Monday, July 28, 2014

Live your dream

Pretty far out right? 

With this quote under my skin, after quite some internet research in different fields and good family and friends conversations, I now am certain about what I'm about to do. 
I really am doing this now, it's just a matter of time... and savings. :-) 

But it's coming closer than ever before, that's for sure!

So the plan is to gather money from different angles now. I'm about to sell practical stuff like furniture and housing equipment, ... as in everything I own. Except for the personal stuff, this will all get stored somewhere.
Also practical is my car, but it will also have to go, it's no good lying around here for ... who knows how much time right? For ever? :-) So there it goes, it's all FOR SALE.

I now have set myself a deadline of 6 months, and hope to leave this town and life behind in February, at the latest march 2015.
Once I am an instructor, more or less after 6 months, I will gain experience but at the same time work in a resort/dive club, teaching others to dive. 
Who knows what comes along, one can't plan this, this is truly another life and I'll roll in it as it comes. I'll be wearing a life vest (BCD), don't worry! ;)

Name 10 things why you would leave?

1 - Because I found a (new) passion: Diving and loving the ocean.

2 - Because I want to exercise that passion on a professional level, I have had a professional year of local tourism, I enjoy working with tourists, I speak many languages. I could do that elsewhere where there is a lot more tourism and I'd also be diving, participating in all action. I'd also be teaching my passion to others which is in my opinion very satisfying.

3 - Because I don't want to spend the rest of my life in a cubicle (thanks Rika), not that I don't have other competences but it's so close to my home and it allows me to work after hours at a restaurant to make extra cash. It's easy and it still is 'crisis' around here. So you stay where you are right.
Now I must say after 2,5 years it seems that now this envy of working there is slowly coming to an end. Good that this diving-thing came up. ;)

4 -  Because I never in my life have tried something like this and I am really curious and excited about it. I have in some way always dreamt about moving to warmer oceanic places. My Italian roots must be in it for something...

Yes, you have to work there as well but at least you will have sun and even the beach when you are off. I truly am going to enjoy this to a maximum level. I can't wait to be able to dive every day, even if it's during work.

5 - Because I can't find what I'm looking for over here anymore. 

6 - Because it's now or never. I can't wait like 10 more years to make a great move, and why would I?

7 - Because this is the experience of a life-time. And I'm going to live it, and love it.

8 - Because I want to travel the world, and the oceans aswell.

9 - Because I don't want to explain number 9. It's personal.

10 - Because "The future belongs to those who believe in the reality of their dreams.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt

OK what else do I do for extra cash?
As I pointed out I do work in a restaurant as a bartender/waiter to make some extra money. I now will start working there more evenings to make more because more is more and more is better. At least at the moment it is.

More More More, more work ... for a better life - sounds crazy right? :-)
Well it's not and it's totally worth it.

Feels also great to be selling all my stuff for the first time in my life. If I had a yard, I would probably do a Yard Sale, but I don't have any. Nor a garage. Dammit. Well thanks to Bill Gates, there's the internet!

Well for once I finally set a real goal in my life, a goal I call my own this time. 

Get out of Town - Admiral Freebee

There are five rules of how to be a cruiser
Five rules of how to be a highway man

Number one
You travel alone

Number two
Never use the fast line
Never travel by high speed

Number three
Take some tapes along the way
Of your favorite music and your favorite bands

Number four
Take the road as it comes 'cause it comes so slow
Take the road as it comes 'cause it comes so slow

Get out of town!
Get out of town!
Get out of town!
Get out of town!

Yes I'm a music lover, and if you say music, it comes with lyrics, and there's music out there for all moods possible I'm sure. :-)
I do enjoy festivals, or concerts, Belgium has loads of them. I will miss them, amongst other things but once you set a goal like this, nothing can stop you anymore. The choice has been made and you will tolerate a lot just because it's part of the path. 

I'm leaving my comfort zone for a new world, for me to discover, at my own pace, doing what I want to be doing. Superb! Just what I need! 

Time to get really organized now. These 5 months will be over in a jiffy. :-)

Creating the dream - third part

After a great weekend with locals and visiting parts of the island, it's monday and time to dive again. Start of a new dive week. 

With the upcoming dives, I get picked up again at 8.25 AM to start my Advanced Open Water course.

The first two dives were for navigation and multilevelling. Interesting skill courses IMO. But the three last dives absolutely took my breath away. The first of them was a night dive, scary, yes but so much different again, it was amazing!! Thank you instructor! Thank you! 

After this great night dive, the day after, I start with my first 30m dive ... and that too was something else again. 27.7m is my first depth and I get to do some logical exercises to see if my brain keeps functioning normal at that depth. All seems fine, we ascend and as we are waiting for another team to surface I get to hear a (second) great life story from my instructor. 

Indeed my original instructor had a nice story about how he became a professional diver and now my new instructor comes up with an almost identical story but then still so much different. 

At the end of his story, for a moment, I wonder if I could be doing a thing like this and become a diving instructor myself. He tells me that if I like diving, I really should consider. Be happy with less but have so much more life filling thrills is the clue of the whole thing. He also tells me my knowledge of six different languages will surely come in handy and that they are a great bonus. I make him understand I envie his life and that I will be considering for sure. 

Then finaly we go for the second dive of the day, the wreck dive, at 30m, this wreck was at the same time frightening and overwhelming... no words can describe that for me really.
The first time you get to see a massive 55 meters long wreck on the bottom somewhere is really mind blowing. It sucks you up completely. Next time I will have less fear I'm sure. :-) It was awesome. 

So now, ... after these sessions I am an PADI Advanced Open Water Diver. Yeah!
Again for how much this is worth but I now know I'm well on my way. This diving thing simply rocks. 

As I go celebrating with some Maltese friends a thought crosses my mind and I'm thinking of moving to Malta, get a job and dive more, maybe become instructor at some point. Apparently there are a lot of call centers in Malta, all wanting foreign workers who speak more languages. I do speak six so it might be worth trying to get in. Heck yes, why not?! 

Anyways I had the best vacation ever in Malta and I know I will be diving more very soon. When I returned home, I started looking right away into possibilities to get more into diving asap.
I start surfing the web for job applications in Malta in the contact center world and I make some applications, they all return negative. Probably because my pay demand is way to high in the first place. I probably will have to live by their standards if I want to make any chance finding a job there. So I leave it be for now.
A few weeks later after surfing more web to gather info and looking for other possibilities I stumble upon a blog from Rika, with a very similar start of a dream as mine.

She came up with the title and copyrighted it: The Cubicle Throwdown - really matching my situation. I start to read intensively and go through most of her blog. I'm now very close to making my decision.

At this point the dream has almost taken its final form. I will start saving money and make my move as soon as I get a certain amount of money gathered. This money will cover my instructor courses and my stay during this formation. I'm now willing to become a Padi Diving Instructor and leave everything behind to live a very different life than the one I live right now.

It's now almost august, it took me about a month to get this aligned in my head, now let's see how long it's going to take me to make it real.

Thanks Rika, I needed your blog post to confirm my thoughts and ideas! Splendid! :-)
Now, my dream exists.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Creating the dream - second part

First of all, I want to point out that I was planning on diving when I would go on vacation. Yes, hearing my friend out and watching video's and informing myself about the possibilities made me orient my vacation with 'some diving'.  The idea at that time was: Let's see if I like diving!

So after checking out flight prices I was sure to be headed to Malta, it looked like the cheapest option within the EU with, apparently, pretty good diving possibilities. This was around January '14.

Time to book my ticket, low price, well ahead. Voila, ticket booked! Malta it is. You can imagine that after 10 years of not flying or having been on a proper vacation, I already was excited. It was still 5 months away but it sure did thrill my thoughts allready.

In order to get more comfortable health wise, I started going to the gym and knocked myself out doing cardio amongst other things. I wanted to loose about 10kg of weight. I went swimming for a bit as well to get used to bigger things filled with water than my shower at home. 

Yet, for further prep, I still needed to find is a place to stay and a dive club. I decided to find a dive club first, and choose my hotel accordingly in order to minimize traveldistance between both. I got in touch with a dive club and they knew a good cheap place for me to sleep. Perfect! 
Finally I almost had it all, my vacation was almost completly planned. The only thing to do now is loose more weight and get on that plane upon the day of departure. In the end I lost 12 kg before I left in June. Way to go!

A little problem occurred on the day of departure, my passport was not with me because I thought I wouldn't need it for traveling in Europe. But I did since I am Italian and living in Belgium. So I arranged/updated my passport in a few days and left 3 days later than supposed.

*****Note to self: Always travel with passport!!! Where ever you go. :-)

So here we are, in a lot better shape now, leaving for Malta. I can't wait to jump on that airplane, land and smell the air upon exiting the plane. The air of a southern country always smells so much different than what you are used to breath every day. It surely did smell like Italy right away but still different. I could smell the ocean being not to far away now. :-).

It's around 11 pm and a taxi gets me to my hotel in 35 minutes. I meet the hotel manager, very friendly guy, and he walks me around.
I get to take a night-peak from the hotel roofterras overlooking Mellieha. Being on a hill I get an idea of the landscape.

Time to unpack and get to bed. I'll start my first courses for Open Water Diver the morning after!! Yeah!!

I get picked up at 08.25 AM and we head for the dive club in Mellieha bay. After some paperwork and introductions it's time to head to the classroom for a theoretical morning session, followed by a pool session, and this goes like this, 2 days in a row. Outstanding to start with, getting familiar with rules, knowledge and equipment is really necessary.
Still, I can't wait to get in the ocean with all this gear. :-)

We were only 2 newbies, an English guy and myself, so the french, well English speaking instructor had plenty of time for us, which is always good.
On the 3rd day, we finally went for the Open Water Dive till a depth of 12,5m in the ocean... at Cirkewwa bay.
As we get ready and put our fins on, me and my dive buddy start to get really excited and a bit nervous. We went in the water and put our fins on, regulator in the mouth, and we started descending. And that's where I remember seeing what I saw that time when I was 16, back in Italy. It suddenly remembered me how beautiful it all actually was under there, under the surface of the ocean.

After repeating some elementary exercises we rehearsed in the pool the previous days, our instructor took us for a swim around the bay. When we surfaced after 37 minutes ... I felt relieved, relaxed and delighted. This is .... so cool! 

Nothing compares to the real thing, you can all see it on short movies you pick from YouTube for example but...being actually in it is what gives you the real experience with all the thrills, the complete package.

Yes I was thrilled, even more thrilled for the next 12m dive. For that one, we went to Anchor Bay a few hours later, which is at the Popeye Village. Yes, the one from the movie. Another great dive, very different site, with a gigantic anchor underwater.

The underwaterworld is revealing himself, he's coming to life, and I slowly start to trust him. 
And so goes on the next day, two dives, but this time till 18m, after forfilling the written examination. After this day, if all goes like planned, we will get certified with PADI Open Water Diver 18M.

With every dive I take ... the good feeling grows...I start to feel really comfortable down here. I start to look for different things every time and the surroundings really start to catch my eye.

In the water I probably still look like a waving crazy man but I'm slowly getting the hang. Finding my perfect buoyancy takes practice but its...very important! If you find it, you really feel close to weightlessness, it's awesome. 

So I try to relax as much as possible when encountering new things such as octopusses and scorpion fish or astonishing overhanging rock formations with moray eels and short tunnels and arches to swim through. We end up in a really big school of small fish a few times aswell. They just act as if you weren't there although it looks like they all look at you ha ha. Just amazing!

Relaxing is also important for keeping your air supply for as long as possible. Really, you want to spend as much time underwater as possible, most dives are over after 45 minutes or an hour, especially with my newbie breathing style. :)

Finaly, at the end of  these 4 days the overall feeling is outstanding. I had one of the best experiences in my life thanks to my dive instructor and the great team at the dive club. Same goes for my divebuddynewbie, we both graduated with a large smile saying we should do this again sometime!
Any time really Jim!

In the pocket: PADI OWD 18m which will later be replaced by a more bankcard like pass. PADI will send it my home in Belgium once fabricated.
I know this means nothing but it's a start to becoming a recreational diver. Job well done.

Ok well what now? Time to explore the island I guess, and have a good party with appropriate drinks. But first I inform myself in the dive club for the next week because I really feel like I want to do more diving in a few days. Ow yeah, for sure!

I get a price list and some good directions and I decide to do the Advanced OWD 30m. Same deal as before, some theory, some swim tests, exams, and 5 additional dives giving me the opportunity to go dive worldwide at PADIpoints till 30m. Note that this is something you really want to be doing when there is something to see, like a wreck or special dive location or something in that direction. But it's good to have right.

With some time off now I take some days to meet some people, and enjoy local foods and my vacation in general. We also spent a day at the beach and I get the best memory of Italy ever. The sand, the sun, the pick-nick, the beer, the wine, the ocean, the people, their way of life. Getting sunburned even more. 

Malta comes with the ability to go to the beach at off times, even if it's only once a week. 300+ days of sun a year. Nice rock! :-)

And with diving on my mind I get the chance to relax to the max and I can't wait to get back in the water all geared up. My last dive would eventually bring me to the wreck at Paradise Bay, P29 Patrol Boat close to the Madonna. At 30m, with my new instructor, great dutch guy by the way. I'm really excited now. This will be something else.
And the day before the actual 30m dives I 'll be night diving... OMG that sounds scary but at the same time I'm very curious...very curious indeed. The Advanced Open Water course comes with 5 additional dives, to your choice. So in addition to the deepdive and the multilevel dive (standards), I chose for a navigation dive, night dive and a wreck dive. These will be done in 3 days. Again, now certifying me as PADI Advanced OWD 30m after I finish. 

Now the first dream, the one to actually dive, has been realized. And I love it! The next chapter will form my dream to a next level. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Creating the dream - first part

Hi there everyone, 

I'll just start my own way and I will try to put this in a nice coat in time, but this is where it all starts for me. Note that this is at the same time my first blog.

To start a blog you need an idea, a problem, a goal, or a dream, ...or just something that thrills your imagination...and start to write about it.
That's exactly what I 'll be doing here after I got inspired reading other people's blogs, generally concerning the matter 'life and what to make of it'

Well what I have in mind, is all of the above at the same time, even if at the moment it's really just a dream, but me starting to actually write this blog, means I'm about to get really serious about it. Serious about making the dream real! Yep, that's my intention allright!

I decided to share all this on the internet, because I'm sure it will help me and maybe others who are trying to change their own lives in a dramatic way.
Enjoy reading, feel free to comment where ever you like!

At first, I guess I 'll start by introducing myself for a bit. 

:-) Hi again, I am Fabian, I'm half Belgian, half Italian. Friends call me Fabe, in Italy they call me Fabio, and some people just call me Fab. I'm 42 years of age now, I am not married and I have no children.
I was born and raised in Belgium, flemish part of the country, in a city called Sint-Truiden at around 200km from the Northsea. 

For most of my worklife, for about 20 years, I was self employed in construction together with my uncle and my cousin. About 5 years ago, due to upcomming concurrence of foreign workers, we saw workfees and eventually our business collapse and I decided to get out of the construction business. I had to sell my house to cover the financial breakdown and debts I had accumulated over the last years.

Now 5 years later, I have a stable income again, I bought a small appartment, own a car and my life feels .... settled? 
To be more precise, I work in a contact(call)center on an interesting project for a belgian energy company. Allthough it's an interesting project, I don't know if this job is what I want for the rest of my life.

To be honest I am also fed up with my materialistic way of life, and I feel sucked in by the system, even more kind of trapped. This life is at the same time déjà vu all over again and I feel more and more like I need a real change.

A change away from this everything. A change that will also give me a completely new goal, hopefully making me realize a dream and giving me the opportunity towards a very different lifestyle.

The eventual goal of the dream is still far away but the road to it will be more than satisfying and life filling than ever before. If I don't make it, then so be it, but at least I will have tried.

OK well let me continue and let me first give you an idea of where this dream - in a way - got created.

Ever since I was little I got in touch with the ocean when me and my parents were on vacation. To be more exact every 2 years, we went to visit my family in Italy.
They all live in a city near the beach, at the Adriatic side of Italy, more or less on the same altitude as Rome is. During this 3-4 week vacation I got to spend loads of time at the beach and in the ocean, better yet, on a daily bases.
When I am 16 years of age I get to spend 2 months there and really living the wine-farmer life sleeping at my families house in the beloved 'campagna'.

I quickly embraced the much different way of life. Of course it was also work but being able to go to the beach at off-times or more specifically, every day in the afternoon, between morning and evening grape harvests, felt so liberating to me.
It would remain my best vacation ever for a very long time. To be more honest it was my best vacation ever till a month ago. I'll tell more about that further on.

From that point on, I'll carry Ortona, the ocean and the more relaxed way of life in my heart for the rest of my life.
To me, the sun and a beach are two of the most relaxing things possible. Yes indeed, it can also be a forest, or snowed in mountains but if I have to choose, ... I'll be choosing the beach side. I must say I now have found a third thing that is even more'll get the picture very soon as you read on. ;-)

There are several reasons for me to choose 'the beach' but one of them probably has to do with what I'll be explaining in what comes next. Hear me out.

I remember we went mussel hunting in Italy that time when I was 16. For me it was the first time I got hooked up to a regulator and put on fins and snorkeler goggles. To breath, I used the second regulator a scuba diver carries, the one he can hand out to people in need of air. Sensational it was! 

Besides collecting the mussels it was of course a blast to breath under water at 3-4 meters down in the ocean near a rock formation, collecting  as many nice clams as possible. Another great experience I carry with me for the rest of my life. Something out of normal for me, totaly unseen, but for my italian cousins, it was the most normal thing in the world...hehe.

(Sadly) I never got into scuba diving afterwards. Why? Probably because I had other hobbies in my home-country, Belgium, and the location I live in is not really ocean or dive friendly hehe.
Also I never thought about Sint-Truiden having a local swimming pool with diveclubs, which besides do exist after further recent investigation. In search of a new hobby after my 20 years construction rehab ... I finally end up in a dive club in my home town somewhere in 2013.

So there I am in september 2013, at our local swimming pool applying for a spot at the local dive club (CMAS). I get told I am allowed 3 hours of free initiating courses and that I can decide after those 3 hours if I want to become a member or not.
After the 3 sessions of an hour, ... I never returned because I felt it was really slow going and only for 1 hour/week and in the swimming pool. Also it would take me up to a full year to get a (single) CMAS star which doesn't allow you to go dive more independently any time soon.

Anyways with my life in the right direction now, and a fresh start of 2014, it was also time to go on vacation asap, so I started planning something. A friend of mine, who is a 10 year old Padi diver helps me a bit with my search for a good location, taking his diving memories into consideration.

After a few good tips from my friend, I started googlemapping, on my way down from Corsica, I pass by Sardenga into Italy overflying Sicily and making a stop. Zooming in on the south of Sicily I accidentally discover this tiny group of 3 Islands called Malta, Comino and Gozo. Hey hey, what do you know? So that is where Malta is....?!
Heh!, how convenient, and last year in Belgium I met a band from Malta I got introduced to by friends of mine. Would be a nice extra to get in touch with them and meet them in their home country right?

That's where I started looking for a cheap flight ticket direction Malta and the dream began to take shape, right here, well...right there!

More to read as this story comes to life...slowly but surely.