#5 Tia “Tia Tuo”
15 minute read
One of the key topics that I often write about is the one of freedom. It’s something that can take many forms and can take on all kinds of different meanings depending upon where you are in the world and the circumstances under which you’re living.
What does freedom mean to you? Is it freedom from attachment or from judgement, is it financial freedom, freedom from the rat race, or perhaps freedom of mind?
In this latest people feature I am proud to introduce you to the world of Tia; traveller, writer, photographer, and self-described vagabond. When I first stumbled upon on the work of Tia the very first impression to hit me was one of being a true free-spirit. Originally from Finland, and having now lived in New York, Japan, Hong Kong, and Australia, Tia continues to travel the world by following her many passions, whilst also in search of new inspirations and adventures.
So brew yourself a cup of freshly roasted coffee, sit back, put your feet up, and prepare to lose yourself in a world of health, well-being, and beautiful sunsets.
Elliot – Hello Tia, and welcome to Lossul.com. It’s great to have you here on the site!
You describe yourself as being something of a nomad and this certainly feels apparent with your love of travel and the vast number of places you’ve lived. You’re still just 26 years of age, so is this something that’s always been in your nature? And could you share a little bit of your background with my readers and tell us what inspired you to create your website?
Tia – Thanks for having me!
I have travelled with my parents, especially my dad, since I was a kid. After trying my wings solo, first in New York in 2012, I fell in love with living in new cultures, learning new ways and seeing the everyday life from a different perspective.
I am very lucky to have been born in Finland, where studying English was easy and enabled me to connect with people from different countries.
I studied International media, and got into health foods when living in Hong Kong in 2013. Ever since then, advocating for a healthy, wholesome lifestyle has been my passion.
I have had an ‘adventure’ blog since 2012, and I decided to revamp it to be more suitable for my current lifestyle; not quite a backpacker, but not quite settled down, either. With my website and blog I hope to inspire people to get out, travel, try new things and live life to the fullest!
Elliot – I can totally understand where you’re coming from with that, and observing the culture and everyday life of a new place is such a rewarding thing to do. Very often things are almost the same as back home but just done a little differently, or as the Thai’s would say, “same same, but different.”
Your website certainly has a large emphasis on health foods and healthy living which you mention is something that became a passion during your time in Hong Kong. What exactly was it that happened that made this become such a mission? Also, was this a big game-changer in your own life, and how would you describe the benefits of following a healthy diet and lifestyle to a newcomer?
Tia – Funny for you to mention the saying “same same, but different”, as I use it quite often myself! It is comforting to know that deep down we all are quite the same, but then there are these layers of habits, surrounding environments and cultures that shape us. I do believe everyone is unique, but it is surprisingly easy to find people who are in a similar situation to me, in many ways.
In Hong Kong, I was working for a medicinal mushroom company (not hallucinogenic, this was completely legal), and that got me interested in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and how you can change your health and well-being simply with nutrition. I had been feeling unwell before leaving to Asia, and when living in Japan before Hong Kong I naturally cut out gluten; rice is more prevalent to their cuisine, and there was no decent bread anywhere in sight (I lived on a mountain next to a small town in the Southern part of Japan). Suddenly my stomach problems were gone. I kept experimenting with what works for me, and changed my habits little by little.
I believe it is important to acclimatise to each new place when you travel; don’t expect to be eating the same food you do at home, be open-minded and explore what the culture has to offer! I don’t want to stress about food too much either; I used to be a strict vegan, but now I try to eat as much plant-based food as possible. If someone offers me meat and it is rude to say no, I will take it and respect the culture.
I feel like eating well and being active, even if just for a little bit every day, gives me more joy, because I know I am doing my body good. Then again, sometimes eating sweet potato fries makes me feel good, so I do that too. I believe in balance in everything. The easy way to start is by changing one habit at a time.
Elliot – I think that final paragraph is an important one for when it comes to making positive changes in your life; finding balance and moderation while still being able to enjoy the things you like, and also making positive changes in your life by taking it one step at a time and forming new habits.
We just touched on healthy lifestyles in terms of practising a balanced and healthy diet, but I understand you are also very much into exercise too. Could you tell us a little bit more about the type of exercise you engage in and the benefits this has brought to your life?
Tia – I feel like exercising is somewhat a key element to anyone’s well-being. I try my best to have an active life, but when I try something new and get fully into it, I go all in, sometimes resulting in prolonged recovery.
My last experience with overdoing exercising was with small group high intensity interval training, which I did six days a week on top of working full time; that did not end well. A few years back I was training for a half marathon, only to discover that my ankles and knees kept on getting repetitive straining injuries. I had to let go of the idea of becoming a runner, although I had always hated running in the first place! At least now I can say I tried.
I have balanced my intensity training with yoga and pilates, but the opportunities for different sports vary based on where I am. If I can find a surfboard and catch some waves, I’ll do that instead of hitting the gym, and if nothing else, I can do bodyweight training at home, in a park or in my AirBnB.
I have been doing yoga for years now, and after getting the perfect opportunity to do power yoga teacher training, I will be incorporating more yoga into my life and travels. Hopefully I will be able to teach yoga around the world.
When travelling I prefer to walk everywhere, resulting in on average 20km walks daily. I feel like exercising in the morning gets the day going; I like the feeling of achievement and I don’t think anyone can deny the positive effect of endorphins after a workout. The only bad workout is the one you didn’t do! However, I do have my lazy days/seasons when most of my exercising consists of walking and stretching, with the odd headstands every now and again. Balance is key in this too.
Elliot – Well you certainly have a wide selection of sports and exercise styles that you’re into, and I think it’s good to try different things and to experiment. And I guess that in some ways that mixture of interests and the willingness to try different things is very true to your nature. Even your website has a feeling of freedom running through it which is captured by the photography, its writing, and the design of the site.
You mentioned at the start of this feature that through your website you hope to inspire people to get out, travel, try new things, and to live life to the fullest. What advice would you give to somebody who is unhappy and wants to make changes in their life, but is having trouble finding the courage or motivation to do so? And how can a person move from hiding inside their comfort zone, to living outside of it?
Tia – I think that anyone who is unhappy is the only one who has the power to change their lives. If you don’t have the motivation to change things, if the motivation comes from outside, from something someone else is telling you to do, or how the media is putting pressure on you, you are not as likely to succeed. You have to first realise that you are not completely happy.
I recommend two simple strategies to increase your happiness and well-being:
1. Take small steps, and just one small change a week. If you haven’t run in five years and aim to run a marathon in a month, you are going to fail. Do one change, like changing your afternoon pick-me-up treat into a healthier option, and stick to that for a week. After that, add another small change, like walking at least 30 minutes a day, even if it meant you went out 3 times for just 10 minutes. All the small changes add up, and soon enough you will see that your lifestyle has changed quite a bit!
2. Find inspiration, people who have done what you want to do or a mentor of sorts. Listen to motivational speakers, like Tony Robbins, and truly listen to what they have to say. Find cool inspiring blogs online, write down (and make!) the most delicious healthy recipes you find, hang out with active and happy people. Through inspirational people, you can start to change your mind and attitude towards a more positive direction. If you try to be healthy, but hate everything to do with it, you are not going to be happy with your life.
In the case of being too deeply in your comfort zone, or if it’s too scary to take the leap to leave the familiar bubble, change still starts from yourself. Not all people are ‘cut out’ to travel, and they’re very happy living their whole lives in the same town. But there are also people who are curious, but have all these different reasons in the way. It is all about prioritising. Have an apartment? Lease it. Have kids? Take them with you. Have work? Negotiate some time off, or travel on your holiday. Don’t have any money? Save it by not buying coffee or eating out or eating meat. There is always an answer and a solution, you just have to want it enough, and make it happen. Or at least plan for it, so if not immediately, but in the future you will be able to take out your plan, and act on it.
The key in planning for success is to make it specific, for example: I am going to go to Bali to learn how to surf next November. No matter what it takes (trust me, I have experience with just that case).
Elliot – Thank you for that answer and there’s a tonne of valuable tips that I’m sure my readers will find really beneficial.
You touched on a subject that I’m very interested in and that’s about how we can be influenced by the media. What are your thoughts about the role that media plays in our lives; television, the news, magazines? And in the same vein, what effect would you say that social media has upon us?
Tia – Growing up, I wanted to become a journalist or a writer; a travel writer to be specific (and I have a degree in Media, so this is right up my alley). My days would start with reading the newspaper, and I was a huge fan of magazines (first film, then travel and lifestyle magazines). I also watched way too much TV. Nowadays I realise that everything that the media portrays to us is just someone’s point of view, and there’s many sides of the story that are not told. Unfortunately in this clickbait world, and especially online articles, can very often be light on content and heavy on scandals and other crap. I love to read old fashioned paper versions of magazines, if I am reading something, but I am quite particular about what kind of publications I want to digest.
I think social media is both good and bad. It is incredible how easily I can keep in touch with my friends across the world, and stay updated on their lives; but sometimes it is better to log off and live and enjoy the present moment. At the end of last year I was in Iceland with close to zero access to Facebook, and it was great! I believe it is good to do social media detoxes every now and again, if just to see how easy or hard it is for you.
FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is a real struggle sometimes, but it is good to keep in mind that also in social media we tend to show only the polished side, happy moments, and all things awesome. Social media can be vital in keeping connected, getting inspired, or passing time, but it can suck you into a different reality, which takes you away from where you really are.
Elliot – You raise some really good points there and I agree completely that social media is both a good thing and a bad thing. I think it’s important to remember that the things that are posted on social media are usually ‘the best of’ people’s lives, and so we really shouldn’t get caught in a trap of drawing comparisons with our own lives.
You also mentioned enjoying the present moment. All too often we’re either dwelling on the past or feeling anxious about the future, and what we often fail to do is enjoy all the things that are around us in our present moment. What are your thoughts about this? And what can people do to become more self-aware and to become fully immersed in the present moment?
Tia – Haha, this is a good one for me, since it is always all too easy to tell people what to do, and then forget to do so yourself.
I think the key to being present is essentially very simple, but it is hard to get to that stage when the simple things are just what they are, and not just ‘another thing’ to add to your memory bank to be done at appropriate times.
I struggle sometimes with being present, as I am always jumping ahead and tend to worry about the future. If I catch myself doing this, I can remind myself that there is nothing but now that I can affect; yesterday is gone, and tomorrow might never come. The only thing I have is now.
To be more present, I start to listen to all the sounds; cars driving by, the refrigerator humming, my fingers running on the keyboard. As I become more aware of sound, I move onto seeing more details in what’s around me. I smell different smells, feel my bones and the textures touching me.
I can say I do have one routine that is almost meditative; making and drinking coffee. I make my coffee with manual press (I use Aeropress at home, but V60 or Chemex work just as well). I hand grind the beans I have measured, pour the almost boiling water, let the coffee bloom, add more water, and then press the coffee down. Before having my first sip, I always smell the coffee, letting the aroma fill my nostrils while feeling the hot cup in my hand. Coffee is my meditation!
Being in the moment takes effort, and reminders. It is about building the habit and forgiving yourself if you get derailed, bringing your awareness back to the moment.
Elliot – I love that answer, and you’ve so brilliantly captured the importance of being able to truly embrace the present moment, even during some of the simplest of activities. You’ve made the act of making coffee sound almost poetic.
This is a subject I’m really fascinated in right now as I’ve become aware of how easy it can be to slip into ‘auto-pilot’ and to be thinking about the future while completely ignoring the gifts of the present. Just recently I was in yoga class and while moving into a side stretch the teacher encouraged us to pay close attention to our breathing; and in particular, to how it felt when the air entered the lung on the side of the body that we’d just stretched out. Just from being encouraged to focus in that way it shifted my entire mindset and I started to meditate on things that I’d so easily choose to ignore; the sound of my own breath, the temperature of my skin, the beat of my heart. All that mattered was the moment, and it was an incredibly powerful feeling.
Thank you so much for sharing that.
Speaking of special moments, you mentioned on your website that you’re in search of the perfect sunset. Have you come close to finding this? Where have you witnessed some of your favourite sunsets? And can you share a story with us about one of these special moments?
Tia – I have been lucky to experience quite a few amazing ones, and even though Finland is not renowned for its sunshine, in the summer time it can be pretty awesome. Our summer house is at the tip of an island, and the sunsets around 2am are quite spectacular. During midsummer it doesn’t really get fully dark at all, but a kind of blue hue and mist, making the eager photographer stay up pretty much all night.
My favourite sunsets have definitely been in Bali and in Thailand. In Bali I remember one particular time when I had just come back from surfing, and I was just sitting there on the beach and watching the sun go down, making everything bright orange. This was in 2014, I had left home about a month earlier to travel until I didn’t feel like traveling anymore, and I just felt so incredibly free and grateful for being there.
In Thailand I saw so many great sunsets, one even turning into a thunderstorm, but my favourite must be one in Railay Beach. We decided to start gathering shells on to a leaf on the beach, while doing a time-lapse on one of the cameras we had with us. The pictures that we got that night are somewhat soft and peaceful. On my website I have a picture of my flip flops (or thongs) on the beach that was from the same place as this shell play.
Here is the image, and while not exactly sunset it has the warm colors and light from the sunset. I hope it will take you to a warm and happy place. The other one is very traditional Thai shot, but I like it too. It’s also from Railay.
Also the sunrises in Railay, and Thailand in general, were stunning. The most pictures of sunrises and sunsets I have are from Thailand, and they’re all very exceptional.
Elliot – Your photos really are incredible and the quality is fantastic! That really did bring Railay so alive! Thank you so much for sharing those with us.
Well sadly we are going to have to bring this slowly to a close now, but before we do that, go ahead and give yourself a plug and let us know how the readers can continue to follow your work and keep in touch with you. And also, what can we expect to see from Tia Tuo over the coming months?
Thank you for your support, it always means so much to me when people reach out to me, mainly on Instagram, telling me to keep up the good work! While I do believe it is important to be your own fan, it does help to get the encouragement from others too. I can be found on Instagram @tiatuo. I try to post at least five times a week, but when traveling it might be a bit less or not at all, depending on what kind of trip I am having. I always try to update my blog Facebook page with the latest posts, some pictures, etc. but besides guest posting (I have a post about living in Australia over at Project Inspo), most of my stories are found on my blog at the moment, and some snippets on Instagram stories.
In the coming months I will be continuing my epic trip of 2017! I started the year by doing a yoga teacher training in Ontario, Canada, followed by a road trip from Los Angeles up to the San Francisco Bay Area, where I was working for a month. I am currently back in Ontario for a bit, before heading back to Europe. I am going to spend a month in Barcelona, before hopefully returning back to California. The US west coast stole my heart! One of my goals for this year is to teach yoga at a yoga/surf retreat, so we’ll see when/where I can make that happen. This year will also be full of learning and self-improvement for me, and maybe I will also find a place to call home, who knows!
Elliot – Well before I let you go I have one last trick up my sleeve. I believe in tradition, and here at Lossul.com I just happen to have a tradition in this ‘people’ section that I need to uphold, and that’s to ask a completely random and totally off topic question.
Sometimes these questions can be silly, but today I’ve been listening to a lot of different music and so I thought I’d ask you something along those lines.
What would you say your favourite song of all time is? And what is it about that song that makes it so special to you?
I love to listen to music and I remember different moments of my life through different songs. I would say from the past three years, the most powerful song for me has been Ben Howard’s Keep Your Head Up. It just sums everything up pretty great, the lyrics and melody are awesome. It still makes me smile when I hear it, and it reminds me of so many difficult times that I’ve overcome around the world.
Well, dear readers of Lossul.com, thank you so much for taking the time to read this interview with Tia and I do hope that you check out her work and give her a follow. The interviews that appear on this site come together over a period of time and as part of the process I am lucky to have the opportunity to really get to know each person. Tia has been a pleasure to work with and her work is both passionate and authentic.
And as a final nod to my new friend, here is the video for Tia’s favourite song.
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