"Oh, you're so lucky!"
It's something I hear a lot, when people find out I live on a tropical Thai island, co-own a SCUBA diving school and yoga studio, and spend about a third of the year traveling around the world. On one hand, they're absolutely right; I have an amazing life that I'm incredibly grateful for! But, this life wasn't handed to me... I created it. Here's the story.
a change of heart
Long story short, I called my supervisor from the middle of the forest and told her that I wasn’t going to continue with grad school. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I did know that I couldn’t go through with something that felt so wrong. I hung up the phone, burst into tears and was certain I’d ruined my entire life. My parents, friends, and teachers all agreed, and thought I'd lost my mind.
I didn't know what to do. So, I went to Honduras and got my SCUBA diving certification.
Holy S&!t what have I done?!?!
I returned to Canada feeling lost and confused. I was detached from my friends and family, and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I did, however, know that I needed to explore, and to answer to no one but myself for the first time in my 23 years of life. I worked two waitressing jobs to make a travel fund, and sold my car and other possessions too. After a few months of hustling hard, I bought a ticket back to Belize, this time with no plan.
I stayed in Belize for nearly a year, and to be honest, spent it still feeling lonely and scared. But, it was the first time I’d ever made a big decision for myself, rather than to please the people around me, and I was determined to see it through. I also spent a lot of time diving in Belize’s pristine waters, and worked for a sailboat company, taking tourists snorkeling and crewing the boats. I’d definitely taken some big steps towards creating a life on my own terms, but I still had such a long way to go. Belize taught me a lot, but I knew I couldn’t stay. I had fallen in love with diving, and the ocean, and decided to pursue this new hobby more seriously. I had heard of place called Koh Tao, in the Gulf of Thailand, and it was said to be a diver's paradise. I didn’t know much about it, but it sounded good, so after briefly returning to Canada to sell the rest of my possessions and work as a waitress for a couple more months, I got on my first transatlantic flight in February of 2009, and arrived on Koh Tao just in time for my 25th birthday.
Finding my destiny
To make a long story short, I found myself, and my home, on that tiny little tropical island. It evolved in stages… I became a divemaster, then a dive instructor. I was offered another grad school opportunity, back in Canada, this time in marine ecology, but decided to stay on the path I had created rather than to return to something that was much more logical, but still didn’t feel right.
I’d always wanted to work with animals, and to help make the world a better place; I finally felt like I was doing that by showing people the ocean and all its magical creatures. I'd learned in my conservation classes that people will protect the things they care about; working as a dive instructor, I realized this was true.
To be clear, I still struggled. A lot. After my first year on Koh Tao I felt stagnant, so took a job teaching diving in Bali. Next, I ran out of money, so returned to Canada to regroup. I considered staying in Canada long-term, but my wanderlust was quick to return... I decided to return to Koh Tao, this time with my yoga teacher credentials, and a plan to fully do things my way. I loved teaching diving and yoga but wanted to do so on my own terms. So, I joined forces with one of my best friends, also a dive instructor on the island, and together we started Ocean Sound Dive + Yoga… and the rest, as they say, is history.
When I look back now, I'm so grateful for the struggles I faced as I made the very scary decision to let go of the plan I'd made for my future, once I realized it wasn't really what I wanted. I'm 100% sure I did the right thing by refusing to settle for a safe, conventionally successful life. I truly believe that in order to make our dreams come true, we have to take big risks. It’s been 10 years since I made that phone call from the forest, and threw myself into the great unknown. I’ve been doing it ever since, and I’m never going to stop. That’s the day I decided to turn my ordinary life, into a great adventure.
I hope that my story can inspire you to do the same, whatever your dreams may be.
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