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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.