Another month, another hemisphere!


As I’m writing this, it is Sunday morning in Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands and I’m enjoying a day off work. I’m sitting at the dinner table of the house I moved in two days ago, and I finally feel ‘settled in’ again. The Caribbean weather is not co-operating today so I decided to skip the beach and write a little update. There a lot to catch up on!

Just over a month ago I was still in Bali and it has been a pretty hectic time since! But to be honest ever since last February it has been pretty restless. It has seemed a year of changing circumstances, changing fortunes, changing goals, and the ever present battle between adventure vs. settling down. But I will not bore you with all the stories…

Bali and finding a path in life

I will just take you back to when I wrote my first blog when I arrived on Bali last July. As mentioned Bali was meant to be an transitional phase while I figured out a longer term path in my life.
Well a clearer picture has emerged; for one I have been reading a lot into creating online, location independent and multiple income streams and that is something I’m interested to pursue more. However this will not happen overnight. So at the same time the reality of making a living had to be addressed.

Cappucino Amed Bali Indonesia volcano

Cappuccino to ponder on life’s decisions, with view on Gunung Agung.

My plan for that was to do some freelance dive instructor work locally, and getting new tenants in my apartment generating a higher rental income. Basically not too time consuming so I could keep focus on developing other income streams. Unfortunately this didn’t work out as planned. The dive instructor market in Bali was pretty saturated and I didn’t find any freelance work. Also my old tenants refused to accept the lease termination and to leave the apartment which also caused some financial setback.

Job hunting!

So at this point I found myself in Bali fully enjoying life but knowing I now needed to find stable income a bit sooner than anticipated. Also known as the dreadful thing called a ‘job’… 😉
This was not necessarily a bad thing as a second path in life I was interested in was to continue developing myself in the diving/tourism industry. I love the work, lifestyle, and being able to create awesome diving and vacation experiences for guests. But also I realized that after almost 3 years working as a dive instructor, I wanted to add an extra challenge, and to develop my skills further.

So the search for a new job started. I drew up 3 possible directions I wanted to pursue:

  1. Continue working on a ship/yacht following my year experience on Infinity.
  2. Management role at a dive center or dive resort.
  3. (Any) job at a dive center offering Technical Diving.

It turned out that there were not many of those type of opportunities around so it took a bit of searching, writing letters and making calls!

A perfect opportunity

Perseverance paid off, and through an online ad I got an interview with a great dive center in the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean. After some efforts in planning a Skype call (13 hours time difference doesn’t make it easy), I had a nice call with the new owners of the center.
The job opening was at Divetech, one of the most established dive centers in the Cayman Islands. They were looking for a Customer Relations/Marketing/Reservations Manager. Furthermore Divetech is an active Technical Diving training facility, and encourage staff to follow in house training.
Combining two of the three possible directions I had set out, this was the perfect opportunity I was looking for. So when Divetech offered me the job a few days later, I was quick to accept!

Divetech rebreather Cayman Islands t

One of the Divetech senior instructors on a 100 mtr rebreather dive (source: www.stevetippetts.com)

What further interested me in the opportunity at Divetech that I was already considering returning to the Caribbean. The working conditions are usually somewhat more attractive than in SE-Asia. Also the guests, staff and social scene tend to be … errr…. somewhat more ‘mature’ which is a factor as I’m kind of past the hard-partying backpacker age!

Leaving with a heavy heart…

Despite the great opportunity and the sunny Caribbean awaiting me I must admit I had a heavy heart. Bali was never meant to be more than a transitional place. And although in no way it is the most beautiful place I ever visited, I really started to enjoy living there. Also remembering my previous Caribbean experiences I expected that it would be a comfortable lifestyle in the Caymans, but that I would miss the variety and adventure of SE-Asia.
At the same time I was fully aware that the ‘free’ life I was living in Bali, was very different from the hard working life as a diver there so I might have had some rose tinted glasses on….

Asia beer Tiger Marina Bay Sands Singapore

So leaving Bali, Indonesia and SE-Asia behind proved to harder and more emotional then I expected. That was made even harder when I received another offer the day after booking my airline tickets for a job at a boutique dive resort in Raja Ampat, West-Papua. Around the corner from Bali so to speak, some of the best diving in the world and of course a great adventure being in the wilds of Papua. It was however a very remote island and after a year isolated on a sailing ship 24/7 with guests, I thought it was better at this point to try living in some civilization again.

I had to laugh hard at myself a few times as well in this period… I had a great job lined up on a sunny Caribbean island and I felt sad! Not an emotion a lot of people would have in such a situation!

Still having fun!

If all of this sounds a bit ‘heavy’, you are partly correct. There was a lot of soul searching and ‘what to do with life questions’ going on last year. Together with the changing circumstances that made for an intensive and sometimes draining period.

Luckily there was still enough opportunity to have fun and celebrate life! I had some friends visiting Bali, and had good neighbors in my apartment building so enough people to hang out with. And of course Bali has enough to discover to keep you entertained. I swam at many different beaches, went diving, visited temples, climbed a volcano, enjoyed many sunset beers on the beach, and tried to eat at every different restaurant in Sanur. My visa run evolved into an almost month long trip to Vietnam and Singapore and that was a lot of fun! I will tell you all about these adventures in later posts.

Quick visit to The Netherlands

Getting from Bali to Grand Cayman I needed to fly either through the US or Europe. I decided to use the opportunity for a quick visit to The Netherlands. This also proved easier for arranging all the paperwork needed for the Cayman Islands.

Arriving in The Netherlands was a strange sensation. I visited just 5 months ago and left then with the idea to continue sailing and traveling, and not be back for 2 years or so. I felt really out of place coming back so soon, and had the sensation that I didn’t belong there.
But quickly that feeling was replaced by the joy of catching up with friends and family. And any spare time was occupied by a lot of errands and paperwork to take care of before leaving again.

Magere Brug Amsterdam Netherland canal
Autumn colors on a Amsterdam canal

Luckily it was a beautiful autumn so I got see The Netherlands in the sunshine which doesn’t happen that often…

On to the Caribbean!

After a short two and a half week in the Netherlands, it was time to pack the bags again. My parents dropped me off in Brussels where I would fly from as it saved me 300 Euro. After a nice last meal with my parents, traditional Belgian mussels and fries, a short night in an airport hotel it was off to Grand Cayman via Miami on November 8th.

Beer Brussels Grand Place
Brussels oysters seafood
Mussels Brussels moules frites seafood

The flight went smoothly, but I knew I still had some issues to sort out upon arriving in Grand Cayman. Accommodation is scarce and expensive on the island. Especially as high season was approaching and a lot of seasonal staff arrives and needs housing.
I had lined up a place from The Netherlands, but this fell through the day before I left. They could accommodate me for the first 5 nights, but after that I was homeless. Luckily a kind colleague from Divetech offered me his guest bedroom and I didn’t have to camp on the beach! After some searching I managed to find something where I could move in December 1st.  So in the end all got sorted, but to be without something as basic as a roof over your head created stress at a very basic level I hadn’t experienced before.

Cayman Islands map
Cayman Islands beer beach Amstel bright

Time for stability?

I started this post by saying I’m sitting at the dinner table at my house. That is more than just stating my physical position. Having found my place to live feels like the last piece in the puzzle of ending a very restless and changing year. I can feel myself getting more relaxed and having more inner peace. There are no major decisions or issues to ponder on.

This sensation surprises me somewhat. Since leaving my ‘normal’ office job 4 years ago I have relished the adventure, embraced and was comfortable with the unknown future ahead. I let life take me by surprise and enjoyed that.
But maybe there has to be some balance between adventure and settling down. Coming off almost 1,5 years of a sailing adventure followed by a unknown and changing future, maybe now I need a bit of stability in my life to regain that balance. Time will tell…

Menno has had the travel bug ever since spending his childhood in the tropics. In 2013 he left his office career and is now diving and sailing the world.
He enjoys sharing the beautiful underwater world and exploring remote islands. He gets his kicks when he can help fellow travelers have an amazing life-changing experience.

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