The year was 1996 and I was transfixed to the TV, spurring on the kiwi hopeful Danyon Loader, in the 200m Freestyle at the Atlanta Olympics. In the space of 1 minute and 47 seconds, Danyon won the gold medal (and three days later clinched the 400m Freestyle title as well), inspiring me, along with countless other young kiwi sports enthusiasts to strive for our dreams and pursue athletic excellence.

Olympic gold: the ultimate (Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash)

For me, this sparked a fire that ultimately led to me representing New Zealand at several international swimming competitions. Having seen someone from my little country, win an Olympic gold…

Loneliness. Photo by Kristina Tripkovic on Unsplash.

When was the last time you felt lonely? Many of us may be hesitant to admit it, but loneliness is as common as swimming at the beach during an Australian summer. It is rarely talked about however, perhaps because of the stigma that follows it like a dark shadow on a dimly lit street.

I’m a fairly well socially connected person and have close family living near by, so may not appear like a typical person that experiences loneliness. However, because of my adventurous and previously nomadic lifestyle having taken me to live in many different countries, many of my…

You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think (Winnie the Pooh)

The night’s blackness engulfed me as I pedalled up endless winding hills and down rocky mud encased slopes. The silence was punctuated only by gravel crunching under my tyres as I drew in icy breaths of air. My helmet light illuminated the trail in front of me as I oscillated between climbing and ascending. Suddenly, my adrenalin fueled solitude was abruptly interrupted: my light went out without a flicker of warning. This is not ideal, I thought.

It was about 1am in mid-January…

Do we want to live in an economy or a society? (Damon Gameau, April 2020)

Damon Gameau, director of the film 2040, posed this question back in April, amid the height of Covid-19 panic in Australia, enticing us to ponder our post-pandemic reality. It’s an important question, which is potentially divisive. I’ve been musing on this conundrum ever since, alongside easing social distancing restrictions and the emphasis on Australia’s economic recovery. Now and in the near future, to a certain extent, we have an opportunity to choose how we recover from this global crisis. …

A week ago I was feeling fairly blasé about coronavirus. We were laughing at the stupidity of people panic buying toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Since then, I’ve been realizing the scale and seriousness of this pandemic. I’ve been devouring information from the World Health Organisation, discovering why we should approach the pandemic with a systems-thinking lens and curiously analyzing interactive maps showing confirmed cases throughout the world. …

It’s time for action

Everything has to change, And it has to start today (Greta Thunberg)

Last Friday saw unprecedented world wide action with people of all ages taking to the streets in countries across the world demanding action to address climate change. Greta Thunberg, the Swedish youngster who traveled on a low-carbon sailboat from Europe to attend tomorrow’s UN Climate Action Summit in New York, has been one of the main driving forces behind the global rise in youth climate activism. Having attended many a climate march before, as I scanned the sea of placards held by passionate faces in central Brisbane on…

Three cultures. Three languages. Working towards one mutual goal.

How embracing different cultures can foster intercultural learning and respect

It was 2.30pm last Friday 15th, I was famished, but reveling after watching
scores of passionate Brisbane school students carrying bold signs:
“This Generation Will Not Wait” and bellowing spirited chants:
“What do we want? Climate justice!”, in the global school strike for
climate. My mood quickly changed: I turned to my phone and I received a message from a friend in my native Aotearoa New Zealand: “Shootings at Christchurch mosques. We are home safe. Am in shock :(“. As a kiwi expat, it’s not a message you expect to receive from my usually peaceful homeland. Along with many others, I spent the…

Insights from a closet climate change activist

Attending the ‘Red Lines’ march for climate change action in Paris, 2015

I wouldn’t say I’m an avid climate striker. Yes, I’ve attended climate change events and marches in the past: in Wellington, Edinburgh and even travelling (by train from Edinburgh) to protest in Paris in 2015 when the notable Paris Agreement was reached. But my enthusiasm for attending climate change events waxes and wanes. Sometimes I wonder whether activism is really worth it? Or maybe it’s just not my calling? …

Reflections on working with Myanmar migrant children in Thailand

There’s a boy asleep in my English class. Ok, so learning verb tenses is not the most riveting, but I’m definitely trying to make it as lively as I can. I’m teaching teenagers aged between 15 and 17 years, who are all Myanmar migrants living in Thailand. Most seem fairly engaged, except for this young lad, who’s maybe just not interested, I surmise. A few weeks later, I am reading letters these students have written me telling about themselves, their families, their hopes and dreams. The sleepy lad’s letter is coherent and descriptive, revealing how most evenings (after he has…

Ranong, Thailand: A southern border crossing town with Myanmar, with the highest density of Burmese migrants in Thailand. With high rates of child labour and children out-of-school, this was my home for a year.

A while back a friend sent me an article written in The Spinoff entitled “We need to talk about voluntourism”. ‘Voluntourism’ or volunteer tourism, based upon the concept of ‘doing good’ while travelling, has been gaining popularity in recent years. NGOs connect people with projects (usually) in so-called developing countries, which may include assisting with construction, conservation and environmental projects, teaching English and the oft sought after orphanage tourism. While it is often possible to help for long periods of time — months or years, tourists often dedicate part of their holiday to a project, say a few weeks.


Aleisha Keating

Sustainability advocate, nature lover and adventurer.

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