Lost in Northern Vietnam – Laugh Always Spotlight Edition

_This life is to be lived without regret__________________________________________The World After Anxiety, Depression and Eating Disorder - Laugh Always Spotlight EditionBy Monica Vaklinova (1)

Welcome to the latest edition of the Laugh Always Spotlight!  Thanks for being here!  This is a first story like this that we have done; something different!

Have you ever thought about being lost in a foreign land where you don’t know the language?  I am sure that is why a lot of people don’t even travel to foreign countries because of this fear.  Here is a story from Monique & Dylan, also know as the Honeymoon Backpackers.  This is kind of a crazy story and I don’t know what I would have done!

We’ve never really been ones for planning; we like to go with the flow & just hope for the best. So that’s what we did whilst in Vietnam on our journey from Hanoi to Sapa, riding our motorbike ‘Betty’. Possibly not the brightest move on my behalf considering I suffer from anxiety. An unfamiliar environment, no one who speaks English, crazy drivers, potholes all over the road and tons of traffic, what could go wrong?

north vietnam

We already planned the route we wanted to take to Sapa; it’s part of the Northern Loop & has incredible scenery along the way. Except we ended up leaving from the North rather than the south, to bypass the insane peak hour traffic in Hanoi. This was the first of many poor decisions.

After a while, we realized the bike was lagging. Only to find that our petrol tank was empty, I guess that’s one way to realize that our petrol gauge doesn’t work. The freeway began & we saw a big sign saying “NO MOTORBIKES”, therefore we had to change routes.
Our phone battery is horrific and died within the first two hours of driving and our portable charger I swear I had the day before, was nowhere to be found. Things just weren’t going our way at all.

We were stopping every 5 minutes to ask for directions. Somehow we stumbled upon an old ancient complex, believed to have belonged to the Tang Dynasty who used to be the Chinese rulers of Vietnam. The winding roads were picturesque, we were sheltered by a natural canopy of vines blocking the piercing sun. We drove past beautiful lakes, with pathways wrapping around them. Old stone dragon statues protruded out of these perfectly manicured bushes. The entrance was just incredible with a huge main gate and guards. We snapped a quick picture, just before we got caught in a huge storm.
Somehow I was doing okay, despite everything that had gone wrong I tried to be positive. Dylan kept reassuring me that we are on some crazy adventure and that no other traveler who visits would experience what we did.


After the storm passed we got back on the road & somehow managed to make friends with another couple whilst riding our motorbike. It’s quite normal to ride next to each other on motorbikes and have a conversion, thank heavens I wasn’t the one driving.

The Vietnamese girl asked “Where are you going”, “We came from Hanoi & we’re going to Sapa” we said, “follow us” she answered, “we’re going the same way”.
Turns out we were not going the same way, in fact the opposite.. She thought we were going TO Hanoi not coming FROM Hanoi… I definitely should have just answered ‘Sapa’ instead of trying to have a proper English conversation! She said ‘sorry’ and told us to go back the way we came. Yeah now my anxiety and stress was settling in.


So we drove two hours back the way we came as it turned from dusk to complete darkness. We somehow found a cheap hotel, got some food and connected to WiFi. Only to realize that we didn’t have to backtrack two hours, just turn right instead of left. I was trying so hard not to loose it.
Despite everything, we had an awesome adventure on our first day, even though we only actually rode 120km, and were only two hours from Hanoi. Tomorrow we had some major riding to do if we were going to reach Sapa.
We woke up with a bright positive attitude that today was going to be our day. It’s a shame a positive attitude can only get you so far, when everything that could go wrong does go wrong.


We had our phone charged, route sorted and a clear sense of direction, but even that couldn’t help us. Once again we drove on the same road for the third time in a row.
We worked out the route we were going to take, had a pretty clear sense of our direction and this time our phone was fully charged! Off we went to embark upon the same long stretch of road for the 3rd time (thanks to yesterday’s mishap). Thankfully the drive was beautiful as it wrapped around a river alongside rice fields with water buffalo.
Google maps soon directed us towards the road to Sapa, YES. Our hearts dropped once we saw the “No Motorbikes” sign. This is when our killer plan & positive attitudes turned to shit. So we took the alternate route that weaved under and around the freeway we longed to be on. I wouldn’t even call this a road; it was a dirt path full of potholes, rocks and thick sludgy mud. We even had to cross through rivers and almost drowned our motorbike.
When I thought things couldn’t just get any worse, my phone battery died at 25%. My anxiety started to kick in, but Dylan was reassuring me that “it will be fine”. So we decided to kick it old school and follow a map that was missing majority of the roads, including the one we were on. What could go wrong?


We saw a sign that said Sapa at a 3-way intersection, so we had a 1/3 chance that we were going the right way. Every time we stopped and asked for directions, they just kept waving us through along the same road. So we just kept going.

Realistically, we should have turned around when we reached the first hill full of massive rocks and a 45 percent incline. I had to jump off and run up the hill that many times because our bike wasn’t going to make it. We were passing little ethnic villages with people wearing their tribal clothing and jewelry.


Everyone was running to the road waving at us, giving us high fives or just genuinely laughing at us. We were quite the celebrities.
I guess the incredible scenery and our lust for adventure distracted us from the reality that we were in fact going the wrong way. Our bike was struggling, nightfall was approaching, and we were in the middle of bloody nowhere! We were now 22km from the town we thought we had to get to, and then our exhaust fell off attempting to get up a rocky hill!
The whole village has come out to see what bought these two stupid foreigners here. I point the way we were heading and said ‘Sapa?’ and the whole town bursts out in laughter.

So it’s dark, we’re in this tiny little village with not even a Pho place to eat dinner, nowhere to stay, our motorbike is broken, no one speaks English and everyone is laughing at us. It’s no wonder I had an anxiety attack.
I started hyperventilating; my brain wasn’t getting enough oxygen, I couldn’t stand anymore and started to get dizzy. There was Vietnamese people everywhere, laughing, pointing at me and taking photos. My limbs started to tense, I was sobbing and couldn’t move. How could I be in this situation right now, so lost and so far from civilization?
What are we going to do, it’s dark and our motorbike is broken, we have nowhere to stay, nowhere to eat and we’re in the middle of bloody where?

Thank heavens my husband Dylan was there. He helped bring my breathing back to normal and calm me down. A few local guys screwed on our broken exhaust to temporarily fix the problem and invited us for dinner and to stay at their house.


Everything that was running through my head, giving me this serve anxiety was soon resolved. It took a while to feel normal again, I think the rice wine they were feeding me helped, a lot.


The people were actually so beautiful, kind and lovely. They fed us beer, a massive dinner and put a roof over our head for the night. The whole village came to see us, take photos and practice their English. Some people in this village have never actually seen a foreigner before in their life, so it was really cool to be the first western person that they’ve ever seen. We communicated through Google translate and practiced our really limited Vietnamese.
After charging our phone, we realized why they were laughing. We were well and truly nowhere near Sapa, way out in the Yen Bai mountain range! I can see why they got a giggle out of it.

We were so grateful for the hospitality we received and relieved at how the situation turned out. It really restored our faith in humanity that people can just open their hearts and their homes to complete strangers, without asking for or accepting anything in return, even though these local people had so very little.


After another two hours of backtracking the next day, we got to that fork in the road. A local Vietnamese dude, told us to follow him leading us past the ‘No Motorbike’ sign and onto the freeway… So it turns out that we could have just taken the freeway from the beginning, signs in Vietnam are more of a guide than a must.
After running out of petrol, stumbling upon a monastery, getting lost, having tons of bike dramas, driving deep into the Yen Bai Mountain range, having to stay at a local family’s house, visiting villages, trekking through rivers and mud pits, tons of backtracking and time wasting, we had finally made it to Sapa!


We just wish that it had only taken us 7 hours, like it said on Google Maps! Ah well… It was a crazy experience, we overcame many hurdles and learnt so much from the mistakes that we made along the way. This is a travel experience that we will definitely never forget.


Author Bio

Honeymoon Backpackers Monique & Dylan, have been travelling the world for almost two years! It all began in May 2016, in the Philippines, where they got married barefoot on White Beach Boracay. Instead of having one elaborate honeymoon trip, they chose to embark on an endless backpacking honeymoon! In total they’ve explored 18 countries together so far. Their aim is to reach all 7 continents around the world on their endless backpacking honeymoon.

www.honeymoonbackpackers.com – Blog

Connect on with Honeymoon Backpackers on Instagram!


Thank you for reading another edition of the Laugh Always Spotlight!  This story was so awesome to read and gives you insight that there is still love in the world when it might be impossible to find it.  If you want to tell your story about surviving something, please get in touch with me either through the website or emailing me at laughalwayswithlo@gmail.com !

For more Laugh Always Spotlight Editions, head on over to the section up at the top of the page or read the latest story here —> Overcoming Injury – Laugh Always Spotlight Edition

Thank you for reading!

Until next time,


The Best Face Products Ever


Hi all!

Welcome to my first post about the products that I love!  These posts are going to be products that I ACTUALLY use – not something where I get a paid review from.  After all, Laugh Always is all about living your best life and to live your best life you need all of the best items!

Today I want to tell you something I have been using since HIGH SCHOOL!  Right, I am only 30 and have been out of high school for almost 12 years now so it might not sound that dramatic to people.  Either way, I have been consistent with these products for a long time!  I have been using Neutrogena brands since my very first pimple in middle school.  Face wash, lotion, you name it!  It was really the only thing available at local drugstores and one of the more cost effective brands (still is!)

Every one is different, I know that!  But I am going to share what it has done for me and who knows, it might work for you too if you haven’t tried it!

1.) Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture, SPF 15, 4 Ounce (Pack of 2)

The best face lotion I have ever used and STILL continue to use.  Let me tell you something – I don’t wear makeup that often.  The pictures you see of me all over social media – there isn’t any foundation or cover up in most of those pictures!  I have been asked several times what foundation or concealer I use.  None ladies – it is just my skin!  I do have to stay I was lucky to not be bombarded with a ton of acne in my teenage years, but I still had it.  Forehead, cheeks, chin were my worst spots!  And of course how can you not pop those things?! (Gross I know and so bad for you!)  I have had scarring and red spots and when I was younger I didn’t dare put enough sunscreen on (I need that tan!).  I always had combination skin where parts of my face were oily, but if I used too much face wash, I had other areas of my face dry out.  Especially in the winter, my driest skin was around the corners of my mouth and in between my eyebrows.  I have applied this lotion everyday to my face since high school – and that is NOT an exaggeration!  This has been my go to for nearly 15 years now, and I have not bought another lotion.  It is cost effective and lasts me about three months.  I apply once a day all over my face.  It isn’t greasy and it always feel super refreshing when I use it!  Especially right out of the shower after I have just washed my face!

If you are looking for a cheaper route and one that does wonders for you, try this one out!  Amazon has this for a pack of two for only $16.48!

2.)Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes & Wipes, Refill Pack, 25 Count (pack of 6)

When I do tend to wear makeup, I never used to take it off (I know, that is gross!).  So I decided to make the investment in buying makeup wipes.  Again, I don’t wear makeup often and I am not looking for something to break the bank.  I have always been loyal to Neutrogena products so I thought I would try these.  Of course, these are the best ones that I have used.  They do not dry out quickly, because I don’t use them that often.  They also do not dry out my face or burn.  My face feels so refreshed after using one wipe and usually one wipe is perfect for me!  One package usually runs me $5.99 and that is good for me because one pack lasts me a long time especially because these don’t dry out.  You can purchase them in bulk on Amazon of course because Amazon is the best thing ever!

3.) Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Cleanser, 5 Oz

This cleanser has been a life-saver for me. I breakout when it is “that” time of the month and I am very conscious of where my acne pops up (have you heard of facemapping??). Usually I am always looking for the actual cause as to why my acne is popping up. While I am not a teenage anymore and I am going into my thirties, I still get acne whenever I am stressed or if I have had one too many cocktails. While I will naturally try to get rid of my breakouts, I use this cleanser to assist me. It makes my face clear fast. It is so powerful that I cannot use it everyday and if I do tend to use it everyday, it will dry out my face. It does the job when I need it to and it lasts me a long time since I don’t need to use it everyday. This has been my all-time favorite facial cleanser! Click the link below to purchase (again Amazon has it cheaper than most drug stores!)

4.) Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Spot Gel, 1 Oz

Another favorite product! A spot corrector that dries out little pimples overnight. Works like a charm! I put it on before I go to sleep and in the morning my pimple is usually gone or a lot smaller. I have had one small tube for over three months now and for just seven bucks, it is perfect for me! I get a lot of acne on my chin or forehead and usually they are red and painful and this helps take the pain and redness away for sure. Amazon has it cheaper than for what I paid for it so try it out!

I hope you have found one or a few products worth trying! I have been a loyal Neutrogena fan in my teenage years and in my adult life and I don’t think I would try anything else! They all work for me and everything has been easy to purchase. My next purchases will be through Amazon for sure because if you have prime – remember it is free shipping! All of these are cheaper online through Amazon and it will save me a trip to the local drugstore.

Thanks for reading!

Until next time,

Overcoming Injury – Laugh Always Spotlight Edition

_This life is to be lived without regret__________________________________________The World After Anxiety, Depression and Eating (1)


Hi everyone!

We are back for another edition of the Laugh Always Spotlight!  I am excited to keep meeting people who are willing to share their stories with the world in hopes of providing inspiration to readers out there!  Hopefully you can relate to one of these stories!  Let me introduce you to Amber! Sustaining an injury that makes your life completely different is a mental challenge in itself.  Needing to depend on people to do the simplest of tasks is very challenging.  Here is Amber’s story.

My journey started on August 4, 2017. At work as a summer camp teacher for a preschool, I broke my left tibial plateau and changed my life forever. Before my injury, I was a very active, mostly happy person. My husband and I loved to go hiking, explore Richmond and attend festivals. I swam every weekday and ran every other day. At work, I engaged with my students by playing games and engrossing myself in their activities. I loved to cook and clean and care of my house. All of that changed on a field trip at work to the basketball gym.


The field trip went great! The children had a blast running drills, playing games and navigating an obstacle course. To wrap up our trip, we played a game of Sharks and Minnows where the teachers were the sharks and the students were the minnows. As I turned to catch a little minnow, my knee “gave out” when I turned wrong and I fell hard onto the floor. My body immediately went into shock. I could not cry or breathe or ask for help. It took a few minutes for anyone to notice that I was down for the count. I could not stand or put any amount of weight on my left leg. In order to not scare our students, they were quickly ushered onto the busses while we contacted my job, husband and brother-in-law. Then, I had to be carried out of the basketball gym by two men and put into a car, on my way back to work to access my situation. It was immediately determined that I needed to go to the hospital.

At the hospital with my brother-in-law in tow, the pain started to worsen as we found out that I had broken my tibial plateau. That’s right friends, I sustained an injury most common to pro athletes and car accident victims while running with kids at work. I spent four days in the hospital while doctors accessed my pain and surgeons decided when I would have surgery to fix the bone. During this time, my anxiety kicked in to the point that my heart rate would not go below 120 and my oxygen levels would not stabilize. This was the first time I have spent any amount of time in a hospital and was my first major injury. I was eventually sent home with a brace and pain meds, ordered to stay on bed rest until I would report to a different hospital on the 22 of August for surgery.

During my time on bed rest, I did not do well. Before my injury I was active and very independent. After my injury, I had to rely on my brother-in-law and my husband for everything. I had to use a walker in order to get from the couch to the restroom to the bedroom. I also assistance standing up and someone to spot me as I moved. My depression and anxiety made the walls move in on me more and more every day. The pain was barely manageable and that just put me into a darker hole.

Finally, the time for surgery came. My mother made the trip down from New Jersey to be with me seeing as this was my very first surgery and I was nervous out of my mind. The anxiety and nervousness I felt followed me all the way into the operating room. I was later told that it took more medication than usual to sedate me and I cried and begged for them not to do the surgery. All of this I personally do not remember. The next thing I remember is waking up in the recovery room alone and in a lot of pain. They took me up to my room where I got to see my mom, husband and brother-in-law. I spent four days in the medical unit while I built up my strength and will to stand and move around again.

I was then transferred to an inpatient rehab unit to further my progress. There is where I really blossomed and began healing. I was taught how to move using crutches while being non-weight bearing so that I would no longer have to be on bed rest. I was also taught how to care for myself while I was healing and building up my strength after surgery. I spent another four days in the rehab unit before they finally allowed me to return home.


At home, I began to explore my mobility and independence. I still needed a lot of help to complete simple tasks. For example, I could cook dinner for myself and my family, but I could not take my plate to the table. I returned to work shortly after being released from the rehab unit. I went back part time in order to attend therapy two days a week. While at work, I am confined to a chair and need assistance with carrying things or moving things around. Hopefully, when I am fully healed, I will become more useful.

Today, I still attend therapy two times a week and hope to add more hours at work. After three months of being non-weight bearing and using crutches to move, I am finally healed enough to being trying to walk again.


There is still a very long and hard road ahead of me, but with the support of my family and friends, I am finally in a better place mentally and have hope to be walking again for Christmas.



Thank you for reading about Amber’s story.  I can’t imagine how with just the simplest of tasks you need to rely on someone to assist you.  Thank God Amber had people in her life to help her and seems to have a great support group.
Please connect with Amber through her social media pages!

Blog: http://ambercairoli.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ambercairoli

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/amberoo0302

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmberCairoli

If you have a story you would like to share, please contact me on any social media platform below or contact me through the website.  I would love to showcase your story if you are willing to tell it!

For more stories like Amber’s, please visit the Laugh Always Spotlight section or you can click on this story here —> When the Small Things Become Big

Until next time,


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