How I Fell into One of the Best Jobs Ever

The whole world was a bit shocked as we watched the US elect a new President.  As I imagined the stress, the sleepless days and nights, the pressure, the isolation, the unbearable stress, all to win what I would consider to be the very worst job in the world, I can’t help but be grateful for the spot I’m in.

Coconut Trees at Costa Blu, Ambergris Caye, Belize

Was it all a well crafted plan?  Did I talk of travel writing and photography from a young age?  Was Creative Writing my favorite subject in school?  Absolutely not.

postcard

I am a right-brained, ISTJ (Meyers-Briggs test for those who haven’t taken it), rule follower.

How did I end up living in San Pedro, Belize and making my living writing a blog?  Luck?  To some degree for sure.

palapa3-1

It’s probably best just to describe the journey.  And it’s not as odd as you think.  I’ve spoken to quite a few travel and lifestyle bloggers that started in corporate careers and then decided to do what they enjoy.  And try to make a go of it.

But, unlike the offerings by 1000s of websites, this is not a step-by-step guide to your dream job.  In fact, it may be the “what not to do guide to blogging”.

But my one bit of advice, that was really never given to me or asked of me, EVER, is no surprise to anyone –

Figure out what you love – don’t be colored by perceived expectations, prestige or money – and do it.

Nothing new.

As a kid, I was a huge reader but at school, I gravitated towards math and science.  There was always a set answer and it helped that I was good at it.

In High School we were given a few “personality tests” to help us find our ideal jobs.  I was always pegged a pencil pusher – accountant or actuary…perhaps a corporate lawyer.  Done.  Good money?  That’s what I’ll be.

So at Smith College, I was interested in History and Latin, so I double majored in Ancient History and Economics.  To keep myself marketable.

I also went abroad for the first time – junior year in London – a great jump off spot for travel around Europe and what would be my true love.  And I met young people – mostly Brits – who had taken a “gap year” before university to travel and those who went to Amsterdam…or Barcelona for a long weekend.  You didn’t need huge amounts of money to travel.  Hmmm….

And then back in the states I graduated and it was time to get a “real job”.  I applied for the “right” jobs back in the states – Management Consulting, Investment Banking and Accounting with no idea what any of those people did.  And when I graduated (jobless), I saw an ad in the New York Times – “DO YOU LIKE MATH?”

Sure.  A few days later I was hired to become a pension actuary at what would become PriceWaterhouseCoopers.  It was 1995…the internet is telling me that the word BLOG was first used in 1997.

Test taking actuary for a few years to Compensation Analyst in Human Resources at Lehman Brothers for a few years back to trainee and then corporate and emerging markets bond trader also at Lehman.

Did I enjoy the subject matter at any of these jobs?  Pension plans?  No.  Compensation analysis.  Uh-uh.  The workings of macroeconomics and the bond market?  Definitely not.

I had a bit of money saved.  I left Lehman in mid-2006 and decided to travel for 6 months.  Escaping to some degree.  But that’s one of the things I love about travel.

I went to London and Paris, Venice and Sicily, sailing off Croatia and…Belize for just a week.  I was not looking for a place to relocate.  But Belize!  I didn’t want to leave.  And there were so many expats down here making it work.  Maybe…just maybe I could to.

6 months later I was trying it out for a year.  And now I’ve been living on Ambergris Caye for over 9 years.

ambergris-caye

I took 7 months off and lived the amazing life of a 33 year old temporary retiree, I got a job managing the Tacklebox Bar & Grill for almost 4 years…and I got fired.  Not a surprise, the owner was moving down…

You can see it right in the middle of town - orange roof. Now re-opened as Island Tackle.
You can see it right in the middle of town – orange roof. Now re-opened as Island Tackle.

But I was jobless…and not exactly loving my Belize life.  The 60+ hour weeks of bar/nightclub management are brutal.

I was used to going to sleep at 2am…taking frequent naps and never traveling or really enjoying Belize.  My day off each week was spent sleeping…

Why not force myself to get out…use this time off constructively, take photos and get out there and see Ambergris Caye and Belize.  Stop taking the island for granted and be a tourist again.  I could hold myself accountable by writing about it online…and if a few people read it and got hooked on Belize, that would be an unexpected bonus.

So I created a seriously crappy looking website on Blogger.com.  It took me HOURS to figure out.  And I got writing.
sanpedroscoopjune2011

And after just a few days and maybe 10 readers, I realized that I was pretty obsessed.  I didn’t want to miss a day, I loved treating it like I job but I certainly WAS NOT thinking of it as a paying one.

So I just keep doing it…spending savings and blogging.  And then the GENEROUS folks at Blue Water Grill Restaurant asked me if they could advertise…

I was addicted for sure.  But the advertising took a while to come. Not because of a lack of advertisers but my inability to feel like the site was good enough.  How could I possibly take someone’s money to put an ad on my blog?

chaa-creek

I still struggle with that today.  But man, do I love doing this.  Meeting people around Belize doing THE most amazing things.  From Roni Martinez who organizes volunteers and worker each summer to guard nesting scarlet macaws from poachers or Jamal at the Belize Zoo who excites kids with nature and cares for some of the world’s most beautiful animals at the Belize Zoo to Mick and Lucy Fleming who carved Belize’s most beautiful jungle lodge to Miss Emma who grows orchids and beautiful fruits trees with the vigor of a woman one-third her age.

And being asked to do amazing things – fly over the Blue Hole, go on a helicopter ride, catamaran sail from Caye Caulker to Placencia, visit a Mennonite cattle farm and most recently…SKYDIVE!

miss-emma

I could go on and on.  I am so grateful to live in one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever seen and share it with others.  It’s not the perfect job for everyone – I’ll never make millions doing it.  But it’s one of the best jobs I can imagine.

Yes, that's me at the Belize Zoo.
Yes, that’s me at the Belize Zoo.

This post was inspired by my friend and Kerala, India bus-mate, Janet.  Irish travel blog extraordinaire who is currently travelling, by land, from Cork, Ireland to South Africa.  I think she is in Greece.  TOTALLY awesome and incredibly inspiring.

Journalist on the Run’s How I Landed My Dream Job By Accident






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  • Excellent post! It’s very interesting to me how people discover their “right” careers. I personally never got to earn money doing what I love and have regrets about that now that I’m a retired software engineer (it was an okay career and decent money but never a passion for me), so it is always fascinating to hear about people who actually are doing what they love and making a living at it. My brother, a comic book fanatic from a young age, is a great example. We never thought it would amount to anything, and now he’s in his early 50s and living off comic book sales — some of which he collected as a child. Life is what you make it!

  • Amy Woods

    I have learned so much about Belize from your posts. Thanks for helping me discover people and places I would never have known about. And sharing the best of the best places to eat, sleep and be merry! With the help of the Scoop we hope to make the trek from the mountains of Idaho to beautiful Belize for many years to come!

  • Mike Mitchell

    Good stuff! We are lucky you got fired from Tacklebox.

  • Kenz

    I am so glad I stumbled on your site. I booked a trip on a whim to Belize in June and your blog has been such a resource (not to mention great to read). Like you, I am currently chipping away at it in the corporate world (travel industry of all things) and long to be in your shoes. I hope to one day break free and plant myself in some magical place, and share my experiences. Thank you for the inspiration to keep working towards that goal!

  • Dawn McKinney Botefuhr

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7a9269526e2ea0398d5e2aed3f30a8f7664dac59498a4399fcc6da59dda7953b.jpg This is a great site on a wonderful, ….did Everyone hear me…WONDERFUL, country💥☮🌸🌻. The gorgeous land, valleys and agricultural for starters. It’s the people! When I visited, I fell in love with the genuineness, calmness, and the overall friendly atmosphere.

    During my visits to Belize I spent several days in Belize City, in the breath taking Lily of The Valley, and San Pedro.

    I have long to go back to Belize, and reading your posts has inspired me.