Surprise! I’m Moving to Fiji and Other Life Updates

I’m not one to usually write here’s-a-general-update-on-my-life articles but I suppose now is a good time to share all that has been happening and will be happening in 2018.

I sense many faceplants coming up — metaphorical and actual.

The past four years in Western Australia have been a mix of stress and excitement. It’s been great. It’s been not-so-great. My first two years here, I worked as a carer and support worker for children in foster care. This position took a serious toll on my mental health and I learned that I did not align ethically with the agency I worked for.

On overnight shifts, while the children slept, I worked on my freelance writing business and moved this blog into a more (somewhat) targeted direction. After two years, I quit my job in social work and have been freelancing full-time since January 2016.

Since then, I’ve published hundreds of stories in tens of publications like SurfGirl Magazine, Travel + Leisure, Boating Magazine, The Standup Journal, Parabola Magazine, Backpacker Essentials, and you can find me chatting away on the Skyscanner Australia social media pages as well as their news site. I also hang out on Perceptive Travel’s online magazine. I feel grateful to have supportive clients, editors, mentors, writer-friends, and the ability to create in some way every single day.

My business is completely remote, giving me the ability to work from anywhere with a decent WiFi connection.

After four years in Western Australia, it’s time to make a few major changes in my life and to my business.

I’m moving to Fiji!

On October 21, I’ll be boarding a flight to Fiji and basing myself in Suva, Fiji for the next two years. I’m equal parts nervous and excited. (Mo got a job working in Fiji and will be arriving one month before I do — so he’ll be sorting out where we live and all the most painful/exciting parts of moving.)

I’ve never stepped foot in Fiji and have no idea of what to expect. I’ve read and heard stories ranging from “this will be the worst mistake of your life” to “welcome to paradise!”

Suva is the capital of Fiji with nearly 50,000 residents. If you’re a tourist visiting Fiji, you likely won’t visit Suva for long because it’s a forty-five-minute drive away from any beach you’d want to swim at. From what I’ve read online, petty crime is rampant and the contrast between luxurious homes and corrugated metal shacks will be tough to grapple with on an emotional level.

The amount of money that expats make in a day can top the monthly salary of Fijians. This fact is what I’m most apprehensive about. How do I cope with living somewhere with such disparity, without being a contributor to gentrification? Is that possible? How do expats and Fijians maintain ethnic relations in a healthy way? The mass influx of expats into Hawaii has forced many native Hawaiians to move elsewhere where the cost of living is lower. Tourism money is often funneled to a few investors – many of whom are not native Hawaiian. Is Fiji destined for a similar fate?

I want to be mindful about how my presence impacts the environment on all levels.

A few other worries I have are the packs of stray dogs that roam through Suva, the lack of waste management, and the healthcare system. Apparently, some dump trucks unload the trash straight into the ocean or on a plot of uninhabited land. I guess I’ll have even more motivation to cut down on plastic.

I’m most excited about exploring the coral coast of Viti Levu, the island that Suva is on. There are supposed to be hundreds of incredible dive sites and surf spots to explore. It’s no secret that I’ve adopted a love of freediving recently, so I’m hoping to find a community of other freedivers and see how Fiji looks under the ocean’s surface. Who knows, maybe I’ll pursue advanced freediving training in lieu of a scuba divemaster? I’m open to either option. My goal for 2018 is to either become an AIDA 4* freediver or have my scuba diving DM.

I’m nervous about making friends – finding a core crew took almost a year in Western Australia, and I hope that many come visit while we’re there. I’m not a shy person by any means… once I’ve gotten to know you for longer than five minutes. Some days, I have trouble instigating conversations or introducing myself. This will be something I’ll have to get over if I want to be find a group of people to confide in.

I’ve launched a new site, The Salt Sirens!

I am so excited to share my new website, The Salt Sirens, with you.

I’ve started The Salt Sirens to be a place where women can read and share stories centered around the sea. So far, I’m focusing on publishing tips and techniques, gear reviews, spot guides, and general stories about freediving, scuba diving, kitesurfing, surfing, SUP, and conservation. These are the only topics I can write with a semi-authority on, but I am hoping to take on new writers and expand its contents.

So far, the website has gotten an incredible amount of support from fellow women in ocean-sports and conservation. I’ve already had a chance to talk to Laura Storm, an inspiring photographer, diver, and conservationist as well as Autumn Blum, founder of the only proven reef-safe sunscreen company.

Shot by the talented Laura Storm

My best friend since childhood, Alexa, created a beautiful logo for the new site. How stunning is it?!

The ocean-sports media has always heavily favored men, and nobody is surprised at reading that statement.

I want The Salt Sirens to stand out from other forms of female-led media because of its boldness and inclusiveness. Flip through any mainstream magazine, and the emphasis is on articles featuring Western, white, thin women and their specific issues. While I love many of these outlets and many of their stories are helpful or inspiring to me, I am tired of reading about bikinis that make you look 104 pounds thinner.

Show me a bikini that’ll keep your girls in their holsters after a heavy wipeout!

While The Salt Sirens will definitely feature general articles, I also want The Salt Sirens to be a place where we can talk about other topics. What wetsuits are best for short and/or curvy women? What haircare tips for saltwater apply to all types of hair? Can you scuba dive while on your period? Should you surf in a bikini in an Islamic country? Should lesbian couples pretend to be just friends on a dive trip to an intolerant place? How should you handle sexism in the lineup? Kitesurfing and pregnancy – what’s that about?

I once wrote about surfing in Western Australia. Within hours of publishing and promoting, my email inbox and comment section had multiple death threats, words of abuse, and rape threats. Someone even threatened to “Mazel Tov” bomb my car (I assume he meant Molotov, but if not, a Jewish celebration in my car does sound pretty awesome…).

All were anonymous except for the few geniuses who emailed me from their work email address. At 3:00 a.m. that morning, I wiped my tears and cheerfully forwarded these emails to (hopefully?) their boss with a note highlighting how their employee likes to spend company resources. I wonder if male writers are often met with a similar reaction when they publish a post? Fortunately, many male surfers came out in support of my writing and countered the hate I’d gotten, but I’ve never looked at action sports media the same naive way since.

One thing’s for certain, there are not enough female voices in ocean-sports media and it’s proven that when women do write, they’re met with more hate comments than a male is when he writes a similar story. You can read more in this disturbing article from The Guardian.

Hopefully, The Salt Sirens can shift the conversation and be a place where women can write without being bombarded with threats. No topic or voice on The Salt Sirens will be off-limits. I’m not qualified to write all types articles (obviously), but I’m hoping to find other voices for The Salt Sirens who are. (Please get in touch if you want to contribute.)

To my male readers, there is plenty of room for you on The Salt Sirens. Most of our resource articles, guides, and conservation stories are applicable to everyone. If the article doesn’t apply to you, why not forward it to a friend who might enjoy it?

What you can expect to read about on Chantae Was Here in the future

Chantae Was Here has always been a personal website about travel and life through my perspective. I enjoy using it as an open account of my experiences – without a heavy filter. Because I link the site somewhat closely with my identity, it’s difficult for me to take on other writers or business partnerships.

But I need to eat. And pay bills.

Running The Salt Sirens takes the pressure off of heavily monetizing Chantae Was Here because The Salt Sirens is much more suited to making money through gear reviews and product guides. I can continue to warn my readers about terrible or unethical companies, and muse about the unflattering side of a top-tourism destination without wondering whether it will negatively influence my income. I can keep sharing stories about my family, prank ideas, and tips for combating creeps while you travel. I feel comfortable talking about the fact that I get panic attacks while surfing sometimes.

I’ve fallen behind on documenting my adventures on Chantae Was Here. While the uptick in freelancing clients has been a great thing, it’s meant that my blog has taken a hit on my regular posting.

I’ll be writing stories about Indonesia, Western Australia, Hawaii, Mexico, Lake Powell, Tennessee, Taiwan, more Australia, and Zimbabwe over the next few months. Amid catching up on posts from the past, I’ll be blogging about my present transition of moving from Western Australia to Fiji and what a hectic experience it has been.

Thank you!

I want to thank you for taking the time to hang out on my blog (even if this is the first post you’ve encountered and you’re wondering what you’re doing here). I don’t have a large readership, but the few names I see pop up in my inbox time and time again have been the people who’ve encouraged me to tap away at the keyboard the past few years.

Thank you in advance for my inevitable carpal tunnel.

I’m excited for these changes and the chance to share everything with you. Please let me know your thoughts and story ideas in the comments, or send me a message on any of my (many) social media accounts. What do you like reading about? What makes your cursor dart to the top right X?

You know where to find me.

– Chantae