Brooke Balla is the type of person you look at and literally envy everything she’s had the opportunity of doing throughout her life. From traveling to Uganda to creating a handmade hats and jewelry with materials from her travels, Brooke’s story is incredible!
CitS: Who is Brooke Balla?
BB: To speak in the third person: Brooke Balla is an ardent believer in the power and necessity of community. She is a world traveler and educator who is service oriented and derives satisfaction from cultural exchange and friendship. While not carrying and collecting wares, she is spending her time on the Pascua Yaqui Reservation or planning her next wilderness adventure over a cup of strong coffee (Exo
is where it’s at!). Brooke believes in the importance of preserving the stories of our ancestors, as well as in creating our own to pass on to future generations.
CitS: Who were some of the major influences in your life and how did they help you get to where you are today?
BB: Over the years I have been inspired by many people along the way, but there are at least a few standouts. First and foremost are my Grandmothers. Caring and tough, team players and leaders, conservative and generous – they exemplified the subtle balance needed to keep family together and cared for. Next in mind is Anita Fernandez, who while at Prescott College first introduced me to the larger world of social justice and multicultural education. With Anita as a mentor, I immersed myself in not only the theories, but also in practice – propelling me to create community gardens for school children, earn a teaching degree/certificate, and to launch a four year journey as an overseas educator.
CitS: Of all the traveling you have done, what made you decide to stay in Tucson?
BB:Firstly, I was born in Tucson, and lived here for my first three years of life before moving to my family’s historic home in New Hampshire (living on the same plot as my great grandparents). Aside from that, I have a deep love for the desert that has arisen from the last decade living in and exploring Arizona. In wilderness i can hear my true voice. I am rejuvenated by the sun, and the open space makes me feel vast potential. Tucson in particular offers me the opportunity have a diverse community, culture and art, while also being close to the wild lands.
CitS: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
BB: I have received so much wonderful advice over the years but what I resonate with most and keep close as a mantra are the words of Pico Iyer:
We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again — to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more. The beauty of this whole process was best described, perhaps, before people even took to frequent flying, by George Santayana in his lapidary essay, “The Philosophy of Travel.” We “need sometimes,” the Harvard philosopher wrote, “to escape into open solitudes, into aimlessness, into the moral holiday of running some pure hazard, in order to sharpen the edge of life, to taste hardship, and to be compelled to work desperately for a moment at no matter what.”
CitS: What’s your favorite place you’ve gotten to travel to?
BB: It is hard to decide whether it is Nepal or Uganda. For the exercise, I would have to say Uganda.
BB: All of my fabrics and wares are hand selected from my travels. I buy directly from craftswomen and vendors. I also carry everything with me on my back – sometimes for months at a time! I go to markets and find treasures that tell stories, keepers as an appreciation and memory of the distances walked and smiles met, I keep some and share them with others. I love to share the genuine stories that go with all of my crafts.
CitS: Would you say you resonate with beauty, fashion, or culture and why?
BB: I would have to say that I resonate with all three, but when it really comes down to it – it is culture. I love the beauty of diversity and the different wisdoms that different peoples have. With every different worldview are unique truths. In a world struggling against hegemony, our best chance at loving each other and the planet lies in our ability to see things in myriad ways.
CitS: What do you wish more people knew about Tucson?
BB: It’s a dry heat!
Check out Brooke’s Instagram
to follow her ongoing journey!
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