Name: Fiona Shaista Gill
Where you are living now:
Bora Bora, French Polynesia in the South Pacific
Describe yourself in three sentences:
I feel like I was born to explore the world in a deep way through nature, exploration, adventures and challenges. Our planet is so beautiful and fragile and through my lifestyle I try to find the right balance in order to live a peaceful life, in harmony with nature.
We noticed that diving and yoga is a big part of your life, what is it that connects them to all?
Freediving and yoga are actually very similar. They both have a positive effect on me, and practicing them regularly help me connect my mind and body. I always feel calm and somehow a little high afterwards.
What does the ocean mean to you?
The ocean is the breath and heartbeat of the earth. It takes my energy away and gives me new energy back. Whether I am under the ocean, rowing on it, surfing, swimming or just dipping my toes in it I feel a sense of happiness somehow. I guess I don’t really know how to deal with emotions or issues without some ocean healing. It’s just part of my life.
Currently living in Bora Bora, I have a very peaceful lifestyle. I like waking up early and spending at least one hour in nature or working out in a way or another during the day. I row traditional boats in a team and alone, I run in the mountains, I practice yoga at home, and I freedive and snorkel. All this goes around my work hours and I try to integrate at least one of these activities on a daily basis. I eat healthy food, mostly vegetarian, but here I sometimes eat local fresh fish. I enjoy taking the boat to work while listening to music. And I have met some very nice people here, with whom I enjoy being active, lazing on the beach, or going out dancing!
What is it that you like about SurfAce/What made you like SurfAce?
SurfAce is definitely my n.1 bikini brand for multiple reasons. They always fit me PERFECTLY, and hold on tight while I move, when I’m diving, swimming, surfing, rowing, chasing waterfalls, jumping cliffs or doing yoga!
Do you have a favorite bikini from any of our collection?
Hard to choose, but I really loved my first bikini, the ‘Mojito’ from the first collection. I wore it almost everyday while I was working in the Maldives in 2015. The cut was super flattering and each of these bikinis had a unique pattern from the cut of the cloth, mine had peacock eyes!
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your background. What’s your story and what kind of experiences have made you who you are today?
I was born in a multi cultural family, from a Pakistani father and British mother who raised my brothers and I in France. I was always curious about different cultures and how people do things differently from one country to another. I think that’s what made me want to travel first. And once I started traveling, my mind started to grow and I became more and more adventurous. Everywhere I go I love to try to integrate locally by joining different activities. In Taiwan I rowed in our university’s dragon boat team, in the Maldives I started scuba diving and surfing, in Malaysia I trained to freedive and here in Bora Bora I row traditional boats called va’a.
What the reason for you to travel that much?
This world gets so small once you start exploring it and yet there are an infinite number of places to be discovered.
I like working abroad, because you are not a simple tourist observing what is around you, you get a deeper understanding of the country, its culture and way of living.
Learning a new language also invites you to learn a whole new way of thinking, which deepens understanding and relations with locals. I also love to go on trips too to have an intense ‘travel injection’. I guess it’s a drug. Can’t stop, won’t stop!
What is your most important beauty secret?
Coconut oil! Especially for my hair. And here in French Polynesia I can find some gorgeous scented coconut oil prepared with local flowers, called monoi. It keeps my hair healthy and makes it smell amazing. I also use virgin coconut oil on my skin to keep it nourished, and from time to time I like to do coconut oil pulling to keep my teeth and gums healthy.
What was the reason for you to come to Taiwan? How long did you live here?
What do you like best about Taiwan and what do you think needs to be improved?
The first time I went to Taiwan was in 2011 for a six-month intensive mandarin course. I fell in love with the country, and felt really happy studying at NSYSU in Kaohsiung so I applied for a scholarship and went back for my masters degree in international relations.
I lived in Kaohsiung for three years in total, so it definitely became one of my many homes. I had such a free lifestyle there, I made some friends for life, and it's a place I can always go back to.
I love the nature outside of the big cities which is just incredible because of how diverse it is: you can find waterfalls, natural hot springs, gorgeous mountains and empty beaches! I was impressed at how well Taiwan managed to preserve the real and authentic Chinese culture, there are so many temples all around the island, and people are always open to share their culture with outsiders. I also love the food: you can find some delicious things to eat and drink anywhere and anytime! I also really like the night markets and the nightlife in Taiwan because I always feel safe, even when I went back home alone at night. And what definitely makes Taiwan special is its people, I have traveled to a lot of countries, but I can assure you that Taiwanese people are the kindest and the most welcoming and helpful people I have met.
The things that bothered me the most is the pollution and the traffic, I know there are some important structures in place for recycling now, which are even better than some countries in Europe, so even though it's a long road, I think, and I hope it will only get better.
If you ever come back to Taiwan, what would you do first?
I would go find Eileen, and grab a Taiwan Beer and go watch the sunset in my favourite spot in Kaohsiung!
How did you get to know our Founder Eileen?
Eileen and I met in NSYSU, in our university in Kaohsiung. I guess her and I are very similar in our ways of thinking and living. She has been like a sister to me through the years, like a mirror, and we both encourage and motivate each other, from near or far.
What is the worst thing you have encountered during traveling?
The worst experience so far was going to a far away country for a man and getting my heart bruised. I felt totally lost and alone in an unfamiliar environment, but the trip ended up by being a real adventure thanks to the amazing people I met after that disaster!
What is the most fascinating sea animal or creature for you?
I love the way I feel when I am close to sharks. They are fascinating, they barely acknowledge me, and just do their own thing. They stay focused and look so cool. Too cool for me you know ：)
What is it that you like most about traveling?
Getting lost, finding myself.Learning, and feeling alive.
Where have you not been yet, but really want to go one day?
exciting plans or goals do you have for this year that you want to reach or get done for sure?
I have some personal goals that I want to reach in freediving and yoga this year and in general I am constantly working on improving my skills and performances. My next rowing competition is in October, it's an inter-hotels competition and we will be rowing around the entire island of Bora Bora, so I am currently training for that.
As for plans, I am overexcited about my mum coming to visit me in Bora Bora and for my annual reunion with my sister Eileen in Hawaii at the end of the year!
What is the last thing that you would like to share and tell our SurfAce babes ?
SurfAce Babes, you can’t even imagine how happy I was to see all you pretty ladies in these gorgeous bikins on the beach in Taiwan. What a difference between the time I left Taiwan when girls would barely wear a two piece swimmer on the beach! Now you have changed the landscape and made it look hotter than ever! You go girls, stay active, respect the ocean, give love and most of all, love yourself.