All photography is courtesy of Lauren Fritz.
Meet Lauren Fritz, a naturalist, blogger, and photographer who travels the world to fuel her curiosity and share her enthusiasm for conservation. I had the pleasure getting to know her on the Hawaiian Island of Maui and hearing about her travels and the unique perspective she has on our oceans.
If your life were a book, what would you write for the synopsis?
This is the tale of a girl who couldn’t get enough of the sea. She loved it so much so, in fact, that one day after accidentally tumbling headfirst over the bow of a whale-watching boat, she decided to simply stay there in the ocean. She became friends with the orcas, the humpbacks, the dusky dolphins, and eventually got her own mermaid tail. She spends every day learning more and more about the sea and the animals that call it home, as well as fighting the horrible problems of pollution and overfishing. Come and explore the ocean with Lauren the mermaid; you may just want to be a mermaid yourself by the end!
What are three words that you would use to describe yourself?
Motivated, restless, reflective
You have an adventurous spirit and a passion for conservation. How did that all begin?
As weird as it sounds, this conservation journey started for me as an escape from the “real world.” I studied chemical engineering in college as a way to challenge myself, having no direction or inner push that was guiding me towards a particular major. In my junior year, I studied abroad in Australia and fell in love with the ocean-centered culture in Perth. My first true love became the sea, and I used this as an excuse to escape from the engineering studies that were no longer fueling my soul. Hungry for more salty days, I traveled to South Africa that next summer to film a documentary on great white sharks. It was so random, but I was feeling ready to tackle a new challenge and spend more time abroad! That’s where it really all began: the wanderlust, the addiction to stepping outside my comfort zone, and the craving to be on the water and protect the sea and its creatures. I haven’t stopped since!
Where have you been, where are you now, and where are you going?
Most of my journeys are centered around moving somewhere new where I can experience a new culture and place, work with whales and wildlife, make some moolah to fund more travel, and meet like-minded people, most of whom are becoming friends for life! I started in South Africa, working for a cage-diving company. After graduation I moved to Maui to work as a snorkel and whale watch guide. After a year on that beautiful volcanic island, I moved to San Juan Island to work with orcas in Friday Harbor, and fell in love with the place. It’s where I feel most at home, outside of my actual hometown in Idaho. I’ve done two seasons in Maui now, two in the San Juans.
Right now, I’m in Kaikoura, New Zealand, a place that makes me continually pinch myself to prove I’m not dreaming. Really, it’s a combination of all of my favorite things in the world: small town, quiet outdoor-centered lifestyle, beautiful turquoise seas, snow-capped mountains lining the coast, and marine mammals galore. I’m working for an ecotourism company that takes guests out swimming with wild dusky dolphins in the most respectful and environmentally-conscious way. It’s one of the most amazing things you can do in New Zealand. Dusky dolphins are probably the most inquisitive, acrobatic, and social dolphins species I’ve ever seen. I love singing them Disney songs when we’re hanging out in the water, especially “A Whole New World.”
Where am I going? Somewhere near the big blue, with snow, and mountains. Iʻm thinking Iceland for the summer? Who knows? Itʻs too early to tell! I can safely say that if my visa let me stay in New Zealand indefinitely, I probably wouldn’t leave.
What are some of the challenges you have faced?
Homesickness is a real thing. It’s hard being away for the holidays, as it’s usually the busiest time for those in the tourism business, and we can’t exactly take time off. I’m also supremely sick of packing up my life into two suitcases every six months for a new season, but the upside of that is I am definitely adopting a more minimalistic lifestyle! You’ll laugh, but one of my biggest struggles is moving from kitchen to kitchen. I’m not a huge nester, but I do love a well-quipped, familiar kitchen, and itʻs hard to have to restock a kitchen from scratch twice a year.
What has made it all worth it?
The people I’ve met. Honest to goodness, it is wonderful exploring and seeing these beautiful places, but without the wonderful people I’ve met along the way, it wouldn’t be as incredible. I’ve made friends for life from all over the world, and I am so grateful to have them with me on this journey, whether in person or in spirit.
If you could tell the whole world one thing, what would it be?
Since we’re just ringing in 2018, it’s a good time for a resolution to stop using single-use plastics! Hey world, we don’t need straws in our drinks, and we don’t need take-away coffee cups. These things aren’t free; our ocean’s health is paying the price.
When is the last time you laughed?
I’ve been laughing a lot lately, which is in itself a really beautiful thing. One thing that really made me laugh was working with my fellow guide Rio on the boat over Christmas time and changing the words of a bunch of Christmas carols to very dolphin-related lyrics and then belting them out to the passengers. The best part is when the little ones sing along.
Where can we read more about your adventures?
My blog, Salt & Snow, can be found at www.lovesaltandsnow.com. I’m always working on putting up pieces about sustainable travel and marine conservation, and welcome anybody to meander along the pages. Or you could always come to New Zealand and pay me a visit.
Maddie is the creator and editor of The Thalassofiles. Her background is in marine biology, and she has a not-so-secret desire to embrace limitations, immerse herself in the great outdoors, and try new things. And then write about it.