“You’re Going Where?”

“You’re Going ALONE?”

“Are you MAD?”

Let me just clear one thing up. Traveling solo as a PADI instructor is one of the most liberating, exhilarating and rewarding things you can ever do with your PADI Instructor certificate!

Why? Let me tell you…..

 

  1. Freedom and Discovery

Excitement lies in the unknown. Becoming a  PADI instructor changed the face of travel for me. I would simply  plan the most basic of logistics for my chosen destination, pack my bag and GO. As amazing as the PADI employment board is I have always preferred the “face to face” method of finding employment along my travels.

The best way to describe what I do is “holiday with a chance of work”.

What is that?

Well I would simply pack my bag full of diving equipment, clothes and computer – everything a solo instructor girl needs to get on in the world and hit the airport. I’d arrive at my destination with just a single day of accommodation booked and then start my tour of local sites – both above and below the water. Word of mouth is a powerful thing and I love getting lost in the suggestions of others.

I would travel from place to place, staying in the most basic of accommodation and dive, dive dive! I would stay until I had satisfied my thirst for sea water and then move on.

I had one simple rule however; The first place to offer me work would be my controlling factor to a more permanent stay. You would be surprised how the universe can pave the way to your first pay check in a foreign currency and I loved it. Dive schools are in a constant state of flux and change. Staff come and go, especially in seasonal destinations. You never know when you are needed until you book a dive and overhear a manager saying something like “so who is going to take this open water course, we’re are overrun with DSD’s today!” or upon checking your qualification the dive center manager claims “we certainly could use a little help today!” 

This is when the solo instructor comes into her element. With no ties or constraints to partners or travel buddies you really have the power to say “YES” and to say yes immediately. 

This is extremely empowering. 

 

  1. It’s cost effective too:

Diving can be an expensive affair. By simply taking a few days of freelance work, you can work in exchange for diving. I have done this countless times, most often when a member of staff is sick or away for a short period of time.  I would rock up at a dive center, tell them that I was looking for a way to work-for-dive option and see if they could use me. Most dive centers jumped at the chance and I was bubbling my way around a new dive site in no time. Some of them liked me so much that they offered me a permanent position. Result!

 

  1. Making friends to keep you safe

The buddy system has been drilled into us from the very first day of your open water course. Buddies keep you safe and make diving more fun. But hang on, how do I find a good buddy if I’m traveling solo? Don’t panic! Your chosen dive center almost always has another brave solo traveller to pair you up with. And if they don’t? Who cares? The dive leader will be a happy buddy to your solo fin kicks in a heartbeat! I have made so many friends this way, because hey – after the dive is done and your appetite is as demanding as a 3-year-old on Christmas eve who doesn’t want to grab a bite to eat? Or a beer. Or both. I know I do!

 

  1. Check in with family and friends often.

Not having a plan can be liberating for you, but can be stressful for loved ones back home. Don’t go off the grid completely and check in occasionally to keep the panic monster at bay.  Allow your family to join you virtually and allow them to feel the excitement that you feel every day. Living vicariously through their children is every parent’s right – so don’t rob them of this and share share share. Facebook is excellent for this, as are location sharing apps such as Life360 for the more nervous members of family. Just warn them that some places are WIFI light, and staying in contact 24-7 may not always be possible.

 

  1. Use travel apps and review sites, but don’t be a slave to their suggestions!

TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet and accommodation booking sites are extremely valuable, but don’t let them control you! Fear Of Missing Out can play havoc with a solo instructors decision process so finding a happy medium is essential. I would spend my time waiting around for planes and busses researching my next destination, but often people on your chosen method of transport are headed the same way as you are. Diving luggage is very easy to spot, so a fellow diver is instantly recognisable and asking what their plans are often leads to you formulating a plan that is totally off-book and off-the-hook in awesomeness!

When traveling to Thailand I followed so many others to Koh Tao, only to be disappointed with the sheer amount of bubbles, divers and dive boats on any chosen dive site. Then I met Melanie, an open water diver staying and diving in the same resort as I. Instant friendship ensued and she shared her plans to move to the very next island of Koh Phangan to a beach that was only accessible by boat. She left. I followed a few days later. The beach was stunning, Tong Nai Pan Noi was a paradise where travellers got stuck for months and even years. The local dive center H20 Scuba was tiny, nothing more than a hut next to a restaurant, but it was perfect. I dived twice before a position opened and I was offered a job. Melanie moved on and I continued my bare foot existence for the rest of the season. I even returned a few years later for another season of diving and it was beautiful, despite my rule of never returning to a place as there is so much to see in the world. If I had stuck to my 2-dimensional plans on paper I would never had had this opportunity.   

 

  1. Be prepared for unseen expenses.

Traveling around looking for dive work maybe exciting, but it’s important to have a “get out of jail free “card. Always have the means to get home if something goes wrong. I always have an extra credit card that I never use. It always had the funds available to get me home, no matter where I was in the world. It may not be a nice thing to think about, but this safely net makes you feel calm and protected. Never travel and work to the extent that you are stuck, because a paradise can quickly turn into a nightmare if you run out of funds. As a solo traveller this is essential to your emotional wellbeing. Travel and work should always be a choice – so don’t live beyond your means – no matter how tempting a special offer is, after all a solo traveller is her own backup plan. So, make sure you have one!

 

At the end of the day – freedom is a romantic concept. Traveling solo is a state of mind that is pure self-indulgence and should not be missed. So, before the circumstances of “normal life” take hold of you, albeit kids, marriage or other family constraints, seize the opportunity to get out in the world on your lonesome. The memories that you make will carry you into your silver years and will never fade. These memories are yours and yours alone – and that is a very special thing.

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