Off, Off and Away
After Seven Years of living on Roatan Sandra Sampayo Says Farewell

July 1st, 2007
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private] Sandra wanted to live on an island ever since she was a little girl. Not any island mind you… “that island had to have the right elements,” said Sandra. She spent years looking for that spot, all until 2000. That year with her boyfriend, Mike Brown, Sandra embarked upon a dive vacation turned treasure hunting in Port Royal. “We were quite serious about finding pirate treasure… We never did thou,” says Sandra.

After eight months diving for sunken treasure Sandra found what she was looking for not in the waters around Roatan, but on the island itself. Sandra launched a marketing company (Bay Islands Marketing), consulted for the Ministry of Tourism, launched SmartPages business guide and finally TropicalRez, a Bay Islands travel reservations site and office. She proved herself do be a prolific entrepreneur and shaped Roatan’s growth.

Hailing from South African and Spanish parents Sandra grew up in Galicia, Spain and Cape Town, South Africa. She is now returning to her South African roots to embark on a new business venture. Joining her on this new undertaking will be Ellen Debboli and Jim Connolly, two intrepid US website designers, who worked with Sandra on TropicalRez.

v5-7-Interview-Sandra SampayoWhat makes Roatan so interesting?
There are so many people in Europe, South Africa that are so scared to do anything crazy, like move to an island in the middle of nowhere. I really believe that it is only when you push yourself out of your comfort zone, something really amazing happens to you as a person. Most people that live on Roatan have done that. At the end of the day it has to be about our experiences.

What did you enjoy the most here?
You can’t live in a place without giving something back. There were lots of projects that could have been started. Bay Islands Marketing was an exciting project, SmartPages was something that the island needed and TropicalRez was a serious business. It was a phenomenal thing to do. I loved every second of it.

What is the most difficult for you to adjust to?
You can’t provide plans to an environment that hasn’t really been brought up with planning. It is something people need to think today about.

What will you miss the most?
I discovered something about living here. When you are going to work and paradise taunts you thru your office window… this is not ideal. If you come to the island and you start a business you should not forget why you came here in the first place. I came here for the view, water sounds, water and colors.

What motivated you on the island?
On this island everything is possible. When I first came here I don’t think I had enough confidence to set up a company in South Africa. This island forces you out of your comfort zone and you say to yourself: ‘I could really do this.’ You realize what you are capable of.

So why are you leaving?
I was trying to leave every year (laughing). When you come to an island, you dream of owning a beach bar, writing a book under a coconut tree. In reality, these dreams are never quite realized in a same way as we would hope. It’s a beautiful place until you need more. And for me that moment came where I wanted study more, travel more. I’ll defiantly come back, but as a tourist. [/private]

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