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I am back on the mainland and blogging from Seattle with South Austin in the rearview mirror. Don't worry Virgin Island fans, I will most certainly be back in the Caribbean for visits if not full-time. And I'm sure St. Thomas will creep it's way into many future posts. For now, it's all about living in the Pacific Northwest!

June 28, 2010

After my first escape to the Virgin Islands, I wrote a story about it. Since I have found myself coming full circle on this journey, I thought I would share it with you here.

I had only been in Austin for two years. I was overjoyed when my company recruited me and I was on my way south from the dreaded DFW Metroplex to the Nirvana that is Austin. When I finally moved there, I knew I had found my home. I loved everything. I loved my company and my '04 address! I was able to ride a Razor scooter from meeting to meeting and hang a sky chair next to my desk, but I had never worked harder or been happier doing it. Then everything changed. Suddenly, everyone I knew was jobless. Then, two weeks before my 30th birthday, I received a "one of a kind form letter" telling me that there was no longer a need for me to show up to work. Several of my co-workers received the same letter. Yes, it was "unfortunate but necessary" I'm sure. There was no one to blame, yet I was angry and hurt. In a daze, I began hunting for a new job. I thought I was doing everything right. I spent hour after hour networking and scouring the net... and got nothing. I sent resumes to companies I'd never heard of for jobs I didn't want. I used a Web translator to apply for jobs in languages that I didn't speak. My method wasn't working. I needed a new plan. I asked myself, how can someone so highly employable be so unemployed? I needed a hiatus from high tech.

I wanted to stay in Austin, so I looked into other ways to make money. I was willing to do anything. Turns out, you can only donate plasma every few weeks. Drug testing was a good option and they even included room and board but there was that whole might get sick and die thing or at least have some nasty side effects. After selling off most of my personal belongings at weekly yard sales, I had to make a decision. There were no jobs here and if I was leaving Austin... I was going somewhere GOOD!

Everyone has a friend who has a cousin who has a brother who left it all behind and moved to the islands. Was this a real option? I decided to check it out. I asked myself "what do I like to do?" I like to dive so I sent an email to every dive shop I could find. Though I've never worked on a boat, I thought I might like to so I sent emails to the marinas. In the subject line I wrote: "Texas girl seeks island employment" and attached my resume, which was completely irrelevant. To my surprise, I received several responses. So many responses, that I found myself planning a trip to all the Virgin Islands for interviews. A short two weeks later, I flew in to the Cyril E. King airport on St. Thomas. Anyone who has ever flown into an island airport knows the awesome view that I saw from my window seat. It's hard not to hold your breath when you approach the island and see that vast blue ocean change to its cool aquamarine and turquoise. I spent a couple of days on each island and was hooked. I made up my mind, I was moving (I think). After several days and sever more interviews, I headed home to Austin with a new attitude. I did a few odd jobs to get some quick cash together and then surprised myself when I actually did it. After all my interviews, I ended up taking a job renting water sports equipment on Elysian beach. My office was a small hut with a great view. I spent the first few months learning how to sail and exploring the other islands. Eight months after taking my job at the beach hut, I moved on to being a crew member on a charter boat that toured the British Virgin Islands. Soon after that, I took the first mate position. It was so different from the hectic seventy hour a week job that I had been so used to.

Did I miss it? The truth was that now and again, I did miss Austin. Sure, I could hop on a powerboat and head to the Bomba Shack on Tortola for the Full Moon Party, or spend a lazy weekend at White Bay on Jost Van Dyke, I could dive daily and never hit the same spot twice but it took weeks for a cashier's check to clear and I had to flick a wire under the hood to make my island Jeep start. Okay, These were trades that I was willing to make. The seafood in the islands was amazing but it was no Little Mexico. I missed nights downtown and sitting on the hill outside of Auditorium Shores listening to BB King (remember when we could do that?) I missed the Salsa Festival and soccer Saturday's at Zilker. I missed the people and places that are Austin. When I thought of home, that is where my mind lead me.

Update: After writing this, I lived in the islands for close to four years while waiting for the right reason to come home to Austin. I finally got one and had been working here happily for several years when the other shoe dropped again. I was laid off three times in six months. Again, there was no work here in Austin. I found myself headed back to the islands and the boating life that I loved. I've come full circle again and am writing this from my home on the south-side of Austin ('04 baby!) What I have learned is this... I have two home towns now which I love for different reasons. I only hope that I am able to continue to spend time growing, learning, and experiencing both.

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