Keah Lan

I first met Keah Lan in person on a hot sunny day in the summer of 2020, in between France’s two lockdowns. I picked her up from the train station and brought her back to my home for a warm “live” conversation over coffee and a couple of slices of a carrot cake that my little girl and her friends had made the day before. 

Keah moved near the seaside in lovely Cros-de-Cagnes after the birth of her son Matisse. She and her husband, who is from the South of France, had been living in London and decided to chose a quieter and simpler life with more sun.

In 2018, the couple learned their son had sensory difficulties – sounds, sights, smells, textures and tastes can create a feeling of “sensory overload” – which meant that they had to relearn everything they knew from scratch to support him. “Intuitively I knew,” Keah admits, “but it wasn’t until we saw the French doctor that it became real.  A period of mourning followed. I think fathers process it much differently as my husband only came to accept the diagnosis one year later.”

In her new life on the French Riviera, Keah, who grew up in South Africa, started spending a great deal of time outdoors and discovered that nature is indeed our greatest healer. 

In London, she had set up “Keah Lan Mobile Healing,” a platform to bring health and wellness to busy, stressed and time constrained-city folk. Nearly twenty years later on the French Riviera, she has rebranded the business as SENSES and recently held a reflexology workshop at the International School of Monaco’s wellbeing day.

“I luckily did not have to change my business much but I did have to navigate myself. Immersing into the French community is very important, not just learning the language but also supporting  and working alongside other local businesses is key to opening doors.”

Some women leave their full-time job to start their own business to have more time to spend with their children. The reality is that a home business can also turn into a full-time gig and that work-family balance is harder to manage than anticipated. For Keah, being a mom has definitely made her better at being an entrepreneur. 

In the year of Covid and confinements, she has learned to prioritise her mental health and wellbeing as a mom. “Far too often we put the needs of our family before our own. We become so absorbed by the responsibilities of being a joyful wife, mother, and homemaker that we neglect to adequately tend to our own personal health and wellbeing.”

2020 came with its load of challenges, more than any normal time, and Keah bravely admits that she had a near mental breakdown. 

“Have you ever had a panic or anxiety attack? Multiply that by ten!” is how she describes the experience. “Suddenly, out of the blue, it hits you. Recognising the body’s warning signs early on is important but once you reach the point of breakdown, by falling very ill, remember that this is the body’s way of trying to jumpstart the healing process. I work a lot with this now in my offerings to clients and provide tools to help them.”

The global pandemic has not been kind to small businesses, and Senses has had to completely restructure the business, moving from providing at home and outdoor wellbeing to live Zoom classes online. Keah had to adapt and learn quickly. She created a library of classes online (including a Women’s Circle, €8), where workouts and wellbeing help to bring the five senses into harmony to heal the mind, body, and spirit. The classes provide a transformative and sustainable approach that nurtures and, most importantly, leads to lasting change. A lot of her private clients have decided not to proceed with online and will wait until classes are resumed in person. A few still join our mat classes which provide them with a sense of community .

About “failures” and “wrong paths,” Keah talks about trying to do too many things at once, putting too much on her plate, pouring from an empty cup, always saying “yes” and having become completely run down emotionally and mentally.  Ring any bells ? A big lesson she learned and is still learning is to ask for help, to reach out to the community. 

Keah’s nugget to take away from all of this is that it’s about progress not perfection: to take it one day at a time, to find time to breathe and be grounded.

As researcher and author Brené Brown would say, “We can be courageous through discomfort.”

About Caro Cuinet Wellings

Caro Cuinet Wellings, photographer & writer

Caro is short for Caroline. I was born in France, and grew up in a small village near Aix-en-Provence. I knew from a very young age that I’d travel, live abroad and speak English and that is what I did.

On my way back from a Hebrew lesson, during my LLCE degree at the Université de Lettres of Aix en Provence, I found a poster in a corridor that advertised about PGCE -Post Graduate Certificate of Education. I applied and got accepted into St Martin’s University in Lancaster. I was going to be a secondary school teacher, teaching French as a foreign language. I began that career in August 2000 in Kenya. I then came back to the UK to teach in London. After 5 years there, I moved to Dubai to teach in an International School. I met my now husband on day 2 of me being there. 6 months later, we were engaged. James is British but we got married in my village in the South of France in July 2008. We found out I was pregnant in Como, during our honeymoon, when I realised I couldn’t stand the smell of coffee anymore. Our first daughter was born in Dubai in April 2009.

Teaching filled my life. It really did. I was a good teacher, I could coach students and staff, I worked on Learning & Teaching Policies and took part in real exciting innovative work. But when the idea of moving to Malaysia came into play, after a 12 year career in Education, I decided to explore a new path for myself. We moved to KL, Malaysia after 5 years in Dubai. This move was a tough one as I embarked on setting up a photography business, with little knowledge of how to run one, barely the skills to take photos and no more friends to support. Our second daughter was born in March 2014, followed by a post-natal depression. We lived for 6 years in KL, a city I absolutely adore, even though it wasn’t love at first sight. It is a place paved by fabulous friendships, fantastic trips, even better food, big heartaches and discoveries and also great courage.

Moving to France in the summer of 2018 was a big leap after 20 years abroad, I feel like an expat in my home country, to say simply. This is perhaps the hardest move I have ever had to make. I recognised a series of depressions throughout the years that led me to a very intense psychotherapy before I left Asia. I am proud to say that my photography business is continuing to grow. But mostly, being an entrepreneur, a creative, is continuing to give me opportunities to meet wonderful families, fellow photographers and the chance to be involved in beautiful projects. I am proud and happy to have taken this leap of faith when I did, a few years back.

During lockdown in April, I invited photographers to join me to find light. Hundreds of photographers followed the project that consisted in taking and publishing 1 photo a day. The aim was to photograph the confinement but always trying to find the light and improve technique and art. I am so happy and humbled to have been able to gather a supportive and creative community during a time that was really difficult for some of us.

I have renewed my love for learning and teaching with setting up photography mentoring and courses such as Learn Live. I starting with teaching a lifestyle newborn course online on Portrait ou Paysage that ran for 2 years since 2015, then a lifestyle family live course on Empara filmed in October 2018 in Nice. I also taught at Groovy Photography Bootcamp in 2019 and 2020. I run my own workshop called Creativity, Light and Visual Identity, and coach 1 to 1.

I have worked with IKEA on their project for paternity leave in 2017 in Malaysia, work that was exhibited at The National Gallery of Kuala Lumpur. I also work with Chanel since last year for private events. My experience with teaching has given me opportunities to work on School photography. I have worked with International Schools such as St Julians in Portugal, Garden International School in KL and Alice Smith International School in KL and Wellington International School in Dubai. My work has been published in ELLE HK, The long Way Home magazine (US), Dear Photographer (US), and I have been awarded finalist place the two times I participated to the prestigious annual and world wide contest The Voice, in the US.

My speciality and my first photography love remains doing lifestyle in home family shoots. I love creating with families the photos of the moments they live everyday, in their home, that have become mundane routines, and show them how beautiful these moments truly are. I love to think that as parents, we grow so much with our children. I want these photos to be a testimony, an heritage of love and connexions for generations to come.

Where to find me:

https://carocuinetwellings.com

https://www.instagram.com/carocuinetwellings/