On July 6, 2018, while I was walking my dog, I received news that my friends, Alex and Mindy passed away in an accident in Shannon Falls, British Columbia.
Rachel of Hippie in Heels travel blog was the first person I talked to. Both Alex and Mindy are our friends. Rachel and I supported each other in the process. We couldn’t understand how 2 great minds in the blogging Industry who are also our good friends, can be taken from their friends and families just like that. They were younger than Rachel and I. They were just too young to go.
I also told her, “don’t die on me, Jones.” She said she won’t and I promised not to die on her too. I can never imagine a world without Rachel, especially now that I moved to Mexico, we promised to spend more time together.
Yesterday, I woke up to so many calls on my phone. “Trisha, Rachel is gone.”
Half awake, I took a good 30-second look at my phone: “are you f*cking kidding me?”
I immediately went to Rachel’s page. The link to the announcement was sent to me by another travel blogger. For many things and events, they only become true when they are posted to social media.
It was true. The announcement confirmed that Rachel passed away. It did not say the cause of death but all I can think about was “Mindy, Alex, and now Rachel? What the f*ck is this?” That’s less than a year and 3 of my friends from the same group are gone. How is that normal? I mean, this can’t be true, right?
I am not sure if you can imagine yourself losing three friends in less than a year — all from the same group. I just can’t get my head around it. If this happened to you, I have to be honest, I really really really really need help in understanding this.
For anything, writing is the only way I am healed – broken relationships, anxiety from traveling alone, being alone in general, travel, life, dreams. So today, I decided to process this out loud and at the same time give tribute to the friends we lost along the way.
In 2016, 6 of us were invited to a bloggers trip by Vibe Israel, a non-profit organization that aims to change the image of Israel to the world. This organization only chooses the best bloggers to transmit that message about Israel properly – and I feel very privileged not only for being invited to take part but also to get to know the greatest minds in the travel blogging industry. These people are probably the best content creators of our time.
When attending trips like this, I don’t expect to be friends with everyone but having a small group does the trick. If you’re going to explore a place with other people for 10 days, it is very likely that you will share everything together and get to know each other better. That’s what happened.
I’ve always stared at Mindy’s Shakira curls. They are perfect! It’s the hair I always wanted to have but I was given the most jet-black Asian hair. I found Mindy really beautiful. She focused a lot on her work but she never forgot to be playful. She sits like a lady but runs like a child. And she always wore slippers, even in the desert. I’ve been traveling/backpacking a whole lot so slippers are all I got, too. I just didn’t see Mindy as the slippers everywhere kind of girl. I only knew her on Instagram before and I felt like she was one of those girls who always needed to dress up. Turns out, she wasn’t.
Just last year, Mindy published a book called Not Cut Out. It’s about quitting her 9-5 and finally deciding to get a one-way ticket to Kathmandu. She had no idea this decision would later open up a world where she will get to travel for a living and create content on behalf of luxury properties in countries like the Maldives, Bali, Thailand, Morocco, Singapore, Paris, and Dubai. Yes, Mindy’s job is to make hotels visually appealing on social media. If you check Mindy’s Instagram account, you will see how good she is at it.
Before she even personally asked help for promoting her book, I already bought and shared on social media. “You didn’t have to buy! I could’ve given you one.” I knew I could easily ask for a copy directly from her but Mindy is an artist. I am really against artists being unpaid for the fantastic work they do. I’ve supported all my friends by buying their products (e-books, Lightroom presets, editing apps, travel guides) because that’s the right thing to do.
Mindy was really happy about her book and she was rolling in Bali – speaking in conferences, conducting workshops, getting recognition here and there. If you know Mindy personally, you can attest that she never boasted about anything, not even her 100k+ followers. She was the only person I know who never mentions it. It was just never on the table. She was genuinely supportive of other women in the Industry. She helped me a lot in improving my Instagram content. She taught me so many things without asking for anything in return.
Alex is called “Russia” by his close peers. He is the first person I really admired in the Instagram world. I started following him on his first account, @beforeidie (now @wanderlust). For me, it was Russia who set the bar for this trip. He had over 1M followers on Instagram and I felt a bit pressure to perform and do my best in the trip. I was also excited to learn from him.
Russia’s facade is a bit snobbish but if you really get to know him, like many boys, he’s as equally as playful as Mindy. I think this is why they get along. You will see how much he really loves Mindy – they are always in their own “playful” world. In one of the dinners, he accidentally “footsied” me (it was a dark dining restaurant) so I told him, “You’re not my type, Russia, get off my leg.”
“Sorry, mom. I thought it was Mindy’s.” he said. He’d call me mom once or twice because I always freaked out when he’s climbing rooftops or jumping from the second floor to dive to the pool – he always wanted to do something extreme. He’s always looking for the adrenaline rush. With that, I knew Russia was someone whom you cannot stop from doing what he wants. He does it and he does it well. Those pictures you see on his Instagram? None of those are photoshopped. He all did those “extreme” things because he likes it, not because he wants to take photos of it. His actions are always triggered by curiosity. And when he wants to do something, he would go for it no matter what.
He had a Youtube channel with his friends called High On Life. In here, you will see the great Alexey “Russia” Lyakh living the “bestest” life anyone of us can’t imagine. His life was extremely full of adventure.
Unlike myself, Rachel Jones was a true lady. More than Mindy, even. Rachel has exquisite manners. She has really white teeth and is obsessed about keeping it that way. Her hair is only half-fixed most of the time. She’d tie it do a bun during the day and at night, lets her long hair down. Rachel moves very finely but is also a crazy dancer. She’s so tiny that I thought she doesn’t drink or eat a lot but she does. And man, she can eat!
When we first met, Rachel gave me a big hug and said, “I love you, Trisha Velarmino.” We were both voracious readers and writers. She said she’s read all my narratives and stories. I told her, “I love you too, Rachel Jones.” I read Rachel’s blog all the time because it gives me inspiration on how to make great content. Rachel is writing (and reading) constantly — I’ve never met anyone with that dedication to their blog. She’d do a blog post and edit pics in between tours while most of us will drink the night away. Whenever I look at her, I feel like working or doing something. None of us was even half like Rachel. She lived an adventurous and creative life. Her brain was always up to something.
When Rachel moved to Merida last year, I was so excited because I also plan to move to Mexico. We’d talk all night about Mexico and how it just mysteriously calls you to come. She told me about her house, her car, her dogs, about marrying Ben – Mexico seemed to be the perfect place to sew a dream life. Every day, she’d get me really excited about getting here. I arrived last month and promised her I’ll come to stay with her for at least 2 weeks. She offered her home to me and even said I can use her car as long as I love her dogs equally as I love my own.
Rachel is probably the most read female travel blogger of our time. She’s always updating her blog like crazy, I wanted to be like her when it comes to creating content. She writes about mostly everything: a new restaurant she tried, what happened to her monthly, how she moved to Mexico, and most of all, her life in India. She loved India a lot and in her blog, you will find a lot of helpful articles for women traveling in India. She really gave her all there without hesitation! Her work inspired me to do my best in everything and to not present work that is half-baked.
I am going to go back to my question: can you can imagine yourself losing three friends in less than a year, all from the same group? How is that like? This isn’t about me. This is about the people who loved them the most and I am considering myself as part of that. Sometimes, I get so paranoid and I keep saying, “maybe I’m next?” I know I should not think that but this series of sad events made me wake up, more than ever. To be aware all the time. To be always present. To be always mindful. To do the things that I want with caution. To express love whenever possible. To avoid hate at all costs. To not doubt myself. To live life the way I want because we all have the same ending.
I am really really sad about how all three of them had to go early. For the last 24 hours, I’d burst into tears together with the words, “why?!” But what calms me down is when I think about the life of these three, they are, after all, very well lived.
Mindy taught us that when you do what interests you, interesting things will happen. Alex tried all extreme things possible. He taught us to conquer our fears and do something about it. Rachel taught us there is no middle ground: you do your best or you don’t do it at all. Their lives didn’t go to waste because they did what they were called to do. I can imagine the three of them, in some great paradise right now, probably enjoying some hike or a dip in a pool. I know they are unstoppable, and that wherever they may be right now, they will still do their best to “live” a good life. To do something that they really love.
These incidents made me arrange my legacy: I am currently talking to a lawyer about how I can arrange things if something worst happens to me. My family doesn’t know much about my work so as early as now, I want to arrange what happens to the blog or my business, just in case. I also provided a legacy contact on Facebook so someone can dig on my deepest life. I hope there is something like that for Instagram. I am not planning my life ahead but this circumstance made me realize that anything can happen to us at any time.
For now, like always, I am focusing on being alive and continuing on living the life I want for myself because our time in this world is borrowed – we’ll never know when it’s going to be taken back. It’s the mature thing to do. I don’t know if you ever thought about death, or even prepared for it but I feel like we all should, without overdoing it.
And of course, while I am at it, I will never forget Alex, Mindy, and Rachel, who taught us how to live life the best way we know how.