Annika Kielland’s job history runs the gamut, from waitress and bartender to Home Shopping Network saleswoman to transformational teacher, healer and guide. But no role has been more intriguing than the three or four times a year she leads groups on spiritual adventures to places like India, Bali and, every October, to the Mount Everest base camp in Nepal.
“It’s where everyone gets tested,” said Kielland, 52, who is about to mark 10 years as a resident of Hypoluxo Island. “It’s 18,000 feet, and you get headaches just getting there.”
The adventure consists of flying to Katmandu, connecting to the Everest region, then hiking nine days with stops to adjust to the rise in elevation. Sometimes adventurers remain to take on the ascent to the 29,031-foot summit, the highest point on Earth. Others take a helicopter or walk back. It takes about three days to hike down.
“It’s mind-blowing,” Kielland said. “It takes a huge toll on the body. It really depletes you of energy. Some people choose to fly back in a helicopter, but the mountain isn’t done with you. You see the Himalayas from a different perspective, and you see life from a different perspective on the way down.
“So, if you just want to have a mad adventure, I’m your woman.”
— Brian Biggane
Q: Where did you grow up and go to school? How do you think that has influenced you?
A: I was born in Sweden to a Norwegian family and on my first birthday we crossed the North Sea to Oslo. My dad was a merchant engineer. I went to school in England, traveled for two years and then went to University of Manchester. It’s a gritty, hardworking town, but there was a lot of art there.
I’m an absolute Viking; I’ve traveled to over 48 countries. I have no fear and I love exploring. I grew up in the Lake District in the north of England with a lot of parks, which gave me a love of nature and the mountains, just being outside as much as possible.
I studied communication, literature, social studies, psychology, film studies, American studies, drama, sociology. Every year you could pick nine things. My major was media studies, film and television, and I also did film study, which led to me having a production company for 20 years.
Q: What professions have you worked in? What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
A: I’ve had every job under the sun: waitress, bartender, aerobics teacher, nightclub bouncer, cattle herder. When I came to America I produced music videos with a TV production company, and I’m still writer, producer and director for Loudmouth TV. That was health and wellness products for retail, and I also sell fitness stuff on Home Shopping Network. They like the accent and I know what I’m talking about.
Now I see myself as a transformational teacher, healer and guide. So, that’s deep, deep spiritual work, helping people reconnect with themselves. I do healing work with energy healing, certify people, and teach yoga and meditation. I also make jewelry and have a nonprofit, so that’s nine different jobs. I do whatever I feel like doing in the moment.
Q: What advice do you have for a young person seeking a career today?
A: The biggest thing is do something that brings you joy. If you’re going to work, do something that sparks you up. So do a ton of work experience, get mentors in the field you want. And be humble, admit when you don’t know what you’re doing. But it’s important to do something that lights you up. That keeps the flame going.
Q: How did you choose to make your home on Hypoluxo Island?
A: I saw the outside of the house, which is like a Balinese tropical jungle, and felt I’d never be inside here. The island is a hidden gem: It’s quiet, it’s peaceful, people are super friendly. This is my 10th year here. I was in Highland Beach for a while, doing sea turtle conservation, but this is my sanctuary. I came to Florida because of the ocean and the gold thing in the sky that never shines in England. I started in Miami, then Deerfield Beach, Highland Beach, Delray Beach and now here.
Q: What is your favorite part about living on Hypoluxo?
A: Walking to the beach every day, two miles round trip, and the people I meet who are absolute characters. I say hello to everybody, the ladies, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and seeing the lifeguards and people who clean the beach. The guys fishing off the bridge, Nancy at Publix. I wave to everybody, which is very English, and they all wave back. I say good morning and it’s really a community. A real little oasis.
Q: What book are you reading now?
A: I’m reading two at once. One is American Veda, by Philip Goldberg. It’s about how Eastern mysticism came to the West, and was spread by Emerson, Thoreau, Walt Whitman and even the Beatles in the ’60s. It came from the trades in the East in the late 1800s. It’s where we know meditation, karma, yoga, all these things have become part of our culture.
Also Stolen Focus, by Johann Hari. It’s about how we’re unable to concentrate now because of electronics. How Google and the like have changed us, made it harder to focus, and it’s really important for kids. That helps with how I’m working with people, throwing you back into yourself as opposed to looking into the magic rectangle.
Q: What music do you listen to when you want to relax? When you want to be inspired?
A: My range is like my bloody jobs. Classical music, Tibetan yoga music if I’m reading or studying. Pink Floyd because I grew up with it and my brother passed it on. Reggae makes you feel like sunshine; when I was in Miami, I produced a lot of reggae videos. I teach to Pink Floyd and always put on Dark Side of the Moon.
Q: Have you had mentors in your life? Individuals who have inspired your life decisions?
A: My mother, Anne, for kindness and sense of humor. She’s really open-hearted and is absolutely out of her mind in a funny way. When I went to Nepal she watched the dogs and the neighbors said she went to every open house, thinking it was a neighborly gathering. Also my female friends mentor me. I studied with a man, Kute Blackson, a transformational coach from England, who I trained with when I went to Bali. But everybody you meet has a message for you. Just talk to people, you never know what’s going to happen.
Q: If your life story were a movie, who would play you?
A: It has to be someone who isn’t afraid to ride motorbikes and jump out of airplanes, like a female James Bond. Cate Blanchett is good. She’s complex, does every different role.
Q: Is there something people don’t know about you, but might like to?
A: I drove 18,000 miles in nine months solo with the two dogs after the pandemic. Visited every national park and ended up living on a houseboat in Sausalito for six weeks, which is my other happy place. I hope to go back this summer to write; I’m writing four books. But when I got home my house had flooded the day before, so I wasn’t supposed to leave.