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She Shines: Elena & Melisa Koyunseven

May 10, 2021


In honor of Mother’s Day this May, our She Shines series spotlights the mother-daughter duo, Elena and Melisa, of The Mediterranean Lifestyle digital magazine and platform. We felt their connection immediately on our first conference call and loved their energy together. See what they had to say about working together, best practices of well-being, and family values of the Mediterranean!

SheFari: It’s amazing to have you guys be a part of our She Shines series. We love the fact that the two of your started this passion project together. So how did you end up in Mallorca, and why you decided to focus your publication on the Mediterranean lifestyle?

Elena: It all started in 2012 when circumstances in my life changed, and I decided to up-sticks for a new adventure and leave Germany where I grew up. I wanted to be somewhere warm and close to the sea, as it has always fascinated me so much. My decision to move was quick but well-considered. Melisa commuted from Germany until she finished her studies after which, she decided to live here with me. The idea for the magazine first came to us while I was running a website and blog all about life in the Mediterranean and at the same time publishing a book. The healthier and happier way of life was much better than the one we left behind, and we wanted to share what we had found with as many people as possible.

Melisa: When doing our research in 2017, the term “Mediterranean Lifestyle” was virtually unheard of. There were only references to the Mediterranean Diet, and everything revolved around the nutritional aspects. This word didn’t convey the true meaning, nor did it carry the same weight as we know it today. We wanted to promote the total lifestyle and not just in part, and so, The Mediterranean Lifestyle was born. In the last 4 years, bloggers and influencers, nutritionists, cookbook writers, travel advisors, and simply everyone has picked up the term, and we’re happy and proud to see that the term is now on everyone’s lips worldwide.

 

SheFari: What is TML to you, and what can a reader expect to gain from it?

Elena: Our goal is to share and promote all the beautiful things concerning the Mediterranean way of life. Of course, the benefits of the world-famous Mediterranean Diet recently voted the best diet for the 4th year in a row, and the people and their stories. On the one hand, those who still live in the region and others who have since moved to the various corners of the world and still dearly hold on to their roots and continue to live and pass on their traditions. Authentic recipes have become a prevalent topic in which we invite all to share their treasured family recipes with us. The environment and preservation of the Mediterranean is also a critical topic for us and one that we feature regularly. Our readers can learn firsthand from our contributors all about the interesting and cultural places to visit. We also want to entertain our readers with the travel and photo stories that enable them to travel virtually from wherever they are.

SheFari: That’s a wonderful concept. My family has Mediterannean roots, and tradition was significant in our family growing up! You also outline the seven principles of the Mediterranean Lifestyle as ways to live happier. Which do you feel personally benefits you the most? Which is hardest to maintain?

Melisa: We drew up the “7 Principles of the Mediterranean Lifestyle” as essential key points for a healthy, happy, and long life. The Mediterranean lifestyle is the coming together of several factors that describe a way of life. This includes leisure time, social life, physical activity, nutrition, and productivity that meets our material and intellectual needs. For us, the healthy diet has been most beneficial to us, and over a short period of time, we have fully incorporated the diet into our daily lives with little or no effort. Olive oil, for example, is a daily basic ingredient in everything we cook, and the variety of fresh fruits and vegetables is so great that we love to try new recipes. Outdoor living and socializing have also certainly been hugely beneficial and enjoyable for us.Elena: The hardest to maintain is probably taking time to relax and switch off; this challenges us the most as there are always deadlines and work to be done. We hadn’t realized how important it is to take some time off and respect our own well-being. Here in Spain, we immediately experienced a slower pace of life. We have learned to experience things more consciously, take our time, and not complete all our tasks at once! Now, we’re almost as good as the locals!

 

SheFari: It definitely seems as though you are on to something because your publication has seen a major rise in interest since you started in 2018. Why do you think that is? What is some feedback from readers that has surprised you?

Melisa: Generally, there has been a huge surge of interest worldwide in the Mediterranean lifestyle. When we have so many options, and everything is just a few clicks away, we forget who and what is really important in life. It’s easy to lose our sense of value and tradition. With the ever-growing community that we have created, people worldwide can connect and learn from each other. To see that others have the same interests and share their experiences and knowledge in our magazine gives them a feeling of togetherness, like a family. It is a combination of sharing old experiences and wisdom with today’s advanced knowledge of medicine and technology.

What has surprised us from our dear readers and contributors is their strong connection and feeling of belonging to the Med community irrespective of where they live. Their kind words and well-wishes fill us with gratitude, and we are always amazed by the love they all share for the Mediterranean.Here are a few comments:
“A big thank you for your magazine and IG page. I really love them. They are a source of inspiration and help me calm down and relax after a working day. Keep working in this way, please, because you are so different and special from everyone else!!! We can clearly see that you do this magazine with love, passion, and pure feelings 🙂 :).”
“Beautiful and refreshing escape! Thanks for featuring us!”
“Great magazine with great Mediterranean content.”
“Thank you for doing an amazing job and showing the world how special the Mediterranean is!!!!!”
“Beautiful! So happy to have been part of it with the other contributors!”

 

SheFari: TML focuses a lot on the Mediterranean diet. Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food.” How does the Mediterranean diet promote well-being, in your opinion, and what are some of your favorites?

Elena: We are what we eat; there is so much truth in this saying because food directly affects our body and health. Luckily, people are becoming more aware of their lifestyle and want to live longer, happier, and more healthily. Everyone used to take supplements to make up for the lack of vitamins and important nutrients. Now the trend is towards natural and healthy eating to avert these deficiencies from the outset. Nature offers a variety of food that has been anchored in medicine for thousands of years. It is up to us to rediscover this old knowledge and lay a good foundation for our future. Some of our favorites are olive oil, lots of garlic in almost everything we cook, and, of course, a well-deserved glass of red wine when we down tools in the evening.

 

SheFari: What are some Mediterranean rituals you do daily / incorporate in your routine that you didn’t do before?

Melisa: We are fortunate to live in the beautiful port city of Palma de Mallorca, which is surrounded by nature. The beautiful beaches and forestry on our doorstep motivate us to exercise daily as there are so many nice places to go on foot. Since the weather here in Mallorca is warm almost all year round and the winters short and mild, we naturally spend a lot of time outdoors. We usually walk a lot of distances because it is even faster than by car or bus.

 

SheFari: Where are your top three favorite hidden gems in the Mediterranean region and why?

Elena: There are countless hidden gems, and it is not easy to choose just three! Greece is our absolute favorite, and not just because we are of Greek descent ourselves. Crete is our favorite island, where breathtaking nature and dream beaches paired with thousands of years of history testify to the cultural richness, putting it at the top of our list.Melisa: Italy is right in second place. The history and the landscapes are simply unbeatable, and the food, in particular, has a bonus. We are most impressed by the island of Sardinia, known as the Caribbean of the Mediterranean, and the Arcipelago della Maddalena on the northwest coast. Our third favorite is the South of Spain. You can literally feel the great sense of history around Seville, Cordoba, and Granada. The temperatures, as well as the hot temperament and zest for life, are highest here. Although tourism is robust, you can still get to know the real authentic Spain and its people.

 

SheFari: How does your mother-daughter dynamic influence working together and your professional success? What are the pros and cons?

Elena: We have always had a close relationship, and therefore it’s not surprising that we work together on shared dreams and projects. We’re mother and daughter and best friends, which makes it a lot easier and more fun to work together. For a long time, we have wanted to work on something influential and meaningful. We both love to educate and advise, which is why we took our love for the Med and added the educational part. Within a few months of talking and planning at the table, TML took shape and was born.

Melisa: We both think alike; sometimes, it seems that we know exactly what the other is thinking without having to say a word. Contra is that as soon as we get together or talk on the phone, which we do several times a day, it always revolves primarily around the business. We often have to remind ourselves not to always talk about emails or the next issue.

 

SheFari: Yes! My business partner, Christina, and I are best friends, and we always have to remind ourselves to take a break from talking business to be friends! So something that comes up a lot in our industry is the health benefits of travel, and specifically for mother-daughter trips. A 2019 study at the Harvard Medical School showed that solid relationships and social connections have direct benefits on our physical and mental health. It’s not surprising that some of the highest life expectancies are found in the Mediterranean. What is your opinion on the social and family dynamic in this region, and what can the rest of the world learn from it?

Elena: The people of the Mediterranean have always lived as big families as a matter of course, whereby several generations, from grandparents to grandchildren, have all supported and helped each other under one roof. The elderly are an important part of a functioning family, and their knowledge is naturally passed on to the next generations, and thus, traditions and customs are preserved. Thanks to this coexistence, we have maintained many culinary and historical treasures to this day. Each family member has a function to run smoothly in the household, and everyone has a strong sense of purpose.Melisa: These tasks and the feeling of being needed and respected have a huge impact on physical and mental health. So it is not surprising that people who live in close and loving communities also live longer than those who are lonely. Loneliness is a scourge! Getting out for a coffee and a chat with neighbors or relatives is a huge part of life and strengthens social contacts. To meet others and take the time for a chat is essential for integration, and the people of the Mediterranean have understood and practiced this well over the years. It’s also important to spoil yourself now and then.

 

SheFari: Elena, tell me the one thing you most admire in your daughter and how she has helped you grow.

Elena: One of her outstanding qualities that I have always admired about Melisa is her tenacity and determination. Once she has caught fire for something, no mountains are too high, and she works consistently towards her goal. This strong will had given me new strength several times in life when I had weak moments, and she had to pull me up again.

 

SheFari: Melisa, tell me the one thing you most admire in your mother and how she has helped you grow.

Melisa: It’s impossible to describe the admiration I have for my mother in only one word, but let me start with her strength. Thanks to her courage and strength to move abroad, she has not only changed her life but also mine for the better, and I’m aware of it every single day. What I also admire in her is her compassion. She has raised my brother and me always to be kind and show empathy for others, and that’s what we both thankfully picked up from her. In tough times she is the one who can build me up immediately or spoil me with a good home-cooked meal. I’m just very proud to have her as my mother and fortunate at the same time to also have her as my work partner and improve the lives of others together, just like she did with mine.

 

The Mediterranean Lifestyle magazine is currently only available digitally but will soon be available for print. We’ll keep everyone posted because it’ll be an amazing coffee-table addition! Also, both our brands, SheFari and Myths + Muses, have the honor to be featured in next month’s issue. Check it out if you want to learn more about curated travel in the Mediterranean!

Interview conducted by Nektaria Panagiotari

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