To My Fellow Backpackers and Blood Donors… This one's dedicated to you!

Can we all stop and take a moment to appreciate the people we have met whilst travelling? I have been lucky enough to have crossed paths with some of the very best...

They are the friends you never knew you could possibly want or need and then you meet by chance, high on life, say in transit on an overnight bus from Bangkok to a tropical Thai Island or along the Mekong River on the slow boat from Pai to Luang Prabang. You could be sat on the sofa of a backpackers, cooking up a storm in a hostel kitchen or sharing a bunk in a 12 bed dorm. More often than not, a bar crawl will be involved!

Travel can be brutal, it forces you to step outside your comfort zone, trust strangers and discard all the familiar comforts of home - It goes against everything your parents ever taught you about safety and control.

Those I have met on my trips (both near and far) have become my sunshine sisters and soul brothers... Together celebrating the highs and lows of life as we navigate our way through paradise; learning about ourselves and each other, catching and cheering one another on through the good times and the bad. More often than not it’s these people you meet along the way that make it all worthwhile. You can be absolutely anywhere, the location isn’t important here, it’s about those who are by your side. Sharing the moments you can’t put into words, together... United in your search for adventure, your routes collide and the consequent connection that develops is unbreakable.

I met Fernanda when I moved into a house share in Auckland. She was Mexican and she was beautiful, inside and out. Fernanda was unlike any other person I have ever met; this girl dreamed BIG and then she chased those dreams until they were accomplished. She was passionate, intelligent and ambitious but most importantly, Fernanda was kind. She was nothing short of incredible with an unforgettable smile! During the short time that I lived with Fernanda we became family, sharing a house together when we were thousands of miles from home.

Fernanda passed away on February 1st 2018 aged 29 years old, leaving her amazing husband and family behind. She had her whole entire life ahead of her. Fernanda will never celebrate her 30th birthday or wake to watch another sunrise. I still can’t believe she has gone and I certainly cannot comprehend the unimaginable pain her parents and partner endure in her absence, the very thought makes my heart ache on a daily basis.

This month marks a year since Fernanda passed and I will never forget the shock as I scrolled down my Facebook feed to read the news. It stopped me in my tracks as I read over the status once, twice, five times more. It didn’t make sense. I did not (and still can’t) understand or accept that this could happen to anyone, but certainly not Fernanda in the prime of her life. I later learned that Fernanda had gone into hospital for a routine operation, she was a rare blood type and due to complications she required an urgent blood transfusion but one could not be located.

Tonight I have given blood as I have done so every 16 weeks since that devastating day and I will continue to do so for as long as I can. I’m not a particular special type, just one of the most common but this doesn’t matter, it’s the donating that counts.

Each time I get nervous, but you know what - It’s SO easy and I mean ridiculously easy! So my friends near and far, I urge you to take a moment to think about who you would bleed for. Please register online and become a donor if you can. It’s a quick and straightforward process and one that really can save a life. You never know when you, a family member or friend like Fernanda may need a vital transfusion.

Finally, to my sunshine sisters and soul brothers, who are now spread far and wide across every corner of the globe, no matter how much time passes you are forever in thoughts! Thank you for such wonderful memories and thank you for reminding me to trust in the unknown and live and love to the absolute limit of my heart and beyond. And Fernanda, until our paths cross once again, Buenos Noches Chica.

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