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A Conversation with Celeste Hedequist About Building Bonds Through Lifestyle & Travel

Celeste Hedequist, a Boston, Massachusetts-based lawyer, is a mother and an environmentalist, having traveled with her husband and children all over the United States and across the globe.  Her travel blog recounts her family’s experiences with the different people and cultures of the locales they have visited, including Greece, Spain, the United Kingdom, Dubai, the […]

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Celeste Hedequist, a Boston, Massachusetts-based lawyer, is a mother and an environmentalist, having traveled with her husband and children all over the United States and across the globe.  Her travel blog recounts her family’s experiences with the different people and cultures of the locales they have visited, including Greece, Spain, the United Kingdom, Dubai, the Bahamas, Italy, and Africa, as well as coast-to-coast trips across the US. 

Her lifelong commitment to step outside of her comfort zone has carried over to her family, who have all benefited by the experiences they’ve accrued in their travels, usually adopting some sort of public service during their trips, like working on conservation projects in South Africa and Thailand, or helping out in areas that have been afflicted by natural disasters.  As long as they’re living their passion and learning along the way, Celeste and her family will continue bonding in this very special way as they travel the world together.

Celeste has a B.S. Biology from Boston College, an M.P.H. In Environmental Science from Columbia University, & a J.D. Boston University School of Law.

In her law work, she was able to combine her love of science and law and she practiced primarily in the areas of patent litigation and environmental law. As a young lawyer, she had the opportunity to work as an intern at EPA’s Region 1 office in the wetlands division. Later, she would use her background in science to assist with environmental law cases and cases involving medical devices and biotechnology in the areas of patent litigation.

Prior to attending law school, she obtained a Master’s of Public Health in Environmental Science/Toxicology from Columbia University.  While at Columbia, she worked with a team of scientists on a case control study which examined various environmental toxins linked to mutations of the K-ras oncogene. 

In addition to this work, she was fortunate to work on other basic science research projects including studies involving cystic fibrosis and HIV. She worked with Dr. William Haseltine, a well-known scientist for his innovative work on HIV/AIDs at Dana Farber Institute in Boston, MA to develop a model for testing antiviral drugs using macaque monkeys against the reverse transcriptase gene of HIV.  Making mutants, they cloned the reverse transcriptase gene of HIV into SIV (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus) and infected macaques in order to test drug cocktails which could be effective in treating AIDS in humans.

In the last few years, what lifestyle, habit, or behavior change has had the biggest positive impact on your life?

I recently discovered how much I love to paint.  It’s something I’ve been doing quite often lately. I recently finished a painting of my daughter, and before that I had done a few paintings of nature scenes, like birds and flowers.  It helps me feel I’m using my time in a productive way and helps me avoid watching the news!

Also, during the summer months, I’ve done a lot of working in my yard, planting, and gardening.  That’s been something that definitely has a positive impact.  We try to plant flowers that attract bees and pollinators.  It has been something that’s been fun for our family and also therapeutic in a lot of ways because you’re giving back to the environment and taking pleasure in making things a little more beautiful.  And it gets me outside, which is a very helpful thing.

When you feel unfocused, what do you do?

It’s not uncommon for me to realize I’ve taken on too much, so I usually have to step back and reassess and then force myself to prioritize the items that need to actually get done immediately.  I will laser focus on really accomplishing just one of the smaller tasks, and that’s what usually helps me to regroup and reenergize.

What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?

I’d probably give them the same advice that I give my kids on a daily basis, which is do the things that you have to do so that you can do the things that you want to do.  I’d also say they should keep reading books, keep traveling and cultivating their faith, whatever faith that may be.  I wouldn’t want to push one over another, but I’d suggest cultivating some kind of faith with God.  Because you will need God one day.  I think those pieces of advice are all things that will lead to a fulfilling life.

For advice to ignore, I would say to ignore people that tell you something has to be done in one particular way.  Challenge that idea.  In my experience, it’s rare, to the point of never, that something can be accomplished only one way.

What is one lifestyle trend that excites you?

I would say traveling has changed our life.  Every trip ends up being a microcosm of life.  There’s a beginning and an end, and you are usually thrown a few curveballs and you’ve had to be resilient at some point.  At the end of the trip, you’ve emerged a changed person to some degree.  In reflecting on this, I think what you do when you travel, you’re going to do eventually in life.  If you can’t handle a Plan B on your trip, you’re not likely to be able to handle a Plan B in life.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life and why?

A lot of people have influenced me in my life.  My parents, my husband, and my children have influenced me the most though.  I look to them for advice daily because they are the biggest influences on me.  Without them, I would have less of a network of people that I could use to vet a decision or look for guidance on how to proceed with a certain choice.

The way my children have influenced me is because they’re growing up in a different time period.  I have one view of the world in terms of how I grew up, and that world that I grew up in doesn’t exist anymore.  Sometimes it’s often hard for me to relate to the world as it is now because I am not in that stage of development where I’m constantly interacting with people and the world as they are.  Oftentimes they share their views, and I hadn’t thought of something like they have, and we have to sit there and talk about it.  Maybe I agree or maybe I don’t, but we all seem to get along, even if we don’t share the same views socially or politically.

What’s one of the biggest life lessons you’ve learned?

If you want to have a fulfilling life, then commit to something greater than yourself.  Commit to a higher purpose.  Have a sense of industry and confidence.

What do you think it is that makes you/someone successful?

To be successful you should invest yourself in your passion.  But you should also invest yourself in other things outside of that.  I think you’re going to be the most happy and successful in your job and in life generally if you do the things that you’re passionate about, but then you should also learn to do things that you’re not so passionate about.  Take on things you might think are really mundane.  When I have done that, and I’ve fully invested myself into something new and learned a lot about it, I’ve often wound up creating another passion.  It’s just about challenging yourself to try new things, even if you think it is beyond your desire to want to.  You can surprise yourself and it will open all new opportunities for you if it clicks.

How do you stay motivated?

I stay motivated by traveling.  Like I said before, my whole life I haven’t been afraid to try something that I’m not sure I would like.  I’ve always thought, well maybe, who knows?  Maybe I’ll like it?  And then I’ve invested myself into it.  There have been times when I said, I definitely don’t like this.  But there have been many other times where I’ve surprised myself and fallen in love with something that I never thought I would even like.  This is a real motivator for me to experience all I can out of life.

What legacy do you hope to leave behind?

I know my children will be a great legacy I will leave behind.  They already exemplify the idea of committing yourself to some other purpose greater than themselves.  They are very aware of how they can impact those who may need a helping hand.  I think all of my children have a really hard time walking by a homeless person without asking that person if they need something, even if it’s to go get them a sandwich.  

Sometimes we can be focused on global issues, which is very useful to think about something other than yourself.  But there are also the day-to-day interactions we have with people, like when you walk by someone who looks like they need your help, and you reach out to them.  It’s not that hard to ask somebody if they need help.  Helping elderly people in the grocery store parking lot and asking if they need any help, I like that my children seem to want to carry that on.  I grew up in a Catholic school and I remember our principal saying, you should think about random acts of kindness because they all have a ripple effect.  There are many ways to make an impact and leave a legacy.

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