Tag Archives: sabbatical

A Quick Update on Playa Del Carmen Since New Years (Video)

It’s been hard work since the beginning of year but incredibly rewarding.  Not much time for blog articles so I thought I’d post a quick update with a small teaser video and attach a promise that there’s more coming 🙂

My Dive Master group are all qualified Emergency First-aid Responders. Yes, folks I can cure what ails you, sort of, well at least keep you alive until the professionals arrive… mostly…

Phil and I have finished 2 weeks of Spanish Lessons.  Our Spanish is a little better but that’s not saying much considering before the lessons it was none existent!  But it’s a start and will help give us a basis to learn more.  They also took the time to share some of the South American traditions over the New Year:

New Years Eve and New Years day was a lot of fun.  We went to dinner at a local place called El Fogon and were home by 21:30.  The plan was to go to one of the Dive Instructors house to see in the New Year.  Unfortunately we fell asleep and woke up at 23:40.  We rushed down to the beach and celebrations started again from there.

Other than that it’s been diving, diving diving.  It’s all about learning, gaining experience and learning some more.  We’ve done a lot of diving in swimming pools (currently nursing an ear infection from said pools), plenty of diving in the ocean and a small amount of diving in cenotes.  I have an awesome blog post on the cenotes dive so stay tuned folks!

For now here’s a small taster of around Playa Del Carmen and some of the diving. The video looks much better if you set it to HD!

Tequila, Panettone and a Slice of Serenity – Feliz Navidad!

I’ve been privileged to have experienced Christmas in many different countries around the globe and can honestly say I have no preference between a summer Christmas with a BBQ around a swimming pool or a winter Christmas with snow and an open fire. They both paint a wonderful picture on the surface with the reality having both pros and cons. In short, bah humbug!

Not knowing many people, having a student budget and lacking motivation, this year in Playa Del Carmen Christmas was looking like a none event for us. That was until one of our fellow diving students, Ricky, invited us to his place on the 24th for an Italian Christmas dinner. Actually, several people ended up inviting us to dinner. The people around us are just incredibly welcoming and giving!

Antonio Banderas in Playa Del Carmen
Me and Antonio Banderas.. I mean Ricky C

Ricky lives with Marco, a very cool diving instructor and Max, the most helpful and welcoming man in Playa who knows everyone! They’re basically a house full of awesome Italians. Arriving unfashionably early at 9pm, we were welcomed in by Max’s parents, ushered out to the bar by the pool and handed a beer.

As the night progressed we were treated to large quantities of lasagna, aubergine parmigiana (I think that’s what it’s called) and other amazing home made Italian dishes (thanks to Marco’s Mum!). The panettone, pandoro and coffee rounded off a night consisting of several toasts of tequila washed down with margaritas and interspersed with beers.

Moral of the story. If you’re ever invited to Christmas by an Italian, say yes please immediately!

We were fairly well behaved on the tequila and margarita side of things as we had this great idea that we might get to go diving with Bull Sharks on Christmas day. Turns out most of Playa had the same idea and the dive boats were too full for us to join the party. Who knew Christmas day was when everyone in Playa wanted to go diving?!?!

Plan B! We took to the streets to explore more of Playa… Turns out, those that weren’t diving were also exploring Playa!

Quinta Avenida, Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
The Masses…

Wondering down 5th avenue brought as back to a cool little shop we’d seen weeks previous called The Little Teapot. Perfect place to escape the crowds and watch the world go by. Just for fun and because we can here’s a short clip of the adventure. (Phils videography debut!)

With our sanity restored we headed to Mamita’s Beach to walk off the amazing peanut butter cookies. A little stroll north and we discovered a small slice of serenity. A pleasant break from the masses of people everywhere.

Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
How’s the serenity? Espléndido!

With our legs giving in from a hard days exploring we decided to head home for cervezas and chorizo. As usual, despite my best attempt at imitating Ebenezer Scrooge and although some fairly important people in my life were missing, I thoroughly enjoyed my first Christmas in Mexico.

Buon Natale, Feliz Navidad and Merry Christmas all 🙂

What made you do it?

Last week my boss sent out the email letting everyone know that after 8 long years I had finally decided to hang up my suit and start my big adventure. This sparked a barrage of congrats and questions, the 2 most common of them being “Where are you going?” and “What made you decide to take the leap?”

The Decision

The where is easy, Playa Del Carmen in Mexico but I digress… The how or why I made the decision is a tad harder. Everything I’ve read on taking a sabbatical has shown me that everyone has their own reasons. My original life plan was to save for a deposit on an investment property while working my way up the old corporate ladder until two things happened to make me question that plan:

  1. London property prices rose quicker than I could save
  2. My boss resigned and a colleague asked me if I was going to apply for his job

On one hand the idea of bigger challenges was appealing yet the concept of walking the tightrope of office politics associated with that level was anything but. The realisation that I was unlikely to ever be happy in the direction I was heading was both terrible and wonderful at the same time. Several months later and it’s only wonderful.

Around the same time all this was going on, a good buddy of mine that I’ve spent many years travelling with decided he’d had enough of London and was going to Playa Del Carmen in Mexico to get his SCUBA Diving Instructor qualification.

"You know you could come with me..."
“You know you could come with me…”

Over several pints we discussed what this decision might mean for him and what life might be like during and after the trip… Goddamn it sounded good! Just as I was contemplating just how good it sounded he, casual as you like, suggested that there was no reason why I couldn’t go with him…

I scoffed, laughed and moved the conversation along but the seed was sown.

Having grown up in Oz I’ve spent a lot of time living close to the beach and miss it hugely. Oz is where my love of diving grew from and my fascination with marine life. I’ve also long had a passion for photography so an opportunity to be exposed to all of these things on a daily basis was simply too compelling to ignore, almost…

Ocean Reef Beach W.A.
Ocean Reef Beach W.A. Home! I spent almost every morning and afternoon here for several years.

Excuses Are Not Reasons

I spent months finding reasons why I had to stay. At the time, in my head, they seemed so important however in hindsight they were simply excuses. Luckily I have some fantastic people in my life, not least of which is my girlfriend, who helped me talk through them all.

  1. I can’t go, I have a mortgage – rent the apartment out if necessary
  2. I’ve spent over 10 years building a career – you’re not happy, it’ll be here when you’re back
  3. My girlfriend can’t leave – she’d hate it if I didn’t go because of her
  4. and so on

The core difference between a reason and an excuse comes down to priorities and sometimes we prioritise things to the point where there no longer appears to be a choice. Children, for example, rightly become your priority over hobbies and other passions. Fortunately I have no such responsibilities and thanks to several people and an open mind to get through the fear of drastic change, I was finally relieved of my excuses.

Your Choice

Several people have spoken to me about wanting to take a sabbatical. They worry about asking for time away from the office. I tell them, “What’s the worst that can happen? They say no!” That’s the answer I received. I’ll do a later post on how you can increase your chances of approval but think hard about what you will do and how you will feel if your request is refused.

Being without a proper income is a scary thought! Figure out how long you can afford little or no income. Keep in mind it’s possible to travel for less than your current living expenses.

Losing the job security I had been building for years felt like such a big risk until I took a step back, looked at the market and realised that job security is a complete illusion!

Having a mortgage to pay off without regular income. This one’s a tough one! Each person’s position here is different so my advice to you is get professional advice. I spoke to a Real Estate Agent, checked my Ts & Cs of my mortgage and spoke to my mortgage advisor, several times, before I got comfortable with the plan.

Taking The Leap

To those of you thinking about a sabbatical, be brave! Are your reasons really just excuses? Planning a sabbatical is much easier once excuses are eliminated so find someone you trust that will help you look at why you should rather than why you shouldn’t. As cliché as it sounds, a pros and cons list can also be really useful here.

When I can I’ll share the plans I have made, the tools that helped me prepare and the articles that I read along the way but until then…

Ciao for now!

p.s. A big thanks to Steffi and Phil for your support! 🙂

The Count Down Begins!

4 weeks and counting… the well paid and comfortable job comes to an end, I wave farewell to London and everyone I love that keeps me here and I move to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico for 5 months.  The beginning of a journey towards becoming a SCUBA Diving instructor, Spanish speaker and proficient underwater photographer.

I intend this blog to be the telling of that journey.  As well as keeping friends and family updated I hope it will help and inspire people that might be thinking of taking a sabbatical, career break or just thinking about making a change.

I’ll be learning how this blogging malarkey works along the way so must beg your patience.