Malo e lelei, Tonga!

“Malo e lelei” is the Tongan version of “aloha” and “malo” means “thank you”  – you hear both phrases a million time a day here. The Tongans are a gracious people, very engaging and warm. From touchdown at Fua’amotu Airport in Nuku’alofa to my flight out to Fiji a month later, I was in the company of friends.

Tonga is a simple island, no frills, no fancy facades. Just real people who are devoted to their families and proud of their roots. It’s completely flat, so there’s no water runoff for use. All drinking water is in the form of rainwater (unfiltered) or bottled. There are lots of skinny pigs running around, and only a few main roads are paved. I was clearly one of the few Caucasions on the island as I never failed to get stares and different forms of attention, from young girls shyly waving and giggling, to overgrown young men asking me where I was going. Most people assumed I was a Peace Corps volunteer as it’s pretty uncommon to get Americans there on holiday. I was very taken by the school culture – the kids wear different brightly colored uniforms based on their religious affiliation – and yes, all schools are strongly tied to Christianity. The buses are all independently owned and rather shoddy – and most buses are packed to the brim with boomin’ systems echoing through the air. There are no timetables or bus schedules – you just flag one day if it’s pointed in the direction you want to go. All the young girls have long hair which must be kept in braids during school time. The boys wear skirts – yes skirts – with collared tops and it is such a handsome look!

My favorite part was the 3 hour ferry to the island of ‘Eua, and the 6 days I spent at this gorgeous, inexpensive whale-watching resort. It was so secluded and wonderful – I had lemongrass tea (moengalo) fresh from the stalk, homemade yogurt, and fresh-caught octopus cooked in the umu with coconut milk. And made a friend for life – Little Sione stuck to me like glue. We went on walks – one particular trek through the jungle during a thunderstorm really tested my faith as I assumed we were lost and Sione didn’t know the English words to reassure me.

Another wonderful outcome of this trip was meeting Elizabeth, aka “Bratt,” a hilarious and sassy, 1/2 Tongan chick who was my guide and showed me the most beautiful parts of the island (including the boys at the one dance club Billfish!).

 

Malo, Tonga, for everything! I shall return…

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Sweet-as Auckland

Ah the big city! After a week and a half in the countryside, communing with nature, doing yoga every day, shooing chickens out of my room and playing with cows, Auckland is a breath of fresh air.

The country was incredible — big rolling hills (all grazing land), the Hunua waterfall and the Correy Dam within walking distance, a convenience store and an Indian restaurant… and that’s it. Plus I had a yoga room in addition to my bedroom and “heaps” of space. It was a wonderful way to start the year, but I’m glad to be back in the middle of action.

Auckland is a bustling city with killer people watching and so much stuff to do. Tons of ethnic diversity here with all kinds of restaurants. The city is easy to get around and not intimidating at all. People are so friendly here and I haven’t felt unsafe a single moment. Yes you’ve got your usual crazy element, but you keep a strong pace and try not to dawdle and you don’t get hassled. I don’t feel like I stand out physically, but once I open my mouth people are real interested in where I’m from. Most people guess Canada first, but I discovered they throw out Canada first on purpose – because apparently Canadians get downright pissy if Kiwis peg them as Americans.

The flat I’ve rented was such a lucky find – I got on NZflatmates.com and found this loft in the heart of the city rented by a young couple who run a nonprofit called Sustainable Coastlines out of the spot. It is a work in progress, the walls just went up last week, they installed their own skylights, and a deck is getting built this weekend. It’s incredibly inspiring to be around the positive eco-energy created and perpetuated in this space. Plus the two and all of their associates are very friendly and hilariously entertaining.They are really making headway in their mission to raise awareness and significantly reduce beach dumping, especially with children. They got front page New Zealand Herald coverage of the coastal rubbish issue and a feature in the National section the following day. My kind of eco-warriors!


It’s my first week back on the mat and I’m loving it… I am reminded what mat burn feels like and to be sore in places you didn’t know existed. The BJJ experience is simultaneously empowering and humbling. The highs and lows of it are constantly a revitalizing force to the soul, challenging your physical and emotional self. The guys at this academy are really cool, very friendly and (mostly) respectful of the fundamentals learning curve. The practice has definitely given me some grounding amidst all of the crazy changes I’ve experienced lately. I am eternally grateful to my friend Carlos for “jumping” me into this gang. Ha.

There are all kinds of silly little language things I’ve tried to remember to share with my peeps back home… since there are so many Aussies and Brits here, the lingo is a tickling kitchen sink talk that is quite amusing.

Let’s see what I can member:

– Something that is annoying or frustrating is “niggly”

– a “batch” is a vacation home

– “bugger” is like “shit”

– “heaps” is used instead of “lots”

– “hoary” means “ghetto,” like cheap or shitty quality

– “cheers” as a hello and goodbye is used by everyone, and the goodbye one usually comes out like “chur, bro”

– “dodgy” is like “flaky” or unreliable

– “agro” is mad/irritated

– eggplant is “aubergine” and peppers are “capsicums” and sweet potato is “kumara”

– a car trunk is a “boot”

– “bugger all” means very little

– a cordial is like a fruit soda without bubbles

– an “entree” is an appetizer and a “main” is a meal

– “full tit” means to go balls out, very hard n fast, also “flat out”

-“gidday” is hello

– a handle is a pint of beer

– a “hard case” is a funny person

– flip-flops are “jandals”

-“ming” is like poo/dirt/nasty gunk

– people say “that fucks me off” instead of pisses me off

– “lolly” is candy

– “motorway” is the freeway

– diapers are “nappies” ha

– “naff off” is “go away”

– college is “Uni”

-“don your glad rags” is to get gussied up for going out

– to “perve” is to stare

– beer is called “piss”

– it was a “piece of piss” means it was easy

– “rark up” means to tell someone off

– “rattle your dags” means “hurry up”

-like in Hawaii, trash is called “rubbish”

– you ring someone, not call them

– a “sheila” is a hot girl

– men call their girlfriends their “misses”

– “togs” is a swimsuit or trunks

– everyone has a “jug”, an electric pitcher to heat water for tea, “shall I put the jug on” is asking if someone wants to come in and “have a yarn”

– an apartment is a flat, roommates are “flatmates”

– to “flog” is to steal

– “footy” is rugby

– a “green-fingered bro” is a bloke who regularly indulges in cannabis

– “hen fruit” is slang for eggs (I like the egg brand name “Henergy,” ha)

– “mate’s rates” is special prices for friends

– “mean” or “choice” is like “sweet”

– “as” can be used at the end of any adjective to provide extra emphasis… “sweet-as” is most common, but you could say “that was a big-as fish” or it’s “hot-as” in here. It’s funny cause it’s so common it’s used for everything like school kids’ stuff… I saw a kid with a hat that said “Sweet As Summer Reading Program”. I have to laugh cause it’s so close to sweet-ass…

– Mr. Whippy is an ice-cream truck

– Australia is “Oz”

– “pissing down” means raining hard

– “she’ll be right” means it’ll all work out/don’t worry

– “snarky” means sarcastic/mean-spirited

– “suss it out” means to evaluate/check it out

– the letter “z” is prounounced “zed”

Thanks for reading, I’ve got 3 1/2 weeks left in Auckland and I hope to have some beautiful shots of the baby islands off the coast here, Waiheke and Great Barrier, and possibly Rangitoto. BIG FAT LOVE to all my friends and family whose positive thoughts and safe wishes I definitely feel, even all the way on the other side of the world. Chur, bro…

Aotearoa: Land of Kiwis, Rugby & Pohutakawa Trees!


“Reaaaallly?” (in a Tate-like voice)

“Are you kidding me?”

“Whaaaat?”

I spend a considerable amount of my days in awe, yelling out loud to myself. Especially when I decide to wander up any of the numerous hills I encounter and find myself on top of a lookout with panoramic views that lead me to rub my eyes in disbelief. Today is my 11th day in NZ and I am extremely delighted and enticed by this incredible country. Rolling green hills, sheep, alpacas, rocky cliffs, seabirds, possums, GIANT seashells, mussels… so much beauty here.

New Zealand is GOLDEN, in every way, shape, and form. Every little town is squeaky clean, pristine even. Everywhere you go, the towns cater to travellers and info is available everywhere for hostels, transport, activities, food, whatever. NZ makes it so easy to just pick a spot and get there. For example, I got a bus ride from Whitianga to Cormondel (1 hr drive) for $2, and the driver picked me up and dropped me at my hostels. PLUS, the NZ Dollar is worth less than the U.S. one, so everytime I swipe my card for a certain amount, it comes out to be less when I check my bank statement. Oh, and there is no sales tax; city taxes are included in any product pricing. Low crime rate, no visible poverty, hard left social climate, extreme diversity, conscious environmentalism, and most peeps get national healthcare. If it wasn’t on the other side of the world, I might post up here for good.

One of my favorite moments so far was swimming in Buffalo Beach, watching this big white seabird at play. He would fly around for a few minutes, set his sights on a spot in the water, and torpedo beak-first downward for a quick cool-off, then shake off his feathers and head back up for another aerial tour. Highly entertaining.

I started running barefoot on this beach – for some reason I prefer sprinting on my tiptoes in my bikini… I don’t know why but I can run faster and longer than I ever could in sneakers. Must be the sublime view and the ocean air. Beats the hell out of running on a 24 Hr Fitness treadmill. I had a fun surf lesson at Hot Water Beach. The waves were small and easy, perfect for learning. I fell a ton, but then again, I popped up on the board enough times to make me feel like a success.

There was this local shaggy-haired, sunspotted bro in the water who looked like he was born on a surfboard… I had to laugh ’cause he somehow managed to keep a rollie in his mouth the entire time he was surfing. I have no idea how he kept it dry.

On my way to Hot Water Beach (where, by the way, you can dig holes in the sand that fill up with hot springs water… personal hot tubs), I stopped at a little house-turned-cafe called Eggsentric. Yard art everywhere, a giant trampoline in the back, and THE best scrambled eggs I’ve ever had in my life. In the driveway there was a man doing a painting of a little blonde girl. A little conversation revealed that he was the former owner of the cafe (now turned over to his son), lives in the house, and just got back from 6 months of art-doin’ in Italy. The painting was of his granddaughter, an Xmas gift for his daughter. We talked briefly about following your dreams and he attributed his success to consistent action. He confessed that he had very little talent, but that it didn’t matter because his hard work created skill, which more than compensated for his talent deficit. Beautiful reminder to stay focused.

I’m bummed I’m going to miss the 2011 Rugby finals happening here in late Feb… Kiwis are silly for Rugby and you can get gear for the All Blacks (NZ team) just about anywhere. Rugby boys have tree trunks instead of legs, one of the many gifts attributed to the Polynesian lineage.

Maori culture is so integrated into daily life – the place and street names are Maori, which is also an official language. You see alot of Ta Moko, or traditional tribal tattoos, often on the face, which can signify heritage, positional rank, marriage, work, mana, birth status, etc. Oh yeah, and a kiwi is a bird, as well as a yummy green little fruit.

Check back soon, I discovered a few “holy shit” views today that I’m gonna go snatch for ya with the camera in the next day or two. Happy Holidaze!!!

The Heart of Rarotonga

Another day in paradise… I’m halfway through my Raro visit and it’s been raining for 2 days, but it’s still paradise to me. Got my little iHome speakers hooked up with reggae & Jahwaiian and a cup of coffee on my nightstand and I couldn’t be smilier (us writers can make up words, you know). I’m looking out at the ocean as I type this and every molecule in my body is buzzing with gratitude. I’m thankful to the Universe for conspiring to help me get here, I’m thankful to my friends & family for their unending support, and I’m thankful to myself for putting aside my fears and stepping into something so big without looking too far ahead or too far back.

There’s so much going on, I’ve had so many details catalogued in my brain to mention in my blog. It really is a challenge to force myself to sit down and list all of the things I’ve seen – when I could be out seeing more! Kinda like how baby books never really get used because parents are too busy being in the moment and watching the show…

I am definitely more “in the moment” than I have been in a long time. I am in the heart of Rarotonga. I am definitely recognizing some parallels from when I moved to Hawaii… but it’s different. It’s different because this is not America, because I don’t have a plan, and because I am most interested in building my character and testing my adaptation skills rather than the party mindset of my Hawaii adventure.


Interesting things I’ve observed here…

-even little tiny kids hold onto their parents on the backs of scooters – like 2 years old!

-little babies are held in the laps in front seats of cars, nobody wears seat belts

-there are no stoplights and I’ve only seen “give way” signs, no stop signs

-they call flip-flops “jandals”

-to go food is called “takeaway” 

-Cook Islands Maori is spoken fluently

-most of the resort staff is imported from Fiji

-drinking age is 18 but it’s not enforced at all

-in most bars, you can just take your drink with you when you leave!

-living wage is about 3 times higher here than Fiji, but cost of living is twice as high

-you see tombstones everywhere, even in people’s yards

-a purple starfish and a spotted eel!

-you should avoid eating fish that feed off the reef (like parrotfish) because you can get poisoned due to waste dumping and chemical bleaching of the reef

-instead of counter-clockwise, they say “anti-clockwise”

-fruits and veggies are cheap at the market, but grocery stores carry mostly packaged foods that are expensive ($3 for a Snickers!)

-Soymilk? Whazzat? I have only seen whole milk and it comes in a non-refrigerated box like a big juice box. Ewww.

-coffee is called a “long black” and a latte is called a “flat white”

-they call papaya “pawpaw” and it is so freakin’ good… melts in your mouth

-they drive on the left side of the road, and the right side of the car… you gotta keep that in mind when you’re crossing the road or you become people soup

-There’s a small island in the Cook Islands group called Palmerston, where the 70 residents are all descendents of a white man named William Palmerston and his 3 native wives

-the one road around the island used to be 40 mph but then people complained that they needed to get to work quicker, so they upped it to 50

-Mangaia, a nearby island, was the only spot you could view the recent total solar eclipse from. They had to ship food, generators, and beds over for the 400 visitors.

The famous "RFC"

Everyone in the resort is coupled up, I haven’t met another solo traveler yet, and I’ve only met one person from the U.S. My friend Analina works in the resort and we laugh easily together and talk about (what else?) boys, music and travel. She’s going to take me around the island soon. I’d much rather do it like that than pay for a guided tour ($50 – $100).

Yes, it’s nice to have fresh towels and linens and a magically made bed every day. Though I am washing my undies in the sink since a load of laundry is $15. My mishaps have been minor – lost sunglasses and mouse pad (I found a $3 SpiderMan mouse pad at FoodLand), a leaky shower (which got fixed already) and a divebombing mama mynah bird who goes for my head every time I leave or enter my room (I just duck & cover). Oh and a triggerfish nibbled on my ankle, quite hard I might add. Apparently they get territorial & aggressive at the start of mating season (now). Needless to say, I will be wearing a full wetsuit and reef shoes next time I go for a swim.

I’m especially fond of beach walks at night. The resort is not very full at all, so I usually have the beach to myself at dark. There is so much wisdom in the sea, I feel more beautiful, strong and powerful just being next to it.

Thanks for checking in & much love.

Kia Manuia! (May Fortune Shine on You)



Raro-where-a?

Respect the world as your self:

The world can be your lodging.

Love the world as your self:

The world can be your trust.

—Lao-Tzu, Tao Te Ching


Wikipedia’s Rarotonga: The Cook Islands are in the South Pacific Ocean, northeast of New Zealand, between French Polynesia and American Samoa. Rarotonga is the largest of fifteen major islands, with a population of 14,153. Surrounded entirely by a lagoon, the island has a circumference of 20 miles, an area of 26 square miles, and houses Te Manga, a volcano with a 31-mile diameter.

Lindsey’s Rarotonga: A kick-ass tiny little Polynesian jewel with glassy, turquoise water, no stoplights, beautiful beaming brown boys, and a heavenly fruit called “star apple” with a taste I can only describe as pure love.

For the first official blog off U.S. soil, I wanted to make sure and convey how absolutely in tune with the universe I am at this particular moment in time. After three arduous, chaotic months of preparation characterized by a mix of excitement and a fear of the unknown, I can finally exhale.

I allowed myself a few tears when I hugged my sis and headed from CO to NE, then a few more when I hugged my mom goodbye … but even then it was still just a concept, a future goal from which I was distracted by the million and one details that needed to be taken care of. Even at all these milestones — the simplification process which took months and included packing and repacking, giving things away, selling stuff on craigslist, and leaving behind goods at sis and mom’s; the going away party at the Ballhouse, the goodbye/birthday dinner in Omaha — it just didn’t seem real yet. Plus there was still 11 hours in the air to get through, which, if you know me, was like facing a 50-foot brick wall and being told to  scale it with no gear. But 3 movies, about 14 different positional attempts at sleeping, a few repetitions of a buddhist meditation mantra during the brief turbulence, and a supper and a breakfast later, the Air New Zealand pilot announced the descent to Rarotonga. This is when the tidal wave hit me. Every little thought I’d had since making this decision culminated in a blissful rush of reality and actualization. The ever-looming feelings of failure for of the millions of ideas I’d never followed through on ceased to matter.  My destiny, my happiness was unfolding before my eyes and I made a promise to myself to love and appreciate every single thing that happened to me from this point forward.

Day 1 was an incredible discovery process — from the moment I stepped off the plane at 7 am until I closed my eyes that night, I was in a state of awe. Eating my first fleshy purple star apple at breakfast was a sensory, almost transcendent experience I cannot even put into words. And jumping into the most perfect, temperate, beautiful ocean water I’ve ever imagined was equally as pleasurable. I fell asleep with a feeling of sheer contentment, gratitude and protection. Leaving all the trappings of my structured life seemed to thrust me out into an unsafe spot, and I incorrectly assumed it would take me months, even years to feel “safe” and “secure” out here. I was wrong.

I was awoken at around 2 a.m. by an aggressive, relentless storm that went on until morning. I was simultaneously amused and frightened by the fast and hard rain, especially after such a serene sunny day  — and it seemed that this was Jah’s way of reminding me to never get too comfortable, to remain humble and aware of my own impermanence, and to remember that fear is a necessary balancing agent of inner contentment and confidence.

I’m smack dab in the middle of Day 2 and I have already developed a strong, affectionate attitude towards this island. I got up at 6:30 today, stretched, ate 3 apple stars and worked for a few hours, then headed to the pool, then the lagoon, then the free SCUBA lesson in the pool. Beach volleyball happens in 10 minutes, and I’m excited to go night snorkeling at 9.

There’s this light brown puppy doggy that has taken a liking to me – so much so that he followed me around the beach last night, hung out while I watched the crab races under tiki torches, and walked me home along the shore. I call him Fish. Making friends with locals and getting to the heart of the cultural oddities is fun, and I can’t wait to go into town. This one Kiwi asked me what the U.S. is like and said he always wanted to go there. He is an ex-pro rugby player with 4 houses who just moved here to work on the resort just because he loves the ocean and wants to be here. People seemed shocked when I say that I am traveling alone and that I am staying for so long. Resort life is enjoyable, but everyone around me has a script for life after their “holiday.” I am reminded how lucky I am. This new lifestyle I’ve adopted is definitely an anomaly, and I feel so blessed to be doing what I’m doing. I look forward to the next hour and the next day in a way I never have before. This elevated attitude of gratitude and curiosity is exactly what I set out to find. Ironically by choosing to become homeless, I have found a definition of “home” I never even knew existed. Mom says “Home is where they understand you.” I’d like to take it one step beyond to express that HOME is where you can better understand yourself, where you can become intimately acquainted with your own soul and access those distinctive powers that make you amazing. Out here, there’s no hiding from yourself, and I’m liking what I see.

Two things I’ve learned so far: 1) I will spend as much lifetime as possible on islands and 2) I brought too much stuff. Big Love –  more to come. 🙂

Becoming a Minimalist

When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when we escape like the squirrels in the cage of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall shiver with cold and fright. But things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves. Cool, unlying life will rush in. . —D. H. Lawrence

“Cool, unlying life will rush in…” What a beautiful way to describe the transformative power of adopting a minimalist lifestyle. As I went from being surrounded by material possessions to toting 3 bags and crashing on couches (or sometimes, in closets), I noticed distinct changes in my personality, subtle displays of patience, courage, and optimism. I used to be so sensitive to change, easily discouraged by elements of discomfort. I am already experiencing the rewards of inward revolution spawned from physical change… and I’m not even out of the country yet!

Some people see the abandonment of comfort and “security” (I put this word in quotes because I believe security is a state of mind, a superstition) as idiotic, especially when there are so many “have-nots” dreaming of having what I have. Leaving things, good people, and safe places can be considered a display of selfishness, an ego-driven move that considers only the individual. On the contrary, it is a desire to connect with people and Mother Earth that forms the foundation of my motivation, a deep drive to share what I know and learn the secrets that the universe guards so closely.

Out in the unknown, I will be forced to take full responsibility for my own happiness. This is not selfishness, it’s accountability and a catalyst for pure acceptance of who I am. And let me dispel any myths: Disappearing for an indefinite amount of time is HARD WORK. Every day I wake up with at least 15 “to-dos” bouncing around in my head, and after those are addressed, there are 15 more. I feel more focused on this than anything I’ve ever attempted. And when you are focused so intently, you have to narrow your view of other things happening in your world and hope that your tunnel vision doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings. I am especially thankful that my family and friends understand this and are gradually becoming more involved and excited about the transition.

I’m sure this photo will make my mom cringe a little, but how many people do you know who get excited to sleep in a closet? It’s new and different and I’m super stoked to prove to myself that I can be content in any environment… even a closet. I remember not too long ago saying, “Ya, I’m the type of person who has to sleep in her own bed at night, otherwise I just feel out of whack.” I had the same bed for 4 years and sold it without a second thought. It felt amazing. Now I fit in with my friends wherever there is space for me, and I’m overwhelmed with gratitude that I have people who care so much and provide me with a soft place to do my dreamin’.  I’m experiencing the joy of small things, something I had gotten away from in my day-to-day routine. I am actually anticipating challenges, and I look forward to every obstacle, instead of worrying that unexpected events will disrupt my flow. I am water.

Tchau SUV…

Olá city bus!


The Big Decision

“You’re really gonna do it, huh? Reaaallly?”

“I’m so jealous! I wish I could travel.”

“Wow, that takes balls.”

“So it’s like a vacation…?”

“Why???”

The reactions I get from people when they find out I’m leaving to travel the world are varied, but they all kind of have an underlying element of awe and, well, an air of disbelief. My responses are usually along these lines:

“Yup, my mind is made up, I’m really doing it.”

“Anyone can travel if they have the drive to make it happen.”

“Sold all my stuff, no turning back now.”

“It’s not a vacation, I’m living abroad.”

“Because I want to. Because the whisper has turned into a scream. Because it doesn’t make any sense not to go.”

And there’s one common theme to my responses: resolve. I guess “balls” would be somewhat accurate. But that’s not to say fear isn’t a factor. Quite frankly, I’m terrified. But I’m proceeding with conviction, determined to explore the brilliantly colored fabric of life in spite of that nagging thing called fear.

I’ve always had a curious infatuation with other cultures. Ever since moving to Hawaii in ’02, and then moving back to the heart of the U.S., I’ve longed for diversity and felt rather disconnected spending so much time in a very homogeneous area. Combine my love of natural beauty and ocean life with my eagerness to experience societies beyond the ethnocentric, consumer-driven American culture and you’ve got a world traveler in a Coloradoan’s clothing.

So here I am. Ready with a one-way ticket to Rarotonga and a whole lot of room for possibility… and a smile ten miles wide plastered across my face. To steal one of the most overused cliches in the book, the world truly is my oyster. Stay tuned.