The California Bay Area may not seem like the ideal resting place for a well-travelled and international creative director, but for British-born Alex Tieghi-Walker, Berkeley is as good as it gets. For the last three years, the Londoner has called the East Bay home – commuting regularly to San Francisco for work (his clients have included Airbnb and Pop-Up magazine’s brand studio) and Los Angeles for love, where his partner is based.
In Berkeley, Alex lives in an old barn on a small plot of land, where he grows his own vegetables and keeps bees on the roof. There are lemon trees surrounding his home, but he is also a hop skip away from a train station and modern amenities like a Walgreens. The immediate access to nature is what keeps him staying put. ‘On any hill you’re standing on, you’ll either see the ocean or the bay. You can see other mountains and forests, even if you’re not in them. But then if you do want to go into them, it’s a 40-minute drive. I have a rule that if I get home before 7pm, which happens a couple times a week, I’ll drive or cycle to a regional park or Mount Tam, which has the most incredible sunset views, and go for an hour’s walk.’
This more restful pace of life coincides with Alex’s evolving state of mind. ‘I’ve got to a stage where I don’t really want a career anymore,’ he reflects. ‘I just want to take on these quick projects that utilize skills that I have learnt through work, but I want to do other shit. I’m making honey, I work on a farm once a week. I sort of want to decentralize my career and just happen to do things that I enjoy; little things that make me happy that I can tack on to other jobs.’
The change in perspective happened while Alex had been working in London and completed an intense stint at Vice. ‘I came to the end of my contract and realized that I didn’t want to go into another office per se,’ he recalls. ‘I have some friends who own Scribe Winery [a biodynamic winery in Sonoma] and so I asked them if I could come live on their farm for a couple of months and help with farm work and running of the property. It was really recharging. I ended up working with them to create an artist residency programme and helping them to furnish and renovate a building on the property.’
It was during his time at the winery that Alex met the founders of Pop-Up magazine and started working there. ‘I did a period where I was doing both – working at the magazine three days a week, and at the winery for two. I really loved that balance of having three days where I was at a computer and being very creative and earning money, and then being at the farm for a couple of days where I was really enriching my experience of California and learning how to take life a bit more slowly.’
Alex is also the founder and publisher of The Anonymous Sex Journal, an ongoing project comprised of unnamed confessions and experiences that he edits according to different themes. He explains, ‘The aim of it is to explore sex and sexuality in an open and honest way where you can share awkward or funny experiences and no one is judging you. I bring in artists to bring them to life because humour is important when you’re talking about issues that could be serious.’ Having logged in seven issues, the next theme he will explore is sex over 60. ‘Nobody talks about that ever.’
What does wellness mean to you?I see wellness as you constantly trying to make moments in your life, and things that you do, beneficial to yourself. Rather than wasting energy, you should use opportunities that give you energy. To me, wellness is not about taking an Uber to dinner, it’s cycling to dinner. If you have to get from A to B, why not make it enjoyable being in the open air and getting exercise. Wellness is about incorporating moments that benefit you physically and mentally, and weaving them into your day and making sure you avoid stress in the physical, emotional and mental capacities.
What are some of your cherish rituals?Normally I wake up quite early, around 7am. I’ll have a coffee and breakfast and I’ll sit on the roof of my house. That moment of waking up and being outside straight away, I really enjoy. I also use the morning to do gardening and make sure the bees are okay. I like to keep my evenings free, either to relax or socialize but I don’t like to have to do chores in the evening. For me relaxing is doing DIY or building something in my house or repotting plants. I’m quite house-proud and I enjoy the state I live in. I try and go surfing several times a week, or swimming in the ocean. I can’t look at the ocean and not go in it.
How do end our day?I always shower before going to bed. I started taking baths recently, which I never had the patience to do. Now I enjoy sitting in a bath for 20 minutes. I eat quite late, which is probably not very good for me, but I like to enjoy the daylight as much as possible, so I wait until its dark before I eat, probably around 9.30pm or 10pm. I usually read before going to bed or I also watch TV shows that people are talking about so I don’t feel left out in conversation.
What is your preferred mode of exercise?I hate exercise unless I feel like it’s got another purpose. I could never just go for a run – I’ve definitely tried that doing exercise that way. I’ve joined a climbing gym. I’ve even tried cycling for exercise but for me, exercise has to be multi-purpose. What I like about surfing is that its less about exercise – I’m probably quite a lazy surfer- I just really like the feeling of being out in the ocean. You also can’t take your phone with you so you really have to be with your own thoughts.
Do you believe in supplements?I can’t get my head around making health this scientific experience where you’re popping a pill that contains 1000mg, rather than eating food high in vitamin C. There are foods that are just so good for you, probably better than supplements. If you eat anchovies, you’re getting as many minerals like magnesium, phosphorous and zinc, and all the Bs, as a supplement. I just prefer incorporating good foods into my diet. I put walnuts in everything. They promote bone health, they’re natural antibiotics, they boost your immune system.
If you’re feeling stressed or down, what’s your tried and true pick-me-up?Definitely going into the ocean for a surf or swim. The ocean literally solves it all.
What one thing can’t you live without?Food? It might be food. Access to nature as well. If I don’t have access to nature, I feel trapped and that there’s nowhere to escape.
How do you regulate your digital consumption?When I’m at home, I’m quite good because when I’m busy with my hands, I can’t look at my phone. I also stopped taking my phone into my bedroom – I leave my phone in the kitchen overnight and bought myself an old-school alarm clock and doing that has really changed how I wake up and go to sleep.
What are some of the biggest issues on your mind today?Aside from the political hellhole that we exist in? I actually stopped reading the news and that really helped. I’ll read the Guardian online for half an hour and then not read it for the rest of the day. As someone who surfs and who’s exercise space is nature, needless pollution is such a bugbear of mine. How messy humans are is something that makes me sad.
What aspect of wellness do you think people should talk more about?That grey scale and making sure that wellness is incorporated more into your daily life. What scares a lot of people and what scared me about exercise or keeping fit is that I didn’t know how to approach it and dedicate time to do it. Just adopting certain behaviors into your routine that relaxes you, and I think just making a small change is the key. Being a bit more deliberate in your decisions can make the picture of life feel more complete.
Photography: Chantal Anderson