Introducing… Ashley and Heidi Stafford
In this series of interviews called “The Voices of Cayman’s Endless Summer,” we are speaking to well-known faces of the Cayman community about their favourite summer memories. We welcomed twins Ashley and Heidi Stafford to our Beach House – if you frequent Jessie’s Juice Bar or Bliss Yoga Studio, you would certainly know who these two ladies are. We got the lowdown on their fondest summer memories growing up in Cayman and what (or whom!) they each consider the love of their life. Read on to learn more about this impressive duo.
Ashley and Heidi left Cayman over a decade ago to attend high school and college abroad. However in the summer of 2012 – when they were both 21 – they decided to move back home. When asked why they love living in Cayman, they tell us that they would not have such a deep appreciation of the island if they did not have the opportunity to visit and live in other places. By travelling the world, it has given them a point of reference. But nothing compares to being back home.
Heidi explained: “There is an ease of the lifestyle here. Everything is really close by and it is a small, tight-knit community. Since growing up and coming back here to work in a professional context, I have grown to love it even more than when I was a kid. Because what you find is that even if it is a small place it is extremely diverse and it is a melting pot of so many different cultures.” Ashley agrees with her sister. She said: “The diversity is pretty surprising.
When I was here before I didn’t think that it was that diverse but ever since we moved back home Cayman has grown a lot – that eight to ten year gap was key. And being that young we didn’t get to experience the cultural aspects that we now appreciate like the food and wine scene, which has developed so much since then. Cayman has so much more to offer now.”
Walking down memory lane, we asked what the island was like when the twins were growing up. Heidi said: “On a typical weekend we would go on our father’s boat and go diving for starfish. We spent a lot of time in the water and we were in the sun all the time. I still have tan lines from when I was a kid because they are imprinted so deeply into my body! We completely took it for granted – we had no idea how good we had it. Ashley commented: “I have a huge amount of respect for Cayman, especially once I lived somewhere else where there were four seasons. You saw all these dramatic changes happening around you and felt it in your body. Growing up here it was literally an endless summer and always beautiful.”
Since spending their childhood in Cayman, Ashley and Heidi have lived in many different places but they always seemed to gravitate back to the island. Heidi said: “I had a job opportunity in London working in finance and after a week I realised it was the last thing in the universe that I wanted to do with my life. So I got myself back to Cayman and within a week a started working at Jessie’s. And then Bliss happened. Janelle, one of the owners, asked if we would be interested in the Teacher Training scholarships and everything started from there. I am no longer at Jessie’s but I have been teaching at Bliss for more than a year and a half and for now that seems to be my direction. It’s about learning what to let go of when you need to.
Ashley elaborated: “So it all worked out and it was all very natural. As twins we have always done the same things, we have been in the same boat, the same beach, the same environment and there has always been this sense that we have been treated as the same – we are a package deal but sometimes that has been a struggle. But what is so funny is that we try to go our own ways and we always end up converging. At this time we are both heading in a holistic direction, which seems to be where the world is heading as well.”
Since moving back, they have been cherishing their time in Cayman with their family and friends. When asked their fondest memory of a summer’s day on the island, they both revisit a recent memory. Heidi said: “Our birthday is at the end of August and it was a holiday weekend last year when neither of us had to teach or work. This is something that doesn’t happen often. Up until now we have both been working seven days a week for the last few years. We finally had this day off together and it started with a three-hour surf session out in South Sound, which was amazing. We got in some yoga as well and then we made ourselves a feast when we got home with Ashley’s boyfriend and had the best time. We ended the day watching the sunset with champagne. We also got some ice cream and some nice stout beer and made ice cream floats. We enjoyed our birthday being out in nature and being out in the sun. It was the most satisfying day in every sense. My soul just felt nourished. Hands down it was the best summer’s day in recent history.”
Ashley reminisces about a particularly memorable summer’s day by recounting a comical childhood story. She said: “There is one specific memory I have of the whole family going to Stingray City when we were really young. Heidi and I had been complaining the whole way that we didn’t want to go there, which is insane to think of now. When we got there I decided to jump in the water and while I was waiting for Heidi to come in, her shorts got caught on one of the hooks on the side of the boat and she was dangling with her backside shining to the sky and she was screaming her head off. I was laughing but then I started crying because I thought she was in pain. It was one of those shocking memories but you also remember how beautiful it was that day.”
All joking aside, when speaking to the twins you realise just how close they are. When each is asked about the love of their life the strength of their sisterly bond becomes apparent. Heidi commented: “I had this realisation a few times. Last summer I was at this festival in Michigan where I was surrounded by a sea of people, lights and sounds and I had this moment where I paused and thought, ‘Ashley is my soul mate.’ I had to tell her about it too. I was laughing and crying realising this. There is no other way for me to describe it. Ashley agrees with this sentiment. She said: “There is no other circumstance that really allows you to spend your entire life with somebody. We have shared so much time together – from the most intimate space of our mother’s womb to our bedroom where we grew up. Even across vast distances and when we haven’t spoken for a month we can still get back to each other. It is definitely the closest connection I have. I also feel very strongly connected to all of my three sisters. And I feel like my family grows.
My boyfriend is someone I feel that I can spend the rest of my life with and he is definitely in that circle of my great loves. But with Heidi I really feel still connected to her. We are very close.”
And their idea of perfect happiness? It is pretty simple. Heidi explains her version: “Just being content and being completely open and being able to share and connect with people, with the place that you are in and the time and moment that you are in. Being absolutely open and receiving whatever is available at that moment.”
Ashley concludes: “I think having enough money to live where you are is important. I feel that there is way of reaching a level of security with money that doesn’t mean you are consumed by it. It is about finding a niche as well as contributing to the place where you are living so there is a give and a take. I think that my idea of happiness is always going to involve this give and take and being surrounded by the people that I am closest to.”
Ashley & Heidi In A Nutshell:
Personal motto: “I go with the flow of life” is a little mantra Heidi keeps encountering, and it certainly resonates with her.
Brand of sunscreen: Coconut oil for body, Sun Bum zinc oxide for face.
Sunset drink: It depends, but Heidi could go for a smoky guava thyme margarita from Agua right now… Fresh local fruit, a spirit with character (like Mezcal, or Pisco and not Vodka), and some subtlety goes a long way. An ice-cold Hollandia beer for Ashley.
Summer scent: Sea salt and coconut oil.
Brand of sunglasses: Second hand.
Summer book: The Untethered Soul, by Michael Singer.
Song of the season: Gooey by Glass Animals.
Flips flops or bare feet: The real question is bare feet or boots. There is no in between…