With over twelve years of experience in the fashion and hospitality industries, Amy Risley is adept at managing schedules and adhering to deadlines in her professional life. However, when not working, she is a proponent of the adventure and creativity that comes from time unstructured.
After years of traveling for her career and fitting in exploration of the destinations only when time allowed, Risley took a three-month trip to Indonesia to become a certified yoga instructor. She was reminded of the simple activities that work had edged out of her routine, and learned that including the small pleasures discovered while taking time off into her everyday would help her feel as if daily life was not something that needed to be escaped. Today, she lives in Venice, California and strives for a balance between the structure of her work and the fluidity of time for herself.
Here, Risley explains the inspiration behind her life-changing trip, details the ways her life has changed since becoming bicoastal and why the best experiences happen when we allow time and space for the unexpected.
Live The Process: You have said, "The best thing about getting lost is what you find along the way": have you always loved to travel and explore places unknown to you?
Amy Risley: I was actually brought up as a bit of a homebody. I didn't get the opportunity to travel a lot as a kid apart from the obligatory trip to Disneyworld, but I always had a desire to explore. In eighth grade I begged my parents to be part of our school's British exchange program and my mother offered to make fish & chips for dinner instead, so it wasn't until I started working as a fashion producer that I was handed the golden ticket to endless travel opportunities. If I could, I'd tack an extra day or two onto a trip--you'd never know if it'd be possible until the last minute, but if I was lucky, I'd suddenly have a free day in Paris to hop in a cab and explore museums and markets, or take surf lessons in Hawaii. I felt so fortunate to be in these places I may never have splurged to visit. There'd be no time to plan an itinerary in advance, so I'd just wander or ask people for recommendations. I've always believed the best discoveries happen spontaneously.
LTP: How do you stay committed to your wellness regiment while living a bicoastal lifestyle and working in a very deadline-oriented industry?
AR: I allow myself the space to make fitness and health a priority, and I've purposely reshaped my life to make it more accessible within my routine. Life in New York was too exhausting; by the time I'd lugged my laptop for 15 blocks, up two sets of subway stairs and four flights to my apartment, the last thing I'd want to do is put on gym clothes and head back out again. At the end of the day, I'd collapse and pop open a bottle of wine.
Now, I work from home. I'll get up and put on my yoga clothes straight away, work for a few hours and then take a midday break to go to a class. The trick is that I'm still as productive and plugged in as I was in New York, but scheduling my own time makes it easier for me to manage the balance. With the freedom to work my own hours, I actually get a lot more done during the day than I would if I was tied to a desk.
LTP: Do you find it easier to stay committed to your wellness regiment after relocating to LA from the East Coast?
AR: Everyone knows LA is obsessed with fitness and wellness, and the resources are plentiful, but I think a bigger factor in the equation is how people manage their routines. When I first moved to LA a new friend offered a spot-on observation:
people in New York live around working while people in LA work around living, and it's so true. There’s added motivation because people treat fitness as a social activity here. Weekend plans often revolve around group hikes and long bike rides. I honestly can’t remember the last time I went shopping on a Saturday.
I still reach for my iPhone to read emails less than a minute after my eyes open in the morning, but I also take more time to cook meals at home, water the garden, bike to the farmers market…it’s so beneficial to fit those pauses in and treat them like meditative, clearing moments throughout the day. I have a hard time committing to seated meditation on a regular basis, so I try to find it in those quiet, everyday methodic tasks.
LTP: What advice would you offer people who aspire to allow themselves to wander, but tend to feel anxious operating without a schedule or specific goal?
AR: It's important to allow yourself to embrace whims and accept that there is, quite literally, no such thing as control. The person who stresses about every last detail, who plans down to the minute, is likely the person who's going to buckle
and take on undue physical stress when something goes awry. If you can accept that obstacles are going to get in the way and agree to go with the flow, you're destined to have a much better time. The best travel stories are the ones that have an entirely different outcome than what was intended.
LTP: Was there an event or person who inspired your three-month trip to Indonesia, and what do you feel you learned during your time there?
AR: The idea had been brewing in me for some time, but I remember discovering Stefan Sagmeister's TED Talk, "The Power of Time Off" (you thought I was going to say Eat, Pray, Love, didn't you?). He speaks about how every seven years, he completely closes his design studio and takes the entire staff on sabbatical. The message is that it's not about escaping the grid to sip coconuts in a hammock on a remote island, but giving your body and mind the time to slow down and let fresh creativity and new ideas that are often suppressed by our repetitive routines come to the surface.
During my time in Indonesia, I rediscovered how great it felt to learn and write journals again, things that I rarely made time for anymore. I became a certified yoga instructor, took a mentally and physically intense ten-day Vippasana meditation course and was exposed to one of the most beautiful, inspiring cultures in the world. That said, what I really learned was that it's not about the escape itself in the end, but the elements of the escape that you can bring back to the real world. They will help make it a more bearable, blissful place, whether it's carving out time to meditate for a few minutes each day, to read something new, or even just take a long walk without your cell phone.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
AR: These days, happiness is personified by the loving face of my sweetheart staring back at me every morning when I wake up, materialized in the dreamy home we've created here in Venice, and felt every time I put my palms together at my heart at the end of an exhilarating yoga practice or spin class.
LTP: What does it mean to you to "Live The Process," and how do you do that every day?
AR: Living The Process is actively embracing life as a cycle that continually shifts between chaos and calm. It’s our role to accept the dance and be present. To try to attain equilibrium, but allow for missteps along the way. Striving for that awareness means listening to your body, knowing when to push forward and when to pull back, extending yourself toward the needs of others and most importantly, making a conscious effort to go to sleep with a smile and look forward to starting it all again tomorrow.