Friday, March 28, 2014

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

First off, you all are super cool for helping me cross the 100,000 view threshold this week! When I started this blog two years ago, I never thought it would be seen 100,000 times. Internet high fives for everyone!

As I hinted to in the last roundup post, I am currently trying to make a decision about whether or not I am going to stay on Roatan. This is something that's been on my mind for the last few months, and I think something that every expat struggles with at some point. When do you know it's time to go home?

(One thing I know for sure is I'm not ready to go back to Canada and go back to working in an office there. So my decision isn't really "should I go home?", it's more "should I go somewhere else?")

Sometimes I feel like I've already done everything I came here to do. I wanted so badly to move to Roatan, become a dive instructor and then teach diving. Well, in less than two years I did all that. I moved here, I passed my instructor course, I taught diving, I had an amazing adventure on a megayacht where I dove all over the Caribbean, and now I manage a dive shop. Not bad in 1.5 years, right? But I'm having a hard time moving forward from here, because managing a dive shop was not my goal. It was something that fell onto me because someone else left and I was the most capable person to do it. I dive two times or less a month now, and my job is way more stressful than I'm getting compensated for. My friends who are my coworkers all hate me now because I have to come down on them about stuff at the shop, and there is tension due to the hierarchy in the shop. I am constantly trying to mediate between people, and don't get me started on the cultural differences I navigate daily with local staff who think I'm an idiot and refuse to listen to me. I take pride in having my guests come and have an amazing diving holiday but I just sit in the hot office all day long and ask them about everything they saw on the dives when they come back while I do paperwork all day and count how many t-shirts we have. I know I'm doing a good job because they guests give good feedback and my managers tell me all the time, but I'm just not sure it's what I want to be doing.

The flip side of this is that I'm too old and too lazy to go to the party town of West End and try to fight for a dive instructor job where they're going to work me to the bone 6 days a week diving 4 times a day with backpackers who don't tip. Granted, I'd make more money (from the volume of divers/courses, not from the cheap backpackers), but I'm just not sure I have the energy for that. Also, the instability of the jobs there stresses me out just thinking about it.

I didn't have any direction for this post, I just decided to sit down and start writing it and see what came out. By the sounds of the last few paragraphs, I don't really want to do anything. Maybe I just need a holiday, but I can't take one from my current position since there isn't anyone there who knows how to do the basic office work to keep the shop running. Also, I have no money to go anywhere! But I guess I can put it on the list. A friend I ran into in the grocery store the other day suggested that I might just need some time off the island. I haven't been anywhere since I went to Canada last summer, and I've been working 6-7 days a week since then. So maybe I just need a break. Breaks are really important when you live on an island. Whenever I leave here, I always miss it and want to come back!

As I see it, here are my options:
  1. Stay put, suck it up, cut down to 5 days a week at my job and start doing more things I want to do here that make me happy but never have time for.
  2. Stay put, try to get a different job, see what happens.
  3. Leave for somewhere else (dictated by money at the moment, as I have none).
  4. Leave for Canada and hate life (it's still snowing there).
  5. Take a holiday and reassess.

I have a ticket out of here April 3 and I called Orbitz today to change it and then hung up halfway through because I couldn't decide if I wanted to change it or not. I waver back and forth on this daily, and I seem to get nowhere with my decision so I'm reaching out to you guys to see what you think, and if there's any expats out there who can offer some advice if they've been in the same situation.

I found this on Pinterest:

and tried it to see what happened. All I thought while it was in the air was "I wonder if the boys filled in the boat logs" (I left work early today to avoid a nervous breakdown after a staff argument) and "I'm tired."

What do you think?

Guys, make sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter ... there's lots of extras posted there that don't make it onto the blog. (I also have Google+ if anyone even uses that?) Plus it makes me annoy the Orbitz people daily with ticket changes. So there's that.


  1. has logrado mucho en este tiempo, lo que no me gusta es que estas buceando poco, y con mucho trabajo de oficina, de lo que precisamente escapaste cuando dejaste canada. Dado lo dificil que parece ser conseguir un trabajo estable en la industria del buceo deberías quedarte y tratar de dictar algunas clases como parte de tu trabajo en la tienda, eso mientras aparece una oportunidad mas atractiva y segura. if you know what i mean. hold on until you light another candle or make a little move to gain perspective.

  2. Sometimes I just wake up and suddenly I know what I want. Maybe that'll happen? I mean the best way to think is just realize that nothing is the wrong decision, just like nothing is the right one. You do what's best in the situation and that's all you can do. And it'll be fine no matter what.

    PS I dropped off the face of the earth for a while but HI!

  3. Well, from what you wrote, it sounds like more than anything, you need a break. I know that in the past, I'd get burnt out and that would cause me to burn bridges a little too fast, in reaction to what I was experiencing. But like you said, you'll likely miss it if you get some time away. So, maybe reducing your schedule, doing more things that just make you happy, and finding a way to GETAWAY and see something new will really help.

    And also, you say you can't go away because no one knows how to handle your tasks, but wouldn't it be a bigger ordeal to hire someone new? So, if that's the case, I'm sure they'd rather you go away for a couple of weeks or something instead of leave forever. They'll find a way to survive without you -- whether that's temporarily or permanently is more up to you.

    But yes, making decisions in burn-out mode can have dire consequences. I'd say get some time to clear your head and get perspective if you can so that you are making the decision from a good place! :)

    This was really interesting to read, though. Thanks for letting us into your process!

  4. Travels with TamMarch 28, 2014 2:40 PM

    With the ability to be a dive master and teach, you are in a position to work ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD. Why not travel the world and figure it out later? :-)

  5. One of my favorite quotes: "If you don't know what to do, do nothing". In time, the answer will become so very clear. Thinking and worrying really gets us no where. In saying this, I already think you know the answer in your heart. You came, you saw, you conquered, and now the little voice inside is telling you it's time to move on. And soon, if not already, that little voice will become a SCREAM. Your dream has turned into a nightmare. I think it sounds like it's definitely time for a breather and a new plan of action, but don't feel like you have to rush it - the answers WILL make themselves known in time. What is apparent now is that you want to leave, so meditate on the best way to do that and until the answer appears simply take things one day at a time. Change is always a frightening thing, but I do believe it's what your soul is requesting right now! Wishing you all the best. Just trust that your heart is leading you somewhere else and that it's most likely going to be even more awesome! Stay positive! Hope this helps even just a bit - I completely understand how scary and frustrating this can be.

  6. Hi its Ana from Orlando, FL.
    You writing all this down sounds a lot like myself. You are still in the industry that you love which is a good step. Sounds like you need a break. Maybe talk to the boss and find out if you can cross train someone. How about through out the week not just work in the office all day. One week office the other being an instructor.

    You obviously love where you are so why leave(Especially since $$$ is an issue). Your boss must be compassionate and would want you to be happy or else you will start slacking and the earth will rot. Its like a spanish saying that my mom says "el bebe que no llora no mama". Basically speak up!

    Take a break. You necessarily don't need money to take a break. Sometime you just need to be lazy. Or maybe build something out of WOOD. IDK. lol. Pray about it! :) Or better yet how can you draw closer to GOD.

    Hope it helps!


  7. Hey Kiddo :)

    Im a long time reader, first time writer... ;) haha

    Don't forget that what ever decision you make, is not a decision that will dictate the rest of your life. It may only say what you're going to do for the next week, month, or half a year.

    Don't let it stress you out so much! Look at it as you have the opportunity to make a decision to better your life, or at least have more fun. If you're not having fun and smiling everyday, a change is needed. Just try something! If a week or a month into going somewhere else, you decide it was the wrong decision, go back to Roatan. Or go somewhere else!

    Look at this positively by realizing you have the opportunity to make this choice, whereas some people are still trying to make that first move to go to Roatan (or any other destination) for the first time. You've had a great journey already and it's nowhere near finished!

    I look forward to seeing what you do :)

    You're fellow Canadian, and former employee,

  8. Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)March 28, 2014 6:19 PM

    I agree with all those who have said that it sounds like at the very least, you need a break. I think that time away will let you separate the day-to-day stresses that right now are inescapable parts of your life from the bigger picture. It might help you figure out what direction you want to go in next, since by the sounds of it, you've accomplished all the things that you wanted to do when you came to Roatan and so you maybe need a new goal of sorts to shoot for.

    I think one thing that really struck me is that you first went to Roatan because you didn't want to be stuck in a cubicle and wanted to dive... but aren't you kind of in a cubicle now, albeit perhaps a slightly fancy one? It would be nice to be making more money doing the job you are now, but if the job isn't the right fit, maybe you need to figure out way you can either dive more, or accept that you may need to shake things up massively again. I mean, you didn't move to Roatan to sit in an office, did you?

    No matter what you choose, everything will be fine. I think you just need some time to figure out what your priorities are so that you can start, well, prioritizing them! Start with giving yourself some time off! You need a break!

  9. You have already made your decision, you just have realize you have. I am a firm believer that if your ever in doubt of where your at move forward. It's always easy to stay put but it's exciting, fun and best of all challenging to move forward!

  10. Woohoo, internet high five to you Rika! To me, it sounds like you should move on to a new place. Definitely don't move back to Canada but maybe move to a new country and try being a dive instructor elsewhere? I suggest you move to Indonesia ASAP as I want to learn to dive there in the summer..:-) Whatever you decide, I look forward to reading more about it on you blog.

  11. indo. lets do it girl.

  12. mmmmmmmmm tough one. But you should definitely plan for a rest/holiday even if its a few months away. People can think 'hey their on holiday' because you're somewhere with beautiful beaches and you're wearing a bikini. You're not, you're having to work your ass off!!! For selfish reasons you should go to indo - heading there in a few weeks (first holiday in years!) and yeah, in need of an instructor for my Padi refresher, so see you there ;)

  13. You should take a break and chill out; maybe see your island from a vacationers point of view for a week! I love that quote about the coin, and if you don't know which way you wish it will flip then maybe you should stay put for now so you don't make a decision you'll hate later!

  14. This sounds like a tough dilemma. I think that you really need some time away so you can assess the situation without being in 'work mode'. Is it possible to take 4 days off and either hibernate in your pad or find a cheap somewhere else to rest? I think that would help give some perspective. But I agree...going back to Canada right now does not seem fun. If it has to happen go back in the summer!

  15. This is such a tough expat problem. After two years in Shanghai, I was definitely ready to leave. I knew this the moment I started screaming at a taxi driver who had nearly mowed me down in the middle of an intersection. Even though crossing the street was a daily hazard, in that moment I knew it was time to move on. Things I'd found charming or quirky before were working my last nerve and I couldn't stop researching other places I could live. I've been back in the States for the past six months, and while I have no intention of living here again permanently (we're moving to Europe this summer) it's been really nice to be home. So don't write off a visit to Canada. It may be just the thing to help you put things in perspective!

  16. Ay yi yi chica. I can't tell you how many times I've thought "what if" I leave, or even more so "what if I'd left after my original one year plan?". Go with your gut. I think what's amazing about waht you're doing is the world is LITERALLY your oyster and paradise awaits.

    Whatever you decide, I think it is seriously important you find time to enjoy yourself. I am not envious of all my friends making, no joke, at least 5x more than me yearly because you know what, I have so much time to live life.

  17. I always hate dealing with these back and forth decisions. Similar to the coin trick, I try to picture myself in both situations. When "in" those situations, I try to feel which one gives me a deeper feeling of regret. They say once it's all said and done, you will regret the things you didn't do, not the mistakes you made.

    My vote: if your passion for scuba/Roatan is disappearing, I would suggest moving on. Life is too short not to be enjoying every second of it.

  18. Hey Erika,
    It sounds like options 3 and 4 are not feasible at this moment.

    If I were to choose between 1, 2 and 5, option 1 wins hands down.

    Let me explain. Based on my experience, it's always easier to free up some time when you have your old job as opposed to trying to do that when you just started a new one. You'd have to work really hard from the get go just to prove that you were the right hire. (+1 for option 1).

    Since you've been at your current place for quite some time, you surely can find some ways to:

    - optimize your daily activities in such a way that you spend a little less time at work every day:
    - get some help by delegating some of your paperwork tasks to your brightest staff;
    - try to get your shop to work well without you when you're not there.

    The three strategies above should be able to buy you some additional "me time". Also, don't discount having an honest talk with your boss - based on my personal experience, if you are good at what you do, they'd be accommodating and help you out. (+2 for option 1)

    The symptoms you describe match the typical North-American burnout 100%. In case you are still entertaining option #4, let me remind you that after having the looooooongest winter ever AND feeling typically burnt out (the North-American norm), I'd trade places with you in a second :) (+3 for option 1)

    Sounds like a no-brainer to me. Hope this helps. :)

  19. Well if you're less than happy at your job what's really keeping you from leaving at least for a little while? Worst case you come back and find new employment that might bring more joy to your life right? I've learned that no matter where you are in life, if you're unhappy in what you do you have to take the risk and bounce. Good luck!

  20. Karyn @ Not Done TravellingApril 01, 2014 5:16 AM

    It's a tricky one! But it sounds as if you just aren't as happy in Roatan as you used to be. (Ups and downs are part of life, but if your job is stressful that's more downs than ups...after all, you left Canada to get AWAY from a stressful job...)

    I think you need to go exploring and look for a new place to settle down in for a while. Yes, that's dictated by money, but if you have a rough idea of where you'd like to go to, you can budget and that might be the motivation you need to stick it out for a few more months while you save. Who knows, if you save enough you might be able to even get to a new continent, let alone a new country. There's plenty of dive work in South East Asia, and if you plan it so you move in about September-October, you'll land in SE Asia just before the tourist season (ch-ching!)

  21. Thanks for the vote Phil - I was so surprised at all the feedback I got, from lovely people giving well thought-out advice. I'm definitely taking what everyone's said into consideration! Stay tuned!

  22. All very good points Alex... it's nice to hear from another expat, as it's kind of hard to understand the struggle unless you've done the expat thing before. You are totally right that I need to find a lot more time to enjoy myself!!

  23. I think I'm close to my own version of the taxi-screaming situation! Thank you so much for the feedback - I was hoping other expats would reach out, and they did. Having someone who's 'been in your shoes' makes the advice really valuable. Thanks Heather!!

  24. I completely agree - time away is exactly what I need! I think your plan of a 4 day hibernation would be a huge help. Putting some steps in motion! Thanks!

  25. Great point Rachel - I am the QUEEN of rash decisions which I usually make when I'm angry or hungry (which is kinda the same thing for me). Getting some feedback from friends, family and this blog has been a huge help to gain a little perspective.

  26. Exactly Helen - just because I live somewhere tropical people seem to think I'm on vacation... I work about 20 hours a week MORE than I did in Canada, for about an eighth of the pay :) Indo is super high on the list right now, although I don't think I'll make it within a few weeks... enjoy it, and would love to hear all about it!! xo

  27. Dude. Still so on the list, but there is something happening at the moment... will message you on FB about it! xo

  28. Hmmmm, this is three votes for Indonesia out of 21 there a theme here? :)

  29. I do tend to take the easy way out most of the time, so this was good to read. Thanks for the feedback Wendy!

  30. Thanks so much for the feedback and advice Steph. You're SO right - I left a cubicle and now have ended up back in one! Dammit! A step back to reassess is exactly what I just to decide what kind of step and how big :)

  31. Justinnnnnnn!!!!!!! Thanks so much for taking the time to write. You make a great point that I didn't think about - it won't dictate the rest of my life! I am a catastrophist at best, and tend to think that whatever I do will be that way FOREVER so this was a good kick in the pants. Thanks buddy. (PS. Forgot to tell you, those people did call, and I gave you a glowing review. Hope you're enjoying your new job!) xo

  32. Dude, I think we totally need to drink rum this summer! I'm not sure I'm gonna get to Canada though...stay tuned! I need a break for sure, I didn't realize how burnt-out I was until like 2 days after I re-read this post and read all the comments.

  33. Hi Ana, thank you so much for taking the time to write, I really appreciate it! You make some very good points and I'm hoping to take a break soon and re-assess a bit. And maybe make something out of wood :)

  34. That's a great quote Wendy! Thanks so much for taking the time to weigh in. A breather and new plan of action are on the way, but thank you for the reminder not to rush it. I am famous for rushed and panicked decisions, usually due to anger (or hunger...haha)!

  35. Money is mostly why not :) But great point! Stay tuned!

  36. All really great points Erika - thank you for taking the time to leave some feedback. I think you're totally right that they'd rather me take a little time off than quit and disappear all out of nowhere, which would be terrible for the shop (and my friends who work here). Thanks for the reminder not to make decisions in burn-out mode...I do this ALL THE TIME and it's always terrible :)

  37. Yesterday was that day for me! Stay tuned!

    PS. YAYYYYYYYY so glad to see you back! xo

  38. Es cierto...a very good point! Thank you for commenting!

  39. Well here's my take on the situation. And yes, I'm posting it here rather than on your Roatan FB page. I don't feel like dealing with all the locals ranting about what I have to say. I would never want to live on Roatan for much longer than a couple of months. Notice I keep coming and going? Roatan certainly has some great things in it's favor, but I find the negatives outweigh the positives. I feel certain there are other places out there that have just as many positives, but fewer negatives.

    Here is a list of my Roatan Negatives:

    1. Lack of modern medical services. You don't want to have a serious injury or illness while on the island!
    2. Awful roads and idiot local drivers. There is absolutely no traffic enforcement by police on the island. Check points aren't traffic enforcement.
    3. Corrupt police and government officials. Yes, much worse than the US/Canada in my opinion.
    4. BUGS / Bug bites
    5. Unreliable & VERY expensive electric service
    6. No drinking water from tap
    7. Locals with constant negative opinions about tourists & ex-pats. I think they just like to hear themselves complain. Almost all of the locals benefit from the tourism one way or another. Also get tired of hearing locals complaining about ex-pats taking all the local jobs.
    8. Crime & Drugs - The crime is out of control. I don't want to hear the BS excuse that it's "only because they are desperate" or other excuses. I have a small circle of friends on Roatan and many have been victims of crime. Here in the states I have a much larger circle of friends and very few have been victimized. ZERO have ever be robbed at gunpoint or knife point.
    9. Other than water related activities, eating and partying, there's very little to do on Roatan. As far as I know there's not even a movie theater.
    10. The taxation is ridiculous and makes it almost impossible for a legitimate business to operate.
    11. Finding a wide variety of food is difficult. Who wants to have to go to three different grocery stores just buy what is needed for a couple of weeks. Also, most of the food is expensive.
    12. The weather (heat) 4-5 months a year.

  40. All good points Joe - I agree with everything on that list, and I think people who live here who disagree with any of those have their head in their ass. So I guess it's just to see now if I can build a bigger positives list which would justify staying! I have the wrong skills/trade to keep going back and forth - when I'm in Canada, unless I work myself to the bone working 2 FT jobs I can't make enough money to go back and forth. Not to mention employers do not look kindly on fucking off every few months haha. But stay tuned...there are plans in the works!

  41. If your job is keeping you from things that make you happy, it's time to make a change. I hope whatever you decide will be awesome!

  42. Oh, and I'd love if if you'd join the Sunday Traveler linkup I cohost sometime! This week's version is here:

  43. Cool!! I'm really dense about these kinda things....I looked at it but not sure what I'm supposed to do :) wanna email me about it?! xo

  44. First of all congratulations on the visitor numbers that is a great achievement. Here is to your first million!

    So did you decide what to do? Running the Dive Shop sounds like a great thing to do but I know it is often not compensated well and I think you've expressed this before on here?

    I guess a new challenge somewhere else would be an exciting thing to do.

    I also loved your quote on the coin toss, it is very true.

  45. Thank you!! My latest post has all the answers for you :) You're right, not many positions in the diving industry are compensated well (it's an expensive sport, so profit margins for the shops are thin). I wouldn't mind running a shop when I'm older and have had more time to dive, but I only became an instructor two years ago and I'm not ready to be stuck behind a desk just yet!