When letting go is what is kind.

Six months ago I was packing up my house in Playa and moving in with my partner at the time because of Covid and the lockdown that was happening in Mexico. It seemed like the right move (optimism despite a rough year), but 2 weeks in we called it quits and I flew back to the States a month later. It wasn’t a bad breakup but it was a relationship we spent the last year fighting for and couldn’t come to any new conclusions… the more we tried the less it made sense… we couldn’t fit ourselves into a relationship we had outgrown any longer. So, we made the tough choice to walk away & even though it was painful, we did it with kindness in the end… as much as we could stiffen in the difficult moments anyways. We had moved back in together but the uncertainty of the world and our individual needs pulled us apart. Holding on felt too hard when we couldn’t even be there for each other anymore. The kindest thing we did for ourselves and each other was to let go, but it wasn’t easy.

I loved and learned more in those 4 years but also got shown my worst side… so I could heal, so I could get sober, and he was a part of all of that. He opened the door to my darkness and he is where the real shadow work began so saying bye to him felt like letting go of someone that knew my past and had played an active role in watching me heal, and it felt like a loss that still feels hard to describe… because 6 months later the love still exists. Love doesn’t just go away, it isn’t conditional— and I learned that sometimes… the most loving thing we can do, is let another go, no matter how much we love them. You can love someone so much and still know that person isn’t good for you. I learned this year that love isn’t enough; and for someone that believes in love in all moments, it felt heartbreaking. But moving in this new understanding now, allows me to start asking myself what I want for my future (and what that looks like for me). I’m still learning what that is… and how it feels in this new world… but the lessons keep coming and I’m thankful to be seeing so much clearer now than I was.

After leaving V (my ex) in Mexico and returning to the States, I had no idea what life was going to look like for me in the US and I felt a lot of uncertainty returning given current world affairs. Honestly I felt safer overseas! But the smart choice in that moment was to move back and my incentive for doing so was the freedom I’d have to live in my van, work on and build my online business and start to focus on the passion projects I’ve been wanting the time to birth. It seemed like I was being pulled back across the border & it felt like the universe was going to help me sort it out, plus… tourism in Mexico meant my future as a dive instructor was a bit unstable. The waves of change brought me back and 3 days after arriving my home state of Minnesota witnessed the violent murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis PD and well… I think we all know what’s happened since then…

The protests and political division in my home country also brought about an incredible amount of tension within my own family and my personal life. This heartbreak felt suffocating and hasn’t since been reconciled. I grew up with an incredibly privileged lifestyle and a family who was supportive of my lifestyle and dreams, despite the fact that our paths and beliefs became more and more different as I got older. Somewhere along the line, our family curse of sweeping things under the rug came to a head and we haven’t found a way to open the line of communication since. The world is full of division right now, especially amongst families. I’ve always thought we could find common ground on other things, but I’m having a hard time disagreeing over human rights or the rights of women and other marginalized peoples. Losing my partner and adventure buddy of 4 years on top of my family shortly after felt like the rug being ripped out from under me. At the same time I was mourning the loss of my lover I was grieving with my nation and my Black brothers and sisters and then my family… it felt like bricks… It isn’t that we believe differently, I’m not 5 years old! Unfortunately, things were said and done that will take time to heal and will forever change our relationship. My sobriety and my healing has led me on a path of radical honesty and acceptance within my own life and I ask the same of the people I love. I don’t think this is unreasonable. Right now a lot is being asked of us that we’ve never experienced before and if you’re struggling with those you love, stand in love and stand in what you value. As long as you do those two things, you will never regret being true to yourself.

I know none of this is easy & I have it easy easier than most. I recognize my privilege in this world and the more I’ve moved about it and traveled the last 8 years, the more I’ve realized that all humans deserve access to food, water, education and healthcare. This realization shocked me because I never saw human rights as something someone should have to “realize”, and I was ashamed at the things my privilege (and the narrative I was taught) simply hadn’t allowed me to see. When I discuss my privilege I’m not just talking about class privilege but also white privilege, the privilege to be able bodied, to have a University degree, + to be heterosexual (passing). Understand, I’m a girl from a small Minnesota town and a well to do Republican family— speaking out against the narrative that has allowed me so much privilege is hurting the people that have given me everything in this world. To them it feels like an attack on a lifestyle I wouldn’t have had the option of living if it wasn’t for the privilege I was raised in… and the opportunities it gave me over others. Speaking out and voting against a system that disproportionately benefits me seems like a smack in the face to the people who gave it to me… it feels unappreciative and entitled. But dismantling the system that works in my favor is exactly the work that needs to be done because I believe and have seen that there are better ways. I don’t have the answers and I don’t claim to, but I believe in communities and people as a whole to do better, and be better. I believe that by lifting others, we all rise. I believe that how a first world country treats it’s poorest citizens says a lot about that country and it’s morality. I believe in having the difficult conversations and confronting the ways in which our activism may fall short on extending to all peoples. I am so thankful for the education I was given that has allowed me to confront my own privilege and the access I have ((my autonomy and ability to move about the world)).

I think if we don’t use our privilege to open up space to others with less than we aren’t actively engaging in the world; and I intend to use mine to make the world a better place. Having these conversations for the last 14 years since my degree in Women’s Studies and Sociology and traveling extensively has given me a lens vastly different than the one I grew up with. Despite my relationship with my family now, they raised a strong, independent and educated woman who happens to believe fundamentally and morally different things than them… and no matter what, I wouldn’t be who I am, nor would I have the balls to do what I do, if it wasn’t for them and the safety net my privilege has provided. I am still uncovering more layers of healing that need to be done but I can only take responsibility for myself. For the first time in my life, I’m standing in opposition to my family and although it doesn’t seem like much can be done right now, I have faith in the future. I think we can always find common ground as humans, even if that means creating new boundaries so there can be a relationship. I think this sentiment goes for everyone… letting go and boundaries have been my two biggest lessons this year and I acknowledge that my healing here isn’t linear.

I’m not going to lie, the last 6 months have been really hard on my heart. They have tested my values, my voice, my convictions, and my integrity. I have been challenged more than ever before and I am so thankful to have sobriety, self development, and a level head through it all. Because of this, I feel fortunate… fortunate that the universe has given me these tough times when I have the tools to move through them. I feel fortunate to have invested in my own health and sobriety and to have a strong community of supportive friends and coworkers behind me. I feel fortunate to have the space and privilege in this world to stop and reflect on my place and impact within it. I feel fortunate. Period. Even though there are days the grief creeps up on me, I remind myself that I can handle whatever gets thrown at me. I remind myself that I am blessed to live the life I do and I pick myself back up, even if it takes me awhile.

In these moments of turbulence that has been 2020 I am being faced with the opportunity to stay small and comfortable for fear of being difficult, or to use my voice and my platform in a positive way. I choose the latter. We are all being pushed into uncomfortable situations and instead of fighting them why don’t we ask ourselves where the resistance comes from and start looking inside. I keep asking myself over and over, “what is the most loving thing I can do here”, and then I do that… and “loving” doesn’t always mean easy… it means what is kind, what is in alignment, what is in our best interest. & sometimes the most loving thing we can do is let go…

My Take on Network Marketing

When it came to network marketing, I was like you too. I had been approached by the network marketing girl from high school that I hadn’t spoken to in over 10 years and asked to buy her product. She didn’t even ask how I was or use my name, and it looked like a copy and paste message that had been sent to everyone in her inbox. One of the women on my team got approached by someone she hadn’t spoken to in years who told her that she had a “crazy idea” and that she had a dream that the two of them should start a network marketing jewelry business together. I know… I know… can you imagine what both of our responses were? We didn’t respond. I get it, I get it, I get it!! We’ve all had bad experiences with network marketing and even if we don’t actually know anything about the business models or structures, we’ve definitely heard the term “pyramid scheme” being thrown around a lot, and from what we know, those are bad so anything that resembles a pyramid scheme automatically goes into the “nope” category for many of us. We don’t want to be “those people” that annoy their entire friends list and isolate their friends and families.

I never researched network marketing until I was contemplating joining a company that used nutritional support products from a network marketing company. Since our partner products were distributed using this model, I went to work to understand how it worked, and why people hated on these companies so much. What I learned shocked me. Not to mention, I also learned that not all network marketing is the same, not all models are the same, and that a lot of the myths I believed about them weren’t true.

Over the years I’d heard of network marketing companies getting sued due to claims being made by their distributors that were untrue. I’d seen the incessant posts on people’s walls where all they did was talk about and promote the products, and I’d been annoyed when I felt like someone wasn’t being authentic. See, we can pick up on that energy! Have you ever sent a text message, in a bad mood, and even though nothing you said was negative, the other person responded to that energy and inquired if everything was okay? I have, guilty! This is also why I was against network marketing- because I wasn’t a salesman, and I definitely wouldn’t try to “sell” anything I didn’t believe in. I used to think, honestly… no one LOVES a product THAT MUCH! I thought it was all a bit ridiculous.

Now that you know how I used to feel, let me talk about why all of this changed. When I got introduced to my team and program I was at a point in my life where I was feeling lost. For those of you that don’t know my story, let me give you a quick recap. I was 30 years old and had been living overseas and working as a scuba instructor for 7 years. I was in Indonesia at the time and since my job revolves around tourism, natural disasters had a tendency to affect that industry pretty directly. We moved from Mexico to Indonesia just in time for Bali’s Mount Agung volcano to reactivate and cause an evacuation which meant that finding a job as an instructor on the island of Bali, as planned, would be a bit difficult. So we moved to the Gili Islands and struggled through low season only to have a magnitude 7.4 earthquake level the island and leave us in a rough place financially. On top of all of that, I was struggling with my drinking after years in the dive industry and my mental health. I was craving something different and when my world got shaken up I decided to go back to the USA for marijuana harvest season- at least I knew there was money to be made there, and I had a van I could live in and friends that worked in the industry. This opportunity fell into my lap shortly afterwards and I didn’t even realize that I was craving all of the things this opportunity offered me- more financial and time freedom and the ability to work from anywhere while I heal myself.

I never saw myself as an inspiration, but I was determined to get sober and healthier in my 30’s then I’d ever been. After 2 weeks on the products the migraines I’d suffered since I was 12, that debilitated me while scuba diving and my team would have to take over, disappeared. I was blown away! My belief in the product was secure because I had felt the changes myself! Since I knew I’d be on the products for life, I decided to start selling them in hopes of paying for my own product. Not only did the products work for me, but so did the program and all I had to do was share my experiences regarding a product that had already changed my life dramatically. Now I was sober and migraine free and realized it was time to start diving into the programs and working on myself. As I worked on myself and shared my story, my business began to grow organically and I pretty quickly realized that I was falling more in love with myself and more in love with this industry! Every month a few hundred extra dollars was showing up into my account, I was getting healthier, and without even realizing it, I was taking on the business part time. I’d like to state here that not all network marketing companies are the same, so I can only speak for the company I work for.

So why do I love The Soul Project and the network marketing model?

THE PRODUCTS

You have to love something if you’re going to sell it. At least, I did. I’m not a good saleswoman so selling things I don’t believe in is a dead give away. If your belief in the products isn’t high, then you won’t succeed. We have a unique company within network marketing because we’re a legacy company. The Soul Project utilizes the the Juice Plus+ nutritional support products because they have been around for 50 years, making these products for 30 years, and NEVER had a recall, have made it through multiple recessions, are talked about and used by many athletes, and are literally the simplest of whole food nutrition. They are the ONLY nutritional product in the world with a FOOD label because they are just that, food. After I researched the products, read the reviews, read the clinical studies on the website, and listened to people’s stories at being transformed by fruits and veggies- I was hooked! It worked for me! And it made sense to me- our bodies need more fruits and vegetables, and we’re not getting enough and people will always need more fruits and veggies, no matter how good of an eater they are! Over the years I’ve seen my own customers results, heard their stories, and seen other amazing stories of healing and it reconfirmed my belief in the simplicity and strength of something like this. Our studies regarding our products and the immune system are incredible and I have multiple women on my team who suffer autoimmune disorders and have seen incredible improvements. Listening to their stories lights me up. How can you argue with wholefood, vegan, GMO free, NSF certified organic (better than USDA), fair trade, vine ripened fruits and veggies in a vegan capsule? You can’t. There is literally no other product on the market like it, nor with the studies to back it.

THE PROGRAM

We believe in healing from the inside out which is why we chose Juice Plus+ as our nutritional support products. Did you know 90% of our diseases today are linked in some way back to the gut and health of our microbiome? 90%! This includes mental health diseases such as depression and anxiety. What is happening outside of us is a direct reflection of what’s happening inside. Starting with a solid wholefood base of nutrition allows our customers the catalyst to heal the rest: not just the body but also the mind and the soul. Our program focuses on healing of all 3 and they are programs created by us, for you. We run 10 day detoxes every month starting on the 15th and each month focuses on a different party of our health- mind, body or soul. We also have meditation guides, recipes, meal planning, self care, weight loss, self love & SO much more customized for your goals. Because we believe that healing needs to start with families, kids eat free! We have our own customer hub where myself and my team are adding value daily. I have found my voice within helping those that struggle with alcohol as well as giving monthly full moon & new moon circles because these are things that are close to my heart and areas of my life I have experience healing and working with.

THE COMMUNITY

This shocked me! I didn’t realize the massive self development that would take place just from joining this supportive community. The Soul Project spans Australia, New Zealand, US, UK, Canada and more and we ship to 28 countries worldwide! Our leaders all have different gifts to share and contribute their content and modalities in such inspiring ways. I’ve had access to trainings by Tony Robbins and Eric Worre, who are known worldwide for their masterclasses but are also HUGE advocates of the network marketing industry. I’ve inspired other leaders to quit alcohol and share their experiences with their community, I’ve made great friends that have inspired me and taught me invaluable skills moving forward. We are an eclectic group of men and women who are uplifting, supportive of each other’s wins, and come from all different backgrounds- stay at home moms, corporate professionals, healthcare providers, travelers, wellness instructors, life coaches, skydivers and so many more! Because of them I have found my own voice and started creating my own content. Everyone needs supportive people behind them!

CONCLUSIONS

Look, I love scuba diving and will always teach diving, but I needed a second set of income I could build on the side to start planning for the future. I had a dream to own a dive shop one day but now I’d love to own a holistic health business! But no matter what, I will stay within this industry because it has given me so much! I honestly, truly, want to change people’s views about network marketing. But one thing I need to make clear is that this isn’t an overnight success. This is something you start and build over time which is why we call it the 4 year career. It’s something you get in line for. But it’s also something that will give you and your team the skills and the flexibility to really decide what way you want to show up and be of service in the world.

While working for this company and creating a vision for my own future, I realized that I wanted enough money to not only be comfortable but to actually make an impact in the world and donate to causes I believe in. I wanted the time freedom to work on projects that I feel make the world a better place. Is it easy to make money in this industry? Heck no! Which is why so many sign up, do nothing with it, get discouraged, and quit, only going on to have a bad experience with this industry and tell everyone they know. This is a job, just like any other, and how much you make is a direct reflection of the time you put in. It also requires you to be self motivated and consistent. It is a SOCIAL media job which is why it’s called NETWORK marketing. You have to network! But one of the biggest misconceptions is that people believe they’ll isolate their friends and family. Um… hello, social media! Look, I grow my network by connecting with other like-minded people daily. I find other travelers, yogis, skydivers, sober, cat lovers (to give you an idea of the types of people I meet and interact with) and I do all of this through the power of social media! The only time I’ve ever suggested these products OR this business is if I feel it could help people. I don’t isolate anyone, I expand my tribe, have met amazing people online, and it has led to amazing collaborations. All because I chose to not listen to Nancy down the street and took a chance to build something different!

In our lives right now, we are seeing a MASSIVE influx of fear for the future, fear of uncertainty, FEAR FEAR FEAR and it’s ruling our lives. But it always has. Fear controls almost every aspect of our lives at all times. Fear has also become my favorite emotion to work with because I’ve learned that it is also our best teacher. Some of my favorite things in life started out as fears- scuba diving, skydiving, traveling, network marketing. If I had lived in fear, or listened to what others said, I wouldn’t have had the ability or the balls to create the life I want. I don’t feel bad about that and I won’t apologize for it, it’s one of my favorite qualities about myself. If it’s something that you feel like you’re lacking then I’d encourage you to reach out, because helping others work with their fears is also a superpower of mine since I’ve gone through it. In conclusion, I’m thankful for this industry and all that it’s taught me.

If you’re considering branching into network marketing or looking for something you can do along side your career then I have just this advice: research the company & model, find a product you LOVE and will use for life, look for a “legacy” company not a “startup” and research its history. I am 2 promotions away from healthcare for life! I already make residual income which is literally money while I sleep, and now, more than ever, people need to start taking their health and their family’s health seriously- and I think people get that. So if you’re scared of anything right now, I’d encourage you to start dancing with that comfort zone because if I’ve learned anything it’s that all my best moments have been birthed from fear. Don’t let fear keep you stuck.

Oh and I’m not saying everyone should join a network marketing company! It definitely isn’t for everyone and I think that’s why so many fail. I’m only 1.5 years in and I still have another year or so until I could be full time from this but I’m putting in work every day because I have seen what this opportunity has done for others that I know, and I want to be the one that succeeds too and I see no reason why this business couldn’t give me that when it’s given me so much already. So, maybe next time you decide to buy makeup you could reach out to a Mary Kay distributor, or for hair- Monat, for essential oils- DoTerra, for supplements ME or for household supplies Airbonne. You’d be supporting a single mother or a traveler instead of big corporations like Target or Walmart. Understand that these people probably love these products and love this industry just like I do. We are constantly sharing the recipes, foods, retailers and products we love, so why wouldn’t we get paid for it? Maybe you won’t turn your nose down at network marketing and maybe you’ll take the time to understand that there will obviously be unethical practices in all business, and I cannot control how other’s run their business but I can ensure that I run mine ethically, authentically and honestly. I hope this has answered some questions if you’ve been thinking I’m a crazy person, or that I’m just trying to sell you something, because yes I am crazy, and NO I’m not just trying to sell you something. I think you’re a smart enough consumer to decide for yourself, that’s what I did. But quit hating on this industry cuz at least here, I can be my own CEO and run my own business, and I’m fucking thankful for that.

Trigger Warning: Plastic

As a scuba diver, I’ve gotten to see the devastating effects of plastic first hand. On a dive in Mexico I passed a hawksbill turtle with a plastic bag wrapped around it’s mouth. I tried to get close but the turtles in that area don’t usually approach divers and although it wasn’t too comfortable with me, it seemed to slow down as I neared. When I attempted to put my hand out to free the plastic the turtle panicked and swam away. I was crushed. Unable to breathe at the surface due to the bag, I wasn’t sure how long he’d make it. Turtles can only hold their breath a few hours depending on the level of activity but he had a mission in front of him and a limited amount of time to remove the bag.

This isn’t my only story about plastic in our oceans.

I’ve been unable to surface in normally clear water certain days because as I approach the surface after a dive you can see that it’s lined with floating debris, plastic and other rubbish. It looks like a gruesome film layering the surface of the water. You can see the gasoline sparkling rainbows as you look up and watch your bubbles break apart when they hit the surface.

I cut a fishing net in Indonesia and almost got hit in the head by a weight belt as the the boat captain realized and tried to stop me. My student looked on in horror. I realized in hindsight I shouldn’t meddle in certain things, I know it’s their way of life, but I have a hard time with the way we treat our oceans. How ignorant we become. How things like dynamite fishing are even a thing.

In 2012 I joined hundreds of divers as we set the Guinness Book of World Records for pulling out the most debris from our oceans in one day. It was the biggest organized event they’ve ever had. In Phuket specifically 650 divers, including myself, pulled out 15 tons of rubbish. We were proud of ourselves- we did something great! But I was so sad that something like that was necessary. If we took out 15 tons in one day, imagine how much there is! And setting a world record for the most rubbish collected at a time seemed like something I didn’t want to be competing for.

Once, I watched a seahorse swaying along the bottom with tinfoil sachets that had been thrown into the ocean- bobbing back and forth with the waves and seahorse in unison. It was like looking at one of the cutest, most beautiful tiny things in the world, next to something that was slowly integrating in where it didn’t belong, where it never belonged. The plastic can’t go anywhere except back into the environment as a microplastic, this is now our cycle… That’s when I realized where we were going if we didn’t stop, what our world would look like… and it scared the shit out of me!

I jumped first during season opener with my group of divers on a liveaboard in the Similan Islands in Thailand one year. We had arrived at Richeleu Rock, the most famous dive site in Thailand, to find that it had been covered with a fishing net. The whole thing! We spent 2 dives cutting away the invisible fishing line with plastic bottles attached as surface markers and fishing hooks scattered throughout the lines underwater. This area was a “protected marine park” but it closes 7 months a year and when it’s closed the fisherman know there is no one out there patrolling, and they don’t care.

I broke apart a fish cage with my hands and dive knife on a familiar dive site in Thailand once to free the 8-10 fish that were trapped inside. I know it was small and they probably just wanted to feed their family but something happens to me and I become protective of the water I spend so much time in. I feel the need to speak for it. But first I have to educate myself about the seafood industry, fishing practices, local customs and ways of life, the environmental effects and other aspects of what I’m doing. Sometimes our actions come from a good place but we might have misguided intentions.

I’ve used a shovel to pick up and throw away huge blankets of oil that had covered the beach in the morning, melting in the hot sun and getting harder to move by the minute. I’ve joined environmental groups while I traveled, organized beach clean ups through my dive shop, and been a part of more Debris related activities than I’d like because unfortunately as a diver we get to see it daily. It makes us sad to watch dive sites disappear and change so greatly within a few years. Before it used to take a lifetime to notice these differences, now they’re happening in a matter of years.

Regardless, I’m not on a pedestal but something I will get hot and bothered about is plastic! I’ve walked down beaches in some of the most beautiful places in the world (YES EVEN IN THE US)  and seen them littered with plastic lighters, chip bags, plastic straws, sachets, styrofoam and so many other pieces of microplastics you wouldn’t believe your eyes! I don’t even know if you believe me, you probably think I’ve seen this once or twice, here and there; I’m here to tell you I have seen this everywhere, in all different parts of the world! Although it’s more certainly on display in third world countries, it still exists in the United States, we’ve just gotten better at “recycling” it and stashing it out of the way. We don’t have to look at it and be reminded of the pounds of plastic we throw out in the trash every day, it isn’t our problem. Out of sight out of mind!

Although somehow, if someone dumped that rubbish right out in our yards every day, we might start realizing how much unnecessary plastic and packaging we consume. I’m not saying you need to go out and be a damn warrior but start somewhere! At least become AWARE of the amount of plastic you use and if there’s a better way. Bring a reusable bag, avoid products with palm oil, tell the waiter you don’t need a straw, ANYTHING will help!

Oh, and please don’t get me started on single use plastic because I don’t know how we can even justify using a piece of plastic once and throwing it away! Look, no one is perfect. But if we all just did a little bit better, it would make such a huge difference! I worry constantly about the future of our oceans, about how to teach the next generation to be better than we are, to create products with less environmental impact, I worry about how to reduce my carbon footprint. But I also have certain habits that contribute to the consumption of plastic and I recognize that none of us are perfect! I think it’s necessary to look at our lives and see the ways we could improve. Not only how we can improve by purchasing less and being aware of different kinds of plastic, but on how we educate our children and the ways in which we normalize plastic’s use.

I’d like to be able to continue sharing my passion for diving for years to come. If our ocean’s continue at this rate I might not have fish or coral left to show people. Our favorite sites that used to be considered the most beautiful dives in the world will be covered in plastic fishing nets and rubbish littering the surface and the bottom! Divers are natural ambassadors for the underwater environment because they get to see the effects first hand and share what they see with others. You get to see all my beautiful dive photos and travel photos, I don’t show you the way that I’ve adjusted the camera frame to exclude a bit of rubbish or the way the surface of the water shines as the trash dances up and down in the sun. I don’t share the ways in which we’ve had to educate our boat crew to not flick their cigarettes in the water or throw their rubbish overboard.

I’ve realized that I wanted to share all of this because I’m in a position to do it. This isn’t your usual inspiring post because sometimes it’s important to talk about the hard stuff. It’s important we stop pretending like these things aren’t problems because they don’t affect us “enough”. I think it’s time we stop making up excuses.

 

life after 5 months on a tiny tropical island

My oh my, where has the time gone!?! I have officially lived on this island for 5 months! I can barely believe that because time has literally flown by. So many things have happened and I felt like it was about time I seek out some wifi, take advantage of my sick time, and write it all down!

Incase you haven’t been following me, I will fill you in. My boyfriend and I moved here from Mexico 5 months ago with an original plan of staying in Bali and finding work as scuba instructors there. Well I guess the universe didn’t have that planned because Bali’s Mount Agung started erupting a week before we arrived and managed to evacuate the two biggest dive towns on the island. So, we spent 2 weeks exploring Bali, handing out our CV’s, speaking with dive shops and moving around the island because Bali doesn’t feel much like an island, I mean, it’s HUGE. Anyways, as beautiful as it was we decided that maybe a smaller island vibe was in fact what we were looking for and took everyone’s advice to look for work in the Gili Islands . The Gilis are located in between Bali and Lombok (another island the size of Bali with a volcano).

The minute we arrived on Gili Air we fell in love with the quiet and tranquility of the island. Although Bali is mostly Hindu, Lombok is predominately Muslim and so are the Gilis. There is at least 1 mosque on each island but Lombok itself is deemed “the land of 1,000 mosques”. You can hear the call to prayer 5 times a day starting just after 5 AM and there is a loud speaker on the island that announces it. It takes a little getting used to, especially if you live really close to the mosque. Although no where on the island is safe, I sleep pretty soundly and can only hear it if I’m outside!

When you first arrive you’ll notice the flat little sand islands against the back drop of Lombok, this huge mountainous island that towers over all the Gilis. All the local boats boast a similar shape with 2 outriggers on each, all different colors dotted along the reef. The tide here is incredibly extreme and exposes the reef for almost a kilometer sometimes twice a day depending on the moon. The islands themselves are quite dry but Gili Air has a fresh water reservoir beneath it which helps irrigate crops on the island and allows some things to grow.

The only mode of transportation is by foot, by bicycle, or a “Gili taxi” or “cidomo” which consists of a horse drawn cart and 1 driver. I can tell you, from experience, that this is quite the ride while you’re bumping along these tiny roads. These drivers are known for going extremely fast as well so if you’re not in the horse cart, you better get out of the way! I’ve jumped to safety more than a few times. They equip the carts with bells and you can hear the horses and bells coming along, but it takes awhile to train your ears that the sound means, “get the F out of the road!”

I cannot tell you the exact population of Gili Air but I do know it has the biggest local population. It is a good mix of the other 2 islands- Gili T and Gili Meno. Gili T is known for it’s party culture and has the biggest total population, not only locals. Gili Meno is known for it’s chilled out beach and honeymoon vibe. Gili Air is a happy medium between the two. Gili actually means “small island” in Sasak, the local dialect of Lombok and Air in Bahasa Indonesian means “water”, so it technically means “small water island” which is pretty fitting. They named it Air because of it’s reservoir. The Gilis didn’t become developed until the 1970’s when fishermen from Sulawesi started creating small settlements after their travels. By the 1980’s it had caught on as a tourist destination due to Bali’s merging popularity.

bali map

Do you see the 3 small islands off the NW coast of Lombok? There I am!

Now do you understand why I haven’t written publicly much these last few months? I’ve been writing a lot for myself but it is honestly such a chase to try to get good wifi that I prefer to live in the moment and stay disconnected instead of posting most of it publicly. Some day!

Another daily occurrence is island wide black outs. It happens a few times a day most of the time and makes the whole island dark. Sometimes they can last for 8 hours at the very moment you need to use the ATM or cook something. Although it doesn’t stop me, I now have candles all over the house and the minute the lights go out I don’t even flinch, I grab a lighter and start walking around. At least I can still cook because the stove runs on propane, I only need a few candles around my work station! I like the quiet nights where the power is out and I can do laundry by headlamp and read on the balcony. I’ve learned to make sure the electronics and battery packs are always charged and ready so when it happens we have a working speaker, music, a computer for saved movies and whatever else we might need.

There are cows and horses on the island. They all have owners but they basically roam free. Chickens are EVERYWHERE and are probably the most dangerous part of my daily life because they run in front of your bicycle tires like they’re trying to kill themselves! I’m telling you, watch out for the chickens! Victor and I always make, “why did the chicken cross the road” jokes. Lately they have all been having babies and there’s little peeps everywhere. There is a new rooster located directly next door to us, which apparently has no regard for what time of the day he decides to kick off, so that’s been fun lately. My favorite island horse is named Beyonce, she is a baby still with a little bit of a temper. Quite often you’ll see her running full speed down the beach road with her long line dragging behind her. She’s usually just looking for a nice patch of grass but she’s known to be a sassy lady. There are also lots of CATS so I’m in heaven! Cats everywhere! I’ve adopted my own adventure cat, named Botas, and helped with the cat clinic in November where they come to the island to vaccinate all the island cats. Unfortunately you won’t find dogs on the Gili Islands as they are considered dirty in Muslim culture. From what I’ve heard, all the ones that were here ended up poisoned or dead.

Gili has been the sweetest blessing! I have truly enjoyed this little island and taken the last few months to really disconnect, jump into my job, and enjoy my surroundings. Although the reviews on my part are wonderful, there are a few downsides. Despite my month long battle with ringworm, which grows rampant in the soil and spreads by *gasp* cats! I have managed to have it, not have it, have it, not have it, for almost 4 months now. Athletes foot is also common because people never wear shoes and it’s the same bacteria as ring worm. The spiders here are the size of my hand and you’ll find them frequently on your walls which took V some getting used to! I have become a pro spider catcher, and Botas also loves to chase the cockroaches and spiders out of the house.

Living on a tiny tropical island sounds great at first, but there are definitely some disadvantages that aren’t always forseen in the beginning! Regardless, I absolutely love it here. I am thankful to be barefoot and in the ocean every day. I am thankful for the beautiful reef I’m surrounded with and the people who have come into my life since I arrived on this island. Now that our work visas are through, we have another year to look forward to here! And then, who knows!?!

7 Things That Happened When I Ditched My Phone for a Week

If you know me at all you’ll know that my track record with cell phones would probably be comparable to a 2 year old constantly losing one shoe. To put it NOT lightly, I suck at holding on to them. But in the last year I’ve “got my shit together” as you’d say and managed to keep the same cell for almost exactly a year. That morning as I’m heading to see the whale sharks with my boyfriend, I’m chatting away about how I was almost at the 1 year mark and so proud of myself. Flash forward to that afternoon when I put it on the back of a toilet seat and then proceeded to walk out the door. Oops! Something I did in Vietnam 4 years before, a mistake I’d already made, and we’re sitting in the van heading back to Playa del Carmen and I realized I didn’t have it on me. I instantly dropped my head and knew exactly where I’d left it- on the back of the damn toilet seat! Women, if you’re reading this, we aren’t dudes, we face the toilet seat once, turn around and pee and then walk out, so stop making this a habit! I know from experience.

Thank buddha I do have insurance on my phone and happened to be heading to the states a week later, so instead of stressing about it I ordered it to be sent to Florida so I could pick it up from the Air BNB I’ve been staying at while skydiving here. It’s pretty obvious that I’m a huge social media buff, although I resisted smart phones for years I finally got one 3 years ago after everyone told me “it’ll change your life”… which it definitely has and although some changes as a traveler are extremely positive and make my life way easier, others are mostly negative and it’s so easy to become addicted to our phones. I’ve tried to find a balance with my smart phone use but I still find myself pulling it out while talking to people or scrolling pointlessly when there’s nothing to be looking at. Habits I’m aware of now and am working on breaking. I read a quote that said, “hang out with people that make you not want to look at your phone” and I’ve realized that my friends and my partner deserve my undivided attention when I’m with them.

I could have gotten a cheap throwaway for the week but I decided to go without and it was honestly such a refreshing reset. There were way more ups than downs and I noticed a few things in particular.

  1. I smiled at people more. Way more. When I wasn’t constantly checking my phone or pulling it out to avoid contact with people I found myself smiling at strangers and actually provoked interesting conversation with people. On the bus, at work, on my flight, everywhere. And you know what happened, people smiled back and it made me happier and more in touch the rest of my day.
  2. I had to become a planner. Gone were the days where I could change or adjust my plans last minute. Without a phone, I didn’t have that option. My mom used to always say how nice it was that people made plans and showed up instead of cancelling, and there’s something to be said about that. It forced me into make commitments and sticking to it, and now I realize how important that is. Not that I didn’t before but because everyone else always got away with it, I became a slacker myself. It made me realize I didn’t want to do that anymore.
  3. I read all the time. I’ve always been a reader, I go nowhere without my kindle and in most situations would rate it over my phone in terms of necessity. But instead of mindlessly scrolling on Facebook, I’d whip the kindle out instead and get 5 minutes of reading done while I waited. Hell, sometimes I’d just sit there and watch the world around me instead.
  4. I felt happier. No shit, seriously! I’m sure it was a combination effect of the above but I honestly felt more grounded and connected to myself, others and the world around me and I can only assume it came from being more present. Because I was less connected to social media I wasn’t absorbing everyone else’s energies all day. This allowed me to fully sit in my body and be aware of how I was feeling.
  5. I was less anxious. Maybe that’s because I didn’t feel the need to check my phone or think I’d missed something. And if someone tried to get ahold of me and I did miss it I had an excuse because I literally couldn’t have answered if I’d wanted. Something about that felt really freeing. I was only obligated to the people I was around and if I needed to sit down in front of the computer for a few hours to get some work done, I actually got work done instead of brainlessly using social media.
  6. I used my computer time wisely. Because I wasn’t constantly connected I had to schedule time in to respond to emails and maintain my own social media accounts. But because I was only checking in and logging off, I was able to keep the rest of my day separate. I made phone calls on Skype (which felt like going back in time) and paid my bills over Skype phone calls as well. It was actually good to schedule that time in instead of being reminded all day of emails and other various things I needed to respond to. I checked it all at once, and was done with it just as quickly.
  7. I didn’t miss it. I really thought it was going to have the opposite effect on me but I was relieved to find myself settling into it with ease and finding that it didn’t stress me out at all. Quite the opposite! Even when I did get my phone back I was hanging at the dropzone and spending all my time jumping and meeting new friends and it took me almost 2 days to get it configured anyways. I was bummed I slacked on photos but I actually don’t regret being fully present at all.

Conclusions? If you do have the opportunity to put your cell phone away, whether it’s on holiday for a few days or a weekend, you name it… take advantage of the opportunity! If you want to use your phone for photos, fine, just turn your data settings off so you won’t be tempted to use it for anything else. Trust me, no one will die if you aren’t Snapchat-ing the awesome weekend you’re having or sending out Instagram posts INSTANTLY, just hashtag #latergram and call it good! Or don’t hashtag at all, who fucking cares 😉

Because of that experience I still find myself rarely checking my phone and if I’m brainlessly scrolling I realize it pretty quickly. It changed the way I view social media and this “instant response” culture we live in. Now, I realize that I don’t need to stop what I’m doing to respond to a message when I can respond later. We need to stop harping people for not responding in “due time” and instead allow everyone else to live their lives presently and call or return our messages when they want.

I’d encourage everyone to be a bit more mindful when it comes to their phone. Try leaving it at home sometimes while you run errands, try charging it at night outside your room or out of reach and set an alarm the old school way. If you’re hanging with friends don’t reach for it unless it’s to take a photo, but then put it away. There are things we can all do differently and I can promise you it’ll make you feel better. This all coming from a girl that is definitely a social media addict! If I can have the awareness and start making small changes and it’s affecting me in such a huge way, I promise it’ll do you some good as well. Try some of these things and let me know what you’ve noticed! I’d like to hear your comments so please post below and let’s chat about it!

 

The Caribbean’s Hidden Gem

Imagine waking up on a tiny island where there are no cars or scooters at all, only foot paths with the occasional bicycle. Delivery produce only arrives from the larger island once a week and sends the small ferry dock into a frenzy with people from all over the island setting up stands and selling the week’s supply of food. Larger items need to be transported by push cart through the jungle pathways weaving a half an hour to the opposite end, sometimes taking as many as 6 men to complete the job. Electricity shuts off daily from 6 AM to 1 PM to allow the sun to recharge the generators for the day. When the fans stop humming in the morning it pushes everyone outside to begin their day. I don’t think there is any air conditioning on the island so the fan is what allows you to sleep. The first thing you smell every morning is fresh baked coconut bread flavored with ginger or cheddar and the locals speak a mixture of Spanish, English and Creole. Sometimes you’re unsure which one is more prevalent. The people are friendly and the pace of life is slow, untouched from the rush of the rest of the world.

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Don’t go to Holbox Island in Mexico

Holbox is a small island without cars or roads located in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. It is still fairly untraveled in comparison to places like Isla Mujeres or Cozumel, but it’s surprisingly easy to get to. From Cancun you can take a bus an hour north to the town of Chiquila then a quick 15 minute ferry ride to Holbox. All of the hotels and bungalows are within walking distance unless you have a heavy backpack or a rolling suitcase, otherwise you can take a taxi ride via golf cart which is the only form of transportation other than bicycles on the island.

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Cave Diving in the Yucatan

I finally finished my full cave diving course with IANTD (The International Association of Nitrox and Technical Diving). Cave diving is part of the reason I came to Mexico a year ago and it took me awhile, and a bit of money, to finish this course. It is my first step into technical diving and now means that I can guide the caverns here as a guide to recreational scuba divers. What I do already, as a PADI IDC Staff Instructor, allows me to teach all levels of recreational scuba diving from Open Water, Advanced, Rescue, Divemaster, Assistant Instructor, Specialities and training new PADI Instructors under a Course Director. As much as I love working as a PADI Instructor, cave diving was something I did for me. I started diving when I was 12 years old and have somewhere around 3,500 dives. I’ve always wanted to cave dive and have seen technical diving as a new challenge. It was a way to fall in love with diving all over again.

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On Love Abroad

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I haven’t had a long term relationship in over 5 years. Of course I’ve dated and had a few flings that lasted more than a month, but I’ve spent the last 4.5 years traveling the world solo. I’ve always been against long distance relationships because I had a strong belief that it probably wouldn’t work out, would end in heartbreak, and wasn’t worth my time. It definitely takes a special kind of person to travel the world with and I would guess that most couples wouldn’t come home together if asked to embark on a round-the-world trip. I read an article once that said, if you were engaged to some one, instead of spending the money on the ceremony and a blowout wedding, use it towards a trip around the world together, and if you arrive home, months later, together, at the same airport, then you know you’ll be able to get through anything together. I’m all in favor of that idea.

Flash forward to present day and I am 6 months in to the happiest relationship of my life. I have finally found someone I can travel with, that values and respects my independence, constantly encouraging me to do whatever I want and follow through on my pre-him travel plans. But as luck would have it, I met him towards the end of my 7 months in Mexico. When I went to work in the Caribbean for 2 months, we stayed in constant contact and I returned to Mexico for 3 weeks to visit him afterwards. I then surprised him another 2 months later for 5 days in Playa del Carmen and will return to Mexico to work another season in mid November. This time we have decided to live together and are trying to save money to head to Indonesia or Australia this spring. I can’t tell you how excited I am to have this amazing human by my side in the future, and I can’t tell you it’s been easy because it hasn’t. We had to learn to deal with the distance and build our relationship despite it. Neither of us compromises well normally, but as our love grew so did a mutual respect and understanding for each other’s necessary freedom. So, I may not know a lot and I’m definitely still learning. But when it comes to long distance relationships, this is what I can tell you.

You will fight, but don’t hang up the phone angry. We both voiced early in the relationship how hard it was to be upset with each other when our only means of communication is a telephone. It’s bound to happen that things will get heated, but make a pact to refuse to hang up the phone angry, even if that means saying, “I’m a little upset right now and don’t think it’s a good time to talk about this, can we please discuss it later?” If you are on the receiving end of this, even if you are a lets-fix-this-in-the-moment person like me, you’ll have to learn to respect your partner’s need for thought and take a step back. We have hung up angry before but one of us has always called back within 5 minutes, in a much calmer tone.

Text every day. You might not be able to realistically pick up the phone every day and have a conversation, but make the small things count. Make a point to message a good morning and good night text, it’ll go a long way. My partner and I don’t talk but twice a week probably, sometimes less, but we aren’t the type of people that need constant contact. But with me traveling around, I sometimes wouldn’t call when I said I would and would go over a week without picking up the phone which made tensions run high and ensured that our first conversation in an extended period of time was a fight. Things happen, we are all human, but showing your partner you care throughout the day, and messaging if you can’t follow through on that call isn’t too hard. After all, we know how frustrating it is when we can’t get ahold of friends for days, imagine your significant other across the world. This also goes along with snapchats, inside jokes, or whatever makes the two of you, “you”.

Include your partner in your decisions. This may be harder for some than others. For example, I’ve gotten so used to being alone and making decisions without taking another into consideration that I still do this sometimes. Even though they may seem small and insignificant to your “separate” lives while you’re away, those little or big decisions still affect your future. I know things can get busy, but take the time to update and check in with your partner. After all, they do know you better than anyone, so make a priority for them to be at your side emotionally even if they aren’t physically.

Respect each other’s freedom. Freedom is the very reason we are most often single. And freedom from the mundane is why most of us travel. So finding a relationship with a freedom lover can be a bit tricky. I can tell you from experience that if I’ve felt smothered in the past, I would just end it because I wasn’t willing to compromise. One of the first things Victor told me is that you should love someone so that the person you love feels free. It was then that I knew I could build a future with this person. He encouraged me to fulfill my travel plans that I had before I met him, but made me promise that the next plan I made would include the two of us. Because he respected my freedom, I felt free in our relationship. I’m also notoriously bad at staying in touch, being a kinda “out of sight, out of mind” type of person. Although it took a few months and we’re both still learning, we don’t need to talk constantly or tell each other ever detail of our daily lives, but we do need to respect that we’re both still individuals living separate lives for the time being. The most beautiful relationships I’ve seen are people who push their partner’s to be the best version of themselves. Because we both want each other to succeed, we push one another to work towards our goals instead of smothering them.

Don’t play the insecurity card. We all get a little insecure sometimes, we’re human. And being in a long distance relationship usually plays towards those insecurities because we aren’t around to constantly reassure our partner, which can make us start questioning the other person’s integrity. Let me stop you there, don’t. Just don’t. Jealousy is a weak emotion. If you are feeling jealous that your partner isn’t able to talk to you as much as possible, or unsure about his new friend who happens to be a girl, then these things are on you. If you chose to be in a long distance relationship with someone, then you must trust this person. If you don’t, then that is something you have to deal with. You are not your partner’s life coach, nor should you waste your time constantly reassuring someone that you love that they are important to you and have a place in your life. I will do this from time to time because it happens, but I definitely wouldn’t deal with it regularly and you shouldn’t either. Don’t be one of those people.

Respect each other’s cultures. More than likely, if you met abroad, your partner is from another country and probably speaks another language as a first language, which means dating looks a lot different in other countries then it does in America. When you get in your first fight it’ll probably be due to a language barrier or cultural misunderstanding. Trust me, I know. And it can be really frustrating trying to understand someone else’s upbringing, culture and language. But talk calmly to each other and don’t take things too personally. We tend to think of these fights as an attack on our country or language when really it’s just due to ignorance that the other doesn’t understand. Be patient with each other when these things happen and take your time explaining instead of getting frustrated. You may quickly realize that the two of you just think completely different on something, that’s okay, respect the other’s opinion and move on. This won’t be the last time that happens when you love someone from another country, so learn to move past it.

I know there’s a lot of skepticism about long term relationships and I can’t guarantee you they will work out. My partner and I just dealt with his visa getting denied to visit me in the US, so I am now making my way back to Mexico. We are trying to head towards Australia next year where Americans can get working holiday visas and Mexican nationals cannot, another hurdle we’ll have to overcome together. But the world is a big place and there are lots of places we can fit in it, together. I can’t tell you if your relationship is right or wrong, or if mine will work out either. But if you feel strongly enough about another person, with the right amount of luck and a lot of respect it could go farther than you think. Good luck!

Goodbye

I said goodbye to him this morning

under hushed voices,

whispering

as if it means more that way.

I said goodbye to him

like I say goodbye to everyone.

But he isn’t everyone.

I know that.

It’s just that I’ve gotten too good

at goodbye. 

Maybe I taught him to be good

at them too. 

Because there isn’t a me,

without an eventual goodbye.

Goodbye is a part of my life.

And I made it a part of his.

I’ve desensitized. 

There was a time 

where it hurt. 

So I learned to protect myself

because my lifestyle is completely

conducive to goodbyes.

I had to learn to be strong.

I would always promise 

that I’d come say hello and goodbye

to your face,

but eventually there was always

an excuse. 

An avoidance of goodbye. 

So, I hate goodbyes.

I had to learn to be 

good at them instead.

Arm outstretched,

smile on my face,

a promise of another meeting. 

My dad always said,

“long hellos, short goodbyes”

and I’d constantly remind myself

how small the world is.

And how much of it I would travel

to never have to say goodbye to people,

to say hello again. 

I said goodbye to him today

but I smiled.

Because this time,

I know it’s, “see you later”.