TreadRight Foundation ambassador Céline Cousteau has travelled the world, helping to communicate the stories that connect humans and the environment. A passionate spokesperson for sustainability, Céline is known for her work as a documentary film director, producer, explorer and artist. In celebration of International Women’s Month, we met with her to talk career advice, sustainability and how to find your voice in a world of budding activists…
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You have an amazing multi-hyphenate career. What's your advice for women trying to find their own path?
It’s not a straight path! I’m not practicing what I studied, which I hope encourages young women who are still figuring out what you want to do with your lives. I majored in psychology and minored in art. I wanted to know how we think: why we do what we do.
My graduate studies were in international and intercultural management, which helped me interpret environmental and humanitarian causes. It’s helped me with the ability to translate what I’m seeing to different audiences, either through documentary film, through conferences, or through my work as the TreadRight Foundation Ambassador.
I encourage young people to study whatever they’re curious about – whether they go and get a degree or do specific training.
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What’s the key to career progression?
I think the key moments in my career have been about listening to my intuition and curiosity. The moments where I’ve realized: “I need to shift my path because I’m trying to satisfy the needs of others. But really what I believe in and am passionate about is this.”
Listening to other people has also helped me through other key moments. There are times where a sentence that somebody has shared becomes essential to the way I think. It triggers something in me that resonates, and I think, “yes, that’s what I’ve been feeling!” So, don’t ignore those moments – because if you were to write them all down and accumulate them, you’d see a pattern. And that pattern is you.
What advice would you give to young women who want to turn their passion into a career?
Sometimes what you’re passionate about is not necessarily the job you can find. Perhaps you’re an architect, a graphic designer or an accountant, but you’re passionate about animal welfare. Take those skills and apply them to what you’re passionate about.
I spend a lot of my time on my project in the Amazon – Tribes on the Edge, the film and impact campaign. I may not make my living doing this, but it’s what I’m passionate about.
I’ve also realised that I’m good at communication – at being a catalyst, at networking and at bringing people together to create a project. I’m good at storytelling and relaying a message. So, I make it my mission to find creative ways to make the formula work for me. And that’s where I need to think about passion vs. career. Can they be the same thing? Of course, they can – but try to think more creatively about what that means.
What's your key advice for young activists?
If you see one person stand out as an activist or as a spokesperson, they’re a representation. You have to think of it like the tip of an iceberg. What is popular or trending is only one little piece of a much bigger puzzle.
So do your part, but don’t try to be something you’re not. Don’t worry about how many social media followers you have and focus on what you’re good at. There are also different levels of success. True success is getting things done on the ground and making a change, that many may never hear about. True, grass-roots activists are moving mountains to get things done. That has tremendous value.
Some people might not move a single brick their entire life, but they’re really good at talking about the need to build a school, to feed a population or to protect an environmental ecosystem. So, get grounded first, and then if you’re a true activist, you’ll know where you are most useful.
What is your advice for travelling more consciously?
I believe there is no way to travel but consciously, so we can start with that.
Next is super basic: the companies that you travel with, ask yourself whether they give back to local causes. Does a percentage of their profits go into something meaningful? Are you getting your documents electronically or on paper?
Then, what can you do? Can you give back? Can you be of service where you’re going; can you do some volunteer work? If you are travelling to deepen your consciousness, are you taking a workshop? Are you being educated? Are you doing something additional, as opposed to just travelling for the fun of travelling? This is important because you’re shifting your consciousness to deepen your understanding and do something meaningful that has value.
If you’re travelling for the pleasure of it and you’re going to a beautiful place, learn about the ecosystem, the culture and the animals. Bring those stories back and educate people around you as to why it’s important we protect these things!
What would you say to solo female travellers (who are worried about travelling alone)?
Be respectful, be mindful, and be smart. Connecting with other women can be really powerful. Wherever you are, I’m sure there are other solo travellers. Solo female travellers have this independent warrior style which I love and it’s great to create a community around that. I’m sure there’ve been a lot of women before you who have gone out there on their own. They probably have some really wise advice, so do some reading! Find your elders and hear what they have to say.