Lifeguard Lucy

Where has the time gone?

Lifeguard Lucy

 

As I sat down to write today, I looked back through this blog and realized nearly 3 months have passed without any updates. Where has the time gone?

Quite a bit has happened since my last post. I finally shed my indecision and made a move to forward my photography career on the Big Island of Hawaii; I love Kauai, and still consider it home, but to up my underwater game I needed to live somewhere with more wildlife, better visibility, and more people to learn from.

In some ways, the transition has been heartbreaking. After building friendships for 12 years on Kauai and learning the island, I left it all to go somewhere I didn’t know anyone save a woman I haven’t seen since high school and a couple moving away soon, and being completely lost wherever I go (thank god for gps). I left without having a home or a job, just my puppy Lucy and what would fit in the back of my truck when it shipped across the ocean.

Lucy and I spent a couple homeless weeks in a hotel and a vacation rental, the first week with my sister Mary who was amazing at helping us get our feet and paws on the ground with much less stress than anticipated. During the second week I started a job on a boat as crew for manta ray night snorkel trips out of Keauhou Bay, and moved into a tiny house 1500 feet above Kona town. If I thought I was tired, stressed, and confused, poor Lucy had no idea what had happened to the happy life she led on Kauai. Her best-puppy-friends were nowhere to be found; between the hotel, vacation rental, and new house she didn’t recognize any of the smells; her daily beach walks and normal routines were gone. At 6 months old, she was scared and angry at these major changes to her life, and was quite upset with me. When my truck finally arrived and she could ride in her customary passenger seat she settled down a little, and when I unpacked a few boxes and found her stash of well-chewed dog toys she relaxed a bit more. In the two weeks since we moved into our house we’ve found a dog park and made new puppy friends, and a couple beaches where she can splash in the ocean again. Lucy can’t come to work with me anymore, but quickly got used to spending her evenings in her crate and patiently waiting for me to come home.

I’m not sure I’ve adapted quite as quickly as Lucy, though. After packing up my house and giving away or selling most of my possessions, travel, stress about finding a place to live and work (even if it’s a short-term job), finding my way around, unpacking boxes, financial worries, and having to work nights (and – gasp – having to be somewhere at a specific time!) after a couple years of keeping my own schedule, I had to spend all my free time sleeping off the stress. I’m not sure I’ve recovered even now, and am just over a nasty cold – inevitable after the major changes in my life, I guess. My body went into survival mode, and all unnecessary functions shut down. I finally found the energy to take my camera into the ocean a couple days ago to begin building my business on this island, and sat down to work on my next book. I was blessed with a friendly pod of dolphins on my first day back in the water, and managed to write a couple pages of the book before I had to take a nap.

 

Hawaii dolphin pod

 

I’ve been on the Big Island for a month now, and see plenty of hard work ahead. I have a list of goals to achieve, and am finally ready to begin. All-in-all, though, I’m quite proud of myself for the progress I’ve made in such a short time. As each day passes I have a little more energy to put into things that aren’t merely surviving or making sure Lucy is cared for. It’s time for writing and photography, and having some fun. It’s time to explore this giant island and learn new things. It’s time to really begin to live here , and I’m excited about a whole new life with all the undreamed-of possibilities waiting just outside my door.

But first, maybe a quick nap…

 

 

About Melissa:
Books:
Sylvie Writes a Romance
Wandering
Leave a review on Amazon and I’ll love you forever!
Sylvie Writes a Romance on Smashwords – for Nook, Kobo, etc
Recent articles:
From Travel to Romcon and Beyond
BookDaily.com
Travel Writing on JenniferSAlderson.com
Recent reviews:
Indie Reader Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance
Kirkus Indie Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance
Follow me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter
For fine art photography prints from the islands, check out the Hawaii Ocean Photography  website and Like the Facebook page
Melissa Burovac

From travel to romcom and beyond – an evolution of my writing

In 2012, I embarked on a solo RTW trip that lasted nine months. I had never traveled solo before, and have a healthy dose of social anxiety plus a great fear of getting lost with my poor sense of direction, so this was an enormous undertaking for me. I had help getting prepared from traveler friends, creating lists of places to visit and gear I might need along the way. I put my furniture in storage, not knowing what to expect for how long I would be gone, sold my beloved Jeep Cherokee, and bought a one-way ticket to Mexico. I got a ride to the airport in Lihue, Kauai, carrying only a backpack containing clothes, a point and shoot camera, a 13” Mac laptop, and a water filter. A couple months after my 40th birthday, I was as ready as I would ever be.

During my travels I visited nine countries: Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Cuba, Australia, Cambodia, and Thailand. I encountered natural disasters in most of the countries — two hurricanes, a volcano eruption, an earthquake and a wildfire. As I blogged, my friends joked they knew where I was by where the natural disasters were occurring. “Something exploded? Let’s see where Melissa is!”

Blogging as I traveled was mainly to let my mother know I was still alive. I had childhood dreams of being a writer, but those got lost in the flurry of making a living after college and were completely forgotten. When I returned to Kauai after my trip I didn’t expect such a reaction to my blog; people were amazed I traveled for nine months, mostly solo, and that I didn’t die in the drug wars of Mexico, or some other place they only knew from news reports. Or even that as a woman, I was able to make my way through the world without trouble — some trouble, but not much. The women who followed me online were especially impressed and wanted to know how I did it all by myself. As I heard, more and more, “You should write a book,” I recalled those forgotten dreams of becoming an author and decided to give it a try.

Wandering was born from my blog posts, mostly written in bars and cafes around the world— a little bit drunk, a little bit lost, and toward the end, a whole lot homesick from being alone. This first book of mine was self-published in June 2014.

It wasn’t as easy as it sounds, though. I was working full-time as a bookkeeper, writing full-time after work — mostly from the back of my truck at the beach with a $200 laptop — and I was exhausted. I lost touch with most of my friends, and was a little depressed with the sudden lack of freedom.

Finally, though, Wandering was finished, published, and it was the most exciting thing in my life to see a book I had written in print. I immediately had dreams of writing more books, but didn’t see enough income to allow me to quit my regular job. I sent copies to every major outlet and publisher I could find online but no one picked up the book. While visiting my sister in Portland I took copies to Powell’s and sold them as used just so I could go back a week later and see my book on the shelf at a bookstore.

So what comes next? I wanted to be a full-time writer but it wasn’t working out exactly as it had in my daydreams. I didn’t have another book planned, and couldn’t begin to imagine what to do with myself.

One afternoon I was flipping through articles about writing on the internet and came across one about romance writers. The three women depicted in the article were raking in huge monthly incomes from churning out romance e-books, and I thought to myself, How hard could it be to write a romance novel?

I was sitting at a bar in Portland, drinking Bloody Marys and turning my imagination to writing a quick, sexy romance novel to generate some income — and I failed miserably. This is actually the only non-fiction scene in my second book Sylvie Writes a Romance.

I love to read classic fiction, sci-fi, horror, biographies — really, anything but romance novels. In my snobby view of the writing world I didn’t consider romance novels as literature, but just a means to pass the time, and not even as “real writing.” I was completely confused when I couldn’t write anything in that genre that was remotely good. It opened my eyes to how much work any type of writing entails.

I came back home to Kauai and bought a couple used romance novels at a thrift store, and sat down to read them. The books weren’t grammatically complicated, and didn’t contain any lofty ideas, and I sat down to write again, never actually finishing either of them. I just wanted to write something for a mass market so I could concentrate on writing something more profound.

I failed again and again, never writing anything I was happy with. But these failures evolved into a new project about a writer trying to write a romance novel and failing, turning to online dating to meet men and hoping to learn the meaning of romance. It’s more comedy than romance, which suits my style much better.

Sylvie Writes a Romance was born, and published in 2016.

Since Sylvie was written, I have been working on a sequel, plus trying my hand at writing a biography. I hope to have both published this year, and still have my sights set on a full-time career in writing.

 

 

Find my books on Amazon:

Sylvie Writes a Romance

Wandering

Leave a review on Amazon and I’ll love you forever!

Sylvie Writes a Romance on Smashwords – for Nook, Kobo, etc

Recent articles:

BookDaily.com

Travel Writing on JenniferSAlderson.com

Recent reviews:

Indie Reader Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance

Kirkus Indie Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance

 

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Birthday Week Kindle Book Giveaway

It’s that time again – the annual Wandering on Kindle book giveaway. Get it absolutely free between now and March 28th!

Check it out on Amazon.

Wandering tallies her hilarious as well as poignant experiences as she travels from Mexico through Central America, sneaks into Cuba, and journeys from Australia to Cambodia and Thailand. Read about her misadventures with crocodiles and the times she encounters erupting volcanoes…and two hurricanes…and a wildfire.

Burovac’s stories will make you laugh while reminding you that life is an adventure—and sometimes you just need to pack a bag and get lost.

Hell yeah! or no. (Fuck yes or no)

A friend sent me a blog post, which led me to another. Both extremely relevant to me at this point in my life of trying to figure out where I want go and what I want to do. And who should accompany me on this journey.  (Read them both, they could be life-changers for you, which is how I was introduced to them).

Another friend, Bill, someone I’ve only recently met, shared his blog with me, and we talked about living life exactly how we want, and accepting nothing less.

It seems amazing to me that after the amount of time I spent working on my personal growth, these are concepts that I haven’t gotten right yet.  I’m not saying that in a disparaging way, but in the light of having an old concept presented to me in a way that makes more sense, with more of a concrete example to follow.  There are a few things to which I say ‘Fuck yes,’ but the major decisions of my life are always based upon a lesser of evils; this doesn’t make sense anymore.

I justify my major decisions in various ways: if I don’t take this job, I might not make enough money to survive on my own; if I don’t rent this house, it may be months of begging friends to live on their couches before I find somewhere I want to live. Making money and having a solid place to live are a couple of the most important decisions that are a part of everyone’s lives.

I had a discussion at work with my boss a few weeks ago, we talked about my future and what I want to do; he had offered me a solid position doing something that I’m good at, but which, after thinking about it, I knew would be unexciting and unfulfilling to me.  A couple days later, I declined.  He was perplexed, because in his mind it would be a good fit for me, given the skills he sees in me when I’m at work.  Somewhat frustrated (in my mind), he asked, “what do you want to do?”

“Buy a boat and spend my life taking pictures of dolphins.”

It just popped out of my mouth without thought.

That’s my Fuck Yes, I guess.

But instead, I took a different job, somewhat half-way between taking pictures of dolphins and working in an office.

Several days later, I had a short discussion with Bill about life, and living it to the fullest. His only stand on the matter is to follow your passion, no matter what, and that’s how you live a completely fulfilling life.  I objected with the usual “it costs a lot to live here” and “I don’t want to starve and be homeless.”  Bill had absolutely no pity on those statements.  Do what you love and if you’re happy doing it, the money will follow.  The universe takes care of people following their dreams.

To most people that see my “highlight reel” of posted pictures on facebook, they see a happy girl doing great things and don’t guess that I still haven’t gotten this basic life concept figured out yet.  Maybe I’m too scared to give up the tenuous hold on security that I currently have.  Tenuous security is still security.  It takes a giant leap of faith to start something new and believe that it will work, while giving up what I know is working even though it’s not perfect.

I’ve made some major changes in my life in the past few years, partly in thanks to Shanti and Andy convincing me that I should take time off work and travel, to see what’s outside my comfort zone.  But settling back into the security of my comfort zone happened almost immediately when I returned, in terms of jobs and housing.  I’m more aware of what’s “out there,” and what makes my soul happy, and these things don’t happen in my current comfort zone.  Just when I think I have so much figured out in my life, it seems that it’s time to shake it up again.  It’s scary and exciting, and it’s time to embark on new adventures.  It takes courage, which doesn’t always appear when it’s needed.  I have to make it happen.  And this might be the journey I’m meant to take now.  And make it stick, at which point the scary dream will become my new comfort zone.

Gratitude. And relativity.

It’s true, I have been enjoying my time away from real life. I’ve been wandering around Portland seeing the sights, doing what I want, when I want. I’ve been loving the time with my sister and her husband, getting caught up on the family time that I don’t get at home.

But my trip hasn’t been completely satisfying; my book sales are not as good as I had hoped, which means I don’t have the money to shop or travel more, or eat at all the restaurants I’d like to try, not to mention the various thoughts that pop into my head that tell me I should give up trying to sell my book and go back to my desk job. I still haven’t met the man of my dreams. And I miss home, my friends, and all the activities that I enjoy. I haven’t even once had the desire to dive into the water here, and since so much of my time was spent in the ocean, my motivation for exercise has been slowly waning. But overall, the change of scenery has been good and I shouldn’t complain.

Tonight, though, news from home has brought into focus some ideas that have been floating around in my mind for a few weeks.

I took a train to Seattle to visit some friends whom I haven’t seen in many years. The visit was as big a contrast to happy-go-lucky Portland as I could imagine, and it made me question whether I’ve actually been paying attention to life, or just taking everything I see on facebook as truth.

I was fortunate to stay with friends, even though I had been pretty poor at keeping in touch in the eight years that have gone by since I last saw them. The married couple now has two children, one of whom is eight years old (my friend was pregnant when I moved away). What I learned of them in those eight years is that the children are smiling and happy, one is autistic, and everything is great. That’s what the pictures told me, anyway. In reality, I haven’t met many people who have had to face as many obstacles as this family, and their life has been anything but smiling and happy. I learned about the challenges of having an autistic child, and the incredible amounts of time and energy needed to provide her a life as close to normal as possible. Add to that the ongoing fights with a school system that didn’t believe autism existed; instead of helping how they could, as a school should do, they chose to add the child to the locked room of forgotten, mentally disabled students – which actually had feces smeared on the walls the day before my friend visited her child’s new classroom. Unable to tolerate her child’s potential, whatever it might be, wasting away in a room packed with every type of disability or obedience problem, she chose to sue the school system – not for money, but to give her child access to an education appropriate for her abilities. She spent tens of thousands of dollars and countless hours, and finally was able to force the school to recognize autism and provide a capable teacher. She now works for Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy, helping to raise awareness, and fight for other parents and students who are denied help from their schools. Add all that to raising another small child with a strong will of her own, both parents working, and they have their hands full on a good day. But they aren’t defeated; they are a strong family and are doing their best. They welcomed me into their home without hesitation and I enjoyed my days with them more than I would have if I had stayed with a single friend and partied the entire time.

I’m ashamed to admit that I have a cousin with autism whom I haven’t thought about since I saw him last, a couple years ago.

I met another friend for lunch, again I’m guilty for not keeping in touch. His health has declined to the point that we both got teary as we were parting, not knowing if we’d ever see each other again. He will not be able to work soon, and his social security won’t be enough to pay for his meager apartment. And his car was broken into twice in the past month, but nothing was taken because he has nothing to take.

I spent hours walking the streets in downtown Seattle. Poverty and drug addiction were apparent everywhere. It’s hard to understand exactly why it looked different than Portland, where there is a small crowd of homeless people in every space that provides shelter, but it seemed like a harder life. Maybe because in Portland most of the visible homeless have dreads and they’re just trying it out for the summer, ready to go back to college in the fall. Maybe because in Portland they are young and white, as opposed to the greater racial and age difference in Seattle. Maybe Portland has better homeless shelters and programs, or maybe this is just something I know nothing at all about. But life in downtown Seattle looked hard.

Where was I while all this has been going on?

These thoughts were kicking around in my head when I heard about the death of Robin Williams, and that really made me realize that everyone is struggling in some way, regardless of what you see. No one is immune to problems. I already knew this in the back of my mind, having dealt with many of my own problems in the past, and having spent months traveling in third world countries; but seeing friends fighting for their lives, really seeing them for the first time, seeing hopeless, angry people in the streets, has opened my eyes and mind a lot wider.

What this means, I don’t know. Should I stop worrying about my life, my book, money, my love life, wanting to surf better? I don’t think that’s the answer. I haven’t come up with an answer yet; but I do have a stronger sense of gratitude for what I have, for my friends and family, the relative ease that my life is, when held in comparison. I don’t think my life is easy, no one’s is, but each experience I have lately shows me more to be grateful for. And hopefully I’ll see things clearly enough in the future to put my good fortune to better use.

 

My writing tonight was something that I had been thinking about, but hadn’t quite gotten around to – until my news from home. My friend is in trouble, and there is nothing I can do. I haven’t spoken to him since I left home a month ago, nor was he someone I saw on a regular basis before I left. But he was the person who helped me out of a jam when I was in trouble – waking up in the middle of the night to rescue me. I called him after the ‘friend’ I had been out with assaulted me, stole my truck keys, and left me on the side of the road, miles from my house. Without hesitation, he picked me up, drove me to get spare keys, made sure I got home safely, and checked to make sure I was ok. No questions asked, no favors wanted in return. He is a great guy. His life has gotten out of his control, I’m only learning this now.

I’m sending all my positive thoughts to you and your family, J. Please make it home.