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In case you missed it: GOLD MEDAL! Thank you!

Thanks everyone who commented on my contest entry for the 2013 Expats Blog Top Writing Contest! You guys sky-rocketed me to the top with 44 comments. I have such an amazing network of support with family and friends all over the world. You’re all fabulous. Thank you!!!

In case you missed it, here’s my blog entry that earned the Gold Medal for Honduras…

Top 7 Excuses for Getting Sucked Into The Vortex

By: AWalk on the Run

From the East Coast of the States, I now live in Roatan, part of the Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras. We lovingly refer to our home as The Rock or The Vortex. Clearly, it’s a small rock (I’m betting most of you have never even heard of Roatan). But more importantly, we call it The Vortex because it continues to suck people in like a black hole. Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t at all a bad thing! I was sucked into The Vortex over a year ago after intending to only spend 5 days here. And I am not alone. Here’s a basic rundown on the excuses people offer as to why they moved to Roatan. They’re not in any particular order or anything, just common phrases you hear from expats all over the island. I give you, “How I Got Sucked into The Vortex”

1. “I couldn’t stand another winter back home.”

Let’s be honest, humans are pretty weak. We can’t actually survive much this Earth throws at us, except that we have intelligence and therefore we’ve developed tools that enable us to live anywhere. But in my mind, it’s just unnatural! If you literally cannot survive outside without multiple layers of clothes and some sort of shelter, it just ain’t right. I’m clearly not alone in having this attitude as the vast majority of expats in Roatan who were sucked into The Vortex blame harsh winters for chasing them out of Dodge and into the constant sunshine of the Caribbean. White sandy beaches, turquoise waters, palm trees blowing in the breeze, and our worst days still being in the high 70s (that’s 25 for all you Celsius fans out there). Yes, that is where I live. Please note it is currently December. And with the amazing social media networks we all have now, it’s hilarious to see everyone here posting photos from the beach to taunt their family and friends back home buried under ice and snow. (Think sandmen instead of snowmen and snapshots of lounging in a hammock under a palm tree. Yep, we’re mean.)

2. “I needed to escape the office world before it killed me.”

Regardless of how long they were in it back home, most people here eventually shook their heads and realized they hated their jobs, and therefore most of their days were miserable. They decided to be proactive and make a change to make themselves happy. This isn’t to say everyone who works a 9-5 office job hates it! Not at all. But the people who moved here hated theirs for one reason or another and made the move to change their daily lives. You often hear something along the lines of “the view from my office is much better now” or “my office is the beach.” Again, we like to taunt people back home through social media. Partly it’s a way to celebrate our happiness here, and partly it’s a way to show people that they can live this life. We often hear people say how they wish they could live here and they’re so jealous of our lives. So we show them how they can and we show them that there are alternatives to working a thankless mindless cubicle job. Unless of course you enjoy that sort of thing, in which case keep calm and carry on!

3. “Diving.”

The reef around Roatan is one of the most stunning in the world. Part of the second largest barrier reef system on Earth, Roatan has the perfect combination of incredibly colorful coral and abundant sea life. The diving here is what often sucks people into The Vortex. Some stop here initially on a cruise, dive, and then come back for a longer trip time and time again. Some come here to do their training (Divemaster internships and Instructor Development Courses are extremely popular here for their low prices and amazing diving conditions), they dive every day, and then they stay and work. Call it whatever you want, but people get sucked into The Vortex because they become completely addicted to the diving. Ask any diver here what they like to do on their days off. Most of them will tell you they dive.

4. “Roatan isn’t overrun by tourists (yet).”

Most Caribbean islands are well developed and well versed in the language of tourism. There has been a giant leap in cruise ship traffic throughout the region, and finding an escape is getting more and more difficult. While Roatan is growing in the industry, with Carnival Corporation having developed their own port here and Carnival cruises coming in year-round, the growth is slow and steady and pales in comparison to other islands. Roatan is still quiet. There are dirt roads and completely untouched land – even right on the beach! The hills are covered in lush jungle and much of the island remains undeveloped. This is still a haven, an escape from the chaos of the modern world. That kind of seclusion calls to many people, it beckons them in and allows them to nap in a hammock for hours without feeling guilty for not being productive all day. We live simply and bask in our paradise sanctuary.

5. “It’s cheap!”

Ok, this one is all relative, I know. But here’s my personal perspective. After growing up outside of Boston and living in Washington, DC, for four years, I know what high rent can look like. And it sure isn’t what you find here! Yes, the prices are higher here than on mainland Central America, but they’re much lower than other Caribbean islands. That’s mostly because of what I mentioned before – this is still a peaceful haven yet to be overrun by tourists causing prices to rise. The house I live in is two stories, with a two-bedroom apartment on the bottom floor (mine) and a two-bedroom apartment with a loft upstairs. We’re on our own beach with only 3 other houses – none of which are currently occupied – meaning my little island doggie has free reign to run around the beach and claim it as her own. The cost of this house: $245,000. For a duplex. On the beach. Surrounded by gorgeous jungle. On the beach. I’m sorry but that’s just straight crazy cheap!

6. “It’s such an easy transition from home.”

English is the most commonly spoken language, labor laws are lax, visas can be extended as many times as you’d like, and there’s already a wide network of expats living on the island to make the transition away from delicious thin-crust artisan pizza at home not so difficult. Because there’s pizza here. And delivery. And burgers, and noodle bowls, and curry, and pretty much anything else you might want. And if it’s not here yet, give it another month or so. Someone else is probably already creating a new business just for you!

7. “Well, actually, I met this guy…”

Yeah, yeah, yeah I know. Cliché. I get it. But it’s true! There are lots of people who came here, met someone, came back, or never even left in the first place. Other people stay for the prospect of love – they know they’ll find someone like-minded here among the travelers and divers, fellow escapees and rebels. Other people just fall in love with the island itself. And what’s not to love? With wild jungle, pristine beaches, a blend of cultures, and enough activities to keep you busy for years, Roatan really is a dream home.

So which excuse category do I fall under? Welp, that would be the last one. I arrived in Roatan, spent less than a day on the island and somehow met this incredible guy on the beach. While that wasn’t even remotely my plan, I decided to stay and see what happened. That was November 2012. Of course, I also wanted out of the office world in DC, out of the cold winters, I’ve learned to dive and now manage a dive shop in West End, I like my secluded little home, it’s cheap, and it’s a super easy transition to live here and still eat all my favorite foods. So really this is what it all comes down to: Whatever someone’s excuse is for staying in Roatan, that’s all it is. An excuse. It’s something to tell people back home, the people who don’t understand how we can just pick up and leave to live on some little island without high rises and shopping malls. It’s a way to quickly explain something those people might never understand: this little island is a Vortex for dreamers and we’ve all made our dreams become reality.