswegians escaping the city.

The northern half of the loch is very different. About a third of the way up it narrows, and slopes rise on either side for almost 1,000 metres to form the mountains of Ben Lomond and Ben Vorlich. Lochside fields give way to wooded crags and banks of ferns. There are fewer pleasure boats on the water. On the eastern bank the road ends altogether at the hamlet of Rowardennan and only a rough footpath continues northwards to another settlement, Inversnaid. In Walter Scott’s Rob Roy, the rough country to the east of Loch Lomond is the territory of the eponymous outlaw, a real historical figure whom Scott describes as a Robin Hood character, a ‘kind and gentle robber’. Rob Roy MacGregor lived in the early eighteenth century and was both a cattle drover and, latterly, a cattle thief who earned a living by rustling. He’s the presiding spirit, but not really the hero, of Scott’s novel. Instead much of the action follows Frank Osbaldistone, a young Englishman caught up in intrigue involving Jacobites.

Such was the popularity of Scott’s Highland romance that countless tourists sought out its landscapes for themselves. ‘We ought to traverse the district novel in hand,’ says one Victorian guidebook of ‘Rob Roy’s country’, searching for locations such as ‘the precise spot where Francis Osbaldistone for a moment pressed the flushed cheek of Diana Vernon’. In the summer of 1817, the year before the novel was published, Scott came here himself, visiting ‘Rob Roy’s Cave’, not far from Inversnaid. The cave is one of countless landmarks in the area associated with Rob, an indication of his reputation as a folk hero. It’s allegedly one of his hideouts, though there might be little truth in this – it’s really just a cleft in a pile of boulders, and for visitors today the solitude of the location is more rewarding than the cave itself. Scott himself may have been disappointed by the cave, as he didn’t even mention it in his novel. For those seeking the real Rob Roy, a good place to start is Balquhidder, a quiet village an hour’s drive north of Aberfoyle, at the eastern end of Loch Voil. Rob Roy farmed at Balquhidder and his grave lies in the village church.

For hikers on the West Highland Way, the 100-mile footpath from Glasgow to Fort William, Inversnaid is something of an oasis, the only natural stopping point on the lochside on the rough path north from Rowardennan, and the site of a hotel and a cosy bunkhouse. In 1881 a young Jesuit priest based in Glasgow, Gerard Manley Hopkins, stopped briefly at Inversnaid. Hopkins found life in the big city oppressive and came north with a yearning for wilderness. His poem ‘Inversnaid’, with his distinctive rhythmical stresses, is a brilliant evocation of the sounds, colours and movements of the waterfall at the edge of this hamlet where Arklet Water cascades into Loch Lomond:

This darksome burn, horseback brown,

His rollrock highroad roaring down,

In coop and in comb the eece of his foam

Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

[. . .]

What would the world be, once bereft

Of wet and wilderness? Let them be left,

O let them be left, wilderness and wet;

Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

Today a bridge crosses in front of the waterfall, affording spectacular views. Inversnaid itself is difficult to reach – visitors must either walk here from Rowardennan, navigate a long and twisting road from Aberfoyle or take a ferry from Tarbet on the western shore. As a proto-environmentalist Hopkins would be pleased that Inversnaid now lies within Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, which was established in 2002.


There are less than 30 copies of the Lodestars Anthology Scotland magazine remaining and you can grab your copy here.

To get your hands on one of these brilliant guides from I.B. Tauris click here, the code Lodestars30 will also get you 30 percent off. Brilliance. 

Foragers of the Ballinskelligs

Photo essay by Johan van der Merwe & Tanya Houghton

‘Foragers of the Ballinskelligs’ is the first collaboration between London-based photographer Tanya Houghton and food stylist Johan van der Merwe. Having bonded over a shared passion for wild landscapes and the bounty they offer, the duo set out to produce a body of work that focuses on foraging along the Kerry coastline in Ireland.

Ballinskelligs (originally Baile en Sceilg, which translates to ‘place or village on the craggy rock’) has a wilderness-rich landscape, an amalgamation of coastline, mountains and huge areas of undisturbed bog land and forest. In awe of the landscape’s history and inspired by the diets of early settlers, van der Merwe and Houghton combined their knowledge and set out to forage for and catalogue some of the area’s edible flora and fauna, which includes shellfish (clams, mussels and oysters) and a wide range of highly nutritious seaweed.

Van der Merwe creates his recipes for the project using only the ingredients found foraging, while drawing on his rich culinary background. These dishes are one of the focal points of Houghton’s images, sitting alongside photographs of the landscape in which they were found. The resulting body of work is the first chapter in a continuing series by the duo to catalogue a year’s worth of seasonal foraging in this wild Irish landscape.

You can view more of Tanya’s work here and catch Johan’s food styling here.