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5 Year Plan

5 years ago today, I boarded a plane to the USA to start a one year adventure in the Americas.

I planned on travelling for a year, and then return to my job as a Corporate Social Responsibility Analyst for The Walt Disney Company, in London.

I even hoped to be able to move back into the home I loved so much, but I resisted the temptation to sublet my room and leave all my things in storage.

Instead, I chose to pack my things, give most of what I had collected over the past 11 years away, and take what I could fit in my backpack. For total disclosure, I left a big suitcase full of things I was too attached to, at my parents in France.

I thought I would take my 12 month sabbatical, travel, come back, be promoted, save to buy a house, meet someone, get married and have a child within 5 years.

How did my plan go…?

Well, if I looked at my plan as a measure for success, and I looked at my life now, I could say I totally failed.

6 months into my sabbatical, I decided not to go back to my job. Despite the very alluring promotion opportunities that were promised to me. The paid holidays, medical insurance and retirement plan weren’t enough to pull me back into the corporate world.

Something in me had changed, and I knew I simply couldn’t go back and pretend it hadn’t happened.

The truth is, I enjoyed my job. I liked thinking that hopefully what I did meant that people who worked in factories all over the world saw their working conditions improve.

My colleagues were great and my office was pretty fun, with an in-house cinema that showed the latest Disney, Marvel and Star-Wars films.

But… there was a but.

My heart was telling me that my place was in Central America. After 17 years away from my birth-land, I felt a deep longing to be near, at least for the time being.

I had no idea of how long that ‘time being’ would last.

I had taught yoga in London for a year and it helped to save for my travels, but I had never made a living from teaching yoga. I had a Marketing degree and Masters in Global Media and Transnational Communications but had no longing to work in those fields anymore.

At this point I was in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, and I knew that I didn’t want to go back to my life in London but I had no idea of where I wanted to live.

I had 6 months ahead of me before the end of my sabbatical and my intention was to find a home and a way to make a living.

In the following days I made my way to Panama, a country I had overlooked, thinking of it more of as a stepping stone to get to Colombia, but not as a place I’d want to spend much time in.

I arrived in the archipelago of Bocas del Toro and was surprised by how much I liked it. I had heard it was a party town and I wasn’t so keen on those kind of tourist spots having grown up in Cancun myself.

I had planned to be in Bocas for 3 days before making my way to Panama City, where I would start my journey to Colombia by shuttle to the coast and then by sailboat.

Long story short, I met a man, we fell in love, I decided to go back to Panama after my trip to Colombia, which made no sense to me, as my parents would meet me in Colombia 1 month later… but I did it anyway and after the trip with my parents I went back to Panama Again.

Summarising for the sake of keeping this shorter than a book, I lived in Panama for 2 and half wonderful years and I have now been living in Guatemala for almost 2 equally wonderful years (with long summer trips in Europe to visit my family).

Leaving Panama for Guatemala was another emotional rollercoaster. I was truly happy living in Bocas, I loved my community and my classes were full, but, when I arrived in Guatemala to renew my visa, my heart told me to stay, again.

It didn’t make much sense to leave a place I loved with all the people I loved for a new place where I didn’t know anyone, but I could almost hear my heart whisper “trust me on this one”.

So I did, and I am so happy I did. Bocas will always be one of my homes and I will always love my Bocas family, but during my time in Guatemala I understood why I had to make this apparently irrational move.

The place I chose to call my new home, Lake Atitlan is renowned as one of the world’s most beautiful lakes and is considered a sacred place amongst the Maya people.