Sometimes I have to stop and reflect on where I’m at in life, and at the moment that place brings the biggest smile to my face. It’s easy to fall into the swing of everyday life, no matter where in the world you are or what you are doing, and forget that life wasn’t always like this, but it’s fascinating to stop and think about the progression of events that led you to where you’re at. When I stop and think about it, I wonder how in the world I got so lucky.

Let me tell you my story of how I ended up in tropical paradise, getting paid to do the thing I love most. I didn’t discover scuba diving until my senior year of high school. I don’t know what in the world possessed me to go get certified for my senior capstone project. None of my friends were divers, none of my immediate family were scuba divers. My uncle was big into diving though so maybe one of his stories just planted a seed in my head somewhere. Anyway, senior year of high school rolls around. I was always the studious type, straight A student who didn’t really have much in the way of a social life. We had a big year-long research project for which we could choose any topic we wanted, and lacking a good dose of fun at that point in my life, I decided to go get certified to scuba dive in the name of a school project. Nothing was incredibly thrilling about it at that point, just a bunch of skills in the pool followed by four dives in a crater in Utah where the water was nice but there was nothing to see.

It was two years before I dove in the ocean. I convinced a divemaster in Mexico, no, begged him, to take me, a new Open Water diver who got certified two years before, on a wreck dive that was down at 80 feet. Going out on the boat I was scared shitless, and didn’t remember a thing. Maybe I’d made a terrible mistake and should have listened to his warnings that this was way too advanced a dive for me. Too late now. Terrified as I was, it sure never occurred to me to do something as silly as back out. The speed boat flew across the water, we did backroll entries into the ocean, and my divemaster held on to me the entire time like a DSD. I was hooked tho, addicted from that first breath under the surface of the ocean.

My junior year of college I did a study abroad program that entailed living on a ship and sailing around the world whilst being dropped off at twelve different countries. Rough life, I know. For each of those twelve countries, the first thing I did was research if there was any scuba diving there. Our first port was the Bahamas, and I spent two days, six dives, at a place called Stuart Cove’s, where I fell in love with the lifestyle of the Australian dive bums running the place. They were all young and tan and happy and getting paid to scuba dive every day. From that moment I knew that at some point in my life I would have to explore that lifestyle. It just seemed too good to be true. But for the time being I was focussed on finishing school.

Senior year rolled around and I started exploring options of things to do after graduation. Finding a real job straight away was never an option, it was time to go explore the world some more. An old childhood friend of mine had posted on Facebook a while back something about a scuba diving internship in Honduras. I was a little afraid to get my hopes up too much that such a cool thing could exist, but I got on Google and searched “scuba diving internship.” That led me to Subway Watersports in Roatan, and I was so psyched out of my mind to go learn how to work in the dive industry that I crammed all the credits I needed to graduate into one semester, picked up a second part time job to save up as much money as possible, and forced myself through a grueling semester of 18 credits, 40-hour work weeks, and little to no sleep.

I convinced my family to come out to Roatan for a week before I was set to start my internship so that we could all have a nice vacation together. My mom, terrified the entire time of what I was doing, would tell anyone and everyone about my internship, trying to glean a reaction that would confirm her fears. They’d just turn to me with curioisity and ask if I was planning on working as a scuba diver after my internship. I hadn’t really thought that far ahead, in my mind this was just a bit of fun to postpone finding the real person job everyone was expecting me to go out and find now with my fancy degree. My mom would nervously shake her head no and I would just smile and say I planned to see where this would take me.

I don’t need to tell you what a life changing experience Roatan turned out to be. My blogs are all here. I spent two months there doing my internship, stayed an additional month working for the experience, and then decided to go ahead and do my IDC. In the end I didn’t end up getting a job and I was out of money and not quite ready to live a penniless lifestyle yet. Being a dive bum is not all fun and games in the sun, we don’t make a lot of money, just enough to get by, and at that point I was broke from all of my training and didn’t have any extra money to sit around trying to find a job. I was determined from that point though that I did want to be a dive instructor. I was more proud of that silly certificate saying I’d completed my IDC than I was of my $40,000 college degree. I would go home, sort things out properly (I still had a lease on an apartment and needed to move out), save up a bit of money and be on my way to travel the world as a dive instructor. First stop: Thailand.

A friend I had met in Roatan heard that I wanted to travel to Thailand and told me that he did too, and that we should travel together. Something about watching each others bags while the other one poops. My grand plans of moving there somehow got condensed down to a month long trip, but I am so glad that they did because I came away from that trip with the best travel buddy in the world, and more than just a travel buddy. After traveling together for a month, Fletch and I both decided that we wanted to come back here for good (or at least until it is time to move on to someplace new), and here I am, anxiously awaiting his arrival at the end of June, living the dream in tropical paradise, getting paid to dive every day and to pass on my love of scuba diving to new people. I love my life.