We are happy to interview a special woman, Lindsay de Feliz, who has a definitely charming story linked to the Dominican Republic. Thank you Lindsay!
Interview by Claudiaexpat
Tell us a bit about yourself: what made you decide to quit UK and start travelling around the world? Where did you go? How did you support yourself?
I was born in the UK, the eldest of 4 children and as my father was in the Air Force we moved around a lot. Not only in the UK, but we went to Singapore when I was 8. That was the first time I had been abroad and as I studied languages in school, French, German and Latin, I carried on travelling to practise my languages during my teenage years.
I then settled down in the UK and worked for a variety of financial service companies and kept travelling whenever I could, but only for holidays. I eventually learned to scuba dive which I loved and so I changed my full time job to become a marketing consultant and started spending longer and longer periods abroad diving, usually in the Maldives.
At this stage I was married, financially well off, spent my money on designer clothes, fast cars and holidays, but I always felt something was missing from my life. Unable to have children and hence unable to leave any trace of having existed on this planet at all, I wanted to find some way to make a difference, some way to give some purpose to having been alive, a reason for having been here.
I decided to leave my husband, my job and my country, to live for the day and not spend my whole life waiting and saving for the future, but to enjoy what I loved doing most, which was diving, and to do it now. I knew I could earn sufficient to live on as an Instructor, and I also had several thousand pounds in savings.
I started off in the Maldives, then Singapore, Thailand, Borneo and Menorca, working as a diving instructor. Whilst in Menorca I decided that although I could speak French and German as well as English, I needed to learn Spanish as I really wanted to travel in South America. I also knew I wanted to be somewhere tropical as although Menorca was lovely, the sea was freezing cold! I knew I loved the Caribbean, so I concentrated my search there and found a diving instructor position in the Dominican Republic. I went there on a 6 month contract, hoping I would also be able to learn Spanish.
What was it about the Dominican Republic that made you fall in love with the place and stay?
The Dominican Republic was much larger than I thought, and much more diverse. Not only tropical beaches, but also rain forests and mountains. I fell in love with the people, who are very friendly, the laid back life style, the music, the weather but most of all the freedom. There seemed to be no rules in the Dominican Republic. You could drive without a seatbelt, ride on a motorbike without a helmet, smoke where you like, dance in the supermarkets. The sense of freedom was exhilarating and the usual stresses of everyday life just did not seem to be there.
How did you organize your new life in the Dominican Republic?
I lived in a small one roomed apartment and then exchanged it for a larger, two bed roomed one so that I could have visitors from the UK. Other diving instructors lived in the same complex. We would work all day on the beach, talking to tourists and people who had come to dive, and then we would go out and party and dance every night. After a few months I started a relationship with a Dominican man and he, and his three young sons, moved into the apartment with me. We eventually bought a villa in the woods, got married and bought a little colmado, or convenience store.
Everything changed when one night I interrupted a burglary in the house and I was shot through the throat. Luckily I survived, but it made me even more determined to do something with my life. The shooting and subsequent tracheotomy damaged my voice box so I could not speak well, and as the bullet went through my lung I could no longer dive. I started to work more in the shop, and also to teach Spanish on a one on one basis. This meant that I spent more and more time with Dominicans, rather than expats, and as I couldn’t speak above any loud music, we stopped going out to bars and to dance, which meant even less contact with expats.
Tell us about the experience of being the partner of a man running for government, and how it affected your routine and the relation to other expats.
My husband decided to run for Mayor in the local town, as we both wanted to help the local people, as the poverty in the area was appalling. This way we could help them much more than feeding a few and helping them financially when they had a major problem. Our whole routine changed in that everything was focused on winning the campaign, so all normal work stopped. I saw less of my fellow expats and spent every day campaigning, sorting press releases, arranging meetings etc. Every day I would have meetings with groups of women to find out what the needs were and to work out how we could help. It was an exhausting but exhilarating time.
Tell us about your book…
I didn’t really think of myself as a writer but I suppose I started writing the book after I was shot although at that stage it was just a need I had to write down what had happened to me. I had a memory gap of about 5 hours following the shooting so I talked to people who were there to fill in the gaps. Then I wrote it down and did nothing with it. After the election I sat down and wrote the whole book, from the time I left the DR until the current day – which was about 6 months ago now, incorporating what I had written after I was shot. I finished the first draft in around 6 months, but it took me a while to find a publisher and an editor, and following a pretty extensive and necessary rewrite, from then on it was very quick. In fact it amazed me when my editor, Jane Dean, told me I couldn’t change it any more, and only a couple of weeks later it was published.
As soon as I saw it was available on Amazon, I talked about it on my blog, Facebook, various Facebook groups, the blog Facebook page, and I wrote to all the people who had written to me about the blog over the last couple of years.
The response has been overwhelming with fantastic reviews, and now I feel confident to go to the national press around the world and talk to them about it.
How is your life now? How do you live and has your professional sphere developed?
I now live in the mountains miles from anywhere and still in the Dominican Republic. Having lived in a tourist area, then in a town barrio, we now live in the countryside or campo. We have a few acres of land and are planting all our own fruit and vegetables. It is a simple life but one that I adore. There is total peace and quiet and stunning views of the countryside. We have very few neighbours, but all help each other out. I concentrate on my writing, articles and my blog, and my husband is studying to be a lawyer. Readers of the first book are already asking me to write another, so I am thinking about that whilst waiting for film producers to contact me about making the first one into a film – in my dreams anyway!