Location: Roatan, Honduras
When I first began musing over the idea of doing my divemaster somewhere far off and remote, I couldn’t have even told you where Roatan is in the world. But as I began searching for options, this little island kept cropping up time and time again – “a diver’s paradise”, “an underwater haven”, “mecca for scuba fanatics”. And whilst it’s never wise to believe the hype until you’ve seen it with your own eyes, I’m delighted to say that Roatan has more than lived up to its reputation.
Already this month I’ve enjoyed an embarrassment of riches underwater; turtles, eels, rays and sharks have all graced me with their presence, with personal highlights including a nurse shark resting inches away from me, a breathtakingly elegant spotted eagle ray drifting through the water alongside me for fifteen minutes, and a menacing looking green moray who must have been at least 8 foot long coming out of his hole to greet us, hankering for some attention.
OK, this is a bit of a no-brainer, but having willed myself through a freezing British winter on a promise of brighter days ahead, feeling the tropical sunshine on my skin for the first time was a euphoric moment. The fact that I now get to spend every day sprawled out on the bow of a boat, soaking up the sun like a pasty English sponge, is a luxury that I won’t grow tired of. The icing on the cake is enjoying a cold beer or two every evening, watching as the sun makes its lazy descent, washing the skyline with a rainbow as it goes. During these glorious minutes, I remind myself how lucky I am to be calling this beautiful island home.
Specifically the biting kind. I know it’s normal to expect a few bites here and there when you go away but I seem to have been treated as a human pin-cushion for an entire month. I don’t know whether I happen to be a particularly delectable flavour with regards to entymological gastronomy, or whether the mosquitos are just greedy here, but they’ve been dining out on a smorgasbord of my body parts, with their itchy little offerings peppering me from head to toe. I am now more bite than human.
Whether it’s thanks to the realisation of a year’s worth of planning, stress and worry finally coming to fruition, or more simply due to the change in temperature, climate and day-to-day activities, I spent the second week of my travels feeling like I was fighting off the plague. With a slamming headcold, blocked sinuses and a barking cough, I was not in a good way. Having a cold is gross at the best of times, but was a particular kick in the teeth having just arrived in such a beautiful, tropical paradise.
A particular lowpoint was having to bow out of a day’s worth of diving to lie in bed, sweating profusely and feeling sorry for myself. The fact that the others saw a trunkfish and a pea on the morning dive did nothing to improve my mood.
Acclimatising to travel
It surprised me just how hard I found it to become accustomed to the reality of living abroad. This is nothing to do with day-to-day practicalities or nasty surprises – blocked toilets, unexpected daytrips to the immigration office and the occasional cockroach I can take in my stride. But I hadn’t expected to feel any sort of anxiety around my choices. I’ve been looking forward to leaving the UK, travelling the world and starting a new life abroad for so long that I’d imagined that all my worry and stress would simply shed off like an unwanted layer of skin the second I stepped off the plane.
Not the kind of day-trip that normally gets my creative juices flowing…
It came as a surprise to me therefore to find that it’s taken me a relatively long time to adjust and become comfortable with the unknown. It wasn’t simply a case of unpacking my backpack, cracking open a beer and accepting my new way of life. Instead, it’s been a more gradual process of tentative exploration and moments of self-doubt. There have been nights where I’ve laid in bed, kept awake by the sweltering heat, and wondering if every single decision I’ve made is ‘correct’.
Like a coiled spring, I took a bit of time to unwind. I’m used to a fast-paced, English lifestyle and it was harder than I expected to simply shrug that off. The process of relaxing, of enjoying myself, of accepting my choices and embracing them has taken the best part of a month – it’s only now, 4 weeks down the line, that I’ve finally uncoiled enough to accept that the concept of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ choices is not one that I need to be pursuing out here; instead I’ve accepted that regardless of how they may be perceived by others, my decisions are my own and they have led to the change that I wanted. It’s taken a month to step back, look at my life and realise that it’s going exactly how I want it to be right now, that things aren’t just good, they’re great.