AUS-ome Babes: Nina Karnikowski

The third post in our series about some seriously cool Aussie babes…

This post comes to us from Natalie Shukur, and is the third in a 4-part series featuring some of our amazing new friends in Australia!

Nina Karnikowski inspires endless wanderlust via her expressive and adventurous travels, which she documents for the international travel press and her blog, Travels with Nina. When she’s not practicing yoga at an ashram in India, perusing the souks of Marrakesh or kayaking in Lower Zambezi National Park, this Aussie babe can be found frolicking in the ocean baths close to her Coogee Beach apartment or drinking tea and tending to the animals at her adopted Hunter Valley vineyard and biodynamic farm, Krinklewood.

Name: Nina Karnikowski
Location: Coogee, Sydney/Broke, Hunter Valley
 Vocation: travel writer, treasure hunter.
Vocation: Travel writer, treasure hunter.

Describe your morning routine:

I lived in India for a year a couple of years back and became really interested in their Ayurvedic principles, which I work into my mornings. I have a vata dosha, meaning I go at a million miles an hour, so I really need to ground myself before I start the day. I try to get up around 6:30am and get my digestive fire started by scraping my tongue and drinking a big glass of water with a squeeze of fresh lemon or a glug of apple cider vinegar. I usually also do some dry body brushing to get my lymphatic system going, and give myself a quick self-love abhyanga massage with sesame oil, which is great for grounding vata energies. Then I set my Krishna Das chants playing, light some incense, and drink my tea. I’m part of the Global Tea Hut, an intentional tea-drinking community that focuses on tea as a way of connecting to nature and yourself. Each morning I take my time brewing the tea they send me each month, then sip it mindfully in a form of active meditation for as long as it takes to finish the pot. Depending on what’s going on in my head, it can be a blissful or almost harrowing experience, but it never fails to teach me something new about myself and puts me right in the present. After that it’s either yoga if I’m in Sydney, or a walk along the country roads or around the farm with our dog if I’m in the Hunter Valley.


What gets your juices flowing?

Music, music, music. I love blues, old soul and folk, but what I listen to most is world music. Current obsessions are Ethiopian Jazz (Mulatu Astatke is the king), Ali Farka Touré’s sexy West African rhythms, Ananda Shankar (Ravi’s nephew) for Indian psychedelic goodness, and Jil Jilala for 70s Moroccan vibes.


Do you cook or follow a food philosophy?

If so, what are your favorite things to eat?
I love cooking, and my food philosophy is basically, the fresher and closer to nature, the better. I was vegetarian for quite a few years and have just recently come back to eating meat. Living on a biodynamic farm much of the time means I have access to some really beautiful meat that hasn’t been raised in horrible factory farms. I love big, hearty meals. A few favourite dishes are Lee Holmes’ quinoa risotto (she adds nutritional yeast and hazelnuts, so yummy), and my mum’s lecso recipe – she’s Hungarian and it’s basically a big stew of tomatoes, capsicums, chokos and potatoes. She always says it’s peasant food but I love it! I also do a mean nourishing bowl. My favourite of the moment involves a bed of brown rice with two soft boiled eggs, a dash of celtic sea salt and a sprinkling of chia seeds, surrounded by a halo of Byron Bay sauerkraut and maybe a little bit of spinach from our veggie patch, all doused with tamari. Sounds bizarre but try it, you won’t regret it.

How do you like to incorporate movement into your life?

I’m a pretty dedicated yogini — I try to get to vinyasa classes a few times a week and, if I’m on the farm, I do my own practice most mornings. I also love walking. I didn’t drive for the longest time and still find it quite a challenge to maneuver our big truck around the city, so I’m used to walking anywhere and everywhere. I love going for long coastal walks when I’m in Sydney with friends of my mum, or getting out to the Royal National Park or the hiking trails around the Hunter when I can. I’ve also started swimming again this summer. I’m a water baby and need my saltwater hit at my local oceanfront women’s baths most mornings.

When do you feel most inspired?

When I’m on the road. There’s absolutely nothing that compares to that feeling of being on the move, experiencing new cultures, people and places, and returning home feeling filled up, reinvigorated and full of tales to share. Travel moves you in ways very little else can. It stirs you up and flips you upside down. It shows you how to better live your life and reminds you just how small we really are. It’s so important to feel insignificant and unimportant to shake off some of that ego.


What do you feel most gratitude for?

Nature. It’s medicine. Whether it’s the ocean, the bush or the mountains, it’s where I feel most at home and where I can truly come back to myself. I recently read a really interesting study in National Geographic about how, when we get back to nature, we do our overstressed brains a favor. After being surrounded by nature for two days, they perform 50 percent better than before. Nature is so powerful! And we really, really need to protect it.
When the going gets tough, what do you turn to?
 To my breath, and to my journal. I’ve been a journaler since I was a kid, and when I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders I know I can pour my thoughts out onto a few pages and feel kind of OK again. It’s the ultimate form of self-therapy. I believe that your perception is absolute reality so, aside from sorting through my emotions and venting my frustrations, I use this ritual to affirm that I’m abundant and present in my life, so that I manifest these things in my every day.


What couldn’t you live without?

Books. They are my soul food, my friends and my teachers; they’ve taught me everything I know. I’m what you’d call an extroverted introvert, and I love nothing more than laying out in the hammock at the end of the day with a good book. I’m currently devouring Graham Greene’s Ways of Escape to feed my wanderlust and to remember what makes great writing, A Thousand Mornings by my favourite poet Mary Oliver, who writes about connecting to nature like no one else, and am forever finding magic between the pages of Clarissa Pinkola Estés’ Women Who Run With the Wolves.

Where have you travelled to recently?

Towards the end of last year I visited Mongolia on a photography tour assignment. We stayed with the nomads in ger tents, milked mares and yaks to make vodka and cheese, visited a horse festival where three-year-olds raced bareback and men tamed wild horses, and drove across hundreds of kilometres of wild, untamed landscape. My trip to Morocco at the end of last year was another standout adventure. From the vibrant souks of Marrakech and the wind-swept beaches of the hippy-vibed coastal town of Essaouira, to riding mules through the Atlas Mountains and wandering the winding alleyways of the medina of ancient Fes, it was truly a sensual delight.

And where would you like to travel to next?

I’d love to visit Namibia in southwest Africa, to spend some time with the proud and beautiful Himba tribeswomen, the nomads who cover their hair and entire bodies in a red ochre paste, and to visit the blazing red dunes of Sossusvlei and the otherworldly Skeleton Coast. I’m also manifesting a trek through the lush mountains and steppe grasslands of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, finishing up in an exotic ancient city, one of the Silk Road wonders that I can completely lose myself in. Hey, a girl can dream.

Kimono, Simply Triangle Top, Simply High Waist Bikini Bottoms

What’s your top travel tip?

The best experiences you’ll have on the road happen when you push your boundaries and say HELL YEAH to things you wouldn’t normally. This attitude led me to kayak down a river full of crocs and hippos in Zambia, to trek up an active volcano in Papua New Guinea, and to go swimming with horses in Vanuatu…some of the most unforgettable experiences of my life.

Do you have a mentor or someone you look up to?

I really look up to both the life and work of Pico Iyer, who combines incredibly insightful writing about travel and spirituality as an Indian man raised in England and now lives in rural Japan, in a way that is truly unique. “Travel for me is a little bit like being in love, because suddenly all your senses are at the setting marked ‘on’; suddenly you’re alert to the secret patterns of the world.” He just gets it. His TED talks will blow your mind.

What’s your personal mantra or life philosophy?

I studied Buddhism for a while, both at home in Australia and in Nepal, and I really connect to the Buddhist concept of impermanence, recognizing that everything is subject to change and alteration. My teacher once told me to think of the self as a sphere on a plane of water, which will flow in whichever way the wind blows it. I like to keep that in mind whenever something that I might perceive as negative happens: it too will change. It keeps me in the present moment.

What cause in the world do you feel most passionate about?

Protecting the environment. The destruction of the planet can be such an overwhelming issue, but I think if we can focus on our individual efforts and try to do our bit, we can actually make a difference. I try to step very lightly on the world – to produce as little waste as possible, to purchase things secondhand, to support local organic food producers, not to use too much water, and to support sustainable businesses in my work, like the not-for-profit eco-island of Ratua in Vanuatu that I visited on my last trip.

What are you currently working on?

Today I’m writing a story about the best places to shop around the world for SMH Traveller, and polishing off a story and video about Morocco. I’ve also got some new treasures that need to be shot for my online Bazaar, and I’m planning trips to the Gujurat region of India and to Peru.

Reign High Rise Jeans

Travels With Nina’s Top Three Aussie Destinations
Promised Land

Oh, Promised Land. A tranquil sanctuary of rolling green pastures and lush, subtropical bushland just outside of the free-spirited historic town of Bellingen on the north coast of NSW, that had a hold on me since the moment I first laid eyes on it. This is a place of simple pleasures: picnicking by the swimming hole and hiking by the Never Never River, morning bike rides through the forest and stargazing under an upturned salt shaker of stars, and vintage shopping and whole food-eating in town.

Cradle Mountain, Tasmania

I’ll never forget seeing Cradle Mountain’s snow-capped peaks appear, suddenly and tantalizingly, at the end of our two-hour drive from Launceston. It looked wild and eerie and, when we arrived at Cradle Mountain Lodge at its tip, it proved to be just that. Teeming with wallabies, wombats and super-sized possums, we spent our time bushwalking through the World Heritage-listed Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, splashing about in the wooden hot tub, and sitting around crackling fires eating our weight in cheese and wine. Heaven.

Cook, ghost town of the Nullarbor

One of my first assignments ever as a travel writer saw me traversing across Australia on the Indian Pacific train. As we bumped across the baked desert interior over three days, we stopped from time to time. One of the highlights for me was Cook, the ghost town of the arid Nullarbor Plain, with its abandoned swimming pool, population of four and views across the endless scrolls of spinifex and saltbush. I remember sitting in the dust looking out into the nothingness, feeling so deliciously alone in that strange emptiness. It’s a feeling I’ve been chasing ever since.


Follow Nina on Instagram and check out her website!

+ Check out our other AUS-ome Babes, Leah and Ondine!

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7 years ago

I’m Hungarian, too :) It was interesting to read that some people eat lecso with potato, I never heard about it but I’m gonna give it a try. Lecsó is one of my favorite Hungarian dishes, too
Love, Mollie