The Flying Chef | Comfortably uncomfortable - The Flying Chef
Updated: Dec 29, 2018
Of the 45 months I spent living out of a backpack roaming the earth as my heart desired, people have often asked what my favourite destination was of the 24 countries I visited during this time.
For me, this is an impossible question to answer, however I would have to say that the Caribbean was definitely one of the highlights, overwhelming my senses with it's exotic tropical islands, white sandy beaches, warm crystal clear water, continuous reggae music, quality spiced rum (at a better price than we pay here for bottled water), an abundance of fresh seafood, the sensual Latin vibe and the whole "go slow" island time feel that one usually only gets to experience all to briefly during a short island holiday vacation away from their hectic work life schedule.
Armed with a 24 month working holiday visa and an immeasurable quantity of enthusiasm and lust for life, the adventures began when my flight touched down in Vancouver on December 4, 2008.
Whistler, or "The Bubble" as it's affectionately known to the locals, would be my home for the next 5 months. It's one of those places where you could easily and happily live forever, and in fact, that's what many people do. It's very common to meet an Aussie on a chairlift or in a bar who "just came here for the season", 18 years ago, 12 years ago, 9 years ago, 5 years ago...
The world is full of "dream" destinations like Whistler, which is exactly why I would never choose to settle down here for a prolonged period of time, as the fear of missing out on experiencing other locations just as ideal, to me is unfathomable.
The vast majority of staff that work on the mountains are young Aussies typically between 20 - 30 years of age, with Kiwis, Poms and Canadians (particularly the French speaking ones), who all call "The Bubble" home. After all, who else would be mad enough to subject themselves to such a low wage in sub-zero temperatures in a town that has no middle class?
Rest assured, with that diverse mix of fun loving cultures and age demographics, it's no surprise that the good times, recreational substances, mischief and shenanigans all come in abundance.
While the world was experiencing a financial melt down, I took advantage full advantage of the situation, siphoning as much Canadian money as possible into my Australian bank account via PayPal, making 27% on every dollar, which was how I was able to last the next 6 months without a pay cheque.
In April 2009, ignoring all travel warnings and advice from friends and family, I flew from Canada to Mexico, touching down in Cancun just before midnight on an almost empty flight. I had no accommodation booked, no local currency, I couldn't speak Spanish, influenza was dominating the media, and I was travelling solo.
Call it what you will, but to me, this is living!
The rough plan was to travel from Mexico to Brazil by hugging the Caribbean coastline, and after consulting The Lonely Planet map, this seemed highly possible. In essence, I had 6 months to travel 8 inches, how hard could that be?
When you're living out of a backpack, things rarely go the way they're supposed to. I wouldn't make it to Brazil this trip, infact I would't even make it to South America, but I regret nothing as I was about to discover my third passion in life.
August 2009 in the Bay Islands of Honduras, I faced a childhood phobia of having my head under water by learning how to scuba dive. This is just the way I deal with things, if you're afraid of heights, jump out of a plane. Scared of needles? Become a regular blood donor. Fear of spiders? Expose yourself to them. Scared of talking in front of crowds, become a public speaker.
Fear is like a doorway to a hidden room, and there's no telling what exciting new opportunities may lie on the other side of that door, not until you first confront and overcome that fear, whatever it may be.
My childhood fear came from being held under water by bigger kids in the public swimming pool at a very young age, and also being pummeled many times in heavy surf, unable to surface for a breath until I almost blacked out and drowned.
Magic happens outside of your comfort zone, and for me, scuba diving was way outside of mine, but once you become mutually buoyant and accustomed to the concept of breathing under water, when you just relax and soak up the new environment, you realize you're now in a completely different world. A world of weightlessness, and I loved every minute of it! I was hooked!
Scuba diving quickly became my third passion, and 6 months after that very eventful first night in Mexico (which was also the first time I had gone 52 hours without sleep), I left the Caribbean a certified dive master, no longer scared of the water, or anything in it.
Central America holds so many amazing memories for me, like cooking over flowing lava on top of an active volcano, smoking a Cohiba cigar and drinking guarapo in the tobacco fields of Cuba, the Mayan ruins of Tulum, Chichen Itza and Tikal, a two day kyaking trip around Lake Atitlan, the 6 long island ice tea challenge, swimming with whale sharks, being arrested by corrupt tourismo police, the tree house hostel, the Miss Lobster Pageant, Lobster Festival, the Caribbean rum, underwater poker, coco locos, cartel plane wrecks, salsa dancing in Havana and Trinidad, coffee plantations, the Cenotes of Mexico, Cayos Cochinos, Flor de Cana, the turquoise pools and caves of Semuc Champay, the Blue Hole, Sun Jam, Reggae Fest, the bar in a tree, my first close encounter with hammerhead shark, and my 100th dive, naked, just to name a few.
By this time I had next to no money left and it would take a boat ride, two buses, 5 flights, a train, 2 taxis, and more than 3 whole days and nights camping out on airport floors and eating only what they served on the planes before I would find myself back in "The Bubble". Just in time for the snowiest November on record with over 5 meters of fresh dry powder falling in just 30 days.
This was awesome news, because my son was coming to visit and the Winter Olympics were only a few weeks away. So was my encounter with Robin Williams, Paris Hilton and that unforgettable trip to Vegas...
Read the next blog: The art of Dockwalking
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