“FOLLOW YOUR HEART, BUT TAKE YOUR BRAIN WITH YOU”
LIFE ON YOUR OWN TERMS
I wear many hats. I started my career in humanitarian assistance during the war in Bosnia and became a human rights specialist. I did a lot of missions for the UN and NGOs and then moved into academia. I eventually became a professor. I continue to teach and support the sector on a part-time, honorary basis as Fellow, University of Essex, Human Rights Centre and Extraordinary Professor, University of Pretoria and as a member of a human rights NGO board.
In 2015, I established my own business which has a mission to increase well being in the sector. I qualified as a yoga teacher in 2006. I run retreats around the world for international professionals that I call “Real R&R”. These retreats provide a space for humanitarian and human rights professionals to press pause and spend a week doing nothing but working on their own health and well being. I also work as a coach and mentor with people in the sector. I love helping people get crystal clear about what they really want out of life and how to get there.
For me, living life on my own terms is essentially about my staying true to my values and living a fulfilling, meaningful and joyful life of service. I am crystal clear about my own values and belief system and live my life according to that. It took me a really long time to understand what truly makes me happy and that it is OK to have a multi-faceted, non-linear life and career.
ROOTS AND SEEDS
I was adopted. My birth mother was from Bosnia, but I was brought up by a British family in the UK. I have lived in Croatia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Costa Rica, Mexico and India, and I am currently based in Thailand. I am nomadic and I would not have it any other way.
I am multi-lingual and thrive moving in and out of cultures. I don't own a home, don't have a base as such - for me, that’s part of living life on my own terms.
Home is not a geographical location, it's a place in you body and you heart. I move from place to place and find locations that feed my soul, inspire me creatively, and allow me to serve others.
WHAT YOUR FOUR YEAR OLD SELF WOULD TELL YOU TODAY
Dance, move, be crazy, freaky and embrace each and every eccentricity. Be yourself! Indulge your creative passions. Do not conform and never doubt yourself about living life on your own terms. It is your life and you only get one!
I have a clear and strong belief in myself and my path serving others. Independence. Creativity. Intellect. Learning (I am a constant student) and humour. I absolutely refuse to give up. I can communicate and connect with people in a way that transcends cultures and languages.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH MOMENT
There came a point in my life after some very traumatic field missions when I realized that you really can't help anyone else until you help yourself.
Field work was damaging to my health. In 2003, I began a journey of self exploration and commenced serious study and practice of a range of healing practices including yoga, movement, meditation, mindfulness and created boundaries around work.
MOST EXCITING HIGH
Learning to jump high in the sky while kitesurfing. Learning to kite surf is a great metaphor for life (and it get’s all that adrenaline that field workers have out in a healthy way). Kitesurfing is really hard, I mean really hard. It takes forever to get it. And every time you think “I got this”, you get wiped out, humbled and you are back to square one. So when you learn to jump high using your own power it feels amazing!
MOST CHALLENGING LOW
Working for an NGO in central Bosnia in July 1995 when the UN protected area of Srebrenica fell. I was stationed in reception centres, responsible for receiving hundreds of IDPs who fled the besieged enclave. Over the course of a week hundreds of busses of tired, heartbroken, malnourished and sick women, girls, boys and old men arrived from Srebrenica. It was only later that we would find out why there were no men - they had been massacred and dumped in mass graves. I speak Bosnian so I spent lots of time talking to people, listening to their horrific stories from besieged Srebrenica and their dangerous and long escape. All I could do is listen, help carry bags and coordinate food and medicine. I felt completely and utterly useless and my faith in humanity was at an all-time low.
BEST PIECE OF ADVICE
Living life on your own terms is about trusting your own intuition - formulating and taking your OWN advice. Trust yourself. Follow your heart, but take your brain with you!
WORST PIECE OF ADVICE
You must be an employee. You must have a structured pension and own a house. Any advice which encourages us to live in linear, conventional and narrow ways undermines our ability to live life on our own terms and reach our human potential.
BOOK OR PEOPLE THAT HAD AN IMPACT ON YOUR LIFE
“Fell the Fear and Do it Anyway”, by Susan Jeffers.
BIGGEST LEAP OF FAITH
Flying from Kosovo to Canada to meet my birth mother in 2000.
FEAR OR BELIEF YOU LET GO OF
That the caterpillar will never turn into a butterfly.
IF GIVEN A CHANCE WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY
I would have learned a lot more languages as a child and set up on my own years ago.
Yoga, meditation and proper relaxation every day - spending time alone in nature and get away from the constant noise: Tap into who you are and what you need every day and remember your needs and desires change. Accept yourself for exactly who you are, flaws and all! Stay in touch with people you love and laugh a lot!
HARDEST PART ABOUT BEING A PERSON WHO LIVES ON THEIR OWN TERMS
It requires a lot of strength, independence and faith in yourself. It is not easy to resist the pressure to conform to the ways in which other people and society believe you should live. You have to build strong networks with other people living life on their own terms and stay away from negative people and situations.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO LESS/MORE?
I still need to work more on following and trusting my own intuition and letting go of logical only based decision making.
I am focusing right now on my REAL R and R retreats and my mentorship and coaching practice. I am continually creating new ways to assist other people live a life on their own terms. I will be Professor in residence at the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria in 2019 and am really excited about launching some new wellbeing projects for human rights and humanitarian professionals.
WORDS OF WISDOM
Home is not a geographical location, it's a place in you body and you heart.
Follow your heart, but take your brain with you.
WHERE TO FIND HER