If you’ve been following our series on our adventures in the Maldives, then this post should come as a welcome addition. The lure of the ocean gently caressing the white sandy beaches can completely intoxicate you. This alone almost proves it difficult to focus on nothing else. However, Omo and I have a travel motto of sorts. We believe in “conscious travel,” and we’re constantly digging a few layers beneath the surface to find the real stories. These stories we do our best to dip into and share! Make sure to read our intro about the WIT (Women in Travel) series!

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Kurumba | Maldives

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While staying at Kurumba, we kept passing by a seemingly exclusive boutique called Nala. The store windows displayed mannequins draped in the ever popular resort wear; caftans, linen shorts, and beautiful bikinis. We didn’t have a need for any of the lovely wares, but realised we were missing a piece to the underwater housing of our Go Pro. So we popped inside on our second day, desperately hoping they carried the piece we needed.
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We spied the much needed accessory behind the counter, and we were immediately greeted by a lovely woman with a dazzling smile. She pulled out the piece, and we began chatting. It was one of those odd moments when you listen to the sound and tonality of someone’s voice, and you immediately realise you want to know more about them. I pulled myself out of my thoughts and took action. I told her that we were travel bloggers, and that I’d love to interview her on a series I was doing about women working in the travel and tourism industry. She blushed, smiled and agreed to participate. We set up a time later that afternoon to meet.
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Forty five minutes later we met up in a popular bar and restaurant on the island. Sitting down with Myat Su was so unlike a traditional interview. There was no awkward warm up period I’ve experienced in the past. I rarely had to ask more questions for her to go into detail. She was a natural born storyteller, and she had me hanging on her every word….
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Name: Myat Su
Position: Nala Boutique Manager
Location: Kurumba, Maldives
Originally From: Myanmar, Burma
 
What were you doing before you started working in the hospitality industry?
I studied Economics in 1995, but was unable to finish because the University was shut down for three years in 1997, due to political instability in my country. The military government took over the country, and there were lot’s of economic crisis. Many of my friends left to study abroad, but I stayed because my father was so attached to me, and I was so young. During that three year gap, I studied English at the British Consulate  because my mother was an English teacher. I also took a six month accounting course at the London Chamber of Commerce.
 
Did the University ever reopen?
Yes, but all the programs were broken up, and moved to various locations around the country. My 30 minute commute turned into 1.5-2hrs to get to my University classes. I eventually graduated in 2005.
 
Do you feel like you use your degree in your current position? 
I don’t use Economics in much of what I do now. Even in the sales and marketing side of it. I love what I do now in the hospitality industry. My mother said that when I was young I was very talkative, so I feel I’m in the right place!
 
Did your parents ever work in the hospitality industry?
No, they worked in the export business. They exported marine and timber products, but in the mid nineties the government kept holding the shipments. So their business broke down around 1995, due to government issues and political instability in Myanmar. We lost our business, and my father was quite depressed during that time, because we had to sell property and more. My mother was so strong. She looked after my father, and always found a way. She was my role model!
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How did you get offered a position at Kurumba?
I didn’t even know where the Maldives was, prior to 2008. My uncle worked in the Maldives for a long time, and as a medical doctor at Kurumba. We had lost touch for quite some time. But my father emailed him, and told him I was finishing University and looking for work. My uncle said that I should send him a CV. I sent the CV, and Kurumba called me for a phone interview, and two days later they sent me a contract. I couldn’t believe it! My father was bit worried because it was my first time travelling so far away from them, but my mother was like “go, go!”
 
Does your uncle still work at Kurumba?
Actually, one week after I arrived at Kurumba, he went on holiday and couldn’t come back. He called me and told me that he was too sick to fly back. He’d left all his belongings here because he was only supposed to go on holiday. Two years later he passed away. It was so hard for me, but everyone here was very supportive. 
 
Do you practice a faith or religion?
Yes, I’m Buddhist. The Maldives is a 100% Islamic country, but I pray on my own. People are very friendly about other religions here, however you cannot bring physical representations of your faith, like statues, etc.
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Kurumba | Maldives
 
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When you came to Kurumba, did you start off as a boutique manager?
No, I started off as an receptionist, and had to learn everything because I didn’t know anything. However, I worked really hard, and every two years I got promoted. First, to senior receptionist, team leader, front office supervisor, and now boutique manager.
 
Wow! Well done! Many people can work for years without a promotion!
I love working here, and meeting people!
 
What type of benefits do you receive?
We get health insurance, and after working for one calendar year, every staff member gets 35 days annual leave. They also provide return tickets, which is the best thing!  Here, you can save your money, because we get food, accommodation, of course the return ticket coverage is awesome!
 
If you worked somewhere else would you have the same benefits?
Before I came here, I applied for a position in Singapore. The salary was quite high, but accommodation I’d have to pay for myself. Also I’d have to cover transportation there, and annual leave is not that long. Plus they didn’t provide return tickets home. 
 
Do you have a lot of friends here?
Yeah, the whole island….[laughing]….and fishes! 
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When you get together with your friends, what do you guys do?
We have a staff beach, and when we have off time we can go relax & swim there. We also have kayaks, and paddling, which is complementary to staff. We have a staff gym, and a kitchen. So if you miss traditional food, you can go there and cook it. The facilities are really good! 
 
Can you have a relationship working in the hospitality industry? Is it encouraged or discouraged on the island?
Oh yes, you can have a relationship on the island, but they encourage you to be professional. Many people on the island have families, and they support their families off the island. As for myself, I send money home to my father.
 
Have you ever wanted to start a family? 
….Yes….[laughing]….but I have not been lucky enough to find the right person yet. [Update: Myat Su is dating a really amazing guy, and they enjoy travelling together during their off time]
 
Do you ever feel that for women to be successful in the travel/tourism industry, that they have to give up certain things? 
It depends. Some women can look after family and balance their career without any problems. It just depends on the person I think. For me, I’ve had to sacrifice time away from my parents, but I was really thankful that when my mother needed me, I was there for her before she passed away.
 
What’s been the most challenging experience you’ve faced on the job?
It’s really tough sometimes when you’re counting inventory, and you have to count thousands of items again, and again. It is the most challenging thing for me right now! [laughing] I can’t sleep sometimes, and I just see swimsuit  colours. Even my supervisor experiences the same thing, so I’m not alone!
 
What do you want to do next in this industry?
I want to do further studies, like my Master’s degree. Something that I can link to the work that I do here; retail, sales and marketing. I must save the money first! I wouldn’t do an online course, because I don’t have the time. I’d love to run my own business someday, back home in Myanmar. I’d like to own a boutique with a variety of collections, and then one day expand to something bigger!
 
What type of advice would you give a woman who’s interested in doing what you do?
When working in retail, the main interest must come from the heart. Everything is possible then. Sometimes plans don’t go as intended, but when you approach issues from the heart, you will succeed. Put yourself into your work (from the heart), and the memories will come!
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Myat Su at Kurumba | Maldives | HDYTI

Photo provided by Myat Su

 
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Myat Su’s energy and positivity was absolutely infectious! It was a challenge to transcribe the interview because we spent so much time laughing! That one hour I spent with her, has led to a friendship that far surpasses the Indian Ocean. Her story is inspiring and heartfelt all at the same time. Best of success my dear Myat Su, thank you for sharing your incredible story from struggle to triumph!
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For more information regarding Kurumba, make sure to visit their website. Also, any of our readers who book a holiday at Kurumba will receive a special hospitality gift just for mentioning that you read about Kurumba on HDYTI! To confirm your gift, make sure to email sales@kurumba.com in advance of your stay!
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Co-Founders & Curators at HDYTI

Eulanda & Omo Osagiede are London-based freelance writers and award-winning social influencers who run the popular travel, food, and lifestyle blog HDYTI (Hey! Dip your toes in).