Sleep deprived and gross from the plane Trevor drove me to Downtown Disney. I talked a mile a minute the whole way about my past life at Disney and all the things I loved about Orlando. He dropped me off at Cirque de Soleil and I skipped around taking everything in.
My name is Siobhan, I am 28 years old and I love Disney.
A lot of Downtown Disney is the same but a lot has changed. It was a happy occasion. I was on vacation and I was in my favourite place but it was also a day tinged with sadness. Pleasure Island is no more. What remains is hidden behind construction boards. I was Pleasure Island’s biggest fan. One of the many privileges of being a cast member was free entry into all of the nightclubs. I had some of the best nights of my life at PI. I loved Motions where we would plan our arrival to coincide with the nightly playing of the Cha Cha Slide and Cupid Shuffle. I would spend the rest of the night having dance offs and singing along to the censored songs. My first night in Mannequins I strutted on to the dance floor like I was Diana Ross and landed splat on my arse having not realised the floor was revolving. I have to wipe a tear away when I remember the perfection of The Adventurers Club, a bar for 1930s British explorers. Pleasure Island closed down a mere two weeks after I moved from Orlando. Coincidence? Surely not. The money I spent on buckets of alcohol throughout the years probably kept the whole place in business.
Most of Downtown Disney is under construction. Sorry, did I say construction? I meant to say there was a lot of Dream Building happening. Only Disney can put up inspirational Walt quotes on pastel coloured boards and make the building of a new multi storey car park seem magical. They are building a giant food truck park. I am struggling to get my head around that idea. I don’t know if I love it or not? I do love food, in particular German sausages and cake. It could be amazing. However, one of the food trucks already parked sold Bacon Cupcakes. The thought of that revolts me so much it makes me want to never eat food again. I’m not sure. I will have to see what it is like when it arrives. Also new is the hot air balloon. I didn’t entirely understand the concept of it. You buy a ticket for the balloon, you get in the basket, it goes up high but it doesn’t actually take off, right? It was closed due to high winds while I was there despite it not being windy at all. I think hot air balloons are pretty, so yes, Disney I am happy with this. The balloon can stay.
Downtown Disney was celebrating St Paddy’s Day Month. There was lots of green and live Irish jig music and beer and free beads. It created a really nice atmosphere and I loved it! I noticed an Ireland Tourist Information Kiosk, very smart thinking Ireland. If I was Irish I would have been so proud to see such a big celebration. It is a big honour to the Irish how much people love their culture and want to feel part of it. They also tied it in with the new Muppets movie because, you know, Kermit is green too.
The Market Place is pretty much unchanged since I was last there. The only noticeable difference was the abscence of a McDonalds. I was a little disappointed. Taco Bell for lunch, McDonalds for dinner was my usual Orlando diet. I got my Disney fix at the Marketplace with the Little Mermaid songs they were playing and looking at all the new merchandise … sorry not merchandise … tangible memories. I wanted to buy everything. Especially the homeware for my non-existent home. I did allow myself to buy one thing, a new pair of Mickey Mouse stud earrings. It has become somewhat a tradition of mine to buy them when I visit a Disney park. They are my good luck charms. When I am in the Disney parks I am at my happiest. My little shiny Mickeys let me take the magic with me wherever I go. My self-restraint was further put to the test when I had to coax myself away from a full princess makeover at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, all my childhood dreams come true through the use of glitter eye shadow and a shiny new dress.
Home is the comfiest place to be – Pooh
I mentioned before that when I was in Cancun everybody I encountered was exceptionally kind and helpful. During my stay in Orlando it continued. Are people generally just nicer than they used to be? Or have I changed?
A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves. Amelia Earhart
I almost didn’t make it to America. I had booked everything a few hours before my flight was due to depart. At the airport the check in agent asked me if I had an electronic visa. “Do I have a … what now?” Unbelievably I had no clue that to enter the USA I had to pay for a visa online beforehand. The last couple of times I had gone to America it was on a working visa. When I booked with Jetblue there had been no prompt about the visa process, which is obviously to be expected from a US airline. My heart sank. I was not leaving Mexico after all. With a little bit of time before check in closed the agent took my bags and suggested I go to the information desk and use their computer. The information desk was closed. I decided to try my luck with the immigration office. I tried to explain to the officer that I needed an electronic visa but we had serious communication problems. He called his buddy who “spoke English”. His friend spoke no English. They were both trying their best to help but couldn’t. Time was ticking away. The officer called the Jetblue desk who told me to come back. When I got there everyone was trying unsuccessfully to get online for me. By this point check in had closed. In the end the Jetblue manager took me into their back office and let me use their computer to buy my electronic visa. While I was there, they checked me in and gave me my boarding pass. I have never had such good service from an airline. Especially as the whole situation had been my own fault. I had not done my research and did not have the right paperwork. I am well-travelled, I know better than to try and go to another country without taking the time to check the entry requirements. Jetblue could have told me that without the visa, I could not catch my flight. Instead the whole team worked together to make sure I got on the plane. I thanked everyone as I ran through security and to my departure gate. They had held the flight for me. I made it. I was getting the hell out.
Orlando! My Happy Home! I love the video they show at Orlando Immigration. Welcome to America, with lots of smiling faces and city shots and folks working on the farm and old people and kids and puppies and hamburgers and everyone loves everything. It is so over the top and cheesy and I love it. I got through immigration without any problems (which is miraculous since I had only purchased a one way ticket). I had a nice chat with the officer about my upcoming Caribbean cruise. It felt so good to be back in Orlando. On the way to my hotel I recognized so much and I spotted everything that had changed. We drove past my old apartment complex. Memories! It had been almost 6 years since I had left Orlando. My time living there and working for Disney was the best time of my life to date. I didn’t realise how much I had missed it. When I seen the Welcome to Walt Disney World sign my heart was singing.
I had booked the Clarion Suites Maingate for my first night. The reviews were pretty mixed but it was exceptionally cheap and near Downtown Disney. I had very low expectations but figured I would suffer through one night and then find something better for the rest of my trip. I was very pleasantly surprised. My room was huge and spotlessly clean. It had everything I could have wanted, two big beds, a bath, satellite TV, free WiFi, a fridge, freezer, microwave. There was a pool, a bar, a coffee shop, a laundry room. Leave after one night? I could have moved in! After checking out my room I went straight back to reception to keep my room for the duration of my trip. The staff were all super helpful too. They actually gave me my room cheaper than what I had booked online for. When I needed some WD40 to fix my chronically defective camera after asking at reception the handy man was at my room in less than a minute. When I go back to Orlando I would not hesitate to stay there again. Moral of the story? Tripadvisor is wack.
Within minutes of arriving in Florida I found myself at Taco Bell. When I used to live next to the Premium Outlets I would go to Taco Bell about 4 times a week. I loved it. How I managed to live in Orlando for over a year and not become morbidly obese is nothing short of a miracle. In the whole 6 years since I left America I have never seen a Taco Bell. I was practically foaming at the mouth I was so excited to order a Crunch Wrap Supreme. I took some photographs to commemorate the moment and tucked in. After years of anticipation and fantasizing, it was just … meh. I mean it was fine, there was nothing wrong with the food. It’s just, I was expecting angels playing harps to burst out of my soft taco. It was far too much food for one person. I managed about half of the food and my luminous green giant soda and threw the rest away. There is something about Taco Bell. After eating there, I didn’t feel so good about myself.
Next stop was a discount ticket stand where I planned out my itinerary for the following days with the lady working there. She told me about the Best Taxi Driver in Florida called Trevor. On her recommendation I had him come pick me up. He really was the best and became my driver for my whole trip. He was chatty and chilled out and he really went out of his way to take good care of me. No matter when or where I called him from he was there in 15 minutes regardless of the time of day or the traffic. I reminisced with him about the clubs Downtown. He felt more like a friend giving me lifts than a taxi driver.
I had already been in Orlando for a few hours. There was only one place I had to go ….
DISNEY DISNEY DISNEY
Cancun is famous for its beaches, nightlife and all-inclusive hotels. It is not well known as a spot for conducting business in an efficient and timely manner . What followed after I left Isla was a series of frustrating days were my main activity was waiting.
I checked into the most soul less hotel I could find in Cancun. The Ibis is a business hotel or somewhere you would stay for a few hours before you go to the airport or hang yourself. It was private and central and quiet, everything I was looking for. The staff checked me in under the name Evelyn and referred to me as that throughout my entire stay. Evelyn is my usually forgotten middle name and despite being less sesquipedalian than my first name it has never been used as such. Everywhere in Cancun that week I was called Evelyn, I never corrected anyone and when someone asked my name I would struggle to answer. It was weird. I must have just looked like an Evelyn that week. The staff at the Ibis were very kind to me. When I needed things printed out, something translated, directions, they really went out of their way to accommodate me. I must have had some good karma stored up because everywhere I went that week people went out of their way to help me. Everyone I came across was so kind and that is certainly not the Cancun I remember when I lived there. I never got ripped off by a taxi driver or arrested even once. A miracle!
My whole purpose of being in Cancun was to get a police check. All I needed was a certificate from the police station that said I had not been caught committing any crimes in the last 6 months. Despite my angel face I knew it was going to be a nightmare to get it in a country where I was not a resident, did not speak the language and is hardly known for their efficient bureaucracy. I love Mexico, I really really do, but I needed to get out. All I wanted was to get on a plane to anywhere else.
On my first morning in Cancun I left my hotel with a friendly “Buenos Dias Evelyn” from the front desk. I waited to print off some documents. I waited to take money out of an ATM. Then I waited for a taxi. I waited in line for the bank. I waited for another taxi. I waited in traffic. I finally got to the police station and there was a line almost out of the door which I joined. I should mention I had already been to the police station twice before to try and get this certificate. To pass the time I spent hours playing Sudoku on my Ipad. I am pretty sure I have broken some Sudoku World Record. It was the only thing that kept me sane. I was almost at the front of the line when a policeman looked over my papers. I recited the speech I had saved on my ipad in my painfully awful Spanish. He seemed to understand what I was looking for and felt pained to tell me that I had actually brought the wrong size photographs. I tried to convince him to let me cut them but he very nicely told me that was not possible. Apparently the photos had to show my eyes AND my mouth. Strict! I had to leave the station and find a Walmart to have my photos taken. The gentleman behind the counter told me it would be a 45 minutes wait but I somehow managed to sweet talk him into giving me them in 5 minutes. Back to the police station I went. The line was even longer this time. I am ashamed to admit this but I walked straight past everyone waiting, found the man who had checked my photographs and with a big smile announced I was back. He walked me straight to the counter, bypassing people who had been waiting in front of me, and I was served next. Having the wrong photographs in the end saved me about an hour of time. I handed over all my papers, stampety stampety stamp and was told to come back … in two days. I had been told that I would get my certificate the same day. That would mean at least 3 more days in Cancun waiting. I tried to reason with the woman to give it to me earlier but it was hard to state my cause through a little opening waist-high, using the 5 Spanish words I knew and I could not find anyway to subtlety give her the 100 pesos I had put in an envelope marked “Bribe Money”. I eventually gave up and left the police station.
I headed to the mall, because what else was I going to do in Cancun? I had just had my hair and my nails done and there was nothing I wanted to see at the cinema, but that still doesn’t explain how I ended up in a dentist‘s chair agreeing to $2000 worth of treatment. I had been curious about laser whitening but I was surprised when I found myself in the chair agreeing to have three wisdom teeth removed, a filling and laser whitening. No one at the clinic had good teeth, not even the dentist. A red flag. Perhaps having massive dental surgery was something I should not do on a whim. I wondered if my first instinct to get sushi had been a better idea. I did agree to the filling and the laser whitening however. I told the dentist that I had a very low pain threshold and to treat me like I was the size of an elephant and give me the legal limit of anesthetic. He happily agreed and dosed me up as if I was having my wisdom teeth out. I didn’t feel a thing. Then came the laser whitening. You know when you play laser tag and you get shot with a laser and you feel nothing? Well I thought that was how laser whitening was going to feel. No. It feels like a bikini wax on the roots of your teeth. I had been warned that I could eat only white food for the rest of my life, but I had no idea it was going to hurt. With tears rolling down my face and my palms scrunched up into sweaty fists I begged the dentist to stop. 10 minutes in and with another 45 minutes to go, I told him that I would rather die than continue. He then told me that when he had laser whitening it hurt so much that he had only lasted 5 minutes because it was so painful! He was impressed by my bravery. That would have been useful information before the torture, Doc. In the end my teeth were a little bit whiter and he didn’t charge me for the whitening.
The next day I headed back to the police station despite being told that my papers would not be ready until the following day. It was likely going to be a waste of time but I knew that I had to try. The station was much quieter that day and I quickly found my helpful police man. Big smiles, little dress, flippy hair. I think being young and blonde worked pretty well for me in this particular police station. Desperate times and all. I told him I was so pleased to see him and that I had come back to collect my police report. He seemed pleased to see me too and appeared heart broken to tell me that my papers would not be ready until the next day. It was time to pull out the big guns. Bambi eyes, pouty lips, desperation all round, “Por favor. It is an emergencia” I whimpered. As the whisper of a tear formed in the corner of my eye, he nodded his head sympathetically and led me out the room and up some stairs. I presumed this was where I would use my bribe envelope. He led me into a very professional office with very professional people. He said something in Spanish to the receptionist. She opened a drawer and handed me over my completed police report. I nearly cried for real with sheer and utter relief. I thanked everyone a million times, there was some hugging and I skipped out of the station. I was definitely cashing in on some good karma. It was the first time in Mexico’s History when anything was ever done quicker than planned. Ever.
Back in my hotel I went online and booked the next flight for The Happiest Place on Earth. Efficient Evelyn was going back to Orlando. I packed one bag and left a whole suitcase of clothes and toiletries behind for the cleaners. I wanted a fresh start and didn’t want to be burdened with carrying around a load of unnecessary stuff. I was so excited and happy and relieved I could not sleep. At 4.00am I went back online, credit card in hand, and booked a Caribbean Cruise. Because why the hell not?
I was free.
This here is my 1000th post!
That is One Thousand Adventures, One Thousand Stories, One Thousand Funny Moments, One Thousand Over-shares and One Thousand Memories.
It has been a wild journey from my prehistoric Livejournal days (RIP luckypanda and Shivlovesmickey) to The Miss Adventure Journals you see here today. To everyone who has read, commented, subscribed or shared in my little blog, Thank You.
Here’s to the next 1000!
As Spring arrived it was time for me to leave my beloved Isla Mujeres. A curious series of events led me there and I never expected to be touched by the magic of the island. It was where I was supposed to be when I was there. But I knew when the time was right for me to move on and continue my adventure somewhere over the rainbow.
I left Isla while I still loved it. The place is undeniably beautiful and I have thousands of identical pictures of its dreamy sunsets and turquoise waters. I met some wonderful, free spirited, kind hearted people. I have some great memories, being on the water and at the beach, pushing my bike around the island. Before I left I got to experience carnival or as I preferred to call it Week Long Salsa Dancing Flash Mob. I made my 13 years old self’s dreams come true and seen the Man God Ricky Martin in concert in Cancun. Dancing to this heavenly being while he sang all his songs to me and me only I felt completely care free. It has to be noted that shortly after I seen him in concert he split from his partner. I have loved him too long and too hard for that to be a mere coincidence.
It was never going to be forever. As hard as I tried to build a life for myself on Isla I found my efforts constantly blocked. Making money is crucial to everyone. Even free spirits have got to eat. On Isla I tried my hand at sales, real estate, hostessing, PR and no matter how hard I tried the money I made was grossly overshadowed by the money I spent to live. Everyday, people asked me when I was leaving, what my plans were. Trying to establish a life for yourself while people are waiting for you to leave is almost impossible. I had a Winter with a lot of free time to relax and enjoy the sunshine alone. But I forgot about my true loves, travel, adventure, freedom and sharing my stories.
On Isla I lost myself. I became someone I did not recognise or like all that much. The care free, free spirited adventurer vanished and I became … domesticated. Controlled. Unappreciated. Despondent. I loved Isla but most of my time there I was not happy. To spend as long as I did there I had to give up a lot. I have been blessed to have visited some spectacular places but now I am starting to realise that it is not where you go, but what you do that matters in life. And of course who you are there with. Hypothetically speaking, I would rather have my freedom and live in a box than feel invisible on a 7 million dollar yacht. Without pesky things like a job to think about I had a lot of time for introspection. I do not measure success in material goods. To me true success is peace and contentment within. I am not impressed by wealth. I have a bit more to offer than being just a silent plaything. When someone invites me on his boat as a guest I don’t expect to be the unpaid waitress for the evening. I don’t feel honoured to be in someones presence just because they have money, especially if that someone thinks that because I am not wealthy or a male I am not there equal. As the Countess says, money can’t buy you class. Or charm or a personality. Just as everyone deserves respect, we all deserve the truth. A life can not be built on lies. If someone tells you you are not good enough, if someone tries to dim your sparkle, hold your head up high and walk away. If you are surrounded by people who are broken, leave before you become broken too.
I seen a healer. After a massage that brought me to tears, I felt like I could see clearly for the first time in months. As I lay on the table I had one thought, inside I am a good person. Nothing and especially not another person can take that away from me. I want success. I need independence and freedom. I deserve to be happy all the time. Happiness does not come from another person. No matter what happens in my life, no matter where I go or who I meet, I am always going to be stuck with me. I will always be my own companion so I may as well like the person that I am. The healer told me that I was acting like a victim. He was right. My happiness is my responsibility. It seems so obvious now, so certain, but at the time I needed someone to spell it out to me. With the healer’s words in my ears I knew what I needed to do. The strength was always inside me but he gave me the push to change my own life. He told me to stop wasting so much energy pretending to everyone that everything in my life was so perfect all the time. No one cares! No one is looking! Everyone is too concerned with not messing up their own lives. I confided in a friend, then another, then another. I realised how blessed I am to have some wonderful people in my life. I got stronger. I let the burden out. I learned to let go. I felt light. It was time to leave.
It is always darkest before the dawn. I have left Isla, I have started writing the next chapter of my life, and I am truly happy. I have no regrets. I stayed on the island as long as I was supposed to. I have some wonderful memories and as soon as I left the bad ones were washed away. I needed to learn some lessons to really grow and move on. I have no anger or resentment towards myself or anyone else. Carrying bad energy is not productive. As soon as I had my awakening, my urge to move on and let my life blossom, a life changing, spectacular new opportunity came and found me.
Winds in the east, mist coming in. Like somethin’ is brewin’ and bout to begin.
I finally did it! I got my PADI Open Water Certification. In a few short months I went from swearing I would never try the unnatural torture freak show that is scuba diving to being a qualified diver. Let me tell you, if I can do it. Pretty much anyone can. Unless you are allergic to water. Or a unicorn. Then I would probably try another hobby. Like paper mache.
My course was bought for me as a thoughtful Christmas gift (what the store was out of puppies?). I love to study and I am the definition of a teacher’s pet. Instead of apples I bought my dive instructor breakfast empanadas. I studied the PADI book and the videos hard. I wanted to know everything I could about diving so I had all the knowledge I needed to keep myself and others safe in the water. I also wanted to be the best ever at the theory exam. Which I am pretty sure I was. I think I got two questions wrong in the whole test. I am a diving genius! The PADI videos are torturous. They feature lots of happy divers with butch hair and jazzy wetsuits being conscientious together. Their smug eager faces almost made me want to never go diving again. In comparison the World’s stupidest man tells you what not to do. I was disappointed that he never died at the end of the chapter 5. That would have given a very clear message on safety.
I took my course in that time when Isla Mujeres thought it was Sweden. The weather was brutal. All there was to do was complain about the cold and rain and I was in my Scottish miserly best. The pool work as well as the actual dives were completed in the sea. The cold cold sea. Because of the weather the days I was actually in the water were spaced out. I don’t recommend this. In the in-between days I forgot everything. If you are getting PADI qualified do it on 3 consecutive days. The course involves basic floating and swimming about. It is pretty essential that you can do that to scuba dive. You then have to perform a series of tricks underwater. Taking off your mask, taking off your BCD, using your instructor’s air. Taking off your BCD underwater is bloody hard. I wrestled with mine for a really long time. My instructor complimented me on never giving up. He said he admired that life skill. No matter how difficult something is I will work as hard as I can until I can do it. Even to the point where he was convinced I was going to drown. The truth is, the water was so cold that I wanted to get everything over and done with as quickly as possible. Having to perform any of the skills again was simply out of the questions. My instructor was fantastic. I got very lucky to have one on one training with a highly skilled, very patient teacher. I know that I have absolutely no natural diving abilities and I am a calamity under the water. He managed to restrain himself from laughing in my face and for that my fragile ego is forever grateful.
The actual dives were great. I love seeing the underwater museum and the fish close up. On my first dive of the course my instructor pointed out that I have trouble staying underwater because I unconsciously kick my legs too much. I resemble a live frog about to be put into a soup pot. After he told me, I worked to correct it and my buoyancy became much easier. Then my confidence took a massive knock. I was with a different instructor one day and was putting on my gear when the man diving with me told me that last time he went diving his buddy ran out of oxygen and died. How unbelievably tragic. I told this man I admired his bravery for getting back into the water himself. I sat on the edge of the boat and had absolutely no desire to jump in. Imagine telling a new driver about a terrible car crash right before they set off on their first solo drive? Against my better judgement I got underwater. The dive was horrible. All I could think about was breathing. I struggled so much to just stay under the water, I had forgotten everything I had learned in my previous dives. I was desperate to get back up to the surface. I didn’t see any statues, any fish or coral. It was almost like my mask had been blacked out. I just wanted it to be over. I got back on the boat, sat in a corner and burst into tears. As we sailed closer to the next dive spot I knew that if I didn’t dive right then, I would never dive again. I wiped away my tears, got extra weights and had an amazing dive.
My final dive was even better. I didn’t have to think about how to dive, I just did it. I got to dive with turtles for the first time which was magical. At the end of the dive we spotted a massive barracuda. It was about 5 feet long with an open mouth displaying rows of razor sharp teeth. As everyone swam for a closer look, the maniacs, I swam far in the other direction! A great dive with some wonderful people and the last one I needed to get my qualification.
With my open water course under my (weight) belt I am ready to take the next step in my diving career. I am going to become a fully fledged mermaid.