Looking back at… 2018

When I looked back at 2017 last year I concluded I enjoyed this first stable year after a few years of vagabonding. 2018 continued that with me working and living in Grand Cayman for another year. I would say it was a year that felt almost like my days of working and living in The Netherlands back in 2012! A stable job, home, and a few nice vacations during the year.

A first world lifestyle with a Caribbean flavour

In 2018 I continued enjoying living a first world/western lifestyle in the Caribbean sun on the prosperous Cayman Islands. I went out and tried many a new coffee shop, restaurant, bar and seeing the latest movie releases. A very ‘normal’ life for the second year in a running. But with the added Caribbean bonus of sunny days, and the clear blue sea never being far away for a beach break!

Spending my Cayman days

Probably one of my favorite areas to hang out on Grand Cayman is Camana Bay. This is an open air waterfront development with shops, restaurants, offices and residences together. It is quite popular with both residents and visitors, so is always lively. It has a bit of a ‘village square’ feel to it, although it is a fully pre-planned and quite recent development.

Camana Bay Grand Cayman
Calico Jack Cayman Islands
Pimms Camana Bay Cayman Islands

In contrast the main city and capital Georgetown is not that special. It is mainly offices for both government and the various financial, accounting and law firms. Being the cruiseship port it also has a lot of jewelery and souvernir shops, and overpriced tourist bars. During daytime it is overcrowded with cruiseship day visitors, and in the evening when the ships are gone and the offices closed it is a ghost town.

There are also a lot of shops, restaurant and bars along the Seven Mile Beach area. But you need a car as these are spread out over various mini-malls and resorts along the beachside road. It misses the walkable city center compactness. But that might just be something that I as an European am used to and prefer.

Home sweet home

In my 2017 review I mentioned that moving into my new house really improved the quality of my life on Grand Cayman. That is still so, and is a strong factor in enjoying 2018. The nicer house itself, closeness to the beach and shops, and the condo pool all make it a very pleasant place to live. Especially after I discovered a hammock fits perfectly in the poolside cabana!

Relaxed Sunday in the hammock at the condo pool
Beach Grand Cayman
Just like old times... watching F1 on the TV at home.

And also luckily one of my favorite bars on island is also my local, just a 3 minute drive from my home.

If you're a food lover or a fin lover, there's many an option at Macabuca. Why not try a casual drink at the tiki bar next to one of the islands best shore dives or a romantic sunset dinner for two at Cracked Conch, which do you fancy?

Geplaatst door This is Cayman op Maandag 23 juli 2018

Dogs and friends

On the social side of things I enjoyed spending some time with Luke and Mitch, two friends I met in my Technical Diving training in 2017. We met up for some dives, or a beer and burger somewhere. Next to that I also connected to the various Dutch people living on island. There are about 75 on the island, working in diving, hotels, finance, IT or retirees. Every first Friday of the month we have drinks somewhere, and we also celebrate King’s Day and Sinterklaas together. Of course there are also various drinks and dinners with colleagues and my housemate Paul.

Dutchies King's Day in Camana Bay
Real Dutch 'Bitterballen'
Dutchies First Friday drinks

Starting in 2017 I also started to get a bit more involved in helping with shelter dogs. This through my ex-colleague’s Mark wife Linda, who volunteered at the Humane Society. On my free days I walked some dogs, and did beach training with the dogs to train them in obedience. This continued in 2018 and by the end of this year I regularly have a dog named Juliana over for the weekend to give her a bit of change of scenery from shelter life. (actually as I write this I have her snoring at my feet as I just came back from a beach walk!)

Picking up Juliana from the shelter for a weekend foster
Charity run for the Humane Society
Movie buddy
Walking, good for the dog and me!

Spending the free hours

I also picked up running again a bit, which I hadn’t really done since my office days in The Netherland. The Holiday Inn resort where my office is, is located next to a golf course and gated canal style community. Both make for excellent running routes with no car traffic. With the heat and humidity (and a few years extra under my belt…) I have trouble to reach both the distance and pace that I did before however!

Speaking of car traffic, something that has cost me quite some (fun) hours was my MX-5 Miata. As mentioned it needed a bit of TLC and I certainly spend some time on that. I like learning to do some basic jobs on cars, and this is a simple and low-value car so can’t really screw it up too badly! I also learned that you can fly from Amsterdam to Cayman with 2 Miata car seats in your luggage…

New roof on the car - some weights to stretch it out
New seats, brought in on a suitcase from The Netherlands
Front bumper needs some work

Working 9 to 5

Working wise 2018 was also a continuation of 2017. I mostly kept busy with sales and marketing for Divetech, communicating with customers both directly and through resell channels. Next to that I also acted as back-up operational manager, or example when the owner Joanna and her boyfriend Tony (who is the general manager) are off or on holiday.

A highlight for me the last two years was our Innerspace event. This is a week of rebreather diving we organize with around 40 participants. It is a very busy week, and brings together a lot of organizational disciplines. It is a week of hard work, long days, and a bit of stress. But very rewarding to pull it all off, and great to see everybody enjoying themselves. These rebreather divers are a close knit group of very advanced and critical divers. But it is also a great community of great people and a lot of fun to be part of.

Innerspace event
Innerspace event, heading out on a boat

One of the parts of the job I found more difficult was that it can be a bit lonely. Our office location is at a different location than our dive shop where all of my colleagues are based, so at times I feel a bit isolated from the main operation, our clients and my colleagues. Luckily for 2019 some solutions are underway, so I’m looking forward to that.

Next to that it remains a challenge in a smaller business to reserve time on more longer term goals and plans. The more operational daily activities tend to easily take over all of your days.

A new diving trick up my sleeve

Continuing the rebreather theme, my diving highlight of the year was to get certified as a rebreather diver. In a nutshell, a rebreather is a sophisticated breathing apparatus that allows you to dive longer and without any noise (no bubbles) by recycling your breathing gas. The cons are that they require a bit more training to use. Compared to regular scuba there are more ways they can present problems so you need to be aware and able to solve these. At Divetech we are very much pro rebreathers and have a lot of experience with them. We are one of the few dive shops that have these units in stock, and provide training on them.

Why you need some more training for a rebreather
Rebreather, ready for a dive
Rebreather training - now you put this all together.
Rebreather diving with a turtle (photo: Drew Macarthur)

Our owner Joanna and manager Tony are very supportive of staff wanting to get certified and dive on the rebreather. That was an opportunity I was very eager to take on. I very much enjoyed learning rebreather diving, and it has rejuvenated my love of diving. And as an engineering geek I love getting to know more and fiddle around with these machines. During the year I guided several rebreather dives including at the Innerspace event which was a great experience. I am very happy to have added this to my skill set as dive professional.

A year of visits and trips

When I was still living the corporate career lifestyle in The Netherlands, I was known within my family and friends as that person who was always planning a trip somewhere, or meeting friends somewhere on the planet. As said in the introduction my current lifestyle feels a bit like those days compared to my more vagabonding recent years. As a byproduct of this more stable life the desire to head off on trips has also returned strongly!

Little Cayman

My first trip was right at the start of the year in January. My friends Thomas and Bianca and daughter Billie dropped by from their home in Switzerland. They’re a bunch of globetrotters themselves and don’t need much of an excuse to visit some exotic places. About 4 days of their vacation was spent in Grand Cayman exploring the island and visiting some good restaurants. Together we visited historic Pedro St. James castle and spent an afternoon at Kaibo looking at Starfish.

Starfish at Kaibo, Grand Cayman
Introducing Billie to Therese (photo: Tony Land)
Time to jumo in the pool with Billie
All the inflight entertainment you need

When they planned their trip we discussed that it would be nice to mix their vacation over more developed Grand Cayman and a few days in Little Cayman. I decided to join as I hadn’t been there yet myself. Together we found ourselves on the puddle jumper for the 30 minute flight to Little Cayman, population 175. I had managed to get us some rooms at a dive resort there through Therese, a friend I knew from Utila who worked there. Divetech’s general manager Tony also joined as he could use a little break. The two days on Little Cayman were spent diving, playing by the pool, resting in a hammock and some kayaking.

It was actually also a little business trip, as Tony and me scouted out the resort as location for our 2019 Innerspace rebreather event. Also it turned out to be a little recruitment drive too, as not much later in the year Therese decided to leave Little Cayman to come to work for Divetech!

Jamaica & Grand Cayman with my parents

The next trip was only a month later as in February I found myself in Jamaica for a few days. My parents had decided to visit me in Grand Cayman, and decided to bookend that with some time in Jamaica. They didn’t want to fly all the way to the Caribbean to only see the Cayman Islands. Also flights from The Netherlands to Jamaica are available at decent rates, as well between Jamaica and Cayman, so that was an easy choice.

I initially had planned to visit them in Jamaica, but due to finances and available vacation days I had decided to not pursue that idea. However when they arrived there they started messaging pictures of the lovely house they had (which I found online). And knowing that spending time with them on Cayman would be limited as I would be working, a last-minute ticket to Jamaica was quickly purchased.

Butterfly House in Negril, Jamaica.
Mom and Dad visiting the botanical garden in Grand Cayman
Governor's Beach Grand Cayman
Dad enjoying a cold beer at Floyd's Pelican Bar (Jamaica)

They were staying in Negril in a house with a lovely garden on a seaside cliff. Even better than the pictures! We spent some time together catching up (I hadn’t seen them in 15 months), and doing some daytrips in Negril and surroundings. Compared to Grand Cayman Jamaica is certainly a country with a way more beautiful scenery and more colourful culture. But also it feels more like a ‘third world country’ in places, and the tourism industry was more prevalent and ‘in your face’.

From Jamaica we flew together to Grand Cayman where they spent a week. They enjoyed the benefits of a first world lifestyle with a Caribbean twist. My phone was overflowing with messages which nice shop or restaurant they had now discovered, or that they were heading out to the beach with a book. They very much did their own thing during most day as I was working. We did manage to spend a day or two together including a visit to the very nice botanical park. In the evening we met for dinner at some of my favourite restaurants. But basically as most parents they were mainly just very curious to see the place I call home at the moment.

From the Caribbean to the Utah snow

The trips kept on coming quick and fast, as March saw me heading off for the third month in a row. My friends Hein and Caren from Houston had decided to take a sabbatical, and part of that was renting a house for a season in the ski resort of Park City. I hadn’t been on a ski trip in years while travelling and living in tropical places, so when I spotted cheap flight deals there I was easily convinced. It was a great week of skiing and being with friends and I really enjoyed it.

Enjoying being back on the slopes for the first time in 6 years.
Hein and Bart-Jan
Connecting with my Mining Engineering roots
Hein and Caren and family

On my way to Park City I made the obligatory ‘Menno is traveling to’ check-in on Facebook. I was pleasantly surprised when my Dutch friend Bart-Jan responded saying he was right next door in Salt Lake City, so dinner and drinks together were quickly set-up. We seem to meet in the most random places where neither of us live but where we co-incidentally are at the same time… Guatemala, Chicago, and now Park City!

Back to Europe

The last trip of 2018 was also the big one. Since it had been about 21 months since I left The Netherlands, it was time for a trip home. I planned this in late summer, when hurricane season and low visitor numbers make it a good time for a break from the island. Also I had the wedding of a niece in that time, a good opportunity to see the extended family. My parents rented a vacation home near the wedding location to make it a true family weekend. So all in all enough reasons to head home. Timing wise I also discovered I could squeeze in a sailing weekend in Barcelona. That is an annual thing with a group of my university friends, but which I didn’t manage to join for several years while living far away.

So off I went late August from Cayman to Barcelona. There I met up with my friends and had an awesome weekend of catching up, sailing, relaxing in little bays and enjoying the excellent food of the seaside towns of the Costa Brava. Of course as any sailor, our shore visits needed to be accompanied by a drink or two…

Anchored up
Sailors on a shore break

Following Barcelona I was in The Netherlands for about two weeks. This was mostly a blur with me travelling the country to catch up with various friends, including a weekend in London. It was awesome and I loved seeing everybody again, but honestly also draining. Not even so much the traveling or the visits, but planning it all in as everybody has busy schedules. The weeks didn’t feel much like a vacation, but then again catching up is one of the main reasons for a visit home. But half-way through my visit as I was staying with my friend Jan-Maarten in Amsterdam, I decided to cancel a few appointments. I was so enjoying being back in Amsterdam again, the city that I always fall in love with again, that I took a day or two there to recharge my batteries.

Beer, Bitterballen and Amsterdam: life at it's best
Dinner with friends in Amsterdam
Visiting a dino show with my niece and nephew
Family weekend so time for a lot of family pics!

From Amsterdam I flew back to Miami. Well to Orlando, and from there a taxi. US Border Control needed to just ask a few more questions causing me to miss my onward flight. In Miami I met up with my friend James, and also Mitch from Grand Cayman who just relocated to Miami. Together we drove to Key West which I always wanted to visit. It was certainly worthwhile. Key West is known as having some gaudy touristy sections. But some of the back streets are lined with beautiful old houses and trees for a great ‘colonial’ feel. All being divers we also used the weekend for some dives on the ‘Vandenberg’ wreck, one of my ‘bucket list’ dives. All in all I really enjoyed this ‘vacation in a vacation’ after the busy weeks in The Netherlands.

Key West
Ready to dive the 'Vandenberg' wreck (photo: Miami Technical Diving)

Settled in nicely – but what about adventure?

As I started the yearly review, and as I ended my 2017 one, this was another stable year. And again one I enjoyed, and one that also reminded me of my lifestyle before I left the corporate world. A stable job and home, a base from which to do some nice trips, and to meet with friends and family.

But after two year of enjoying a more stable (albeit tropical) life I also look back fondly at the few more adventurous years I experienced before. Going from place to place, job to job. Embracing the opportunities of an unknown future instead of being anxious about it. Visiting some truly unique and remote places. 

So sometimes the comfortable feeling of being settled down changes to the question ‘but maybe I am throwing my days away’? Probably one of the more common dilemmas we all face in our life… Having tasted adventure I know it is a question I can never fully put away. And one that often conflicts with my more ambitious side to carve out a stable career in this business.

For now I have decided to choose another year of stability and to remain in Grand Cayman in 2019!

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8 thoughts on “Looking back at… 2018

  • Hestia Monster

    Great read Menno! I’m sorry I missed out on the pubnight that was organised last summer in Amsterdam. Wishing you lots of joy for 2019!

  • erika

    Hoi Menno

    Ik (erika/kpn) hen je verhaal gelezen. Je gaat lekker daar in het Zuiden. 😀. Zo grappig om te lezen wat je nu allemaal doet vergeleken met de tijd bij KPN. Volgens mij heb je toendertijd een goede keuze gemaakt. Goed!! Ik zie dat je insta hebt…daar ga ik je volgen. Een heeel goed 2019! Groet erika

  • Peter Schmidt

    Hallo Menno,

    Goed geschreven en leuk om te zien dat je het naar je zin hebt. Dit is een leven waar veel mensen van dromen. Je zou er een tv serie van maken.

    Wellicht dat ik ooit nog een keer jouw hulp inroep aangezien ik bezig ben met een erfzaak waar een trust op de kaaiman eilanden is betrokken.



  • Remo Cantatore

    Hoi Menno, wat een leuke blog. Fijn te zien dat het goed met je gaat. Succes met alles wat je doet. Veel gezondheid en plezier voor 2019 toegewenst. Groetjes van Remo Cantatore.

  • Arjen

    Een stabiel jaartje maar toch weer enorm veel gedaan en gezien. Hopelijk heeft 2019 weer wat mooie dingen in petto voor jou! Hoop je snel weer ergens te zien.
    Take care! Arjen