Paradise found

Life can be humdrum or thrilling, the world, all kinds of amazing. The Lufthansa campaign #LifeChangingPlaces spotlights three individuals and the places that became their own personal paradise – changing their lives.

Portrait of surfer Chris Burkard in the water

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U.S. photographer

Chris Burkard

“They are where I became the person I want to be“: See how the Lofoten Islands changed Chris Burkard's life.

I am no freak, despite what several photographers may claim. I know how it feels when your body no longer obeys you, I have been lost in Arctic storms. All because I found the Lofoten Islands. Or they found me. I was a photographer from California, I traveled around, sunned myself on gorgeous beaches and photographed surfers beneath palm trees. But my feeling was: This can’t be it. Worse, even, I was bored. And then a friend told me about these Norwegian islands on the Arctic Circle. With a handful of surfers, in deepest winter, I flew into Unstad. It was supposed to be an experiment, but it ended up being much more than that. Never before had I seen an ocean so wild, mountains of such size or so rugged. The snow lashed down on us, everywhere mist, minus 23 degrees Celsius. We went into the water anyway; the others with their surfboards, I with my camera. I was fully conscious of Nature’s brutality – and still could not grasp that I was there. I knew that I had found my purpose. The pictures I took back to California had another value for me, a physical value. I had suffered and frozen for them, I had wrested them from that wild place. Since then, I have photographed in many hostile environments. I’ve been in Iceland and Siberia, in Chile’s mountains and in Alaska, but it’s to the Lofoten Islands that I am happiest to return. They are where I became the person I want to be. A freak, maybe, to those who venture nothing. But I can live with that. I am alive.


 

Portrait of Thomasina Miers

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English cook, writer, restaurateur

Thomasina Miers

Fish Tacos and Guacamole arranged in bowls on a desk
© Marcus Nilsson/Gallery Stock

It never occurred to me that I could become a chef. My school was very academic and there were certain expectations – and cooking was not deemed a suitable career. I did an accountancy scholarship in preparation for Oxford, but I really hated it. So I took off for Mexico. I had never traveled on my own, never been outside of Europe. That was when I first discovered Mexican food. It was extraordinary – and I had no idea it existed! I fell in love immediately. Back in London, I tried a few different careers in marketing, modeling and digital strategy. Eventually, I attended cooking school – and by then, I knew I had to go back to Mexico. So I did. I traveled around the country, went to the major food regions, Oaxaca, Yucatan, Veracruz, and worked with all kinds of people to learn everything about their incredibly diverse cuisine. In Mexico, each of the 32 states has its own cuisine and different ingredients – it’s the fifth most biodiverse country in the world! There are 200 varieties of chilies, scores and scores of varieties of corn, some of which are red or black or blue or white. Even the most experienced chefs in Mexico discover new things all the time. And none of this food was available in London! So in 2007, I opened my first restaurant in Covent Garden. Today, we have 25 restaurants across the U.K. Looking back, I am amazed that we survived. We were such a young team, but we were very passionate. We still are.


 

Portrait of ranger Gesa Neitzel in South Africa

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German ranger in Africa

Gesa Neitzel

How much of who you are is where you have been? See Gesa became a ranger in South Africa.

I was walking alone in the mountains in South Africa when I suddenly found myself face to face with an antelope. It simply stood and stared at me. When a wild animal looks you in the eye, all the barriers fall away that you have built around yourself. That’s how it felt to me, at least. It was as if this creature could see right inside me, as though it could read my mind. I was working in television at the time and living in Berlin – but I was unhappy, I felt like I was in a bubble. When things got bad, I used to go shopping. Deep down inside I knew things had to change. The New Year’s trip I took to South Africa with friends in 2014 changed everything. Walking through the wilderness was an entirely knew experience for me. I wanted nothing more than to be among the wild animals. I cried my eyes out on the flight back to Germany because I didn’t want to return to my old life. But I had already heard that you can train to be a ranger in Africa, and on the plane home, I decided that’s what I would do. I’m actually a ranger today. But best of all, I’ve finally found myself.and am am quite sure my future lies in Africa.