Jess is one of life’s intrepid free spirits, where travel really does feed her soul. Unsurprisingly, she takes the same adventurous attitude to her work life; starting an ambitious gin company, A mari https://www.amarigin.com/ distilling Atlantic and Indian ocean water into her spirits (our favourite is their Atlantic Gin with delicious pomegranate seeds and a slice of pink grapefruit). We met up with Jess and her beloved horse, Splash, to capture them at her favourite Noordhoek beach, where she regularly escapes the hustle of Cape Town for a ride by the sea.
Please can you tell us a little bit about yourself - where are you from originally, where do you live now and what do you do?
I consider myself Kenyan, as I grew up there, although I hold a Swedish passport.At the moment I am living in Cape Town and I’m a distiller, I co-own a premium gin brand called A Mari Ocean Gin.
What’s your most memorable adventure?
Gosh hard choice! I’d say there are two tied for this position, one would be walking across the Gheralta mountain range in Tigray, Ethiopia in 2017. We were completely off any roads or well trodden paths and walked up to these incredible ancient monastaries, camped in old rebel outposts and generally really immersed ourselves completely in the wild beauty of the country. The people were incredible, and it was such a privilege to see these places that few people will reach. The second is a trip I did through Rajasthan using only trains for transport, I think that was 2008 or so. I love India, and intend to live there one day! Rajasthan has this imperial grace to it, these incredible, beautiful cities- and the colours are incredible. Its like being inside a kaleidoscope. I love having an adventure. As Lewis Carroll has it ‘actually the best gift you could give her was a lifetime of adventures’.
How does travel feed your soul?
I think travel is my soul haha.. there is something about being in a new place with unknown people, new experiences, that just sets my being alight. I hate mediocrity, routine and sameness, I actually start to wilt a bit if I don’t have an adventure planned.
They say 'home is where the heart is' what does 'home' mean to you?
I think home is a feeling. I have called a few places home, but nothing draws me back quite as much as Kenya does. I land there, in that red dust, and I just fill up with belonging and happiness. I’d say my heart is very much still there.
What makes Africa special compared to others places you’ve been to?
The vastness. I think Africa does things on a scale that is incomparable to many other places. It’s the sky, the open landscapes, the smell of the earth, the primal wildness that just makes your spirit sing. I think there are places here you can go and feel like the first human to set foot there, thats pretty special- and I also think why people come back from safaris changed somehow, connected to some part of themselves they didn’t know existed.
What are your favourite SOUL Design pieces to travel with?
I love my Tuareg bangles, and I layer them with Pemba bracelets. I also have a hand of Fatima, a Hamsa, that Abi gave me when I was going through a really tough time. I wear that a lot- and I love my sun moon stars earrings. What’s so great about the collection is that every piece you buy speaks to the other pieces you own, so you can mix and match at will to change your look, the ideal fashion travel partner really!
Tell us about your travel memory piece you have brought with you.
I brought an antique headband from my trip to Rajasthan with me- the north of India has an incredible horse culture and the horses there are beautifully embellished- there is a real sense of pride taken in decorating them. I like that, a celebration of beauty even if you are simply getting on your horse to go to the village. You see it everywhere in India, elephants with painted faces, cows with flower garlands, its just one big tribute to making the everyday brighter, better, more beautiful. I think its a magical place.