The new lesson I learned is if you can go legal, go for it. The attraction of offshore work and informal work relationships are like the siren’s call for people who like to travel around and discover the world, but it’s not risk free.
The question is: are you tough enough?
That is the question you have to ask yourself when joining a possibly illegal business, with a deal made on a handshake, surrounded by words and emails. “Tough” means are you able to protect yourself from scams and arbitrary claims? This doesn’t mean you have to develop the skills of a hitman, but it means indeed take your precautions when dealing with a business where nobody can guarantee legally for you (except for you!). Remember the best recurring villain are polite, smiling and warm.
The first thing is make a contract. Even if the contract is not a standard contract or within a union. Have both parts agree on a statement, and possibily have it validated from a third neutral party. You can do the same thing going through your records later, (emails or other documentations) to reconstruct the agreement, but that’s a hard job. In a long term work relationship there will be a lot of things taken for granted and spoken agreements that will be hard to document in case of a dispute.
The second thing is trust your instinct. If you feel something weird is going on it probably is. Irregularities can happen but they can’t be the rule. A healthy business finds the way to solve problems quickly. If you notice customers have problems to be reimbursed or your payment is delayed more than once for not clear motivations something bad is going on. Small failures can snowball into a huge mess and without the necessary precautions you can be sucked in.
Third thing is have insurance.
Fourth thing is tell people what’s going on. Having outside opinions about things that involve you very closely is important to open your perspective. If you feel ashamed and isolated that won’t help you anyway. It’s important that you find in your environment people who you can really trust and that can also give precious advice. It helps to have “friends in high places”, and also to have access to specialists who can help you understand your rights and tell you exactly what to do.
Fifth thing stay cool. No matter how it hurts to be attacked and have your self esteem injured, no matter if you feel deceived by people you were counting on for your livelihood, the best thing is to transcend your emotional response and don’t let it drive your actions. Stay cool even if you feel like a dummy that has just been ripped off. Do not react emotionally, it is often the wrong move. Swallow your pride, let people help, and have an audience for your emotions. There will always be time to act wildly later!
I’ve been living for ten months in the Comarca Kuna Yala onboard Andiamo, a Beneteau Oceanis 50. While I was on board I accompanied more than 300 tourists to visit the beautiful islands of this area, one of the last paradises in the Carribean, and to meet the Kuna people, proud and smiling natives who still live preserving a unique culture and their language. Simple people who live on the abundant gifts that this place offers, but well aware of the effort required to live.
It was not trivial to relate with them. The differences that exist between Kuna and a European boy may seem unfathomable. I have always received warmth and support from those with whom I had the good fortune to work closely together. It was enough to sit down and talk with them to find out that we humans have much to share even where there are seemingly insurmountable cultural differences. Listen, smile and be open seems to me the best way to meet everyone.
Here in this place where land and water mingle with each other (the archipelago consists of about 370 islands) I lived with sails hoisted and attached to an anchor, being aware of what surrounded me. I meditated on deserted islands and met marine life, I learned to recognize the shape of a fish as it swims, and overcome my fears being in touch with natural environment improving my free diving to go and meet the underwater life so close. I fished a lot and cooked the fish caught by creating dishes that even the best seafood restaurant will find difficult to reply, feeding and making hundreds of happy guests. The diet and lifestyle were the most healthy I ever experienced giving me further reason to think that living on a boat and sail around the world is beneficial to health. I experienced feelings of deep loneliness as well as the strain of never having privacy. I admired Remi (my personal Kuna spearfishing guide) swim faster than a huge Red Snapper and catch him. I used to go with him spearfishing in the outer reef where the open sea crush onto the corals and the marine life is intense and busy. I sailed on a sailing cayuco with Dino, my faithful officer on board and a great friend of many difficulties and joys. I met his family and his friends and the lovely people of Dino’s island Yandup. All this and energetic life sustained me in the responsibilities of the captain, I had the chance to make mistakes, which fortunately were never serious or dangerous and have always solved the major ones, working on emergency in a place with no assistance at all, but supported by the Team of Andiamo, Tony, Mitzy and of course Dino.
The list goes on and on. If I look behind these 10 months I have no regrets and even thinking about the difficulties I can not look to Kuna Yala with other eyes than those of gratitude and joy.
Photos: Me, Marloes, Stefano