Location: Tioman Island, Malaysia
Diving was always going to feature right at the top of my priorities list when it came to choosing the next location to continue my great adventure. After experiencing one of the most pristine reefs the world has to offer in Roatan, Honduras, and delving into the prehistoric waters that teemed with sharks and turtles in Costa Rica, Malaysia had some large fins to fill.
Fortunately, Pulau Tioman – the small island that straddles the Singapore-Malaysia border in the South China Sea – more than lives up to the high expectations I’m lucky enough to demand. After a couple of months during which I’ve spent more time in the water than out of it, I finally had the chance to let loose with my camera and capture just some of the treasures that this pocket of the ocean holds. I dedicated an entire post to my underwater discoveries, but I couldn’t resist sharing another snapshot of the beauty of diving in Tioman…
Early starts, long days and even longer nights
Insomnia: it’s a bitch.
Trying to explain the paradox that is an active mind that buzzes like neon while your body aches for silence, for sleep, is a mammoth task, so for now you’ll excuse me if that short summation suffices. It’s a battle I continue to fight. Or rather one that I find myself subjected to on an almost nightly basis, unwittingly and unwillingly caught in the cross fire between wake and sleep, aimlessly waving a white flag that fails to be noticed. But for some reason, while I can write and write and write into the small hours, spinning the multitude of words that tumble in and out of my chattering head into the yarns of stories, the prospect of talking about being tired is just too tiring. The battle continues…
I’ve attempted to use my ill-fitting energy that lingers on even as the sun begins to rise again to address my relationship with sleep once before. Now that I have changed my life so very much, now that that relationship has changed (largely for the better), I would like to retell that particular story. Let it be sufficient for now to say that 10-hour days, 7-am starts and an ongoing issue with insomnia makes for an interesting cocktail of emotions. Whilst my life these days is defined, so very fortunately, by silver linings instead of clouds, insomnia persists like the uninvited guest at a party, lurking in the corner and oggling me unsettlingly, adding a tinge of discomfort to an otherwise delightful experience.
How busy island life can be
There were a lot of reasons I chose to remove myself from the conventional 9-to-5 lifestyle of the British retrace – bad weather, uninspiring outlooks and an intrinsic desire to live life intentionally to name just a few. But a craving for laziness was not one. Many people misunderstood my plans to travel the world and learn more as a thinly veiled cover story for an extended cocktail-drinking, hammock-lazing holiday. Whilst there have certainly been windows of relaxation, I never intended for this adventure to be a departure from work. I like to work – it keeps my mind healthy and introduces me to new people, experiences and skills that I would never otherwise enjoy. However, it’s come as something of an unexpected discovery to realise that I’m busier now – on a quiet, remote tropical island – than I ever was in my conventional desk job.
As Will told us in this month’s ‘The World is my Office’ interview, the scuba diving industry “isn’t all bikini clad women and strawberry daiquiris”, and he was spot on. Although I’ll admit that I now don a bikini 99.9% more of the time than I did in my last job (there was that one day when I didn’t have any clean underwear…), I can confirm that there’s a lot of hard work involved in my new lifestyle. Long days, busy schedules and an intense life-work balance all make up the hectic hive of activity that is a thriving dive shop, and being swept up in the flurry is an exhilarating experience.
It comes as a surprise therefore to realise just how determined I’ve been, despite the heavy workload of the ‘day-job’, to keep on posting away right here. I used to complain that I “had nothing to write about”, and I’d cling firmly to that mantra as a sort of get-out-of-jail-free card, exonerating me from the fact that I wasn’t taking time to write. But since embarking upon a new life, I’ve been possessed with a feverish fervour for telling stories. And I love it.
I won’t lie, the long, intense days are taking their toll; this month I let my military scheduling of blog posts slip for the first time in the best part of a year. I’ve been battling through my sleep issues and getting up at dawn just to get some words down on the page; I’ve been rejecting invitations for the lazy, laid-back island nights that people expected me to be relishing; I’ve used my few precious days off to write, write write; and I’m proud of myself for it. But there are inevitably times when I wonder if the hard work is worth it. So I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who’s reached out and got in touch in the last few months – the emails of support from complete strangers, the questions and polite requests for travel advice, the comments and shares and the love from friends and family goes a long way.
For anyone who’s reading (and also for myself) I promise I’ll try to keep it up! And if you like what you’re seeing, don’t be afraid to let me know – it means a lot.