QUESTIONS PORTRAITS INTERVIEW
[By Irma Heuven]
Our latest portrait features Monique Tarée, a self-taught entrepreneur and businesswoman devoted to living life to its fullest. Born in Amsterdam in 1965, Monique is a photographer, diving instructor, and journalist who now makes her home on the picturesque Caribbean island of Roatan, Honduras.
Her career began with experience spanning a diverse range of industries, from advertising to retail. After founding both a successful modeling agency Monique established herself as a successful print magazine publisher in the Netherlands. One of her magazines, Rush on Amsterdam, focused on bringing awareness of the city’s myriad cultural aspects, and the people who lead them.
In 2009, as the world became increasingly digital, Monique decided to abandon the confines of big city life, and relocated to Roatan in order to apply her skills to writing about local culture and people, and join a burgeoning community of artists. Her work has been published in PÄYÄ The Roatan Lifestyle Magazine, Duiken (Dutch dive magazine), De Wereldwijven —where she represents a Dutch woman for Honduras. She has been profiled in articles by La Prensa, Honduras’ leading daily newspaper, and on Honduras.com
This bold move gave Monique the unique opportunity to live life on her own terms — to build the business of her dreams while exploring new challenges and living life to the max.
The daughter of Dutch and Indonesian parents, Monique finds joy in the diversity of life. Among her most interesting accomplishments are accompanying an 83-year old woman on a diving expedition and an underwater photography lesson. As a single mother, she hopes to inspire future generations to do that same — including raising her teenage son, Maxim.
How do you feel about being fifty plus?
Actually, I feel more balanced and confident than ever, which helps me explore my creative spirit. I feel more relaxed at 50 +++ than earlier in my life. Admittedly, this could be the combined result of my laid-back island lifestyle and getting older. In my earlier years, I lived life by the rules rat race.
Moving from one of Europe’s most cosmopolitan and culturally diverse cities to an island many people have never even heard about has taught me a tremendous lesson about what matters in life. There is so much we can learn from people who live a simpler life — they are happy having less income, and fewer possessions. In that way, I see getting older as an adventure instead of as a problem. Yes, your face will get marked with lines of life, but that is a beauty in its own way.
At which age did you enjoy life the most? Would you like to go back?
When I was 35, I felt free as a bird and thought I could conquer the world. I had a good income, and all the things that people perceive come along with that. However, I came to realize that this kind of happiness is ephemeral. But I think that life at every age has its own appeal, and that creates distinct phases for each stage of your life.
Would I go back? No, I love where I am now. I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without all the experiences of my past. They make me who I am now.
From which experience did you learn, what made you stronger?
Anytime you make a change to your lifestyle, you open the door to do something totally different. The key is to love what you do and do what you love. When we moved from Amsterdam to a small Caribbean island, that was a big step and a big change. You know what you have and what you are leaving behind, but what you will never know is what you can expect. I knew that I was leaving one life for a life that was very different, and I had some sense what that was.
But, for me, it was the right moment to transform from city girl to island girl. My life changed instantly. In hindsight, the change was also more gradual and more significant than I could have ever anticipated. I’ve learned through the way that islanders approach life that there is tremendous value in the fact that time is on your side. You might answer a question better tomorrow than today. You might not need to solve every problem the moment it arises. I’ve gained valuable strength from learning to trust that there is always a way to persevere in any situation, especially if you give it time.
This is especially true with my family and friends. Three years ago, my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. I moved back to the Netherlands as soon as I could. Even though this was a very difficult time, It was a special time for me. Oddly, I found beauty in the way we dealt with it as a family. We shared a lot of memories together and dealt with this awful situation together. The beauty of this story is that I got to spend a lot of time with my nieces. Thankfully, she survived and is OK now. But the lesson for me is not to take anything for granted and to enjoy every day. Because the truth is that none of us are ever guaranteed tomorrow. “Carpe diem” is my motto.
What changes have you experienced after your 50th?
For me now, change comes mostly in the form of little things. But that is more physical. You begin to forget stuff, your eyesight is not the same as it was 20 years ago, but other than that it is great! I recently have spent more time working on my photography skills and developing the creative part of myself.
One significant change is that I recently separated from the father of my 14-year old son. While there may be a tendency to think of this as a tremendous loss, I’ve chosen to treat this new element of my life as an opportunity to improve various ways of how I live my life. I’ve been working to develop my skills and further my career in art, as a writer and a diving instructor.
One of the most incredible outcomes of this change is that I recently taught my son Max to scuba dive, and we have been able to share some amazing experiences, such as diving with sharks.
The sky is the limit. I’ve started to love evolving my digital art with a new technique of faces transforming in fish. Who doesn’t like to feel like a fish in the water?
Which book and/or film and/or music shaped/changed you and why should we read it?
Because I love the ocean, Le Grand Bleu (The Big Blue) has had a tremendous impact on my life. This film hypnotizes you, seduces you, rocks you into a state of oneness with the lush scenery. It is about the rivalry between Enzo and Jacques, two childhood friends who later become world-renowned free divers. It becomes a beautiful and perilous journey into oneself and the unknown. The music is beautiful as well, and I listen to it a lot.
I also love the book Salt on my Skin by Benoite Groult. The story exposes the commonalities between love and happiness, and the ocean: both are all-consuming when present, yet always on the verge of drifting away, with only traces left behind the way that the ocean leaves only tinges of salt behind.
Finally, my father recently wrote his first book at the age of 81 about his memories of the second world war: “Opi’s Oorlog: 1940-1945.”
There is one quote from the book that will always stick with me:
“Sometimes when there was not enough food and I was hungry, Mom would give me a piece of wax to chew, just like chewing gum. It had no taste at all and of course, I was not allowed to swallow it! But it did help keep the hungry feelings away…”
Different times. We are fortunate that we have never experienced such a war and hunger. Yes, the pandemic, we have to deal with now, but it is nothing to compare with living during that time as I understand from my dad’s stories.
My favorite song is definitely “I will survive”. I think that song
has everything in it. “Oh as long as I know how to love. I know I’ll
stay alive. I’ve got all my life to live. And I’ve got all my love to
give. And I’ll survive. I will survive (hey – hey).
by now I am famous funny enough to sing that Jajaja at karaoke nights.
- What would your ideal day look like?
On my perfect day in Roatan, I would start my morning scuba diving, where I would encounter my favorite Caribbean reef sharks. I’d spend an hour floating with them around me. Most importantly, I would take my son with me. It’s the best joy, to do what you love with someone you love by your side.
From there, my day would shift from island style to fancy. I step onto my private jet at Roatan airport for a nonstop flight to Monaco —a special place for me— for breakfast and mimosa at café de Paris with good friends.
Then I’m off to Amsterdam to shop in the 9 little streets in my old neighborhood of Amsterdam. It has a lot of similarities with the little streets and neighborhoods here on Roatan. I love variety, in food, scenery, and activities.
Next, I find myself strolling through Positano. This was one of the best trips I had back in the days with my three besties. Positano bites deep.
“It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone,” John Steinbeck said of this picturesque town.
He stayed in a summer villa, which has since been transformed into a unique hotel, Sirenuse if you want to follow in his footsteps. I remembered there was a very nice cozy restaurant which was a gallery. My lunch would be in the gallery with all the beautiful art around.
I love helicopters, the sound, the way they move and fly around. Take me to a slope in Verbier, and let’s jump out of the heli and ski all the way down off-piste.
To warm up from the snow, fly me to Ibiza to do dinner at a restaurant called “Casa Jondal.” Its Dutch and Spanish owners know how to create an elegant vibe in this reimagined traditional Finca where you can make your own tacos with marinated or raw oysters, grilled lobster, and a whole deep-fried scorpionfish.
This brings me back to my own island, Roatan for the same dish, but prepared totally differently in a different ambiance (but no oysters in Roatan unfortunately).
After dinner, I would dance the night away with the Garifuna people — a fascinating group of Roatan first inhabitants who retain a beautifully unique culture — in Punta Gorda.
The Garifuna come to life with their dances, drums, and colorful attires. Each year, at the Garifuna annual festival, the Garifuna people celebrate their first arrival in Punta Gorda in 1797.
Finally, I would retire to have a good night sleep at my oceanfront suite in Hotel Ibagari https://www.ibagarihotel.com/
- Who should we follow on Instagram?
@sylvia.earle The underwater hero Silvia A. Earle, who has made ocean protection her mission.
@de_wereldwijven these women of the world bring honest stories that broaden your view of the world. Because these Dutch women living abroad believe storytelling inspires, moves and can make a difference to the position of girls and women around the world.
@ladress Simone is a dear friend who I admire in so many ways. I love to wear her dresses ‘island style’.
@anbusiello my friends are a huge part of my inspiration. His nature photography is phenomenal. And he is the founder of @bluereefexplorers where I am part of the UW photographers team.
What’s your favorite destination/hotel/museum/restaurant in the world?
- Destination : Cape Town SA, Panerai (Italy)
- Hotel : La Residencia, Deia, Mallorca
- Museum : FOAM and Het Rijksmuseum
- Restaurant : Silversides, Roatan
What’s your signature dish?
The one that makes your friends demand a seat at your dinner table. Dutch meatballs with hutspot. My ‘island’ friends love it.
Which childhood dish represents best the time and place of your youth?
The traditional “Indonesische Rijsttafel”, my grandmother was always cooking for us days before we came on Sundays to enjoy her food. As a teenager, I remember these Sundays as special and loved to help her in the kitchen. I can prepare some of the Indonesian dishes but I have to bring the spices back from the Netherlands to the island. Chickensaté is one of my favorite dishes and then not forget to dip the sautéed emping in the saté sauce!
How did you become the person you are today?
I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without all the experiences of my past. They make me who I am now.
Follow this interesting lady:
Instagram Monique Taree
Thank you so much for sharing your story with other inspirational women!
Any questions? Please do not hesitate to contact me.
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