The ocean has long been a source of sustenance, inspiration and adventure for Kimi Werner. As a young child growing up off the grid in an isolated part of coastal Maui, Hawaii, Kimi floated behind her father as he freedove for her familyís primary food source. Only later as an adult did she understand the central role the ocean was to play in her life when she discovered her own passion for freediving. Kimi has gone on to become the United States National Spearfishing Champion, a certified culinary chef, an award winning artist and a sought after speaker. Her daily life is a pure fusion of her talents, rooted in sustainability and geared towards a healthy future for our global community. Kimi has recently become the first person to freedive the flow-edge of the Arctic Bay and chats here to Responsible Travel about her adventures.
Kimi Werner interviewWhereís home?
Tell us about what you do and the main idea behind it.
I am a freediver and a spearfisherwoman and my main passion is exploring the beauty of the ocean while collecting sustainable meals for myself and loved ones. This passion has taken me to travel the world and has furthered my exploration more than I could have ever imagined.
Whatís your first ever travel memory?
My first travel memory was being a really little girl and just going over to the island of Molokai. I lived on the island Maui and I remembered we stayed in this house on stilts in the ocean and my mom would cook us dinner and my dad would cook us fish and crabs to eat. Every night my sister and I would jump off the porch into the ocean and my mom would throw the dishes out the window, over the porch to us where we would clean them on the bottom of the ocean with sand.
Describe yourself in three words?
Creative, kind, curious.
What inspired you to start traveling?
When I was twenty years old I took a backpacking trip to Europe with my best friend and my sister. We hardly had any money but we got ahold of some really cheap stand-by tickets and we spent our nights sleeping on trains and going from county to country, Amsterdam, Belgium, France, Italy and Spain. The simple food that we were able to eat, even though we had so little money, it was some of the best quality food that I had ever tasted. The freedom that I felt as we did this, along with the rush that came with trying something new for the first time, was so stimulating to me and taught me so much about who I am and who I wanted to be, that I promised myself I would never stop exploring.
What do you dream of for our world in the future?
My main dream for the future of our world is that every human will reconnect with where his or her food comes from. I think that this alone is something that will truly save our natural resources. Not long ago, when anyone sat down for a meal, they had some sort of understanding of where it came from and how it was harvested. There is such a disconnect in our modern world when it comes to what we eat and knowing what it took to get it to our plates. I think that if everybody was given this information and awareness, we not only would make more choices that help the good of our earth, but we all would also be so much healthier and help each other so much more.
Whatís been the biggest challenge youíve faced on your personal journey?
The biggest challenge I face has also been the most rewarding and thatís just to learn to deal with the evolution of life. We can set dreams and goals for ourselves and sometimes realize that we outgrew them or that they are not what we wanted them to be. Learning to walk away from expectations, whether theyíre from other people or the ones weíve made ourselves and to keep evolving to what our heart keeps choosing is the key to growth and true self-love.
Whereís the best place youíve woken up?
Iíve woken up in so many wonderful and unusual places that I donít think I could choose just one. But waking up on a tiny boat in the middle of the ocean has to be one of my favorites. Iíd say also, many mornings I wake up with dreams just fresh in my mind, dreams of being a little kid and spending time with my family in nature. And no matter where I wake up with those images, I wake up smiling from the inside out.
Is there one person youíve met who you feel you were so lucky to connect with?
I would say that Gerry Lopez and the Malloy brothers, who are all professional surfers, have been an inspiration and support system for me. They are all people who have not only surpassed the wildest dreams of most, but have learned to stay true to themselves and make decisions that are authentic to who they are even if they are not popular in the moment.
Has anyone ever told you that you wonít make it?
Oh yeah, all the time. My dreams have always been so hard for most people to believe in. Whether it was when I wanted to be an artist and especially when I was saying I wanted to be a freediver spearfisherwoman, people always discouraged me. I was told consistently that I wasnít making good choices and that I wouldnít make it.
Tell us about a time when you felt like walking away from an adventure?
Just a few weeks ago I decided to take my passion of freediving and put it completely out of my element to see if it was possible to dive the ice of the Arctic Circle. We took a journey way north to Baffin Island and took sleds out onto a very frozen Arctic Bay. We made it to the flow edge, the place where the ice is melting and revealing the frigid waters of the ocean, with intentions of diving it. But it was windy that day and my fear sank in fast. I started to feel I wasnít prepared for this adventure after all. I started to worry about the aftermath, knowing my base camp was over an hour away and I didnít know how I would get warm enough, fast enough when I got out of the water. I didnít know if my hair would freeze, I didnít know about the predators that laid underneath the darkness. There were so many concerns going through my mind and that day I sat there on the edge of the ice just to face those fears and walk away. The next day, it ended up being really sunny and with all of the plans of action that I had thought through and had in mind, I felt prepared. So that day I did end up diving and it was spectacular, but I donít think it would have been had I not walked away that first day.
What keeps you going if you ever feel like giving up?
I have a stubborn heart. Even when Iím tired, discouraged, and feel beaten down, thereís something about my heart that just doesnít let go. When it believes in something it wants to see it through. For some reason I think back to when I was five years old and the only thing I lived by was my heart, the only thing I knew was nature and family and what I felt inside of me. When I feel beaten down and ready to give up I do it for her, I do it for the five year old.
What are you most proud of?
Iím most proud of myself for living a life that feels right and authentic to me. Iím proud of myself for not conforming to things that I donít believe in to make others happy or to fit in. Iím proud that I have found my own sense of belonging and that I can stand behind it.
Whatís your happiest travel memory?
Thereís too many happy travel memories to choose just one. Whether it was landing a dream fish, exploring the underwater beauty of something I never knew existed, or riding horses across an African safari, the adventures are always different and unique and my favorite one will always be the next one coming.
Whatís always in your bag Ė no matter what adventure youíre on?
In my bag I always carry some kind of reusable cup, bottle, utensils and I usually have a small stash of food and a dive mask.
What do you still dream of doing that you havenít yet done?
I dream of writing a book. I dream of taking all of these travels, memories, lessons learned and all of these stories and putting them together so that they can live forever side by side in a book of all my journeys.
Where would you like to be right now?
Right now Iím home in Hawaii for a few days and thereís no place Iíd rather be. As much as I travel and love every moment of it, thereís something so grounding about coming home. I think that Iím able to travel as much as I do without getting burned out because my home foundation is so strong and keeps me rooted wherever I go.
Where was the last trip you took and why did you decide to go there?
The last trip I took was to Indonesia with Gerry Lopez. Heís been such an inspiration to me and he was going back to Uluwatu to surf a wave that he and Wayne Lynch discovered themselves in the 70s. I had just finished my adventure in the Arctic Circle being the first person to freedive the flow-edge of the Arctic Bay, something about breaking that ground and making that dream come true for me made me also want to just pay respect and support for the pioneers and adventurers that came before me. Returning to Uluwatu with Gerry and Wayne meant a lot as I watched them paddle out into that wave they first discovered years ago and carve it with the same style and grace that they were made famous for.
What does responsible tourism mean to you?
Responsible tourism starts with the way that you treat people. Many times when people travel, they are on vacation and a lot of times going on vacation makes people feel somewhat entitled. I know that we often travel far and spend a lot of money to take a vacation, but the best way to enjoy that vacation is to let go of all expectations, be present, and to treat everyone around you kindly. To remember that the locals arenít there just to serve you and make your vacation special, but theyíre there living their real, everyday lives and that is the true treasure that you get to witness. I think itís important to be always open of new cultures and how to bend so you can be respectful of them. Donít just bring yourself set in your ways to a new land and stay like that; youíll miss the whole purpose of traveling. Go with an open heart and a willingness to grow. Take a new culture into your heart and feel how it changes you. Responsible tourism also means not leaving a place worse than it was when you got there, cleaning up after yourself and watching the products that you buy and the effect that they have on the place that you are in.
Read more about Kimi's adventures on her website follow her on Instagram and Facebook.
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