Mindscraps: Mourning for the Maya

Hector Tobar of the L.A. Times just published For Maya, A Paradise Lost. After reading the article, I’m left with a strong desire to help do something for these immigrants. Having lived 8 months in Guatemala, the country and its Mayan people hold a most special place in my heart. I’m not sure what I can do yet, but I’m posting this article as a reminder to myself to come up with something. There are no words to describe the love I have for Guatemala – so magical, so beautiful. It pains me to know that relatives of those who have welcomed me so warmly in their native land are suffering so much in my native land.

The article just briefly describes the country’s beauty:

He spent the first 27 years of his life in the town of San Pedro de la Laguna, which sits alongside the cool waters of Lake Atitlán, in a vast highland valley surrounded by three volcanoes. Patches of corn cover the hillsides like a quilt. For American and European backpackers, it’s a vision of paradise on Earth.

See for yourself. A couple of hundreds of pictures I have from that stunning country:

Foto Flashback: Vietnamese Monk

I was just browsing through my Flickr account and musing over the collection of photos I’ve managed to gather throughout my years of travel… which led me to a thought: why not start regularly posting a random photo from the past?

Hence the birth of Foto Flashback.

This photo is a portrait of a Vietnamese monk which I captured while on a guided motorcycle trip through the Central Highlands of Vietnam.

MindScraps: From Backpacking to Flashpacking

“Transition” has been the word on my lips for the past several months. “I’m ready for a transition,” I say. “I DO NOT want to stop traveling but I’m ready to graduate to the next level. I loved my five years of budget backpacking – the experiences I’ve had, the people I’ve encountered, the life changing things I’ve learned – but I’m ready for the next level. I’m ready for a little more comfort.”

Then, oddly enough, thanks to Halogen‘s write up on it’s show Alive! With Adventure Aaron, I eventually stumble upon the term “flashpacker.” Apparently, as How To Travel The World describes the term, it’s the backpacker of the 21st century:

No longer about a few clothes, hitch hiking, or hoping you have enough money for the day, flashpacking is about travel with means. The flashpacker contains the backpacking ethos but wants to do it with a little more style and a lot more technology. Just because we are traveling doesn’t mean we can’t have some comforts.

I LOVE the concept. It’s exactly what I’ve been trying to describe as what I want next out of life.

To read more about it click here.

Mind Scraps: A Bittersweet Farewell to My Dear Playa…

Before, thanks to my almost uncontainable excitement for the next step of my journey, I always managed to subdue the melancholy of a “goodbye.”

But these past few life transitions these past couple of years have left me red-eyed and profoundly touched.

I had to say goodbye to some truly remarkable people during my last hours in Cancun. Each, in their own unique and special way, left me sobbing with humility as they whispered into my ear during a powerful embrace how much the loved me, how much they’ll miss me, how much I’ve affected their lives.

“You know, invariably when you ask about someone, about who they are as a person you get varied responses,” one of my friends began. “‘Oh he’s amazing!’ one says. Or, ‘I don’t know him well’ says another. Perhaps ‘Oh he’s not so great.’ Or even, ‘Oh he’s NOT a good person.'”

“So how is it Laura,” my friend continued, “that with you I always get the same response? Everybody loves you. Do you see that? We ALL love you Laura.”

He continued to share and told me that he feels I’m here for something more, some sort of crucial mission. He didn’t elaborate but he insisted that that is why I’m here.

Then, another came forward. A young man, a beautiful and awakening soul who is only just starting to see that life is more than booze and girls. Thus, his words surprised me: “Remember Laura, you are a warrior. You are a WARRIOR. Don’t forget that. NEVER forget that. Someone places a wall before you and you DRIVE IT TO THE GROUND. You bust through it showing that NOTHING can stop you. YOU show everyone else that ANYTHING can be accomplished. Don’t ever forget that you have that power and what your example means to the rest of us. I love you Laurita.”

Upon hearing about my new found Prince Charming, a young woman I’ve known casually, thanked me for giving her inspiration and faith that the “fairytale kind of love” DOES exist. She then shared that she was just recently divorced. I had gone out with her on several occasions but had no idea, no idea what she had been going through.

At one point during our gathering, a stranger to me, yet a friend to one of my beloved girlfriends here began to unleash a stream of negativity and assumption: “L.A. is just an illusion. Broken dreams. Don’t expect much. People like me eat people like you there.” The “no’s,” “not’ss” and negativity continued to stream from his mouth.

“Stop!” I countered forcefully. “You’re full of negativity and quite honestly, I want nothing to do with it. That’s certainly not what I need right now, just hours before I leave.”

Yet he insisted and the negativity continued to spew. “Don’t expect much from your ol’ boy there.”

For a moment my ego tried to win out and I bitterly laughed as I scoffed, “Me! She who has traveled to 22 countries alone. Countries like Cambodia and Vietnam and dangerous places like Chihuahua, MX… you think I will have a problem returning to my own country? That my own country will eat me when I have found but only friends in the foreign lands that I have tread?! No I will have none of it!”

Yet his insistence continued. He began to speak over me. Then, my beloved girlfriend tried to defend him. This hurt the most. Not because of him, but because of her. She was listening to the negativity, accepting it. I loved her dearly, and this “dark thought” was something I knew she still battled with… so much. ‘This is NOT how I want to spend my final moments,’ I thought to myself. ‘I’ll go… get some good rest.’ I reasoned. My recoiling reaction startled many from the group.

“But we’re all here for YOU,” they argued, hurt.

I compromised with the decision to “take a walk” but come back. I was hoping during my walk they would realize the right thing to do… Biologist Benny, an absolute sweetheart with a spirit of gold, came with me. He let me rant and calmed my tension. When we returned the “negative energy” had simply… vanished.

More hugs, more tears, more joy and more bittersweet goodbyes…

Live It Up! L.A.

Landmarks

Hollywood Sign
6342 Mulholland Highway, L.A.

Hollywood & Highland
Hollywood Boulevard, between Highland Avenue and Orange Drive

Kodak Theatre
6801 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, 323-308-6300
Level One of the Hollywood & Highland Center
Home of the Academy Awards and Cirque du Soleil 2011

Grauman’s Chinese Theatre
Hollywood & Highland Center

El Capitan Theatre
Hollywood & Highland Center

The Greek Theatre
Vermont Canyon Rd.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 665-1927

Griffith Observatory
2800 East Observatory Road, L.A., 213-473-0800

Paramount Studios
5555 Melrose Avenue, Hollywood, 323-956-5000

Olvera Street
125 Paseo de la Plaza, Ste. 400, L.A., 213-485-6855

Third Street Promenade
1351 Third Street Promenade, Ste. 201, Santa Monica, 310-393-7593

Nightlife

Universal Studios City Walk
100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City

The Grove
189 The Grove Dr., L.A., 323-900-8080 Continue reading “Live It Up! L.A.”

Friendship Poem

For my birthday, a dear friend I met through Couchsurfing in Cancun wrote me the following:

Lamneto mucho no estar hoy contigo en este dia tan especial…. Tu cumpleaños!

So much I lament not being abel to be with you on this special day… your birthday!

Aveces siento que eres un angel que vino a iluminar mi vida y la de los demás Csurfers y lo

Sometimes I feel that you are an angel that came to illuminate my life and the lives of other Couchsurfers and the

Ultimo que quisiera es que llegue el dia en que no te vea mas porque se que tarde o temprano te iras de Mexico

Last thing I would want is to come the day that I don’t see you anymore because I know that sooner or later you will leave Mexico

Rompiendo los corazones de todos los que te amamos, eres una gran mujer y una gran amiga con un

Breaking the hearts of all that love you, you are a great woman and a great friend with a

Alma que brilla con una luz tan hermosa para alimentar la esperanza de mas personas como tu y como yo.

Soul that shines with a light so beautiful it feeds the hope of more people like you and like me.

Feliz cumpleaños Hermosa

Happy birthday beautiful

te quiero muchisisisimo!!!!

I care about you so much!!!!

que rica amistad!!!

What a blessed friendship!!!

Thank you Victor. I love you with all my heart.

Mind Scraps: Frogs and Turtles, Princes and Princesses

“Do you have a notebook I could use,” I asked my friend Benny – Biologist Benny we call him. “Mine’s about filled up.”

That’s when he offered me The Blue Day Notebook. He had just started using it, but insisted on giving it to me. It’s a cute little blue book with a cute little frog motif. As you flip the pages, the little frog tumbles along the edge…

I opened it up to read:

Laura,

Te quiero mucho mucho mucho. (I really really really care about you.)

Benny

Then I continued on to read the author’s introduction. Here is my favorite prose the author shared:

“True inspiration is everywhere, all the time. It’s in the objects on your desk, it’s in the flashing lights of an ambulance, it’s in the lyrics of your favorite song, it’s the way you hold someone’s hand, it’s the way a dog turns around twice before lying down to sleep. In other words, inspiration is seeing ordinary things in an extraordinary way – imagining what things would be like if they were somehow… different.”

“What is important is that you let your mind run free to consider new creative relationships and then have the decipline to put your thoughts down on paper.”

“To create interesting work you must live an interesting life.”

****

The night before last, Biologist Benny opened his heart to me and moved me to tears. He simply whispered the sweet words that anyone always longs to hear. Words like: special, unique, magic, light. I feel so blessed to have him in my life. He’s more than a friend, he’s a soulmate. I have discovered that we have not one soulmate… we have but billions and trillions. Every single being on this planet is a potential soulmate… we only have to open ourselves to see the light within. Benny is an enchanting person and I consider him one of my dearest friends. He is special.

Last night Benny led us on a magical excursion. From shore we silently marveled as the giant sea turtles emerged from the dark waters of the night and slowly crawled their way across the beach. Whips of sand began flying as the turtles stopped and began digging… digging their nests right there in the middle of Cancun’s tourist-trampled, white sand beaches. Then the stillness came and they did not move. The “trance” had begun. The conservationists slowly moved approached the turtles beckoning us to follow with care. Astonished we watched white, mucas-covered eggs pop out from behind the tortoise’s tail. The we helped gather the eggs in buckets, moving them new nests we had already dug in special nurseries built away from tourist trample. Hopefully, we’ve given some little new embryos the chance to survive, grow and hatch.

As we walked back from this incredible glimpse into the mysteries of nature, it was Victor’s turn to move me to tears. His words resembled Ben’s, but were spoken with Victor’s uniquely charming touch. Again my ears wrung with words like special, unique, magic, light and my heart swelled with love. “You really don’t know just how much you’ll be missed,” he told me. When I think of Victor I will always imagine the strong, young mahogany-colored warrior dancing with heart and soul.

Two Australian girls also accompanied us. Biologist Benny was hosting them through Couchsurfing. Benny had told me ahead of time that Grace and Zia were “encantadoras” (enchantresses). He was right. In less than 10 hours, these two young hippie girls who grew up on a commune out in the wilderness of Australia’s bush had also earned a very special place in my heart. Two powerful young women full of love and magic.

Of course, Perla was there. Throughout the day, her pure, sincere and unassumingly loving friendship provoked my eyes to moisten. She is as faithful and loving as man’s beloved best friend. A true spitfire in her own right. I adore her…

Mind Scraps: Give Drink to the Thirsty


Flashback…

During my first few days in the barrancas in Chihuahua, MX I was like Alice in wonderland, marveling at the fish-eye night sky, the majestic rock cathedrals and the exotic Rarámuri – who in their neon-colored blouses, loin-cloth like skirts and biblical sandals seemed to be from a prehistoric epoch. In my eagerness to explore, I caught up with Caballo Blanco, who was leading the foreign and local athletes on a scouting trip; the runners were acquainting themselves with the first half of the race course. However, I hadn’t come to prepared. The bottle of water I reminded myself to bring during my rustic shower, had slipped my mind as the barrancas at down wowed me with the splendor. By the time I set out to catch up with Caballo and crew, my mind was filled with awe and I had completely forgotten about “water.”

Something like six, seven hours under the desert sun and 20 miles later, having had NOTHING to eat or drink, I was feeling the beginnings of what it means to “bonk” as they call it. I could think of one thing and one thing only: water. The last several miles I started feeling loopy. Then, the very last mile, I didn’t know if I could make it. That’s when Wes miraculously appeared. He had already made it into town and was on his way back to his hostel… which was a bit out of town and in the direction from where I was coming. When he saw how parched I was, he quickly offered a bottle of water. I sucked the liquid down in seconds. Then, he passed over his specially ordered fruit licuado (smoothie). It stands as the most tantalizingly sweet and refreshing fruit smoothie I’ve had in my life. I was so grateful. Scratch that… my parched body was most grateful.

Since then Wes and I have had a few e-exchanges. Just recently, I received a request from him:

Yo Laura!

Hope this finds you so well. Shoot me a quick story or two of your latest adventures. 🙂

Also writing right now because I’d like to ask your permission to use some of your photos in a presentation I will be giving on my time in the canyons and the race. I will not use the photos for anything else. The presentation will be given to about 100 people in the endurance running, tri athlete, cycling community up here in northern california in early June. I would also like to direct these folks to your work and hopefully a few of em might like to purchase prints.

Let me know what you think.

Freedom,

Me

I gave him the green light:

Go for it Wes.

Thanks for writing.

Tons of luck for your presentation! Let me know how it goes!!

How did you score this presentation? What’s it for exactly?? What else is new?

Wes, of course, was appreciative:

Thank you so much Laura! Stoked to have your permission.

The presentation will be June 10th. Here’s the link for the topics I’ll talk about.

http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/113093

Reading the bio of the event was when I found out that Wes, at the young age of 19 (if I remember correctly) is a cancer survivor studying at Standford University. I had no idea. When I had first met Wes I had sensed a great strength in him. I also sensed that he possessed a great understanding and passion for truly living… now I know why.

If you happen to be in Cali in June… go check out his presentation. I have a huntch it will be a compelling talk.