Days off in my job aren't like 'normal' days off. I have to grab them as I can and when I can. Sometimes I get one day a week, other times it can be long before I get a break, but when I do have them they are pretty perfect.
Sitting on the deck of my gorgeous beachfront house with my husband, looking out over Fiji's famous Bligh Waters I am faced with a difficult decision: either jumping onto a boat and going diving or staying and relaxing with a cocktail by the pool at the beautiful boutique resort where we work as the resident dive managers.
While others battle day to day with rush hour traffic, I battle the difficult decision of which bikini to wear. Paperwork and filing systems? I just need to see a certification card and maybe a logbook.
The dream of the scuba diver Life
Since I was young my passion has always been for the Ocean and the magic she holds within. So it was only natural that I learn to scuba dive.
Something I will admit to finding harder than I thought the first time I put my head under the water. This love of the water also led me to a degree in Marine Biology and then onto travels to far off tropical warm waters.
I loved diving in the cold waters of the North Sea...but I won't lie, it was hard work and I can be a bit lazy at times. So when a job offer came from Malaysia I was on the first plane out, much to my parents' discomfort.
The ups and downs of diving
It was fantastic! This was my first real sample of island living, I rented a small one-room en-suite 'hut'. Walked to work along the beachfront, and relaxed in the evenings with friends over sambal (Malaysian spicy-ness) curries and beer on one of the beachfront bars.
My plan was the spend a few months working as a dive instructor abroad before returning home for further studies, but that didn't exactly happen.
I had been bitten by the bug and not the mosquitoes that have a fondness for me.
From Malaysia, I tripped on to the Andaman Islands and then onto Curacao and Costa Rica before making my way back across the Pacific to Thailand.
Thailand is synonymous with scuba diving. Even people, who don't dive, know about the diving there. It is always the stop for backpackers on their yearlong travels for diving and full moon parties.
Unfortunately, Thailand is not a positive diving memory for me, as it was my first real experience of the darker side of working as a dive professional.
The diving industry
Let me explain a little bit. I love teaching all levels of diving, because I love expanding people’s knowledge in every way I can.
It’s an amazing thing when someone becomes a professional diver and tries to provide people with a beautiful holiday memory. Still, there are many companies that take advantage of these new professionals.
I know this is a job where you are enjoying the lifestyle you live more than the savings your hopefully making, but you still have to be able to live. I worked for such a company, actually ending up owing them money for the work shirts I had to buy above what I was being paid.
As you might have guessed I didn't work there for very long.
The only reason I walked away was that I had had so many fantastic experiences with other companies. I knew what to expect working there and what was expected of me. Other professionals are not so lucky and they burn out. As such you rarely find people who work longer than a year or so in the diving industry.
Moving on to better diving
With a sour taste in my mouth, I ended up taking a break for a few months. Before getting the itch for diving making me pack my bags once again and heading to the Bahamas.
What a perfect year and a half I spent there. I got to dive with numbers of Caribbean Reef sharks almost every day. And even more than that, I met my future husband, someone who loves the water as much as I do.
The diving in the Caribbean is nice, but it is in the process of recovery which keeps getting held back by so many natural disasters.
Everything from hurricanes to bleaching events, to the sudden loss of Diadema populations which resulted in suffocating algae growth over the reefs. And more currently the explosive invasion of lionfish populations which are consuming all of the small reef fish.
With all of this going on, much as our lifestyle was everything we wanted, we both had a craving to head back to the Pacific once again.
Now diving Fiji
Fiji was calling. Somewhere we had never been, and somewhere on our bucket list.
The job we came here for was what we had been looking for all along. A dive shop that didn't want to be more than it was, focusing on small dive groups and great customer service.
From this company, we moved to where we are now. A gorgeous location with perfect weather and amazing co-workers. A high-end resort with a 5-star dive operation that we are very proud of.
While my journey has been full of ups, and a few downs, I wouldn't have changed a single thing about it, because it has made me who I am and it has lead me to where I am today. By knowing your worth as a dive professional and knowing that you don't have to work for a company that would rather use you all up. Every diver can find their piece of paradise.
I know that sounds a bit cheesy, but it’s true. I have taken what was meant to be a couple of months off from the real world and turned it into my career. This is my real world and this is what I love.
Have you experienced the downside of the Diving Industry? Ever met a burnout Dive Instructor or a Center Manager tearing down the dive business?