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Friday, April 14, 2017

Last two weeks in Costa Rica and on the the next adventure... MEXICO!!!

I left off my last post at the end of March when I headed home to CT for five days.  If you're wondering why I went home for just five days then I promise that you're not alone.  I've had to answer that question more than once in the last few weeks.  Well I assure you it was for a very valid and legitimate reason... I had tickets to a Bruins game that I couldn't miss 😐.  Let me explain... I'm a member of a 12-person fantasy hockey league that consists of mostly college friends but by now we're starting to spread out across the country.  At the start of the season we somehow got all 12 members to agree to go to a game together on March 30th.  I agreed to this well before I knew I'd be heading to Central America for a few months, so in order to not be "that guy" I sucked it up and made the trek back home.  To be honest, it was an awesome time and worth every penny, especially because a few days later I was crowned fantasy hockey champion of the year 😎 (despite knowing literally nothing about hockey and only being able to name about half of my team off the top of my head).

But enough about that and back to the travel stuff.  When I returned to Coco we had one more week of "vacation mode" planned.  Our awesome friends from home, Melissa and Casey, came down to Costa Rica to do some travel and to hang out with Katie and I.  Their first stop was Rio Celeste where they got engaged!! Congrats you two!  Katie and I then met them at the Arenal volcano where we hung out for a few days.

Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica: 4/2-4/4

I can't even put to words how beautiful this rain forest is.  I took plenty of pictures, but none of them came even close to doing it justice.  For Katie and I, this was our "splurge" trip where we stayed in an actual hotel rather than in a hostel.  We stayed in the Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa and had a room overlooking the volcano.  The first day we arrived it was pretty cloudy so we could only see the base of the mountain, but the next day we woke up and it was so clear that we could see water vapor coming out of the vent at the top.  We already had a guided nature hike scheduled for that morning but we immediately booked our zip-lining excursions for that afternoon to take advantage of the clear day.  I thought I had experienced zip-lining before but this experience blew all of the others completely out of the water.  We were 650+ feet off the ground, on seven different lines, the longest of which was just under a half-mile.  The views were breathtaking.  The next day we hiked on the lava flows from a 1968 eruption, and followed that up with a trip to a hot spring before heading back to Coco with Melissa and Casey.
View from our hotel room in the morning.

Playas del Coco, Costa Rica: 4/4-4/7


Weirdly enough, with as much time as Katie and I spent in Playas del Coco, we never really got to experience it as tourists until our friends were here to experience it with us.  It turns out that two full days is more than enough time to see this area.  On day-1 we had planned on going on a fishing charter but due to a complicated set of logistical problems, we were never picked up and our trip was canceled.  Instead we decided to have a beach day, so we headed to Playa Ocotal where the black sand is hot as lava and the snorkeling is amazing (this also happens to be the same beach where our dive shop was located).  While we were there we found a local fisherman who agreed to take us for a half day of fishing on the following day.  We spent the afternoon walking the "downtown strip" of Playas del Coco which is no more than 3-blocks long.

The following day we went on our fishing charter where we only caught two keepers but it was more than enough for us to make fish tacos for six people, have leftovers for two days, and still give one whole fish to a friend so it wouldn't spoil before we could eat it.  So while we didn't spend a whole lot of time catching fish, it was still a nice day on the water and it provided a ton of meals.  The next day, Melissa and Casey went home and Katie and I finally had some time to relax and get our lives fully planned for the next few months.

Mexico!

Given that our internship didn't exactly work out as planned, we were determined to find a way to get our divemaster certifications and not run into the same problems that we ran into here.  After hours of searching through potential locations and communicating with different shops, we finally landed on a shop that we expect to meet our needs in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.  I'm sure this location will be significantly more familiar to most of you than Playas del Coco was, as it is a pretty popular destination for American tourists.  As difficult as our experience was in Playas del Coco, we learned so much about what our priorities are, what questions to ask, and what needs to be negotiated in advance before arriving on site.  Katie plans on writing a more detailed post on her blog about what to look for when choosing a divemaster certification program, so I won't go into too much detail about it here.  A will say that we are very excited about the fact that our upcoming internship is missing all of the red flags that Katie and I should have been aware of prior to coming to Coco.

  • They will value our time - They plan to reduce the cost of our divemaster training by $8 for every hour we work in the shop.
  • They will not overwork us - They made it clear that our days will more often than not be split between working and training.
  • They understand that we have other things going on - They had no problem with our request to have up to 3 days off per week, one of which will be together, so we can continue to work on other projects.  I plan on using this time to practice and play online poker and Katie will be immersing herself in blogging and web design.
  •  They will value our business - They made it very clear that we will be getting discounts on any additional training we need because we will be working for the shop.
I wish I could say that any one of these bullets were true for our first internship attempt, but unfortunately none of things happened at our shop in Coco.  In hindsight it all seems like common sense questions that we should have asked, but this is how you learn.  We hope that our experience can eventually help other aspiring divemasters, because in our endless searching I couldn't find any resources to help guide us through the process of choosing a divemaster program.

Another great benefit to this location is the network of poker players from the U.S. who are already living there and have been helping Katie and I every step of the way.  Through online forums I've already met a few players who are giving us advice for places to live, advised me on what I'll need to do to start playing online poker, vouched for our dive shop (two of the people I've talked to dove with them before), and are looking forward to meeting us and hanging out when we arrive.

So here we are again, full of hope and looking forward to our next adventure.  I'm sure we will run into an entirely new set of challenges, but hopefully our experience here will at least help prevent us from making the same mistakes twice.  Even if we're just a little bit more prepared this time than we were last time, then this entire trip will have been worth it.

Katie and I headed home to CT Wednesday, April-12, and we will be flying to Cancun (1-hour drive from Playa del Carmen) on April-22.  We are very much looking forward to the rest of our trip home for a chance to fully recharge, get back on a healthy eating routine, and get settled before shaking it all up again for another two months.

Monday, April 10, 2017

14 Nights, 6 Stops, 5 Beaches, 2 Countries, & 1 Hospital Visit

Don't freak out too much about the title of this post.  Katie and I are both A-Okay and are both super excited to be coming home in a few days!!

Wow the more I think back over the last month the more I realize how much I have to fill you all in on.  It has been an extremely busy month and since March-11 when we first headed to Nicaragua. We haven't really had the chance to relax once until this past Saturday.  So this post will essentially be a high level overview of our two week backpacking adventure through Central America.

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua: 3/11-3/15

When I come home from this trip, my fondest memories will undoubtedly come from these four days (although Arenal will be a close second).  I had no idea what to expect when Katie suggested that we check out Nicaragua.  What we found was an adorable little beach town that had some tourism but wasn't by any means overrun with tourists.  The locals were friendly, the buildings were all beautifully painted with vibrant colors, and everything was DIRT CHEAP!!  I had heard that Nicaragua was cheap but I was not prepared for what we found.  Beers at the bar were around $1 each, a large dinner was in the $5 range (but we typically paid $3-$4 for dinner), tank tops in the tourist area were $4.50; it was outrageous.  Most of our time here was either spent at one of the many local beaches, walking around town, or at the hostel which was easily the friendliest and most welcoming hostels I've ever stayed in.  We planned on only spending three nights here but we were having such a good time that we extended our stay by a day before moving on.
Officially a hippie as I attempt the slackline for the first time
Before I move on to Granada, I can't forget to talk about Sunday Funday (I'm actually writing about it like this because I inexplicably forgot to mention Sunday Funday in my original post).  Sunday Funday is a weekly tradition in San Juan del Sur.  It is a pool bar crawl that essentially draws hundreds of tourists from pool bar to pool bar over the course of about 10-hours.  It is exactly the debauchery you would expect, so I won't go into too much detail about what it entails.  I will, however, share my story of the lost sunglasses.  As we were getting ready to head out of the second bar, I realized that my new sunglasses had disappeared.  I checked all of the places that I cold have left them but eventually accepted that they were gone forever.  As we were leaving, I noticed a security guard with a pair of sunglasses on his head that looked eerily similar to mine.  I didn't think too much of it since there were literally hundreds of people in the crowd, but I did mention it to Katie.  She took a different approach from me and immediately approached the guy and checked to see of they were the same brand as mine; they were.  She confronted him (in Spanish) and sure enough he admitted that he had found them earlier that day.  He returned them to me and we bought him a drink to thank him for his honesty.  I still can't believe we managed to find them on somebody's head in that crowd.  Literally everyone who noticed us looking told us to give up because there was no chance of finding them.

Granada, Nicaragua: 3/15-3/17

This was actually our first of two stops in Granada as we left for one night in the middle to go "camping".  We felt it was important to return, however, because most of our time spent here on these dates went toward dealing with Katie's hospital visit.  I'm going to let her go into much more detail in her blog but I'll tell the high level overview of what happened from my perspective here.

About 1-week prior to this point in our trip, Katie and I were introduced to raw cashew plants which are apparently fruits that grow on trees with a single cashew nut inside.  Apparently these fruits are loaded with the same oils that are on poison ivy.  Katie found this out the hard way.  After dealing with a week's worth of itchy rashes spreading to new areas on her body, the allergic reaction moved to her face.  I'll let her show the pictures when she writes about it in her blog but let's just say I had my work cut out for me in telling her "don't worry, it's hardly noticeable, nobody will know the difference" while secretly thinking to myself "who are you, what have you done with Katie, please don't let this be anything serious, and please don't hurt me if you're not actually Katie."

Once it got to that point we got her to a private hospital early the next morning and we got her taken care of.  They gave her a couple of injections that almost immediately reduced the swelling, monitored her for a few hours, and gave her a prescription for medication that would keep the reaction at bay for a few more days.  I will admit that I was fully panicking internally while all of this was happening, between the language barrier and the fear of being in a foreign hospital, but in the end they did an excellent job.  Oh and did I mention that everything in Nicaragua was cheap?  Everything combined (hospital visit, treatment, and medications) for less than $50, and apparently it could have been 100% free if we were willing to go to the public hospital and wait a little bit longer (we weren't).

Laguna de Apoyo Natural Reserve, Nicaragua: 3/17-3/18

A slight deviation from my usual St. Patrick's day festivities, this year we wore our green at a crater lake in Nicaragua that was formed about 23,000 years ago when a volcano blew the top off of the mountain.  This stop felt more like a summer camp retreat than anything else, and it was by far the most relaxing part of our two week journey.  We stayed in a hostel called The Peace Project which is essentially a non-profit organization aimed at providing a better education for children in the area.  The coolest part of this stop for me was getting the chance to scuba dive in a crater lake which was a pretty unique experience.  It felt like I was stepping back in time to a prehistoric age.  The bottom had a fur-like texture that released sulfur bubbles when it was disturbed.  There were also species of fish that only exist in that lake, some of which were solid black in color.  The lake was also eerily warm due to the fact that it is still fed by hot springs.  The temperature never changed even though we dove to ~95ft.

Back to Granada for Actual Sightseeing this Time Around: 3/18-3/20

This stop in Granada was significantly more enjoyable than the first and we actually got to appreciate our surroundings this time around.  Granada is apparently one of the oldest (if not the oldest?) city in Central America, as it was founded in the early 1500's.  The original architecture still remains and has an incredibly beautiful combination of old styles with fresh colorful paint.  We stayed at a small bed and breakfast (our one location where we didn't stay in a hostel) and spent a bunch of time walking around the town.  We did our duties as tourists and made sure to see the Masaya volcano with its flowing lava before we left.  We also spent a few hours enjoying some beers on a boat on Lake Nicaragua which is the 19th largest lake in the world.  My only real complaint about Granada was the constant tourist heckling.  We were relentlessly pressured to buy things to the point where it was over the top annoying and made me not want to buy anything.  Other than that it was a really enjoyable stop.
View in the center of our bed & breakfast. Image from Katie

San Jose, Costa Rica: 3/20-3/22


After what was quite literally THE MOST UNCOMFORTABLE BUS RIDE IN HISTORY, Katie and I arrived in Costa Rica's capital for a 2-night stay.  Note to self: San Jose does not have the same climate as Playas del Coco.  We had very quickly gotten accustomed to the dry 80s and 90s that we experienced daily in Coco, but San Jose was mid-60s and rainy.  We had not packed for this and we were cooooold.  Yea, I know, we're wimps now, you'd all be killing for that weather back home, whatever.  We spent a lot of time walking around the city, Katie got to reminisce about her college days when she was here for 2-months, and we got to hang out with one of the friends she made while she was here in 2011.  We explored the University of Costa Rica and the upper-class neighborhood of Escalante.  There was a strong craft beer presence there which is apparently new to Costa Rica, so that was a nice reminder of home.  The other not-so-nice reminder of home was the fact that prices for everything were back to US-like prices, so no more living dirt cheap like we had been for the previous week.  It was also really nice to be away from the touristy areas for a few days.

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica: 3/22-3/25

Where rain forest meets beachfront, Manuel Antonio was one of the two most beautiful environments we encountered while we were in Central America.  In our first full day here we spent about 4 hours lounging on the secluded Playa Biesanz (beach) followed by a 3-4 mile hike to a hillside restaurant that has a spectacular view of the sunset.  This hike was along the Reto Mae "trail" which I put in quotes because it is barely a trail most of the time.  I spent half the time asking Katie if we were actually on a trail and not just waking through the woods and she assured me we were.  Either way the views over the ocean were spectacular, and the wildlife we saw was something else.  We saw a bunch of monkeys as well as a ton of weird looking orange and black crabs that apparently live in the woods nowhere near the water.  We made it to the restaurant (after accidentally trespassing through some backyards to get back to the street) and when we arrived there was nobody there.  Apparently this place does all of their business at sunset, and we beat three packed tourist buses by about 15-minutes.

The next day we spent in the Manuel Antonio National Park which involved more hiking (albeit on wider trails), beach time, and wildlife sightings.  This was the first and only place we saw sloths!!!  Granted they were super far away so none of the pictures of them came out.  I swear I saw them though.
There is actually a sloth in this picture.  Good luck finding it.  I know where it is and I still struggle to see it.

Back in Coco for a few days: 3/25-3/28


Once we got back we were looking forward to a few days to relax but that didn't quite get to happen as we went into host mode for a little while.  While we were at the hostel in San Juan del Sur, we became friends with one of the volunteers who is from England but is living in Nicaragua for a few months.  He needed to to a visa run to Costa Rica (i.e. his 90-day tourist visa was expiring and he needed to leave the country for a few days to get a new one) so we offered to host him.  It still ended up being  pretty relaxing time actually; honestly we spent most of our time lounging by the pool in our complex.  We did spend one night introducing him to downtown Coco and oddly enough we ran into another person who we had met in San Juan del Sur.

After that I headed home to CT for a few days, but this post is starting to get long so I'll save the rest of my catching up for the next one.

P.S. I mentioned above that Katie launched HER OWN BLOG and I highly encourage you all to check it out.  She has put a TON of work into it (i.e. substantially more work than I have put into mine) and she actually has plans of turning this into a future income source.  If you want more details about what we actually did on all of these trips, she'll have several posts detailing out each stop. So please support her and check it out!!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Our Internship... Start to Finish

Katie and I landed in Liberia, Costa Rica on the evening of Thursday, Februard 23rd.  We were picked up by our divemaster instructor, Scott, who turns out to be one of the nicest people on the planet.  He calls himself "the mean guy" and he's a terrible liar.  Katie and I were secretly hoping for a few days off to settle into the area, but we figured that if the shop had other plans we would go along with whatever they had in mind.  Well at around 5am on the morning of Friday, February 24th, Katie and I were up and getting ready for our first day of work...

We arrived at the shop and were greeted by the shop owner, Mike, and a few other staff members who quickly put us to work.  There was no diving planned for us that day, but we did still need to help prepare for the day of diving for the customers.  I'll get more into what that work entails a little later, but for now I'll just say that we were pretty sweaty by the time the boats went out for their dives.  Once the boats went out, Katie and I got started on our training with our Emergency First Responder course.  We spent most of the day doing that, followed by some more labor when the boats came in after finishing their dives.

At this point, the apartment that Katie and I had lined up wasn't quite ready yet, so we were staying with Scott who lives in a beautiful house on the side of a mountain overlooking the ocean (pictured below).  It was a really nice place to stay, but didn't give us a chance to unpack and settle into our own place.

The pretty sick view from Scott's house
Day 2 was similar to day 1.  We helped prep the boats, but this time Katie went out with one of the boats to assist with snorkelers, while I stayed back to assist with an open water scuba dive class that was doing pool work.  We helped unload the boats when they came back and then headed back to Scott's place for some more of our own scuba training in the evening.  Our apartment still wasn't ready, so we still weren't able to fully settle in.

On day 3 we finally got to move into our studio apartment at the end of our work day.  The complex we are living in turns out to be really nice, but unfortunately the cleanliness of the apartment when we moved in wasn't exactly what we were hoping for.  The floors needed to be swept and mopped, all of the dishes / silverware / and counters needed cleaning, and there were lots of bugs.  We also had no food and the closest grocery store was a 10-minute walk away.  Given our level of exhaustion after a day of work, there was no way we could tackle all of this in one day, so we tackled each of these issues over the course of the next week.

The next week or so followed a similar daily routine, so I'll outline it here.  Wake up at ~5:00am -> make some breakfast / sunscreen / get ready to go in -> ride with Scott or walk 1.5 miles to the shop -> load customer gear bags into truck to bring to boat -> load gear bags & full scuba tanks into boat -> set up gear and prepare weight belts for customers while we head to first dive site -> complete dive #1 in chilly (~70F) water with poor visibility (~10-30ft) -> head to second dive site while switching gear to unused tanks -> complete dive #2 in chilly water with poor visibility -> disassemble gear while returning to shop -> load empty tanks and gear bags into truck -> unload used tanks at compressor station -> unload & rinse / clean all used gear at the cleaning station and load back into truck -> load unused tanks into truck for next day's use -> unload & hang clean gear in gear locker to dry for next day's use.  This process typically took us until ~2-4:00pm at which point we would either hitch a ride or walk back to our apartment.

Given how tiring this daily routine was, it took us a lot longer than we expected to settle into the apartment.  After a week of doing the little we could every day, we finally got to a point where our stuff was unpacked, we had food, and the room was clean.  We also had extremely sore muscles and a lot of sunburns.  We finally asked for our first day off one week after we arrived, and were thankfully granted it.  This gave us a chance to finally put the finishing touches on settling in.

By this point in the internship, Katie and I were starting to second guess our decision to come here.  The workload was brutal and the diving conditions were not what we expected they would be.  On top of that we were starting to wonder why our training hadn't progressed much past the training we received on our first two days.  We fully expected this to be a working internship, but we thought that meant that our time would be split between helping out in the shop and working on our divemaster training.  Up until this point, we had received very little training and had been worked to the bone at the shop.

The day we returned after our day off I was approached by the owner and "encouraged" to not take any more days off for the remainder of my time here.  He pointed out that I was 80 dives away from the minimum I needed to be an instructor, so If I wanted to reach the instructor rating I would need to dive every chance I got.  So that night I went home and did a little math.  At ~2 dives a day, it would take me 5 weeks and 5 days to complete my 80 dives if I took no days off.  If I were to take one day off per week, it would take me 6 weeks and 4 days.  So taking no days off would save me a whopping 6 days in my quest to get 80 more dives.  This did not seem worth it to me, and I was a little concerned by the suggestion that wanting one day off per week was seen as a negative.

After a couple more days with this routine, Katie and I decided it was time to talk to our schedule coordinator about their expectations for our time there.  Our understanding before we arrived in Costa Rica was that we would work 8 hour days, 6 days a week, and that our 8 hours would include shop work as well as training.  We expected to do book work / homework outside of this time.  After our conversation with management, we found out that the actual expectations were that we work 8 hour days, 6 days a week, with additional training to be completed after shop hours for an additional ~2 hours a day.

So now we had a lot of factors working against us that were forcing us to reconsider our decision to come here.  While the labor was backbreaking, Katie and I were happy with how our bodies were adjusting.  Our sunburns were turning to tans, and we weren't as sore every night as we were the night before.  On the down side, however, the diving conditions were not fun and we were frequently looking forward to short dives, the work expectations changed when we arrived, and the apartment was a 15 minute walk to town which made it difficult to have a strong social scene, especially with how tired we were at the end of the day.  The one thing we had going for us was the crew we were working with.  We absolutely loved loved loved the crew.

If any one of these issues were present by itself, I'm sure Katie and I could have gritted our teeth and gotten through it.  Unfortunately, the combination of all of these negative factors brought us to the tough decision to drop out of the divemaster internship at this shop.  We both expected the internship to be a difficult but enjoyable experience, and that was not going to happen if we stayed here.  In speaking with the other members of the crew, they encouraged us to pull the trigger and to try again in a more fun location with better diving conditions.

So at this point we are back to square one.  We still plan to complete our divemaster certifications before the summer, but now we need to regroup and decide on a new shop in a new location.  For the time being, we are already in Costa Rica and we don't plan on wasting that opportunity.  We plan on taking a month to travel around the area and enjoy everything this region has to offer.  We still have an apartment in Coco so this will be our home base.  On Saturday March-11 we headed to Nicaragua to spend a week there.  After that we plan to return to our home base in Coco for a few days before we head south to explore more of Costa Rica.  We will probably leave the country around the end of the first week of April, where we will either head home for a little while or head to our next destination.  Either way, we are super excited for what the next few months have in store, and we know it's going to be a hell of a ride :-)

Even though we only got two weeks to know them, I'm seriously going to miss these guys when we leave

Everybody Do The Limbo

Well I guess it's about time for a blog post... or 6...  A lot has happened since my last post, and I do plan on writing about all of it here.  It won't all happen in one post, but I also don't plan on writing a multi-part post like I did back in December.  So keep an eye out for a few posts in the upcoming days / weeks where I'll essentially catch up on 2017.

The time leading up to our Costa Rica departure date, which ended up happening on February 23rd, was surprisingly more stressful than I expected it to be.  Where I was imagining a somewhat busy but mostly exciting and relaxing time as we prepared for our trip, I found myself unexpectedly stressed about what I should be doing with my time.  I wasn't feeling motivated to play poker, or to relax and watch tv, or to pick up any new hobbies, or to do really anything productive for that matter.

After this continued for a week or so, I started to worry and stress about the fact that I'd lost my motivation.  I've dealt with similar issues in the past, where anytime I was doing something productive I was wishing I spent more time relaxing, and any time I spent time relaxing I wished I'd spent more time being productive.  This sensation was different though.  When I finally had all the time in the world to do whatever I wanted, I felt little motivation to do anything.

After spending a bunch of time reflecting on this, I finally came to an acceptance of what was happening.  I was essentially in a period of limbo between one stage of life and another.  It was difficult for me to motivate myself to work on my poker game because I knew that in a few weeks I wouldn't be playing poker at all for a while.  I couldn't start any new productive ventures for the same reason.  Why start something new that I would have to abandon or at least put on hold in a few weeks anyway?



So I came to the acceptance that this is what the next few weeks would be like and thankfully this eased my stress a ton.  There was still the lingering thought of "hey, you're about to uproot your lifestyle AGAIN with a move to Costa Rica to become a divemaster" that brought me some stress, but that was mostly the good kind of stress that you get when you're excited about starting something new.

With the pressure of "doing something productive" off my shoulders, I found myself trying new things again that had piqued my interest before but had not yet had a chance to try.  I started playing Pot Limit Omaha online which is a variant of poker that I've been really wanting to learn.  Turns out it's a ton of fun and super addicting (in a good way, I promise) and I can't wait to work on that game in the future.  I also started reading a book, worked out a bunch, and spent a bunch of time preparing and over-preparing for the upcoming trip.

The two weeks leading up to our departure turned out to be more hectic than we expected due to the passing of Katie's grandfather.  Thankfully we were both in a position to be able to help out the family as much as we could, but it was a sad time for everyone.  Katie had such a rare and special relationship with her grandfather that made it really hard to say goodbye, but she also felt very lucky to have had the chance to develop such a close connection with him.

After a long weekend of celebrations, celebrating Dave Fitton's life, Katie and I completed our final preparations and packed WAY TOO MANY bags to head off to Costa Rica!  I have plenty more to write about for our time here, but I'll save that for future posts.  Looking forward to continuing the adventure!



Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Come Visit Us in Costa Rica!!!

Happy Wednesday!!  Notice how I didn't say happy hump day?  That was intentional.  Part of me always hated when I was wished a happy hump day because it implied that we were wishing away the Monday - Friday work week.  I interpreted it as a shared grumbling about the fact that we were all in this miserable place but at least we had each other to work through it together.  I felt the same way any time I heard someone say they were "living the dream", which I heard multiple times every week.  It always sounded sarcastic, and I always thought to myself that if we are not actually striving to for the dream, then why do we keep coming back here every day?  I hoped that for most people "living the dream" is what they are truthfully doing with their lives, but I knew that for me it wasn't. I just hope that the sarcasm from everyone else truly is a joke and not their reality.  I don't know if I was the only one who felt that way; it's very possible that I was just being negative or that my expectations were too high, but either way it was something that I really wanted to get away from.

I take one exception to what I wrote above.  GEICO's hump day camel is hilarious.  

But that's not what I want to write about today.  Today I want to tell you about the specifics of our plans for Costa Rica, and encourage you all to come down for a visit!  I also want to make sure you understand that we are serious about this invitation.  If you are reading this blog, then you are welcome to come down to visit us.  We may not necessarily be able to hang out 24/7 or have enough space to put you up, but the area we are going to be living in has a lot to offer for everyone and we would love to help ensure that you have an awesome vacation as best we can.

When I left off in the last blog we had ideas ready but no logistics firmly in place.  We have a ton of updates since then.  On February 13th, Katie and I are flying from Boston to Liberia Airport (LIR) which is near the North Pacific coast of Costa Rica.  From there it is a 30 minute drive to Playas del Coco, which is a very popular vacation spot for Costa Rican tourists.  It is also a popular spot for American expats to settle down.  Our apartment will be a 5-minute walk from Playas del Coco, and a 15-minute walk from the black sand beaches of Playa Ocotal, which happens to be the location of our upcoming Divemaster internship.

I can't even begin to describe how excited I am for this internship at Rocket Frog Divers to begin.  For a little bit of background, the Divemaster certification is the entry level professional scuba diving certification.  It qualifies you to lead certified divers on guided dives, but it does not qualify you to teach diving courses.  Meeting all of the minimum requirements to become a certified Divemaster can probably be accomplished in 2-3 weeks, but doing the minimum would likely leave you with little experience and practically no ability to find a job at another dive shop.

The internship we are about to begin will give us much more than the bare minimum required to become certified Divemasters.  We are going to partake in a 6-8 week program that will involve six 8-hour work days per week, where we will dive in the mornings and work in the shop in the afternoons.  Over the course of our time there we will accumulate ~140-160 dives (minimum requirement is 60), and learn all aspects of what it takes to run a dive shop.  In their words, "if we know how to do it, we will teach you how to do it."  After the program is complete we will have all of the experience that any dive shop around the world would be looking for when hiring a Divemaster.  On top of that, we were encouraged to hear that there is a big need for traveling Divemasters around the world to fill in during shops' busy seasons, making our dream from my last post all the more attainable.

Beyond the dive specific experience and ability to find work as a Divemaster, this internship has the potential to provide so much more for me.  First, it allows me to enjoy my favorite hobby on a daily basis and potentially make some income from that hobby in the future.  Second, and most importantly, it provides me the opportunity to see how a small business is run from the ground level.  I completed my MBA last year with the hopes of learning how to run a business, and in theory I have all of the tools in my arsenal to do that.  But as any business owner will tell you, the theory and tools are useless if you can't apply them, and that experience is what I'm sorely missing.  I'm hopeful and confident that the skills we learn in this internship will be transferable to virtually any small business, and that even if I don't use diving as a primary source of income in the future, I'll be able to find other ways to apply this experience to all of my future endeavors.  Worst case scenario, I took a few months of my life to go diving every day, and I can't see myself ever regretting that.

So if you've made it through this entire post, I'd like to reiterate my invitation from earlier.  We will be staying in a studio apartment so our space may be limited, but depending on the circumstances we may be able to put you up.  Flights are dirt cheap; I found round trip tickets from LaGuardia (LGA) to Liberia Airport (LIR) for under $300.  We will be there from mid-February until at least mid-May, possibly longer.  If you want to scuba dive we can make that happen; if you want to become a certified diver we can make that happen too.  If you just want to enjoy some beautiful beaches that's not a problem, or if you want to enjoy the endless options for hiking, zip-lining, cloud forest tours, and other ecotourism activities that Costa Rica has to offer, that works too.  We may be working while you are in town but our hours will typically be from 7-3 so our afternoons and evenings should be free.  Either way, we encourage anyone who comes down to bring a friend.  Katie and I both really hope to see some of you guys down there :-)

Friday, December 30, 2016

It's Time for a Pivot.... Part 3

If you haven't already read them, please go back and read Part 1 and Part 2 of this post which you can find here and here respectively.  When we left off, I was taking a critical look at the decisions I've made over the past few months, and staring to look ahead to our upcoming plans.  With that, here's part 3:

I have barely played any poker over the past month because I have been planning and preparing to go with Katie so we can pursue our Divemaster certifications together.  We plan to leave in mid to late February or early March, and hope to spend 3-6 months out of the country.  We would like to start in Costa Rica, where it will be possible for me to get set up playing poker online and possibly build a network with the relatively large community of poker expats that live in the Playas del Coco area.  We have already been in touch with a dive shop regarding Divemaster internships, and we hope to nail down those details in the near future.  Our next step after achieving Divemaster in Costa Rica is completely up in the air, but we are excited to plan that step together while we are there.

I can't even begin to describe how excited I am for this next journey, because it brings me back to the reason I left my job in the first place, allows me to pursue something that I already know I love to do, and allows me to share my experience with someone amazing.  Not to mention it gets me into tropical weather in the winter and let's face it... fuck New England winters.  It also sets us up well for our "long term vision" which may be a complete pipe dream right now but who cares, pipe dreams are the reason we are taking this risk in the first place.

Our "long term vision" is really just a vision for the next 3-5 years.  We both love diving, we both love travel, we both love warm weather, we both love each other, I still want to make a living for myself as a professional poker player, and Katie wants to use her skills to make a difference and help people (she is clearly the more right-minded person between the two of us).  We envision ourselves finishing our stint in Central America with the certifications and experience we need to be hired by dive shops where needed.  We're picturing us finding a place in the Miami area where we are within striking distance of some of the best diving in the country, as well as some of the best poker games in the country, all while living in a vibrant culture that we both love.  We plan to spend about half of our time there, while the rest of our time is spent traveling to dive destinations around the world that have either live or online poker scenes that I can play in.  Katie will focus mainly on earning income through her dive certifications, and I'll supplement my poker income when needed by picking up diving work during busy seasons.

I know this all sounds crazy, and that's because it is, and that's what makes it awesome.  Those same things can be said about pretty much every entrepreneur's dream before they started the next big thing, and that's exactly how we're treating this.  What we end up doing probably won't look anything like what I wrote down in this blog post, and that doesn't matter.  What matters is that we're embarking on this journey together, and that we are risking everything along the way.  I really look forward to keeping you all posted as we get going, and I can't thank you all enough for the support you've shown so far.

And to kick off this whole ordeal, I finally got around to putting together a video of the trip we took to Roatan in September that got the ball rolling:

video


P.S. Silly me for thinking I could use this part of my lap for my laptop....

Thursday, December 29, 2016

It's Time for a Pivot.... Part 2

If you haven't already read it, please go back and read Part 1 of this post which you can find here.  When we left off, I was battling with Katie's decision to to leave her job to pursue her Divemaster certification.  With that, here's part 2:

We started to plan our lives in different directions, and for a while it was really looking like we were going to be going down completely separate paths.  Katie was going off to Central America and I was headed to Vegas to "realize my dream" of becoming a poker pro.  Then everything came crashing down and I finally had my wake-up call.  I remembered that I started this whole journey with the purpose of not being tied down to one option, and I realized that tying myself down to poker was likely going to cost me the person I love most in the world.

While everything was going south, I listened to a podcast where Bill Perkins was being interviewed by Joe Ingram.  Those names probably mean nothing to most of you, but Bill Perkins is someone I've respected the opinion of ever since the first time I heard him talk.  He was asked how he is able to get the most out of life, which is an interesting question to ask of a millionaire who spends like a billionaire.  He told Joe that the formula is simple.

- Step 1: Figure out what is the biggest amount of risk you can possibly handle, and then add a little more.
- Step 2: Whatever risk you take, treat it like your life depends on it, because it does.

At first glance that statement sounds reckless.  When I interpret it, the first thing I think is that that can't be a recipe for success, and that's because it isn't.  In fact, in most cases it is certainly a recipe for failure.  When I think about it a little more, I realize that it doesn't matter if it's a recipe for failure, because the question wasn't about how to achieve success, it was about how to make the most out of life.  Regardless of whether you succeed or fail, this answer guarantees that you will make the most out of every experience, good or bad.  This advice also doesn't just apply to our professional careers either, it applies to every single aspect of our lives including our relationships.

So where wasn't I taking enough risk?  Let's start with my move to poker.  This is going to sound stupid to most of you, but in a weird way I prepared myself too well.  I saved up more than enough to live for over a year on no income, and I built my resume so much that I wouldn't have to worry about finding other work in the meantime.  Even if it came to driving an Uber for cash I was never even remotely worried about failure, and that lead me to never treat poker like my life depended on it.  How about my relationship?  I was so stubborn in convincing myself that I quit my job to become a professional poker player that I was afraid to take the risks I needed to take to commit to us building a future together.

This past month was spent taking a deep, honest, and critical look at the decisions I've made over the past few months, and where I saw myself going over the next year or so.  It was excruciating, and still is at times, but it has helped bring me clarity and an insane amount of excitement for where things are headed next.  So what's the plan?

I hope I haven't lost everyone's interest by now, so if you're still hanging in there, Part 3 of this post will be up tomorrow evening.  Thanks for reading so far!!

P.S. But seriously, isn't she adorable???