Inaugural winner Lauren Dionysius is a lovely young woman from Kepnock, Queensland. She has a passion for writing, and very aptly a desire for volunteering in Africa and other countries around the world. Here is a little about Lauren in her own words:
“My love for writing started as a ten year old with a bizarre, if not somewhat obsessive, collection of pens, rubber erasers and pretty paper. Even at school, I was fascinated by how words looked on paper and enjoyed the task of giving meaning to their order. Later, my nursing studies morphed my creative writing into dull academia, and, as a perpetual uni student who loved to write, I continued on to study a variety of topics including research, photography, clinical nursing, counseling, and most recently, international health. But it wasn’t until I enrolled in a travel writing course that I realised that I didn’t want to write about someone else’s topics anymore, I wanted to write about what was in my heart. When I travel, I write. And, in my 34 years I have had the opportunity to travel, live, work or volunteer in almost 50 countries. These are the adventures that inspire my heart to write!
“In 2011, I took a “career break” from nursing to volunteer in Africa doing wildlife conservation and research projects. It was here that my love for travel was united with my creative spark to write my feelings into words and experiences into stories. I recounted my adventures in a blog to share with friends and family back home. I wrote about how Africa changed my view of the world and nudged me to re-evaluate what was important in my life. I soon realised that my life in Australia was inside-out and upside-down. By quitting my day job and leaving that stressful, money-driven life behind, I was free to embrace the vulnerability and uncertainty that is synonymous with Africa. It was the bravest, scariest decision I’ve ever made, but I learned so many life lessons along the way. I learned that living a rich life had little to do with money. Richness came through connections with myself and other people in the form of friendships, relationships, kinships and hardships. I realised that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t “buy myself happy”. Perhaps most importantly though, Africa taught me to be grateful, not guilty, for the opportunities, safety and freedom that was my privileged life back in Australia, one that I’d long taken for granted.
“Since returning from Africa I have kept these lessons close and have worked to apply them to my life here in Australia. I have returned to nursing, but in a position with healthy hours and less money (to match the effort required!), while still continuing to travel overseas. I am surrounded by friends and family and finally understand what having a “work-life balance” really means.
“I continue to write because it makes me feel alive. I write to create and to record my memories, to clarify my own thoughts and to share my life experiences to inspire and motivate others. Sometimes, I even write to heal myself, to write what I need to read, to powerfully let go through words that which no longer serves me.
“I draw inspiration from other writers and a wide variety of genres. I get my “chic lit fix” from Sophie Kinsella and read Jodi Picoult to absorb life-inspiring messages. Dean Koontz keeps me awake at night jumping at every noise I hear, but his use of language lures me in. I also love Brene Brown and Eckhart Tolle who allow me to look beyond the words into my mind and soul in order to create different words and new stories. I also read various internet blogs on wellness and nutrition and am easily enticed for hours by the randomness that is Google…
“Now, I try to write something every day. I make time for it, put it on my “to do” list and prioritise it around my work commitments. I write about my adventures, my thoughts, my dreams and how I am growing as a person. The next step on my journey is to share my words with the world and I hope that “Simply Ubuntu” is just the beginning!”
We wish Lauren, and runner-up Denise all the best in their writing endeavors and thank them for being a part of the start of the Umoja Writing Competition.