I’ll start by answering the question I’ve answered at least 25 times already. And it’s a fair question to ask! But let’s just get it out of the way.
How on earth did I end up teaching yoga and guiding rock climbing in the Cayman Islands?
Here’s the short version. I was looking for international, month-long yoga teacher positions to kill some time before working as an outdoor instructor in Colorado during the summer. Lo and behold, I stumbled upon this job at Rock Iguana that would allow me to combine two of my passions – rock climbing and yoga. BOTH! On an island!
It seemed like the perfect fit. Fortunately, Rock Iguana’s owners thought I’d be a good fit too. After I was offered the position, I raced around my hometown trying to get all my medical paperwork completed for the work permit. It was just two weeks between the job offer and stepping foot on Cayman soil. Er…rock.
Now that we have that out of the way, let me tell you what it was really like.
Yes, it was amazing. Most days. During the first month especially, I tried my best to focus on being present. I noticed the little things: the breeze on my skin, the gentle crashing of the waves, the taste of my coffee. I finally started – and kept – a meditation practice. These habits lifted my spirits and made me incredibly aware of the beautiful opportunity I had.
I had taken six months off from climbing prior to the move. With that space for my mind and body, and with the help of fun and supportive partners, I redefined my relationship with climbing. I climbed because I wanted to and because it was fun. I didn’t put loads of pressure on myself or let my abilities determine my mood or my self-worth. I cared less about grades which, of course, led me to climb harder grades. Thanks to yoga and meditation, I was a calmer climber and more aware of my body positioning. Self-doubt and judgment crept in some days, but the growth was still apparent.
And for the record, the climbing on Cayman Brac is FUN. I reconfirmed my love for technical routes that call upon balance, yet I also learned to like steeper routes that pumped me out in no time at all.
Guiding climbing was new and exciting. I can see the instructor in me that wants to teach people certain skills rather than do it for them, but guiding was a welcome change. There’s no doubt that I still LOVE seeing people climb or rappel for the first time! It’s also amazing to see what Angel, David, and William have created with Rock Iguana.
I usually taught yoga four to seven times a week between the Yogi Wall outdoor venue, the Cayman Brac Beach Resort, and paddle boards in the lagoon. The yoga community on Cayman Brac is small yet dedicated and growing; warm, compassionate, and generous. I am so fortunate to have been welcomed by this little kula. (Kula = community in Sanskrit.)
Workwise, I also assisted with various administrative tasks, social media, and marketing. I rolled a lot of Rock Iguana t-shirts for display, so if anything goes wrong in the next step of life, I am well-positioned for a career in retail.
A major highlight of my four months was getting certified to scuba dive. In my humble opinion, breathing underwater is so much less natural than scaling a cliff. Both confuse the mind and body, but my mind and body did not initially like breathing underwater. Thanks to the patience of my dive instructor and my friends, I’ve completed 15 dives, figured out how to stop floating to the surface, and explored a world of coral, fish, sea turtles, lobsters, rays, squid, sharks, and more. It’s like moving meditation meets hide and seek.
Toward the end of my stay, I joined Turtle Patrol, a volunteer team with the Department of the Environment. I walked the beaches shortly after sunrise, looking for signs of Mama Turtles crawling on shore to lay her eggs during the night. The DOE and Turtle Patrollers ensure that nests are recorded and monitored properly. I even got to see a few baby turtles make their way to sea!
So if I’m going there for vacation…?
Don’t miss sunrise at The Point, sunset from The West End, chocolate cake from Star Island, chai tea at Kabana Kai Café, and Taco Tuesday at Captain’s Table. Climbing and yoga were a given, right?
OK, so it’s paradise?
Of course! AND paradise comes with many things I didn’t necessarily expect. Cock roaches and ant colonies as roommates. Running out of water on a weekend. Running out of propane on a weekend. (These things come in big tanks that need refilled.) The difficulties of not having my own vehicle or public transportation. Sweltering, “feels like 120 degrees” weeks (upon weeks) without AC. And plenty of other things around the house that just didn’t work right. Eventually the heat made it hard to find motivation and energy for climbing so yoga became my primary form of physical activity. And less activity, for me, means more anxiety. Some days felt like a sweaty, uphill battle. So let this be yet another reminder that what you see on social media isn’t the full story. (Although I did post pictures of cock roaches.)
What did I learn?
I think I will continue to reflect and draw lessons from this experience for months to come. Several of my lessons were personal as I tried to dissect many of my relationships. I also learned that people won’t offer to help you if they don’t want to. So if they offer to help, take them up on it. Life is too short to be stunted my stubbornness and pride. I undoubtedly improved my climbing, guiding, and teaching skills in a number of ways, but most importantly, in terms of self-confidence. I practiced going with the flow, which isn’t always easy for a Type A over-planner. I built and fostered beautiful relationships and was reminded that people are inherently good. And I know so much more about sea creatures than I ever did.
I’m looking forward to the next step of my life – a PhD program at the University of Utah – but I’ll miss the people, the sea, and the simplicity of island life. Retirement is a long way away, but I know where my second home will be. Save a spot for me on the bluff!