Updated: Jul 21
Whenever I tell people that I work in the Maldives, everyone's reaction would most likely be 'really?' - Their eyes, wide with excitement, as if I hold their gateway to paradise.
I moved to the Maldives in 2016, and my years here didn't pass by without acquiring any new knowledge, from work to lifestyle, to lessons from the sea and a lot more!
1. It's Okay to Be Laidback
In my first months here, I wasn’t used to the working style of the locals. Before my move to the Maldives, I was in Dubai's bustling city, and I was so used to a fast-paced lifestyle because there is so much to lose when you waste even a minute of your time. Come to the bus station one minute later than the bus arrival time and you'll wait for another hour. Leave home for work ten minutes later than the usual time and get stuck in rush hour.
When I arrived in the Maldives, I thought people didn't have any sense of urgency, as if deadlines did not exist (but they did) and everyone moved as if they have all the time in the world. Everything seemed to move in slow motion; everything seemed to follow the swaying of the palm trees.
But then, as time passed by and I have adjusted, I learned to take things easy, that I don't have to stress too much about work and that it's okay to slow down. It helped me let off my steam (I am usually very short-tempered), making me more mindful about the things I do.
Taking your own time gives you more space to think about things. Being fast doesn't necessarily mean you are efficient!
2. We Buy A Lot of Things That We Don't Need
Before moving to the Maldives, I collected tons of clothes, bags, and shoes that all went to waste if not given to new owners.
Moving to the island was like going back to nature. I only wear flip-flops, and I can even go barefoot. I have a few clothes that I repeatedly use because there's no use for fashionable garments here and, I don’t need them at all!
3. We, As Humans, Play an Integral Role in Protecting (As Well As Devastating) The Environment
Before, the words 'sustainability and 'conservation' were just 'words' that had no meaning for me, except what I could read in the dictionary. I didn't quite know their value until I got to see the lowest country in the world. The Maldives only being one to two meters above sea level, makes it so vulnerable to immediate results of pollution and climate change.
Often spending time in the water, I saw first-hand the result of people's neglect; turtles were snacking on floating plastic, thinking they were jellyfish. Around me were plastic bottles, ghost nets, and other trash floating around.
Sometimes, it is not until we see it with our own eyes that we start to care.
Sustainability is an act that needs to be done by everyone.
Huge companies would have a more significant impact; however, individuals can also do small things to help. I took tiny steps by not using plastic straws anymore, joining reef cleaning activities, and hoping I can do more in the future!
4. Everything Is Subject to Weather Conditions
Whenever people here would like to go fishing or snorkelling, or any other excursions, there always comes the statement - subject to weather conditions. It means no matter how, and what we plan, we cannot take control of nature.
I am a heavy planner, and I want everything to go smoothly. But then mishaps occur, people don't show up, and plans don't happen as expected. After years of living here, I have adapted to the 'subject to weather condition' lifestyle where I don't rely heavily on my schedule. I let nature take its course and stir only when necessary.
5. Sharks Are Not as The Media Portrays Them
Whenever I talk about my underwater adventures, the first question that always comes up is sharks!
Me: “What is it about the sharks?”
The public: “Don't they bite you?”
Me: “Well, I am here in front of you, and I am whole. So far, I haven’t been bitten by one.”
I do not discount the fact that I was also one of them in the past. I was so scared to go into the deep, so frightened of a monster that might come up from the depths of the sea.
Because how can I not? The media feeds us with images of massive jaws and sharp teeth that can rip off arms and legs. But these images in my mind changed as I explored the deep blue, and I am glad to have this chance to discover the wonders of the sea.
It takes time to educate people about sharks, but if there are people who care enough to raise awareness, we can educate people on the importance of sharks, and why these crazy headlines are blown way out of proportion!
6. If You Don’t Take the Leap, You Won’t See What Lies Beneath
I came here with nothing but survival swimming knowledge, but I persevered and learned to swim. I did it every day—first a 100-meter swim, then 300 meters, 1 km, until I can proudly swim 2 km!
I never knew what freediving meant, but I learned it when I found out what it was. My first few dives were only up to 3 m, then I reached 7 m, and now I can reach up to 20 m!
All my perseverance didn't come without any benefits. I could explore and discover what lies beneath the Maldives' crystal-clear waters that I wouldn't have seen if I chose to stay in the shallow area and not brave the deep.
Five years and counting, and I'm still learning every day, and while I'm here, I'll keep on learning the ways of the wind, the turns of the tide, and the rhythm of the sea.
Written by Alissa Marcelo
Check out my website at – www.aysabaw.com