A Chat With…Bethany Toews

“dreams are not destinations but rather fields in which to take off all your clothes and run around naked in the sun.”-bethany toews

Sometimes you are walking along, going about your business, when you stumble across something unusual in your path. At first, there’s curiosity: what is this thing that’s tripped me up? When you take a closer look, you discover a tether —a direct connection to the deepest parts of yourself. It can be a person, an idea, an image, or a beautiful combination of all of the above.  But when you find it, all your cells conspire, humming together in recognition. An identification of something within you that has always been on the tip of your tongue, waiting to be heard, it just didn’t know the words to shout. If only we could get closer to this feeling, go to the source and fill up with the kindred elixir. That’s what the cells are saying.

And that’s exactly how you wind up endlessly scrolling through a stranger’s Instagram feed one night, and, when that’s been exhausted, reading every blog post on their website, feeling like the biggest fan-girl of all-time and not giving one damn. It’s in these rare moments when falling into the depths of digital procrastination don’t feel like such a waste of time. Because, when these pleasant stumbles occur, you understand that at least this time, all that mindless panning has returned you a nugget of gold.  A new connection, a new well of information and inspiration. A new tool to decipher your own thoughts and emotions.

The gold in this case is Ms. Bethany Toews. Girl-crushable, effortlessly cool and the warmest incarnation of humility and vulnerability you’ll find online, she’s the kind of girl you want to befriend, kindergarten-style, and share those details of your life that tend to be less forthcoming with others. It’s this sense of kinship with strangers halfway across the world that brings me so much unexpected joy in this digital age. No matter how many complain of the woes of modern connection, these new avenues offer us unprecedented opportunities to find those gems that make daily life just a touch more sparkly.

BethanyToews_Morroco

So now you know how I found out about Bethany Toews and why I am chomping at the bit to tell you about her. Because when I stumble across a writer/artist/entrepreneur/you name it/ who sets my cells alight, my first instinct is to get to know more about them. Questions start bubbling over in my head and before I know it, I find myself writing heartfelt emails like a hopeful survivor sending a bottle out to sea.

A plane descending to shore, Bethany not only responded to my email but agreed to an interview. Put simply, Bethany is an artist, one who defies categorization. She cuts hair, she takes photos, she writes, she sings, she models..the list goes on. But what struck me most about her work was how much feeling and emotion she packs into her words and images. Her words stirred me, her pictures transfixed me, and —judging from her Instagram commenters— many others as well.

But Bethany’s own explanations do her more justice than my words ever could. Take a moment and immerse yourself into Bethany’s world. She talks about her latest adventure in the magical Austrian Alps of Bad Gastein (pictured below), discusses her thoughts on home and travel and reveals her philosophy of making art out of life.

Read on for these treats and more..

BethanyToews_HeartKiss

Can you talk about where you grew up and what your favorite form of play was as a child?

I grew up in rural Kansas, in the southwestern corner, bordering Colorado and Oklahoma. It was a tiny town of around 1000 people surrounded by wheat and corn. It was a fine place to be a child not knowing any other way. we lived on the land– dirt and trees and fields were our toys. I’d dance in the living room, or ride my bike in circles on the empty streets. my older brother and I would always find ways to entertain ourselves, without television, without arcades, “without” was the open space in which we were rarely ever bored. but of course, eventually, I longed for more.

How would you describe what you do?

I make art of life. I believe every act, every creation is an opportunity for thoughtful, artful expression. I do many things– I write, I sing, I dance, I cut hair, I paint faces, I help people connect to hidden treasures and powerful secrets, I read, I wander, I believe in magic, I hold space for reverence and beauty. 

Your writing is like a big, emphatic yes to life! You write a lot about feelings and your style feels very natural, like being swept up into the state of your mind and heart at any given moment. What does writing mean to you and what do you hope people get out of it? 

thank you. for me, writing is as much for my own comfort as it is for the hope of comforting others. I write to feel less alone, less afraid. I am often moved by my words, and the truth they reveal to me. I of course hope they can do the same for others. to be honest, I don’t know how much I write my words, I feel I sit down and allow them to come through me, gifted from something of and beyond and inside and all around me. I am just the filter. I value my experiences and point of view which shape and arrange these words, but I really do feel more like a receptor and a channeler than a “writer”. 
BethanyToews_Dancer_LaniTrock

Do you ever feel pressure to find readers and followers for your work? I think it is only natural to want an audience, do you feel that drive and have you actively worked to find your audience? If so, what did you do?

of course I want my words to reach others, and I am inspired and motivated by the idea of my work reaching an audience. that said, I don’t feel that I am doing much to “find” my audience. rather I believe that the more I create and share openly, the more my audience will find me. thanks to social media, especially Instagram, I have a place that I am able to share myself, my world, my view, and I feel really lucky and excited that people are finding what I do inspiring. I believe that if you follow what is true for you, and you share that journey honestly, you will have an opportunity to connect with other genuine humans. I think social media can be as deep or as vapid as you choose, and I personally have made very meaningful connections with others through Instagram. some of my closest friends are people I met through Instagram. 
I really do feel more like a receptor and a channeler than a “writer”. 

How do you approach social media and the concept of personal branding? 

as I said in the previous answer, I think social media is what you make of it. I approach social media much the same as I approach life, I seek genuine exchanges/feeds, and am interested  in using my own feed as a platform for sharing the truth of who I am. so I guess my personal branding is one that strives for honesty and vulnerability. I am sharing my journey, and trying my best to be open about that process.

What are you starting right now? (be it a new business, new lifestyle, new hairdo..) 

everything. I am starting over. I am on the other side of a very difficult breakup. I have recently moved to the austrian alps, where I am beginning to (trying to) learn a new language, where I am writing what I hope will become a book, where I am daily learning something new about myself in the open space of a foreign land. I feel like a newborn baby and a fully grown woman all at once. it’s wunderbar.
BethanyToews_BadGastein_AustrianAlps

Have you ever been to a place and thought; “Ah this is where I feel at home.” If so, where and could you tell us about it?

the world is my home, and I am the places I have been. I have moved and traveled much of my life, and have felt in some ways that I am always searching for a home I have not-yet-found, while also feeling that I could make a home all over the world. some of the places that stand out as being deeply moving and very grounding for me are: portugal, kauai, los angeles, and where I am right now. I have always loved europe, and loved being in europe. I think there is an appreciation for the art of living here that I really connect with. I feel at peace with what I’ve accomplished in my life when I’m in europe in a way I don’t feel in the states. when I’m in the states I still struggle with the feeling that I have something I need to prove. I feel my passions and pursuits are valued here, and I can relax into that feeling, and from that place I am even more motivated and inspired.

Where do you hope to go next? 

so many places. a running list at the moment: berlin, copenhagen, portugal, provence, morocco, norway, istanbul, sicily, iceland, and croatia. I’d also like to make my way to australia at some point, but feel that europe is what I’m most interested in exploring for now. of course, that said, I am open to where the world invites me to go…
BethanyToews_Butterfly

When do you feel most alive?

when I am traveling. when I am on a plane, or a train, I feel I could almost burst from the fullness. when I am traveling, every moment, every conversation, every new place feels richer, sparkles more, moves me more deeply. of course I would love to find that fullness in all aspects of life, but for now, the quickest way to that fullness is in the motion and discovery that travel provides. 

Do you ever feel satisfied with where you are? What does it take to find that appreciation for you? 

yes, though I certainly struggle with it like most modern humans. but a good conversation, a good view, a good book, a good film, a good meal, I am right here and don’t wish to be anywhere else. I love taking in the beauty of the world, and sometimes just sitting and looking is more than enough. I also feel very satisfied when I am creating, whatever that happens to mean in the moment, the act of creation allows me to feel at peace with where I am.

What are your favorite worldly pleasures that get you through the days? 

delicious and nourishing food, beautiful wine, a soft cashmere sweater that hugs my body just right. sensual things, taste, touch, sight, sound. I love a breathtaking view and gorgeous music and a room filled with fascinating, open people. I live to luxuriate in the senses.

BethanyToews_BlackandWhite Portrait

What’s the last piece of media that inspired you?

I am currently rereading Reflections on the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion. it’s so beautiful and so comforting to me. it’s my bible.

 

Finish this sentence: the world needs more ______. 

love. always. 

***

 

Do yourself a favor and go read Bethany’s wonderful blog. Also give her a follow on Instagram (@bethanytoews), her photos are truly mesmerizing.

*All photos in this post are from Bethany’s Instagram.

For more sparkly gems of people, read my other profiles and interviews here.
(Visited 813 times, 1 visits today)

2 Comments

  1. Judith February 12, 2016 at 12:07 am

    Such a nice read! I (too) have been following Bethany on Instagram and find her truly inspiring and refreshing. It totally makes sense she feels good here in Europe too. Thank you for the nice chat, Elisabeth!

    Reply
    1. esensky7@gmail.com February 12, 2016 at 8:57 am

      Thanks so much for being here and reading along, Judith! I’m so glad that we are all able to connect over an inspiring voice doing things beautifully and differently :)

      Wishing all the best,

      Elizabeth

      Reply

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *