Happy August! I am so pleased to introduce August's Babe-of-the-Month, Hannah Stowe! Hannah, also known by her Instagram handle and lifestyle brand Slightly Salty, is your adventure girl next door. She's a yoga teacher, a student of marine biology, climber, surfer, outdoor adventure seeker, and full-time van dweller! But if we are not just the things we do, who is Hannah Stowe in essence? She's a divine siren, with the salty ocean wind in her hair. A big heart emanating love and gentleness for all. A wisdom seeker. And a trailblazer that refuses to accept what is "normal" and chooses her own path for a happy and fulfilling life. Born and raised in the UK, she currently resides in her super awesome adventure van convert with her partner and adorable pup, Rosie. If you haven't seen her video feature on The Indie Projects, check it out below! And read on as we do a little Q and A with this down to earth and refreshingly authentic babe of the month!
Q & A With Slightly Salty's Hannah Stowe
This is probably your most asked question, but for anyone that is just now hearing about you and your lifestyle; what made you decide to go full-time living in your van, and what is it like living off the grid and on the road?
Hannah: Well, since I was a kid I always knew that I wanted a campervan, a van, a bike and a dog, but I had no idea I would be living in it full time. We converted the van, then ended up traveling quite a bit for work, and then it ended up being this really natural transition into living in it full time. I am also this weird contradiction of loving to travel and have my own safe, sanctuary like space to retreat to sometimes.
I don't think it's so much a contradiction as a genius way to balance comfort and travel! And I'm sure that becomes even more important when you need to focus on school work. Speaking of school, you've had an interesting University experience, but one that is probably more realistic than someone expecting to pick a major and a school and get their degree in 3-4 years. You've been honest with yourself and what you want out of life and your education, even when it's not the easiest thing to do. Can you tell us a bit about your educational path and why you ultimately decided to study marine biology?
Hannah: I started crewing on wildlife boat trips in my home town in the summers and traveling in the winters. Through my work, I was spending a tonne of time in a marine environment. While I was building up my boat qualifications, I felt like I was constantly asking questions, about marine mammals, the eco systems, the coastal ecology, that no one around me could answer, so I decided I wanted to go back to university to study Marine bio. The problem was, I had studied art, English and religion in school, not sciences. So I started studying with the Open University. I’m not sure if you have that in the states, or something similar, but its distance learning, self-study, with no entry requirements. They didn’t offer marine biology, so I opted for natural sciences. It was hard, you don’t really get any funding towards it, so I was having to work at the same time to support myself. The material also wasn’t that engaging to me. To cut an already long story a little shorter, I ended up heading out to Canada on an extended trip, sailing with Professor Hal Whitehead from Dalhousie University, Canada. He is a super inspirational figure, really at the forefront of whale research, and an excellent sailor. Spending time with him, and two of his PhD students at the time really gave me a push to go back into education full time. The minute I got home, I applied to a bunch of unis, really great schools that I really didn’t think I stood much chance of getting in to, however, all but one ended up offering me places. I went to the university of Aberdeen, but half way through my first year, really felt like it was in no way a good fit for me. I’m a very practical, and definitely want to work in the field, so have now been lucky enough to transfer on to a course that seems like a much much better fit for me (at least, the people I’ve met so far seem way more like my kinda people!).
From your experience, what do you think is ultimately the best way to save our oceans from environmental destruction and negative human influence?
Hannah: I really really believe that the best way is to take people into marine environments and let them fall in love. It’s really hard not to give a shit when these immensely complex and diverse environments are shown to you, explained to you and experienced by you. I know that’s a bit of a catch 22, as it is hard for us to experience environments without impacting on them, but pick the best ways. Sail, kayak, surf, free dive, get yourself out there naturally. Once you do, look to education, and take responsibility. What impacts are you making, and what could you change? We could all change something. I really strive towards avoiding single use plastics. I drink a load of water, but always have a Klean Kanteen in my bag. I will usually have cutlery stashed in my bag as well so that I don’t have to pick up plastic forks when eating on the go.
It's easy to have the intention to take time for ourselves, whether it's doing daily yoga and meditation, getting in the ocean more, or getting out and active on the weekends. But putting that into action and really making it a lifestyle choice can be a real challenge or met with resistance from the ego, especially when we are 'busy' with work or school. How do you ensure you are taking plentiful personal time for what's important? You seem to do it so effortlessly!
Hannah: You know, these days, it is kinda effortless (most days!), but like everything, that is worked up to, and doesn’t always go to plan. I made a decision a little while ago to really make my health a priority, and that’s what it comes down to, both physical and mental. I know that I am not my most productive or inspired if I spend my whole day working on my computer. I actually thrive when I can get a few really focused hours of study smashed out, work out, do yoga and spend time outside, and I don’t feel guilty about that. There is certainly a pressure to be working, or seen to be, all the time, but for me, I just end up burnt out and resentful. It is definitely worth really assessing what makes you productive and when you are the most productive, so that you can find that balance and give yourself time to do those things that make your soul sing. One thing I am learning is how to say no and not schedule in too much for myself, as I only end up disappointed and frustrated when I have to bail on things.
Do you meditate every day? (If so) How has regular meditation impacted you and your life?
Hannah: Yes and no. So, I don’t sit down every day for an active meditation practice, although it’s something I would like to cultivate. It actually seems to be something that is there for me in the challenges and difficult moments. When I need to challenge my views, reassess situations, find inspiration or just take time to breathe, I fall into a meditate practice very easily. I feel like I am calmer, more considered, and less reactive since making meditation a part of my life.
It’s actually funny, when I was younger, it wasn’t really something I felt I engaged with, but I used to do a tonne of distance running, which is such a moving meditation. If you haven’t worked something out by the end of a 30 miler, you won’t! Hmmm, I think it may be time to get myself back running more regularly…
I have had a similar experience as you with getting into yoga. I tried a lot of classes and was never really into it until I found this ONE class that I really enjoyed. How did you go from not really liking yoga to practicing it daily and then becoming an instructor? What changed?
Hannah: What changed was that I started to practice by myself, at home. Taking that practice into my own hands really did something to me. I had always loved movement, and just found all these new challenges, linking movements together, finding strength in transitions, it just did something to me. I didn’t know what I was doing, I knew what a loose variation of sun sal looked like, and a few poses, I wasn’t that flexible and had little upper body strength, but fell in love with the practice, the transitions, the grace, the progress. I also started using Instagram at that time and followed a few yoga accounts. I think I followed The Southern Yogi (Morgan Haley), and Patrick Beach. I became utterly enchanted by their grace, and wanted that too! It is still very much a work in progress. Becoming an instructor was a pipe dream that grew and grew until it became a reality. Sometimes I still can’t believe that I get to share my practice, my yoga, with others!
Being a California native, I don't know much about surfing in the UK. What is it like to surf there? The surfing population is much smaller there, are your waves usually uncrowded? What is the water temp like, can you ever surf without a wetsuit?
Hannah:There are some really great spots to surf in the UK, but it can be really inconsistent, and you have to be committed. This winter I was super lucky. I lived at Aberdeen beach in my van, so could get in whenever the surf was good. It was uncrowded, a predictable wave with a great left (I surf goofy these days, thanks to my yoga practice being right side dominated). The water was cold, I was in a 5/4 mm suit, with gloves, boots, I only surfed without my hood once before leaving. Having a van makes getting out the water way easier actually, as I could put the wood burner on, and make hot chocolate whilst peeling myself out of my suit.
I’ve spent the summer surfing in Pembrokeshire, which has been wonderful, as there is a great group of girls who get in the water regularly, and mostly all longboard. That female companionship is really sweet. I’m kinda biased, because it’s my hometown, and I know a lot of people, but the vibes here are like nowhere else. I find myself at one of the main surfing beaches early morning quite often, practicing yoga. There are usually a few people in for a dawny, I do my thing on the beach, they do theirs in the water. It’s a really nice feeling. I will be surfing on the south coast this winter, and am a little daunted by it, as the waves down there are way more crowded and people really hustle. You can’t ever really get in for any length of time without a wetsuit, I guess water temp at the moment is at a high of around 12 degrees C, at the moment in in a 4/3 mm, no boots, gloves or hood, which is nice!
What kind of board do you ride?
Hannah: Recently, a 9’6 nose-rider. It’s the biggest board I’ve ever ridden. My board, she’s a bit of a beast. You can catch anything, bit not hugely maneuverable. I didn’t like the switch from a more performance-y shape at first, but actually, I’m starting to love this board. I have days where I feel super graceful, then days where I feel like I repeatedly stack it, especially if the wave is steep, which is frustrating, but always a learning experience.
What is your most favorite place you've ever adventured to?
Hannah: Ahhhhhh so hard. I think my favourite adventure moments would have to be sailing ones, and there are two that really come to mind. One was sailing in Canada. I was on a solo night watch, maybe around 2 am. It was freezing, we were hove to as it was too dangerous to sail through the night, due to ice burgs. I was feeling sick and wishing I was at home in bed watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Then all of a sudden, it was like the dark water was just bubbling around the boat, as a pod of over 100 pilot whales surrounded us. Their song was so strong that the sound was reverberating through the hull of the boat and the hydrophone was going crazy! Moments like that, they just touch something deep inside of you!
The other was when sailing back from Norway. It was the final night of a month long trip. My partner and I were, once again on night watch, along with an awesome guy called Bob. It was still, we were having to motor instead of sail, as there wasn’t a breath of wind. Big moon, water like mirror glass. As the boat cut through the water, it lit up, bright blue, due to the bioluminescence. It was surreal, breath taking and a total dream!
Wow that sounds incredible! Thank you for chatting with us! We look forward to seeing where your next adVANture will take you!
Hannah's yoga flow and lifestyle videos can be found here.