Burning Man Festival.

I started traveling around and going to music festivals after my freshman year of college. I spent a couple weeks every summer working  for  a patron transport service and driving around music festivals in a decked out 6 seater golf car shuttling festival kids to and from campsites and music stages. It was cash in hand, fun, and I never left a festival. In between I’d road trip around and the States and enjoyed my fair share of music and national park hopping over my college years. The travel bug bit me even harder when I graduated from University and decided to move overseas over 4 years ago. One of my best friends sent me an email 4 years before, after her first Burning Man experience; she was over the moon, it had changed her life, and she was absolutely set on the fact that we had to experience it someday together. I’d always heard about Burning Man, but the commitment was strenuous, the planning was stressful, it wasn’t cheap, and since it was always at the end of the summer, I never had the money to make it. After I came back 2 years ago for my first knee surgery, I decided that I’d spent enough of my years at regular music festivals, and decided it would be a great opportunity to join Mallory and make “the Burn” happen.

I made it to Reno, the closest big city outside Burning Man’s Black Rock City Desert in NW Nevada on Monday this week after a 8 hour exodus and the 3.5 hour push to Reno itself. I had spent my 3rd year in a row and survived Burning Man for another year. That’s what it is, it’s surviving. It’s a constant surrender to the uncomfortable. Nothing lives in this inhospitable and uninhabitable desert and it isn’t supposed to. We aren’t either. I’d spent 2 weeks there each year before and 8 days this year. Burners will tell you how healing and magical “the playa” is. Each year about 65,000 people flock to form a temporary city with a fully equipped hospital, tons of art, DJ sets, and spend the week biking around, attending workshops, looking at art, watching it burn, all while completely covered in dust that finds its way into everything. And they love it! We love it! It is a beautiful place with magical sunrises and sunsets, amazing people, interactive light up art, and it’s own culture. Burning Man is unlike any other festival I have ever attended. The entire concept is built around a gifting society, which means no money is accepted. The only things you can purchase on the playa are ice (because it’s a desert) and coffee because, well, it’s coffee. This means everything needs to be carried in and carried out. No exceptions. You cannot ash on the playa nor can you poor water onto it. Once you are in, you’re there, and the only cars allowed to move after arriving are art cars or “mutant vehicles” which resemble giant octopus, boeing 747’s and flame throwing ships that drive around the desert playing great music and throwing surprise dance parties in the middle of dust storms at 5 am.

Burning man has 10 other principles other than gifting which include things like radical self reliance, participation and community responsibility. It is a great place to explore all different kinds of workshops and try new things, they even have a skydiving camp where I would love to check out the view next year once I have my 100 jumps in. Every year a temple is built where people put letters to loved ones they have lost, momentos, items that remind them of great memories and on Sunday night it is burnt down while 65,000 people watch in absolute meditative silence. It is emotional and the love that goes into decorating its walls is heart wrenching and tear jerking whether or not you leave anything inside. The whole Burning Man concept centers around the burning of “the man” on Saturday night which is a completely different scene than the temple burn. People dance and art cars play music, fireworks go off and the man lifts his arms in a massive display before he eventually falls to the cheers of thousands of people. The concept of “sticking it to the man” started with a small group of friends in San Francisco in the early 80’s that built a wooden man and burned it down on a beach as a type of symbolism towards the rejection of modern society. After a few years the gatherings got a little bigger then local authorities would like and they were encouraged to find a new location. Since then Burning Man has found it’s home in the Native American owned land of NW Nevada.

The last 3 years have all been completely different burns for me. The first year I tragically fell out of our art car which was shaped like a fish and retore my ACL 4 months after my original surgery. Needless to say I was grounded at camp for a few days with a bum knee and spent a lot more time in my immediate vicinity. Last year I was able to get out at night and enjoy the art during the evening. I spent hours biking around the playa and experienced more of a night burn, typically sticking close to camp to help out during the day. This year our camp downsized from 50 to 18 and we were all able to benefit from a smaller camp size with less obligations. It was absolutely amazing to have the time for exploration and new experiences. Every year is different and always turns out to be exactly what I needed it to be. It took me months to process my first year and I know many people who get really discouraged and depressed after they rejoin the “default world” post Burn. I am happy and blessed to be writing this from Lake Tahoe as I decompress and process exactly what I gained from this year’s Burning Man. It truly is unlike anything else I’ve ever done. I love the planning, the challenge, the extreme highs and lows, and the growth that comes along with it. I’ve met amazing Burner family and am so in awe of the time and effort people put into these art installations year after year, just to build it and burn it down. It makes you realize the impermanence in everything, and helps you appreciate each day and the people and places in front of you. It transforms everything into such a simplistic worldview. If you’ve ever considered Burning Man, I can’t promise you it’ll be easy, but as cliche as it sounds, I can promise you that it’ll be worth it. Whether you do it once or keep going back year after year, it can offer everyone something.

 

 

 

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converting to the #vanlife

I’ve been wanting an old VW van for years now. Two summers ago I started looking online a bit more seriously but of course it was still just out of curiosity. I had been entertaining the idea of having one so that when I came back to the US to visit I would have something to live in and travel in. Flash forward to March and I get a message saying that my dad and a buddy of his had purchased a mint condition ’83 Westy from Colorado. My dad’s friend Peter mostly wanted it for tailgating U of M football games seasonally and my dad just thought it was a fun thing to have. I almost lost my mind when I got the photos and saw the new purchase! Since I now had free reign to use it as long as Peter wasn’t needing it I decided that I would drive her around when I came back towards the end of the summer.

I found out about 2 months before I got back stateside that it was a manual. Something my father failed to mention in the beginning, surely on purpose because there is no way he could forget that I still couldn’t drive one because he tried to teach me when I was 15. He came home from work one day and said, “meet me in the car in 10 minutes”. When I opened the driver’s side door he was sitting in the passenger seat with a full face snowmobile helmet on. Haha, really funny Dad! I probably stalled it about 5 times just leaving the driveway and about 8 miles down the road stalled it out on a left hand turn, got stuck in the middle of the road, panicked when the cars lined up, and bailed into the backseat in a fit of tears and stubborn teenage hormones. Dad had to get out of the car, walk around to the drivers seat, the whole while wearing that ridiculous helmet and waving at the traffic apologetically. I refused to ever try again because it was “too hard” and I “wanted an automatic”. Today I would kill for that Subaru Outback, but 15 year old me thought differently.

So what’s a girl to do when she gets her dream van at the age of 28 but it happens to be a manual? Well put her pride away, laugh, and get behind the wheel obviously! Then naturally a week later take it across the country to Burning Man in Nevada! Nothing forces you to learn quickly like a cross country roadtrip! So I’m back in the States, finally stumbled across some BM tickets, and now have 3 days until I embark. My boyfriend taught me how to drive a 6 speed jeep deep in the jungle of Mexico, so I was a little bit familiar and knew the basics already. But nothing had prepared me for this old lady! She’s a finicky 4 speed with gears that can be very tricky to drive, let alone find! As my father told me, “if you can drive this thing, you can drive anything”. I have spent the last few days practicing on hills, taking mom to lunch, driving to friend’s houses, and just generally driving around trying to get comfortable. I’ve learned that I tend to drop the clutch much too fast, which has gotten some laughs and cheers when pulling out of busy gas stations with 2 hops and a peel out before we start rolling. I’ve been laughing uncontrollably when I have to wave people around me because I can’t find first gear and it’s still revving itself in neutral. Oops!

I spent yesterday driving around with a girlfriend who knows how to drive a stick and learned living in a busy city. It was raining out and we spent the whole day doing laps through town and parking in my parents or my brother’s driveways. We would just hang out in the van, laugh, and talk about all the things we could do to it. I’ve got a solid list going to get her Burning Man ready and it all hit me yesterday how absolutely amazing and in love with the van I am. I’m still trying to come up with a name for her but we are convinced it’ll come when ready! I’m doing the drive out by myself and since I don’t want to drive at night, and am trying to avoid the majority of mountains (although I will have to cross the Rockies at some point, regardless) I’m feeling comfortable with my planning and giving myself ample time to get to Reno where I’ll pick up my buddy from the airport. I have friends along the way to stay with and can pull over and sleep in the bed anytime I need to. It’s beginning to feel like home and I haven’t stopped smiling for the last 2 days!

Today we take the first big haul 45 minutes out of town to Brainerd, MN to stock up at Fleet Farm and Home Depot. The girls have been helping me come up with a list of “van necessities” along with totes to get organized. So we are going shopping and I’m sure we’ll have a lot of laughs along the way in stop and go traffic as I maneuver the van around town less than flawlessly. Wish me luck!

Since I’ve been back in the States I stopped in San Diego for 5 days to visit my sister then flew back into Minneapolis where my parents picked me up and we spent 5 days in northern Wisconsin at the cabin on Lake Superior. It was such a nice way to unwind. Now I’ve been back in my hometown for the past 10 days catching up with family and friends and now packing for Burning Man. It’s gonna be an adventure, I’ll tell you that much! Don’t forget to follow me on instagram @theramblingmermaid and snapchat at smilelotsplz. I will keep you up to date on all the funny things that are going on, as well as my progress on the van! Much love.

Best Travel Novels of 2016 Thus Far

I’m sure you’ve gathered at this point, but I LOVE to read. When all other kids were spending their summers at sports and recreational camps, I was either at a scuba diving/sailing camp in the Caribbean, or opting for Quantum Learning Camp. Yea, you read that right. I spent the better part of the summer learning to read over 1,000 words a minute, efficiently study and take notes, and listen to classical music while I do it, a habit I have yet to break. My favorite part of the year was when the Book fair happened and there was a running joke in 5th grade about how at least 2 minutes of wait time meant that I would pull a book out and start reading. Needless to say, I’m still a bookworm and I’m proud.

I’ve read almost 20 books since the New Year and since people are constantly asking me what I’m reading I thought I would compile a list of my favorites. I’m usually juggling 3 books at a time- something serious, something light, and something fiction. I’ve always loved poetry and used to write a lot of it as a kid. This year I discovered feminist poets like Rupi Kaur, Warsan Shire and Nayyirah Waheed. Some of it is political, but most of it is completely relatable. The poetry ranges from topics like being an immigrant to breakups. I have their books on my kindle and have been flicking through them over and over the last few months. I’m sure you’ve heard about Warsan Shire at this point, she was the spoken word behind Beyonce’s new song Lemonade. Although I’ve never been a Beyonce fan, sorry Bae, I’m glad she go the word out about female writers like them. For the male equivalent read whiskey words & a shovel by r.h. Sin.

I also love travel novels, obviously! The two standouts would be Love with a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche, an Australian who moved to San Francisco for a year in her early 20’s. She fell in love with an Argentinian man who dreamed of sailing the world and overcame her fear of sailing and seasickness to join him on the adventure. And, Mother Tongue by Christine Gilbert, about a woman and her husband who dream of raising trilingual children. They embark on a mission to raise their kids speaking Arabic, Spanish and Mandarin. It’s a story after my own heart as I’ve always had this idea, if for some reason I decided to have children… but that’s another blog post!

My favorites of the year are-

the odyssey

The Odyssey:  written by Homer and probably one of those novels you have always heard about but never read? Yea, me too! But read it because it’s a classic for a reason. I absolutely loved the gods and goddesses in this story. If you’ve ever been slightly interested in Greek or Roman mythology, you’ll dig this storyline. The main character goes on an epic journey on his way home to his wife and son.

islands

Islands in the Stream:  written by Hemingway and considered one of the greatest love stories of all time. Although I wouldn’t call it a love story, I’d call it a damn tragedy to be honest. But none the less, it’s a great read and is now a strong contender for my top 10 favorite books of all time. There is sailing, exotic beaches and cats involved. What’s not to love? On my sailing crossing from the British Virgin Islands to the Bahamas I wrote down the following quote,

“I’m going to get out of town for awhile.”

“You’ll be taking yourself along wherever you go.”

“Yes. But I won’t be taking a lot of other people I know with me.”

“That means you can leave, but still gotta deal with yourself.”

At least they’re right about something- no matter where you go and how far you run, you still have only you at the end of the day. We’ll always have to answer to ourselves. Do yourself a favor and sit by the water and read this classic before summer is up!

harry potter

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child:  written by J.K. Rowling and an all around reminder of my childhood. I was an absolute Harry Potter fanatic as a kid, I would preorder every upcoming novel and I’ve read them all at least 3 times. Although this book is written in a screenplay format, which originally turned me off, it’ll still put you right back to your youth and you’ll remember all the reasons why you loved Harry Potter and all his adventures to begin with. I read it on the plane last week from San Diego to Minneapolis. It’s short enough to be an easy read but I teared up with nostalgia during certain parts.

heart-of-darkness.jpg

The Heart of Darkness:  written by English/Polish author Joseph Conrad circa late 1800’s, it gives a beautiful representation of London at the time. It follows one narrator’s story about a voyage up the Congo river in Africa. He writes about the similarities between “civilized” people and savages drawing upon questions of imperialism and racism. He writes poetically and the opening scene is so descriptive you can picture what London must have looked like at the time, coming up the Thames river.

 

Sailing the Caribbean

I clip my safety harness onto the line and step into Mira’s cockpit, waiting a second as my eyes adjust to the full moon overhead before grabbing the line and wobbling my way to the AIS chart plotter to check for boat traffic, as I do every 20 minutes while I’m on watch. Spotting a cruise ship 4 miles away I hone in the screen to get the information about the vessel- 850 feet long, 6.1 knots, closest point of approach is 1.4 nautical miles, destination is Great Stirrup Cay in the Barry Islands, same as us. He will pass us at some point in roughly an hour. “Maybe he can toss us some ice”, Patricia jokes as we begin our watch. It’s 1 AM and I just woke up for our 2nd to last watch on Mira’s last leg before Fort Lauderdale. Mira is a 49 foot catamaran I have lovingly called home as of late.

I lay on my back next to Otto, our trusty autopilot and put my headphones on low so I can still hear the gentle hum of the waves that are nudging us along and stare up at the stars reflecting on the last 5 weeks.

We spent 6 days in the essentially uninhabited harbor of Royal Island in the Bahamas. Besides a day of diving where we got picked up from the catamaran and a small workload getting Mira ready for our last stretch we didn’t bring the dinghy down once. We relaxed, read, snorkeled, swam at sunset, got up early to watch the sunrise, wrote and talked. I laid in the sun, meditated, studied Spanish and put my headphones in every night after dinner to watch the sun go down. The days drifted by seamlessly as I watched tropical storms approach and fizzle out to be replaced with humidity, sun and a new batch of house flies, or in our case boat flies. It was slowly becoming time to get Mira back to Florida before hurricane season officially starts.

In 5 weeks I have yet to feel ansy or bored. I wake with the sun and sleep with the moon. Life is simple and my days are governed by the wind and weather. I have been so lucky to make two new friends and am blessed I can gain some experience on Mira. I snorkeled one day to discover a small Bar Jack had followed me off the reef. He kept swimming between my fingers, under and around me and didn’t seem to go anywhere else. I would free dive down and he would follow me, uninhibited. He came out into deeper water and back to the catamaran with me a half an hour later. I tried to bring him back to the reef but he insisted on returning to the boat a second time. I decided to name him Jasper. The next day I climbed back in the water in my snorkeling gear and there was Jasper, hanging out and waiting. We said hi to him every day and threw flies overboard laughing and calling his name whenever we did. As we pulled out of the harbor we all yelled our goodbyes and wished our new friend a good life.

I have read 12 books so far on this trip, greatly improved my Spanish skills, started a new journal and finished an old one, reconnected with my meditation practice, swam every day, gawked at the clouds, stars and the moon, and laughed a lot. My skin is tanned from the sun and my sea legs are fully established; I think I even look calmer. I love being on the ocean and as our time gets closer to the end and we get closer to Port Everglades I can feel myself starting to get anxious about it being over. I love the sound of the wind when the motors are off and we are under sail rushing along at 7 knots. I’ve learned to love the hum of the motor on overnight passages when I collapse into my cabin at 5 AM, exhausted after watch as the waves rock me to sleep. I can already tell this experience has changed me and I worry about forgetting the simplicity and being sucked back in to the real world again. I keep reminding myself about balance.

I’m going to miss cooking, inside jokes, drinking sundowners on the nets, popcorn and movie nights where we discovered you can put Frank’s Hot Sauce on literally everything, and eat it with a side of canned beets, just because. Laughing until I cry when I find Patricia a little tipsy in the galley singing “let the beets rock” and giggling to herself. I’ll miss our mangrove children that we named Glippy, Stormy, Herby and Manny who have been zip tied to the flag pole in a retired Fiji water bottle since the BVI. I will miss the fact that Vic probably loves olives and feta cheese more than anyone I have ever met and how it somehow got worked into every meal. I will miss the abundance of wildlife we have encountered along the way- from swimming pigs, to nurse sharks, remoras, eagle rays and sting rays, flying fish landing on the nets under way and dolphins playing alongside the bow of the boat, bioluminescence lighting up our way some nights. But as it comes to a close its still not over, we are having T-shirts made that encompass all our inside jokes and quirks and we are all jumping out of a perfectly good airplane on Tuesday, you know, just because.

Oh yea, it’s been 20 minutes, back to watch.

He Told Me

I told him that my biggest fear was that he would walk away one day without a word, deciding I wasn’t worth an explanation.

I felt it was a legit fear, it had happened in 2 previous relationships.

It caused me to wonder what it was about me,
What I had done to deserve that kind of treatment from someone I considered an equal,
Someone I treated with respect.
What was it about me that made men up and walk away?

Then I realized that maybe I was intimidating?
Maybe I was hard to love because I wasn’t something solid you could tame,
Someone you could depend on to constantly reassure your manhood and your fixed place in my life.

I’m not safe.

I’m wild and unpredictable.
I have a hard enough time keeping my own plans.
So I couldn’t promise Christmases at your parents or dinner on Thursday nights.

I’m uncontrollable.

But control isn’t love.
Control is the opposite of love.
If you want stability…
You won’t find it with me.
If you want predictable…
Then,
I’m sorry darling but that just ain’t me!

I am who I am.
I’m messy and wild and if you can love me without the straight lines
and the full stops,
If you can love the blurry in between, fleeting moments,
Where I love you passionately then run off to my soul’s calling, leaving you alone again,
Then baby…
I hope you will.

I told him that my biggest fear was that he’d find me TOO much.
That he’d find me exhausting.
Too much.
After one partner walked away in silence my best friend told me,
“Darling, you’re just much too much-y!”

And he told me that his biggest fear was my fear.
His biggest fear was that I would be afraid,
That I wouldn’t need him enough,
Wouldn’t try to make room for him in my life.

So,
I did what I always do
and I left,
On my next adventure.
Back to the sea,
Back to my bliss.
And he said,
He said,
“If you love someone then you will respect someone free.”

And he let me go.

That was it.
Instead of loving me possessively,
He loved my spirit,
My soul,
My wandering feet,
And he told me to follow my heart and do what I had to.
He showed me a kind of love I’d always tried to show but never gotten back.

My biggest fear became miniscule and impermanent because his love is greater than that.
He loves me more than to limit my shine
And I love him across continents because I don’t need his permission
And he doesn’t need mine.

We are a tangled web of souls who found each other in the darkness.
We are to each other what the moon is to the tide,
Equal parts sky and sea.

He is my sun.
And because of his love,
His confidence,
His passion,
I know that I will inevitably circle back his way to feel that warmth once again.

Why we should Shamelessly do Nothing More Often

image

I wrote this on May 27 somewhere in between the BVI and the Bahamas. It is a few days late as I only got wifi again and the motivation to retype it onto my phone and out of my journal.

We’re not used to doing nothing.

We live in a society where we are taught to be productive, constantly making the most of our time. Emphasis is always put on how much we can accomplish- i.e. we want to do more in less time. We are constantly finding new and innovative ways to “save time”; when in actuality, all we are really doing is freeing up more time so that we can do MORE things. So now we just have more shit to do!

“Sitting around” is lazy, even “relaxing” is lazy. Unless you are constantly running around and acting busy, you’re lazy. And “doing nothing” is definitely lazy!

What does “doing nothing” even mean? Aren’t we technically always doing something? Even nothing is something, right? Maybe I’m thinking about this too much…

In today’s world doing nothing is an art. An almost forgotten art. I’m not rewarding genuine laziness or encouraging “nothing” as a lifestyle but I am encouraging people to slow down sometimes, at least long enough to allow yourself to think critically about your day and spend some quality time with yourself.

In a world that makes you feel shame or guilt for taking time to yourself or taking a holiday, most of us don’t allow ourselves to slow down. And those of us that do get called selfish or lazy. It’s too bad that we aren’t taught to appreciate the in between moments where we can be with ourselves. Instead we slow down for a moment only to start thinking of the heaps of other things we should be doing with our time. We start getting anxious- we fiddle with our phones, turn on the TV or look for something else to distract us. Why?

Because we no longer know how to be with ourselves.

As I write this I am making a crossing from the British Virgin Islands to the Bahamas. No cell service, no wifi, no distractions. I have been saving Hemingway’s Islands on the Stream for this trip because I figured no timeless piece of literature would be more appropriate. He writes, “to go outside yourself, you must first go in.”

That’s what this trip is for me and this is what I need- probably what most people need to be honest, some time away from the hustle and bustle of normal life. A chance to sit and “do nothing” but look inside and humble themselves on what’s really important in life.

I started out this morning feeling anxious as we left port. I was trying to send loved ones last minute messages so they knew not to worry and rack my brain to make sure there weren’t any emails left unanswered or a bill I forgot about and then it hit me, “it’s only 5 days” and the rest of the world will be fine! I guess if it does all go to hell there isn’t anything I can do about it on my floating rock in the middle of the Caribbean, days from shore. And that was it, that moment, that beautiful fleeting moment where I let go and relaxed into doing nothing.

An hour later as we exited the harbour into the open ocean I put my book down for a minute and looked to the horizon. As I did I heard a splashing sound and walked towards the bow to find a pod of spinner dolphins playing in the wake. I almost tripped over a cleat as i went running to let the other crew know!

We laid on the nets and I put my hands out as they swam underneath us, getting within a foot of my fingertips. I was laughing and smiling at the absolute joy I felt. In that moment I let go, again. I was fully present and nothing else mattered. A reminder from the ocean to remain present and enjoy every moment.

Doing nothing is an art. The ability to find a space within yourself that allows you to relax and let go needs to be acceptable. We must allow ourselves these moments to find the thing(s) that get us there. It is so valuable and so special! I don’t think most people know what that’s like.

Once you find that space, maintain it. If you don’t you will slowly loose the ability to access it until you wake up one day and don’t know where it went, where you went, where that child inside you went. We will find comfort in distraction once again and loose ourselves completely.

Find time every day to do nothing. I challenge you.

cave diving, sky diving, and diving in head first.

I haven’t written in a few months. I’ve had lots of moments I wanted to share with you and put to words for my own sanity, but I’ve been too busy stumbling around this town called Playa del Carmen, trying to find my feet again. I spent the first few months getting into the groove of things and partying way too much, as you do when you first move somewhere new and feel as though you’re still on holiday. I made some mistakes, made some good friends, and eventually made my own way.

Being reconnected with diving the last few months has absolutely swept me off my feet again and put me over the moon… or should I say “under the ocean”. After spending nearly 2 years recovering from 2 separate knee surgeries and almost losing my sense of self amongst my own anguish and inability to do the things I love, I stumbled lost into Playa (as the locals call it) and tripped and fell back into the Lauryn that I’d almost lost touch with completely. Last February’s silent meditation retreat put me back on track in a way I hadn’t felt in over a year, but the return back to Minnesota for another knee surgery and another summer without following my passion made me feel angry at the universe and my own bad luck.

I thought that I wasn’t, and it really took me until recently to realize how angry I had/have been and that I’m not entirely sure why I’m still carrying all of this negative energy around. But I am. Here I am. Exhale. So a week ago after another spell of bad luck I decided that there was something inside of me that was hurting. There is something that I haven’t resolved within myself, some anger, and my continuous distraction keeps being manifested in my own reality. I’m essentially putting this energy out into the universe and the universe is responding with the very frequency that I’m sending. Bad things happen, thus is life, but I am acting out in various ways because I’m not dealing with something.

I am getting closer to realizing the answer through lots of meditation, music, non-distraction, honest conversations with people that care about me, and self love. I don’t need to find out what it is right now, but I do need to listen to myself more. How did I not realize this? How have I not connected my behaviors from the last year to more than trivial mishaps? How have I not taken responsibility for my actions? I don’t know why it took me so long but I do know with intense clarity that lots of things are about to change for me, and in a BIG way. I don’t know if this change is spiritual or physical, my job, my location… but I do know that I am aware of this negative energy now because I am able to receive the information and the lesson.

Playa has definitely been a trip and I’m so glad that my journey led me here. I’m beginning to see what my reason for being here now is and with that I plan on taking the next step with just as much faith in the process. Lots of firsts, but definitely not lasts.

The last 4 months have been lots of silly stumbles, miscommunications and learning experiences. I started my cave course a month ago which has made me fall in love with diving all over again, and I will be finishing my full cave portion with IANTD (International Association of Nitrox and Technical Divers) at the end of the month when work slows down. These Cenotes and cave systems here in Mexico are unlike anything in the world. I am so blessed to be challenged in this type of environment; it’s breathtaking. I have also decided I’m going to bite the bullet and take advantage of the new sky diving school that opened here in Playa, called SkyDiveMex. I did my first tandem jump a few years ago in Hawaii and have never felt such a rush of adrenaline in my life! I literally landed and started crying because I was so happy. I knew then and there that I wanted to jump solo. I’ve always loved heights and the rush of skydiving felt like nothing before. I already know I’m a mermaid, but I may just be a bird as well! Here’s to new adventures. Life looks like it’ll find me sailing around the Caribbean this summer so keep your eyes peeled for more rambling mermaid escapades.

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

Tinder Lessons in South Florida.

Tinder is now a thing. A thing that most people I know are using. Some use it more out of sheer boredom, others because they’re legitimately looking for something, and many of us are just trying to figure out if it’s actually worth investing time in other than red lights and various other daily activities that require us to wait a few minutes. It turns out that it’s a very useful tool to meet other likeminded travelers with, especially when solo traveling. Many people on Tinder will write in their “bio” that they aren’t looking for casual sex, a relationship, or anything of the sort but more so that what they’re interested in is friendships or a shared interest in various hobbies, traveling being one of them. You can write how long you will be staying in that particular destination and what you’re interested in seeing or doing while you’re there. Using Tinder in this way has proven to be fun and effective, much more beyond the creepiness that sometimes comes along with the app itself. If you haven’t, Instagram the sites Tinder Nightmares or Feminist Tinder for some laughs and a bit of a shock realizing there are actually people like that out in the world, and most definitely out on the prowl… 

On the other side of Tinder is the realization that although many of us are casually swiping right or left without much as a second thought into how shallow that very activity is in itself. I have no shame in openly admitting that I go through stages where I do use Tinder pretty freely, and I also have no problem meeting up with people from Tinder, male or female, for various reasons. Whether it’s a potential relationship, a friend, a mutual love of a hobby, or something else that sparks my interest, Tinder is definitely on my radar.

I spent the last month in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and learned that Tindering in South Florida can be a very interesting experience, and I say “interesting” lightly. Florida people, in general, are a bit different and those of you that have spent any time here know exactly what I’m talking about, but more on that subject later.  I met about 5 people in the last month for various reasons but I’m going to focus on a certain circumstance and lesson involving one dude. For no particular reason let’s call him, Chad. Now, Chad and I realized that we shared a mutual love of scuba diving and started chatting for a few days before he decided to join my roommates and I at the beach one afternoon, we hit it off and ended up hanging out for the next 24 hours. It turns out he is also a private vegan chef that works on a private yacht. So ironic…! When he dropped me back at my crew house the following day he told me he wanted to cook me dinner at some point that week and I obviously said, yes. The following night he rang and I was hanging with my friends at Tap42 for the $5 Monday burger special, I invited him to come down and he said he would then called me back an hour later saying he’d temporarily lost his phone and how it was much too late for him to join… Flash forward a few days to our scheduled date and Chad ended up blowing me off to help his buddy fix the ignition switch on his car, which as bummed as I was, seemed like a legit excuse… again. The following night he promised to call with an apology and show up to the Reggae concert I was planning on attending, which… surprise, he never showed.

Now, I’ve always been a strong believer in “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” but for some reason I allowed this guy to throw all my rules out the window without realizing that he was too good to be true.

“Le *sigh*” I received an apology call the following day and was told that he would be busy all weekend but wanted to try to hang out on Monday, we then made plans Monday afternoon for dinner that evening. My roommates had decided again that they were going to go to the normal Monday night spot at Tap42 which is where Chad and I had decided to meet. While he was at the gym I hitched a ride with them and ordered us a table, they all ate and I held off assuming that my date was going to show up. I got a call about an hour in with a lame excuse about his buddies all going to a different bar because their friend was DJ’ing a set that evening. I should have seen this one coming… Sarah and I decided to go anyways because Fat Cats always has good music regardless, and drumroll please… guess who never showed?

Now typing this all out makes me realize how ridiculously not uncommon this is. For some reason Tinder has made so many options available to us that we constantly want to cancel or reschedule on the plans that we’ve already made. I’m guilty of this as well but have always tried my best to keep my plans and my integrity intact. But that’s how I am, I believe in navigating relationships in such a way where communication and honesty are always the best way. Unfortunately, in our fast paced world we would hate to miss out on, “the one” or any other various opportunity to connect with people, yet in that fight we are sacrificing the very connections we seek by being so quick to say yes or no without much as a second thought. It’s now as easy and simple as a shallow swipe to the left or right.

The following day I received a call to which I explained how I didn’t even care what the excuse was, how I don’t treat friends or family like that under any circumstance and that I deserved more respect. All I got was a line about how it just didn’t seem to be easy enough and a lot of other cheeky excuses including being blacked out with his buddies (what are you, 21 years old?), when all I wanted was this man to own up to being a human. I decided the following day after being stood up for the 5th time in 2 weeks that it was time to send Chad a text message that went as follows,

“You blew me off again last night. And don’t feed me some lines about how it should be easy, it is easy, Chad. If you make plans you honor them. Having integrity isn’t a quality I hope to find in a human, it’s a necessary part of being a good person. God I’m not usually wrong about people but I have been so wrong about you. It’s too bad. Good luck.”

A few hours later I got the call where he finally admitted he’d been seeing someone else and they’d really hit it off right after he saw me. Now, this doesn’t surprise me, nor does it offend or hurt me because he was finally being honest with me. It’s simple, treat the people you spend your time with respectfully. If you’re dating multiple people, that’s totally okay, but be open about it. Whatever you’re looking for in a relationship or even a casual hookup, communication is always your best friend. All I really wanted, was to have the person I was trying to spend time with and get to know to honor me in the same way I felt I was honoring him. I only had a limited time in Florida and he knew that, so I was all about keeping things casual because I wasn’t looking for anything more, but he obviously was and that’s okay. If we’d stop hiding behind how we think others are going to react, or trying to protect other’s hearts because we somehow feel that leading people on is going to hurt less than just being up front, we’d be much better off. Honor yourself and honor the people you are connecting with or intimate with, you owe it to them.

Chad is a 31 year old product of the fast paced society we live in, and we all are to some extent. If reading this makes you think about anything, I just ask that you stop blowing off plans and start making plans that you actually want to do, with friends or people that you want to spend time with- people that make you better and challenge you. Beyond our ability to always please people is the selfishness we’re taught to only look out for ourselves. Because of this we end up blowing people off because we are better at excuses and assume somehow they’ll hurt less. But who do we really hurt?

In the end, I was proud of Chad for owning up to his mistakes and admitting that he didn’t want to behave like that in the future. I wished him the best of luck and said goodbye.

It is that simple. We are all human beings trying to coordinate the dreams of ourselves and the people that we surround ourselves with, and that’s no easy task. Be honest, be a little bit selfish, and don’t go running around assuming everyone’s hearts are going to break. We’re making eachother weak when in fact when the wondering is all gone, I’d have to say that most of us, as humans, would rather know the truth and have it hurt for a bit, then to sit there and wonder. Wondering sucks and hearts are stronger than we think. Don’t forget your own strength.

a not so how-to guide about happiness.

Burning Man 2015

Burning Man 2015

Many people have told me that high school is the best years of your life, but I’ve always thought the 20’s would be better. I didn’t know who I was in high school or what I was all about and I assumed that I’d work all those things out during my twenties. I knew certain things about myself but without the years of experience behind me I didn’t know that the things I did wouldn’t always be in the past. I didn’t know that sometimes after a lot of mistakes these things would catch up with you and start to become a part of who you are. I know we can all start over but what happens when you wake up one day and discover that some of those mistakes weren’t one-offs but actually YOU; that there are patterns in your behavior that you wish you could change?

I’ve always believed that awareness was half the battle. Most people aren’t even aware of their behaviors, it’s amazing to me that people can be so out of touch with themselves… but I guess I can’t blame any of us either, floating around in a world of constant distractions, stimulations and judgements. If you have the awareness then you’ve already gone through the hard part. You’ve already decided that there needs to be a change to be where you want to be. I had a professor once that told me, “the key to life is to always remain a little off balance”. She said that we should do this because if we get too comfortable then we aren’t as receptive to new situations and in touch with our life experiences. Her words have stuck with me since, as a constant reminder to continue to do things on a regular basis that are outside my comfort zone. In the uncomfortable unbalance we eventually find our way into the answers.

This year Burning Man tore me wide open. My virgin Burn last year wasn’t quite so intense, I mean it was, but it took me months to actually process it. When I left this year I felt so vulnerable- I had spent the last 2 weeks with a group of people where vulnerability was the norm, saying what you felt was expected and encouraged, and radical self reliance was what the entire experience was all about. But when I dropped off my last friend at the airport in Colorado and began the journey back to Minnesota, I had tears in my eyes. I felt so emotional and so raw. Coming home usually brings me a sense of relief, your own bed again and familiar surroundings… but after everything I’d come to terms with I wasn’t sure how ready I was to go back to reality. Then after getting home I went back to my normal cusp of energy and went through about a week of burning the candle at both ends before I realized something… I wasn’t processing, instead I was distracting myself from processing my experience. I slipped right back into the Lauryn I am when I’m back here, and it took until BM to realize that I had lost myself, and a lot more of myself in the last 6 months than I had any idea of. The last month has shown me who I am and who I’m capable of being again and in that vulnerability I found a reminder of my own power and was able to reconnect with that little girl inside of me again.

And I guess that’s the point. We won’t always have the answers and we will have some time periods where we aren’t necessarily who we want to be. Sometimes we’re aware of this and other times we’re just stuck in a funk. But as long as we honor ourselves and take time every day to be by ourselves and check in with ourselves then we’re doing something right. Because if I’ve learned anything this year it’s that happiness isn’t something we have, it’s something we need to maintain on a daily basis. You cannot arrive at your destination happy and continue to keep the happiness unless it is maintained. Without that we just slowly slip back into that void where we’re not feeling like ourselves. As important as the journey is, the worst thing in the world would be arriving there and realizing you don’t even know yourself anymore.

Everyone is capable of change, but hold yourself lightly and don’t expect drastic changes all at once. If you are feeling like you somehow ended up in a place you don’t want to be, just know that the awareness you have now will guide you into the answers, but only if you honor and listen to yourself first. We must all maintain our own happiness, no one else can do that for us.