Do I need a reason to write?

I haven’t written in 2 months, it’s Christmas Eve and I’m sitting on my bed in Mexico without any sheets because I’ve decided the holidays are a good time for laundry. I just spent the last hour writing about how I haven’t written lately only to accidentally delete the whole thing when it was near completion. Do you see the irony in that? Oops. So, I’ll start fresh instead of trying to rewrite the past.

In the last 5 years I’ve spent the holidays in Minnesota, Thailand, Oregon and Mexico. I’ve spent all Christmas’ except one scuba diving, and every New Years Day in the water.

But I have today off, due to the port being closed and tomorrow off because all the captains in Mexico refuse to work Christmas, which is good for them. I kind of forgot that Mexico is a Catholic country, I got used to walking amongst the Buddhists.

When I talk about Thailand I still use the word, “we” as if I’m still there, as if I’m still connected to it and identify with it, as if it’s mine somehow. I guess it is, it’ll always have my heart.

Mexico hasn’t been a smooth transition due to some unfortunate events, but I do like it here and I haven’t written because I’ve been trying to immerse myself- in the people, in the culture, in the moment, in my diving.

A customer said to me yesterday that the reason he dives is because in that moment it never matters what happened earlier that day or what you’re going to do an hour from now, all that matters is what’s right in front of you. He’s right about that, diving is the ultimate lesson in mindfulness. I’ve been spending almost 4 hours average below sea level a day since I started work a few weeks ago. I love the steady stream of bubbles, the way it sounds and feels, the weightlessness, the way the light comes through and the way the rain drops look hitting the surface as I’m coming up from a dive.

Most of all I love sharing it with people. I’m happiest here, doing this.

I’m sitting here on Christmas Eve feeling like time has stopped for the first time in 2 months. It’s a wave of emotions every time; my Taurus/Gemini cusp of energy allows me to move freely between different spheres, from diving instructor to small town girl to super Yachtie, and everywhere in between. I’m adaptable, easily swept into new things, and wherever I am I’m 100% in. It can be a bad thing or a good thing because I’m prone to burning the candle at both ends if I don’t balance properly.

So it’s almost 2016 and instead of all that “new year, new me” bullshit, I’m looking back on the previous year, 2 years, 7 years and realizing that I don’t have any massive plans for this year. I’m really happy with where I am right now and I’m feeling a maturity and trust in the universe that I haven’t felt before, not to this extent.

I’m blessed to live the life I live and be sitting where I’m sitting, even if it is Christmas Eve, my family is far away, and I’m currently sitting on a sheetless bed in an empty house in Mexico. It might sound unappreciative but I feel the most like me right now.

I can feel that 2016 is going to give me the most important relationships of my life because my heart is open to them. My intuition has shown me the importance of a daily continuous practice. I’ve finally found my groove here, a schedule again: a new appreciation for ashtanga yoga, reconnecting with my meditation practice, a love of pedaling mi bicicleta everywhere along the beach, being back under the sea…

I wrote in my journal last year 5 goals for 2015:

  • quit smoking (that didn’t last long)
  • IDC Staff Instructor (boom)
  • silent meditation retreat (boom)
  • getting off birth control and reconnecting with my body (boom)
  • AIDA freediving course (do something that scares you- boom)

For 2016 I’ve decided there’s no checklist. I’m on the ‘no plan’ plan. I don’t want to focus on the future. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a plan or that insight and goals aren’t important, I’m just saying that I’ve planted enough seeds and grown my own garden the past few years and I’m feeling a kind of internal guidance when I think about the future.

By focusing on the present moment I have every confidence that I will always end up exactly where I need to be.

So Merry Christmas to all of you! Thank you for supporting me, loving me, encouraging me and believing in me. Thank you for taking the time to read my words and thank you for the feedback I’ve received. Thank you to everyone that I don’t know that’s reached out- your words have melted my heart. Thank you to acquaintances that have turned into friends via conversation and a mutual respect.

Most of all, thank you to my family and friends. You truly are who you surround yourself with, and I’m blessed to close out 2015 surrounded by inspiring and supportive souls who spark the fire in my heart every day. YOU have made me ME.

THANK YOU. NAMASTE.

From my empty mattress in Mexico- Happiest of Holidays,
Lauryn

Reflecting on the Balkans & Albania.

The past 7 months has been an amazing journey. I kicked it off in October with a European trip spending 2 weeks with my amazing mother in Greece before saying goodbye to her and crossing the border into Albania, then Montenegro, and lastly Croatia before flying out of Zagreb and back to Phuket, Thailand for another season.

The beauty that is the Balkan’s is something I find hard to write about, which is why I haven’t touched the subject since the trip. I figured it was about time I tried to find a few words for you. Albania had to have been my favorite country. Littered with history from Communist Rule, to real life castles, the friendliest locals, and doner kebabs for days.

Albania is an interesting country because of it’s 6 million people only 3 million of them still live in the country, the rest have moved to Turkey or Greece or another part of Europe and assimilated raising families of their own. Because of their long history under Communist rule, no one was allowed to drive a car except for Communist leaders until 1991. Which basically means that everyone in the country has limited experience with actually driving a vehicle, which can lead to some really interesting bus journeys. The buses don’t have schedules and mostly wait to leave until they are full. As a traveler you must find out where the local bus waiting area is, walk down, and proceed to move down the line of little minivans (fogons) until you find someone yelling out your destination. Albanian’s don’t speak the best English overall, because they don’t have a steady influx of travelers yet. But they are probably some of the nicest people I’ve met, and they will try to help you in any way they can, even if it leads to a lot of confusion and nothing but smiles.

Because they aren’t so used to travelers, the average Albanian, even if somehow involved in the small tourist industry, isn’t trying to rip you off or gain anything from you. They haven’t yet tipped towards the way of trying to make money off of travelers, which is comforting to know when the language barrier can be quite complex. More than anything they are more likely to look at you and say, “Why would you want to come here?” with a quite confused look on their face. They are proud to be Albanian but are mostly unsure as to what interests you about their country or culture. I had the cutest conversations with people on the bus, their genuine interest in me, my blonde dreadlocks, the necklace I’m wearing… it would become a huge conversation where the one person on the bus that spoke decent English would try their best to translate everyone’s various questions to me as we made our way toward the next city on a bumpy “road” which doesn’t even appear to be any kind of road at all. On one bus between Berat and Tirana a teenager girl called her mother or grandma and had me speak into the phone, explaining how she was talking to a white, blonde, American girl.

Saranda, right across the border from Corfu, Greece is the southern-most beach town in Albania. I kicked off my trip here with a very confusing mini bus ride to The Blue Eye! Check it out, it’s stunning and well worth the trip! Although you’re in for a shock if you decide to plunge into the turquoise icy waters.

From Saranda I caught a 6 hour bus ride to Berat where I got stuck for 3 days amongst castles, spending my evenings watching the locals promenade up and down the riverside boardwalk, eating pizza and drinking the local beer amongst windy cobblestone streets.

The capital city of Tirana is where you’re going to experience the most “westernized” area of Albania. It’s here that you can stroll through hipster looking neighborhoods and classy uptown while at the same time walking past old Communist buildings and bunkers that have long since been deserted but still stand, covered in graffiti, as a haunting reminder of the almost recent past.

Heading further north is Skodra which is the gateway to the Albanian Alps. From there I took a small boat up the river to Valbone, a small rugged mountain town where I began to walk trekking over the Alps and into a town called Thessi. It was absolute heaven. The hike was an adventure in itself but had some of the most stunning untouched nature I’ve ever seen. After taking a few wrong turns I ended up at a homestay with my Tasmanian friend, Ashley. The family that gave us a place to sleep for the night (after trekking the last 4 hours in the pitch dark with no moon) didn’t speak a word of English (surprise!) but gave us a great homecooked meal and shelter from the rain. We couldn’t ask for more at that point. In the morning we managed to find our way into town and found a jeep to take us back to Valbone on the craziest mountain driving ride of our life, for only 10 euro.

In almost 2 weeks in Albania I spent just over 200 USD including transportation, hostels, food and fun. It’s so cheap there it’s absurd, which makes a cruise through this country well worth the time! And get there before it starts to get touristy and they catch on to the well known ways of squeezing another penny out of confused tourists and backpackers. No matter how you decide to do this trip, it’s a country not to be missed, but be prepared for a little adventure and a lot of compromise because this isn’t a fast paced country and you’ll definitely need an open mind to get the most out of everything it has to offer. The only airport is in the capital city of Tirana, so most of your transportation will be by land or sea. On my next trip to the Balkans I definitely plan on going back to Albania, you should too!

The Blue Eye- a crystal clear 10 degree celcius hole that plunges to 48 meters. stunning, eh? As the locals call it, Syri I Kalter.

Cruising through the ancient castle in Berat up on top of the city landscape.

Breathtaking Albanian Alps in the northern part of the country. Definitely worth a visit! 

Loy Krathong 2013

Loy Krathong is a holiday in Thailand celebrated annually in November. This year it was held on the 17th which was a Sunday. It is a celebration to the water gods asking for safe passage for another year. It involves buying or making a “float” from various vendors. Usually they are decorated with various flowers and incents and candles in the middle. You then add some of your hair and nail clippings and typically the thais add 9 baht because 9 is considered lucky for them. I added 19 to mine, because that’s my lucky number! 

I have to say, it was such a beautiful holiday! Watching everyone light of Chinese Fire Lanterns out into the sky, and the candles burning as the waves took the Krathongs out to sea. 

The down side of this holiday was all of the trash the next morning. Although they’re supposed to be made of natural materials, this isn’t always the case. None the less, I thanked the water Gods for a year of safety and hoped for another safe year for divers and water lovers alike.