Pukaar Magazine’s Jessica Challoner-Sterland speaks to author, wellness coach and speaker Jess Stuart about her first book, inspired by a journey of self-discovery in order to find true happiness.
Imagine walking away from your dream job, turning your back on a long-term partner and living on the other side of the world with no friends or family to turn to. You’ve reached a feeling of unfulfilment in your life and the big three zero is fast approaching. That was the reality for 33-year-old Jess Stuart who takes her readers on an incredibly inspirational journey in her first self-help book A Rough Guide to a Smooth Life.
Born and raised in the rural town of Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, Jess was living the idyllic country lifestyle where she attended Belvoir High School in Bottesford before gaining HR qualifications at Loughborough College. She immigrated to New Zealand 6 years ago and now divides her time between there and the UK. Jess shares what prompted the huge move to the other side of the world and the pivotal point in which she made her life-changing decision: “Originally it was for a job and at the time I was with my partner who was a Kiwi and it all panned out for us to come over to New Zealand and I loved it when I got there. Everything happened as I turned 30. I was disillusioned by my career, the relationship wasn’t good and everything came to a head and that’s what prompted me to change everything and go off on this different tangent and learn a whole new set of rules about how we can be happy and how life works.”
A Rough Guide to a Smooth life is based around Jess’s remarkable mental and physical journey of finding happiness whilst appreciating life a little more simply: “I travelled across the world to try and understand more about happiness. I learned from experts and other cultures but there was also that simultaneous internal journey from me hitting 30 and feeling unfulfilled. I was trying to piece my life back together and overcome the tough times in a successful way in order to make a happier life for myself.”
Jess initially didn’t set out to write a book on her journey as it was more about travelling the world and engaging in the things she loved, believing eventually that it would lead her to a purpose or new career. As a child Jess loved to write poems and explains what inspired her to share her journey with others by writing A Rough Guide to a Smooth Life. “The first thing that I did on my journey was teach English to Buddhist monks in Thailand and after that I trained to be a yoga teacher. At the time I didn’t know if I wanted to teach English or yoga overseas but I was doing things that I loved to do and I’m glad I did them. Writing the book came mid-way through this journey when I uncovered all this stuff and I thought; this is a message I want to share with other people. “
The decision to change her life wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies. Jess had to deal with the fear of giving up a life conforming to society’s norms, a life in which she’d only ever known. Jess speaks about the more difficult times. “It was like having the rug pulled from under your feet and everything went up in the air but I’ve learned that sometimes everything has to fall apart so that you can put the pieces back together in the right order and that’s what I started to do. It was really difficult being on my own and being single for the first time in ten years, particularly in a country where I didn’t have any friends or family. Leaving the corporate world was difficult; as I feared the unknown and not having a regular income by leaving it all to go and do something that I didn’t really know that much about. This whole feeling of what if I’m crazy, what if it fails, what if I’ve made the wrong choice.”
Moving up the corporate ladder in one of the biggest companies in New Zealand and living in a house by the beach left Jess feeling disillusioned with life she was no longer interested by materialistic items: “I went from having everything to nothing except the possessions on my back. My life was very much about the material things and things we could collect leading to happiness short lived. I started to gain happiness from the simplicity of life. I’m grateful for the little things including the ones that don’t cost money but are important such as health and family. When I first got back to the UK last May, I had no job and nowhere to live and things became quite difficult but even through those tough times I have never regretted it or thought for one minute that I’ve done the wrong thing. I’ve got this feeling of contentment and inner peace inside.”
Suppressing the fear and taking that inevitable leap of faith enabled Jess the opportunity to travel to incredible parts of the world and reflecting on what happiness means to other cultures. “One of the most interesting places that I went to was Bhutan, a little kingdom between India and China, it’s a place I’d always wanted to see as its famous for having gross national happiness in place of gross domestic product. They measure the progress of their country based on the wellbeing of their environment, people and happiness.”
Filled with positivity and feelings of self-content Jess shares what happiness feels like now and is optimistic about the future: “The little things each day mean so much and I’m able to notice that now. It’s possible that once we do the little tweaks around the edges and live a life according to our passions, our values and authenticity we’re already halfway there and noticing the joy around us is probably the biggest turning point for me. I’d like to write a fictional book next and incorporate the principles I’ve learned into something that could access more people.”
Win a signed copt of A Rough Guide to a Smooth Life by answering the following question:
Where was one of the most interesting places Jess visited?
b) New Zealand