From Boston to Roatan: AWalk on the Run
Hi everyone! My name is Amanda, which is a fairly common name so growing up I was often called varieties of my last name: Walkins. AWalk was one of the more popular ones, and that’s why I named my blog AWalk on the Run.
I grew up outside of Boston, MA, and lived in the Virginia/Washington, DC, area for about 7 years before making the move to my current home of Roatan, Honduras. Roatan is the largest of the Bay Islands, a series of Caribbean islands off the East coast of Honduras. Basically I live in paradise. And, no, I have never for even one millisecond missed the snow!
1. Why did you move abroad?
I moved to Roatan inadvertently. I was taking a 6-week backpacking trip through Honduras and Guatemala at the end of 2012. I stopped in Roatan for a few days of relaxation at the beach, which sets the scene for why I never left. My first full day in Roatan, as I lounged with a new friend in the sand only steps from the gorgeous shades of Caribbean blue water, some handsome guy stopped to chat with us. Within the 5 days I was supposed to be in Roatan he managed to sweep me off my feet enough to never leave. (I still haven’t been to Guatemala!)
2. How do you make a living?
I manage a water sports business in West End, a popular touristy area in Roatan. My shop offers scuba diving, snorkeling, and a very unique underwater scooter tour called BOSS (Breathing Observation Submersible Scooter).
I also write in my free time – sometimes unpaid (for example, my blog and The Huffington Post) and sometimes paid (for example, International Living Magazine and freelance copy-editing gigs).
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
Thanks to the WorldWide Wonderful Web, I am constantly in touch with my family and friends. My family is very close-knit, so we chat all the time. It’s hard missing major events – I can’t afford to fly home multiple times each year so I usually miss a holiday or a celebration of sorts. But overall, video chats like Skype and FaceTime make missing things easier, and emails and Facebook keep us all connected regularly.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Roatan?
My favorite thing about being an expat in Roatan is learning from everyone else. There is a huge expat community in Roatan that’s been well established for quite a while. People from all over the world have settled there, making it a diverse and interesting group with stories to tell for days. Many people who move to a random little island have a tale, some more dramatic or far-fetched than others, but all enjoyable nonetheless. I also love learning about local culture. The Bay Islands have such an intriguing mix of Old World Europe – since they were a former British/Spanish tug-of-war battleground – and Caribbean culture infused with Latino culture. It’s such a fun environment to live in and a truly interesting blend.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Roatan?
The worst thing about being an expat in Roatan is…? There isn’t a worst thing because I chose this place, I chose this life, and I still actively choose to be in Roatan. Being an expat means you have that flexibility. This isn’t your hometown where you feel stuck, nor is your family around pressuring you to stay close-by, nor is this the only place you’ve ever known, so you already have the experience and knowledge that you could go anywhere and do anything. Being an expat is freeing, so there really is no bad thing about the lifestyle. I love it!
6. What do you miss most?
Sometimes I do miss convenience. Living on an island makes your world shrink quite a bit, so it seems like an epic journey to drive 45 minutes to a certain store. There’s only one main road so you get sick of driving just that one road all the time to get everywhere, especially when places that would once have been close seem oh-so far away. For example, logically I understand that 20 minutes is not a long drive, but if I have to go to the grocery store it takes intense planning and I basically have to give myself a pep talk to make the 20-minute trip.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
Meeting people in Roatan is actually unavoidable. People are here on vacation and they want to chat and hear your story, so you end up constantly making new friends. It’s so much fun! But then again, those people are constantly leaving, too. People on vacation are here for a week or two, but even people who move to the island typically do so on a temporary basis. Lots of people are transient – here for only a few months or a year at most. It’s incredibly easy to meet people and to make friends, but you have to get used to saying goodbye!
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
I’m called Miss Amanda or Jefa at work. I love it because both terms reflect the mix of cultures on the island. Miss Amanda is very much the traditional Old World Europe coming out, while Jefa is “boss” in Spanish. I think it’s really neat, but it did take me a while to get used to being addressed that way. American offices are much more casual with only first names used and often nicknames as well. This seemed so formal to me!
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
That it’s unbelievably dangerous. Whenever I tell people I live in Honduras I’m met with horror and endless questions regarding my personal safety. It always bothers me that the U.S. State Department issues warnings against other countries as a whole when its own nation is riddled with just as much – if not much more – violent crime. Of course it doesn’t help that the media blows everything out of proportion as well. Honduras, like much of Central America, struggles with the drug trade going through en route to the U.S., which results in gang violence as well as corrupt law enforcement and judicial systems. This is simply a fact of life in this region. As long as Americans are demanding and paying for illegal drugs, Central American countries will be the battleground to traffic those supplies. Unfortunately, the U.S. State Department therefore basically says that going to Honduras will be the death of you.
First of all, I have traveled on the mainland of Honduras and did not at all feel endangered. Where the gangs and drug traffickers cause problems, they are mostly focused on each other and less so on tourists. I know several people who live on the mainland and absolutely love it. They love the people, the culture, the land, the history, and the promise this nation has for an incredible future. Depicting the whole country as essentially a war-zone is a gross exaggeration and is overall detrimental to the growth of industry in this country. On an additional note, the Bay Islands specifically are a very different environment from the mainland of Honduras and the only crime typically seen on the islands is theft. Wherever you have a large dichotomy of rich tourists and poor locals, you will see theft rise, that’s universal. Personally, I haven’t had any issues in Roatan at all. But I did get pick-pocketed in Barcelona once, so maybe I should report it to the State Department and see if they’ll blacklist all of Spain?
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
The cost of living in Roatan is higher than that of mainland Honduras, however, ii’s much cheaper than the cost of living I had back in Washington, DC, or in the Boston area. For example, my rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in DC outside of downtown was $1,825. My rent for a 2-bedroom apartment on the beach in Roatan just outside of town is $550. Electricity costs are high on the island – about 4 times what most Americans pay at home. However, we also don’t run the same number of appliances as people do back at home, so my electricity bill averages about $90/month. Groceries cost about the same on the island for comparable products. Transportation is cheaper – a taxi usually costs $1-5 depending on how far you go, whereas in DC I think it cost at least $5 to sit in a taxi. Bottled beers usually cost about $2.50. Overall, it’s much cheaper to live in Roatan than comparable locations in the U.S.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Remember why you moved. So many people move to the island to escape their lives back home, whether it was the cold winters, the long office hours, or the pressures of consumerism and all the materialistic things they felt they needed to buy back home. However, we’re still human. Moving to an island doesn’t change who you are nor your habits. If you were a workaholic back home, you’ll likely still carry that with you to the island. And you know what? Work and home life can still cause you headaches on an island!
Just remember at the end of the day why you moved there and if it’s not making you happy the way you anticipated it would, move on. If it is, then focus on that. It’s far too easy to get roped into the cycle of complaining about everything – even in paradise – because misery loves company. Remember why you’re there. Go watch the sunset every night. Walk along the beach every morning. Get offline and nap in a hammock for a few hours. In fact, just stay in the hammock all day. You’re not supposed to be doing anything else, so enjoy it.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started my blog much like many other travel bloggers began: as a way to update friends and family as I traveled around for 6 weeks on my own. Alas, I didn’t travel very far since I never left Roatan, so my blog quickly and somewhat unintentionally turned into an expat blog. I’ve since been writing about life in Roatan, life as an expat, and a bit about travel based on our fun trips off-island as well. My blog will likely continue to evolve – we have no long-term plans but neither of us planned to stay in Roatan as long as we already have, so someday we’ll head in another direction and the blog will have to follow along as needed. Whatever happens with it, it’s been so much fun!
Amanda's blog, AWalk on the Run
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I liked Amanda's insights into why she continues to choose to be an expat. Sounds like she has a life she enjoys and is willing to suffer any inconveniences to stay in charge of where she lives.~ cheryl 16 Nov 2014, 17:26