Where to begin? Always begin at the beginning…
This blog was born out of countless hours of internet searching for people’s experiences of walking away from the 9-5 grind and moving somewhere awesome and doing amazing things. Okay, yeah, there are some blogs like that online. And they’re great, and inspiring, and good reads so check them out. But they don’t really tell you how they did it. Or it’s like, “I quit my job and sold my guitar and then just moved and everything worked out fine and now check out these wicked pictures from my rad beach hut in Thailand”. Cool, but not helpful.
I had my cubicle throwdown moment (yep, I made that up, and that shit is copyrighted bitches!) in February 2012 on a trip to Roatan, Honduras, Central America. Roatan is a goregous Carribean island off the coast of Honduras, one of three islands making up the Bay Islands. I had booked a 2.5 week holiday after the roughest year of my life and felt like I deserved to kick back and I wanted to try something new. I didn’t pick Roatan – some cheap flight website did. I had no plans and just picked the cheapest flight, and it happened to be to Roatan. After I booked it, I started looking into where I was going and once I realized that I was headed to one of the scuba diving capitals of the world, I knew I had to try it. Roatan has the largest barrier reef in the WORLD after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and it is protected in a marine park so that means it is still in good shape (unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many other reefs around the world). The ocean is my favorite thing and I love swimming and surfing, so I figured I would love scuba diving too. I thought it would be good for my inner marine biologist…the one that wasn’t smart enough to do that in school but likes to fantasize about it anyway.
So there I was in the somewhat schizophrenic sleepy beach town/insane party town (yes, it really is both) of West End. I had just completed the confined water dives for my PADI Open Water scuba course and was getting ready to do my first open water dive. My instructor took me out on the boat and we had a quick two minute ride to the dive site. We tied up to the mooring line, I jumped in the water, got myself set up, waited for my instructor and he gave me the sign to go down. I started descending and got halfway down before I relaxed and then I finally looked around me and saw where I was. My heart skipped a beat – there it was! The reef!!! I was giddy just looking at it and started laughing (no easy task as a new diver 40 feet underwater) because all I could think about was, “This looks EXACTLY like Finding Nemo!”. That is one of my favorite movies ever (yes, I’m 5). A school of blue tang went by and I nearly shrieked with excitement. It was the best moment of my life. All I kept thinking was, “Why didn’t anyone tell me about this earlier?” We had an amazing 51 minute dive (all that synchronized swimming I used to do ended up paying off as most new divers race through their air faster than that) and I was so sad when we had to go up. I was instantly smitten with diving, and like any addiction I knew there would absolutely have to be more.
I finished my open water course and needed more. I went on and did my advanced open water course too and would have gone further if I had time. I was insanely jealous of my diving instructors who got to live there and do this every day. While I was there I met people from all over the world with all different backgrounds who had left it all behind and moved to West End. Some were dive instructors, some were country music singers, some were students, some were business professionals, some worked in restaurants. They all had this love for Roatan and this (mostly) easy, fun, beautiful life. I wanted in. Everyone kept saying, “Just don’t go home! Stay here with us!”… I met tons of people who came there on holiday and just never left. If they could do it, why couldn’t I?
I remember deciding the day of my first open water dive that this is what I was going to do for the foreseeable future. I remember our last day and being at the tiny Roatan airport in line to check in, with my friend standing in front of me and me paralyzed at the ticket counter, looking frantically between the ticket agent and the door back outside, unable to decide if I should go home or not. Where is home anyway? I hate my job, I’m over this city, I have no family here. Is this my home? They say home is where the heart is, and my heart is in Roatan (underwater!) I decided to get on the plane (with a bit of gentle cajoling from my semi-panicked friend) with a firm resolution that this was not the end of my time in Roatan. One of the infamous “three lies of Roatan” coming true! (For your reference, these are the Three Lies of Roatan: 1. I love you 2. I’m not drinking tonight 3. I’m leaving tomorrow. I said all three and had all three said to me while I was there… they are the truest lies I’ve ever heard!)
I have traveled a lot and always had fun, but by the end of it I’ve always been ready to get home back to my own bed and food that doesn’t make me sick and clean bathrooms. This feeling was new… how did I not want to go home? Why was I so sure that I could actually live in West End? I flew out of Roatan and cried as I saw the beach and reef getting smaller and smaller. I tried to console myself by thinking, “You just had a lot of fun, you’ll get back into the swing of things at home and forget about it. Maybe you can go on holidays here next year.” And yes, that’s exactly how I talk to myself. Me and my brain, we’re tight, okay?
Well, I came back and couldn’t get into the swing of things at all. I pined for Roatan, for diving, for the beach and the laid back lifestyle. I don’t think I’ve ever pined for anything before. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever even used that word before. My heart hurt when I thought about it and I spent hundreds of hours watching diving videos on YouTube, looking at the photos from my trip, trying to recreate baleadas at home (#fail) and researching how to become a dive instructor. I tracked down and contacted tons of people from Roatan to keep in touch with. I made the decision – I’m going back.
Yay! Awesome! Woohoo diving life! Can’t wait to be out on the reef every day, rum punch every night, dance parties, and…oh…wait… how the hell am I going to do this?
Here’s my situation: I’m lucky enough to not really have anything tying me down, per say… I have no kids, no mortgage, no dog, no boyfriend, no debt (finally!). I do, however, have a very good 9-5 job in a field that I just finished going to school for. I just moved to this city 7 months ago and spent a lot of money (and got a lot of help from friends and family) to get set up here. I just got my apartment set up the way I like it, and I have 5 months left on my lease here. I have no money in savings for any sort of “oops that was a bad idea” cushion. Should I throw this all away and risk losing everything to move to a little Carribean island and try to be a dive instructor?
I’m keeping track in real time, so you can all witness my ups and downs with me. I hope that this eventually turns into a “hey everyone, check out my cool life in Roatan, hi mom and dad sorry I won’t be home for Christmas but here’s a picture of a seahorse I saw on my dive this morning” blog. At this point, I have no idea what the outcome will be. But I know that I have been a pretty nonchalant person about most things in my life. Move here? Meh, okay. Go to school for this? Meh, alright. Buy this? Meh, whatever. I have things that I absolutely LOVE – I love Japan and all things Japanese. I love eating, cooking and trying food from other countries. I love concerts and festivals. I love hula hooping. But I have never had a burning passion for anything the way diving ignited a fire in me. I have to chase this before I get lazy or too scared.
This is my story of why being happy matters more than being comfortable. This is my story of being scared but saying fuck it and doing it anyway. This is my cubicle throwdown.