I am not a big fan of Mexican food, I don’t like swimming in the ocean, I don’t particularly enjoy sand and I really hate hot weather and constant sweating…I agree, this is a strange combination for somebody who lives in the Mexican Caribbean, but hey, stranger things have happened.

I was introduced to Cozumel by mistake. I had happily lived in NYC for about 12 years (having moved over there from Saint-Petersburg, Russia) when I was suddenly struck by debilitating migraines. The pain was so bad that I wanted to literally bang my head against a wall to break it into little pieces and get it over with once and for all. Doctors couldn’t figure out what was happening. Drugs didn’t help. Needless to say, I stopped drinking completely because even a drop of alcohol made my head hurt a thousand times more. It was really bad and tiring. That continued non-stop for 5 months.

And then, suddenly, I woke up without any pain, nada, zilch, zero. And it was a Saturday and my friends and I were scheduled to go to a Bulgarian club to listen to some gypsy punk music. The timing of no-pain could have not been more perfect. It was such a beautiful night, full of dancing, whiskey and laughter. In the midst of all this fun (somewhere around my 4th whiskey, I think) two of my friends – a married couple – approached me about going with them on a trip to Cozumel. You see, the wife was an avid diver and the husband didn’t want to even try diving and needed a partner in crime for chilling in a hammock with a margarita in hand. I was a natural fit for this position – I was afraid of even thinking about diving, so there was no risk of losing me to the underwater adventure.I immediately responded, “Of course, I’ll go!” I would have probably said “yes” to about anything in my state of exhilaration induced by the simple powerful formula “no-pain + alcohol = life is good you should take advantage of its every moment”.

I woke up to a headache I had never known before, coupled with an email from my friends: “Thank you very much for agreeing to go to Cozumel with us! Here are your flight details…” “All right, I thought, I guess, I’m going”. And I went. And for the first two days everything went as planned – Alex and Ienjoyed out margaritas at the beach while Ellen, the wife and avid diver, happily dove her days away. But then she nagged us into doing a Discover Scuba Diving program. She whined and whined about how cool it would be and we did it just to shut her up, prove our point and return back to margaritas at the beach. But life had a different plan for us – we both fell in love with diving and the rest of our vacation was spent exclusively underwater. Curiously, I also discovered that diving helps my headaches. Go figure.

In a couple of months I returned to Cozumel by myself to get Open Water certified. And then in another couple of months I came to the island again – this time for whole 6 weeks – exiled from working by my neurologist who had convinced me to take a medical leave in an attempt to calm my migraines down.

I had two types of days during that medical leave: no-migraine days were spent underwater and took me to the level of Rescue Diver and migraine days were spent in a hammock by the beach in painful reflection on the purpose of pain, purpose of life, purpose of it all, really. After 4 weeks of this bliss, I was almost jolted out of my hammock by a bright and vivid thought “Do I REALLY need to go back to work? THIS is good!” But of course, I couldn’t afford “THIS” without working, so I calmed myself down and continued swinging in the hammock.

Three days passed by and I received an email from my company that I was finally eligible to cash in the shares I had gotten a while ago and kind of given up on. Hmmm, speaking of stars aligning when the time is right. I decided to seize this opportunity and upon cashing in I left my job and set out for a year of travel around the world with the money I received (which originally was meant for my mortgage, but oh well).

My plan was to come back to NYC after that travel sabbatical, find another job and continue business as usual. But yet again, life had different plans for me. After a whole year of living out of one suitcase in Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Malaysia and Cozumel, I was exhausted of moving around yet felt absolutely nowhere near ready to go back to work.

The decision was simple: after all, Cozumel was my inspiration to leave my job of 12 years. For a second I was perplexed by my own decision – I really do NOT like hot weather… or sand… or Mexican food… But on the other side of the equation were friends I made here on my multiple visits, affordability of living, close proximity to the States, the amazing energy of this island and last, but so not least, beautiful, mind-boggling, magical diving that I had been so petrified of before and that completely changed my life.

I wish I could say, “And once I moved to Cozumel, my migraines miraculously disappeared and I lived happily thereafter”. Not true, but they did get much, much better and that’s an additional bonus of my living on this gorgeous island.

Maria Shibaeva Hykin is a partner in and is also very active in the Cozumel yoga community, where she also teaches classes. She’s been hooked on Cozumel since her first visit in 2009.

This story originally appeared in the weekly Cozumel 4 You NEWS – the island’s number one source of positive information about our island!  Be sure and subscribe to the weekly NEWS to find out all the island events!…

Laura Wilkinson

Author at Cozumel 4 You
An ex-Connecticut Yankee who has called Cozumel home for over 18 years, Laura ran away to the Caribbean years ago, bumped around the islands teaching SCUBA diving, lost some time in Jamaica, and finally stopped in Cozumel for a 2 week vacation that hasn’t ended yet. With a degree in Journalism from a fancy private college she convinced her parents to pay for, Laura writes, edits, and creates the weeklyCozumel 4 You news,social media, and promotional articles about the island, as well as moderates the Cozumel 4 You Facebook group, which currently has over 25,000 members. Her long suffering husband, Fabian, has long since resigned himself to having zero private life, as he’s been involved in her various schemes and plots since his arrival. Proud parents to a variety of rescue dogs and cats, Laura continues to be the bane of her traditional Mexican mother-in-law’s existence, as she muses her way through life in the Mexican Caribbean.
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Una ex yanqui de Connecticut quien llama hogar a Cozumel desde hace más de 15 años. Laura escapó al Caribe hace años, desplazándose de una isla a otra dando clases de BUCEO. Se dedicó a perder el tiempo en Jamaica y finalmente se detuvo en Cozumel para pasar unas vacaciones de 2 semanas que aún no terminan. Convenciendo a sus padres que pagaran una elegante universidad privada, obtuvo su título en Periodismo y Laura crea semanalmente Cozumel 4You, medios sociales y artículos promocionales sobre la Isla y también es moderadora en el grupo Cozumel 4 You en Facebook que actualmente cuenta con 25,000 miembros. Fabián, s umuy tolerante marido, desde hace mucho tiempo se resignó a no tener vida privada, pues se ha visto implicado en los diversos proyectos y planes que urde Laura. Son orgullosos padres de diversos perros y gatos rescatados. Mientras contempla su paso a través de la vida en el Caribe mexicano,Laura continúa siendo la pesadilla en la existencia de su muy tradicional suegra mexicana.

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