Ellie Anywhere

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by Ellie Anywhere

 

Month #8 – the good, the bad and the unexpected

Location: Tioman Island, Malaysia The good The diving Diving was always going to feature right at the top of my priorities list when it came to choosing the next location to continue my great adventure. After experiencing one of the most pristine reefs the world has to offer in Roatan, Honduras, and delving into the prehistoric waters that teemed with sharks and turtles in Costa Rica, Malaysia had some large fins to fill. Fortunately, Pulau Tioman – the small island that straddles the Singapore-Malaysia border in the South China Sea – more than lives up to the high expectations I’m lucky enough to demand. After a couple of months during which I’ve spent more time in the water than out of it, I finally had the chance to let loose with my camera and capture just some of the treasures that this pocket of the ocean holds. I dedicated an entire post to my underwater discoveries, but I couldn’t resist sharing another snapshot of the beauty of diving in Tioman… The bad Early starts, long days and even longer nights Insomnia: it’s a bitch. Trying to explain the paradox that is an active mind that buzzes like neon while your body aches for silence, for sleep, is a mammoth task, so for now you’ll excuse me if that short summation suffices. It’s a battle I continue to fight. Or rather one that I find myself subjected to on an almost nightly basis, unwittingly and unwillingly caught in the cross fire between
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Diving in Tioman, Malaysia

South-East Asia is famed for its diving. From the whale sharks of Oslob in the Phillipines to the mantas and manatees of the Lembeh Straits in Indonesia, the discerning diver doesn’t have to look very far to find an embarrassment of underwater riches in this diverse and exotic continent. Not to be outdone by its notorious neighbours, Malaysia has long been recognised as a hotspot for exceptional diving; the jewel in its scuba crown – Sipadan in Malaysian Borneo – has been voted time and time again as the best diving location on the planet. But in all the hype that Borneo receives, it can be easy to overlook the small but perfectly formed island that you’ll have to fly over to reach the fecund waters of Sipadan, an island that holds an underwater secret all of its own – Pulau Tioman.
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The World is my Office – Will

In the latest ‘The World is my Office’ interview, I speak to Will who is working as a diving instructor on the beautiful island of Roatan, which I was lucky enough to call home for three months. Will, tell us a bit about yourself… I am a PADI Open Water SCUBA Instructor working on Roatan, a small island off the coast of Honduras in the Western Caribbean.  When I am not teaching or swimming with sea turtles, you will likely find me on the beach, unless it’s sunset in which case you will undoubtedly find me at Sun Downers with good company and a cold beer! How did you get into your line of work? Complete and utter detest of my former employment.  Prior to my Great Awakening, I was a Regional Sales Executive at a Fortune 500, selling telecommunication solutions into a base of new and existing customers.  After eight years and a few promotions, I simply could not escape from the idea that at (then) 31, retirement was a literally a lifetime away.  I wanted to experience life rather than simply exist in it and I knew I needed a drastic change.  So I did what any other rational person would do; sold my house, cars, and boat; rented a 10×10 storage unit for everything else; moved to Honduras and became a scuba instructor. How often do you travel with work, and where do you tend to go? Living and working in Honduras, I’d say that I’m permanently
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Malaysia Revisited – Part I, Airports

“Is this your first time in Malaysia?” “No, I actually spent a month travelling around the country when I was 18.” “Awesome, did you have a good time?” [thinks to self] “Now there’s a question, where the hell do I start…” Since setting foot back on Malaysian soil after nearly a decade, I’ve spent my first month fending off friendly curiosity about my previous Asian adventure. Now, a relatively clued-up twenty-something with a husband, a job and a fairly decent understanding of ‘who I am’, I couldn’t be much further away than the teenage girl who set forth on what would prove to be something of a pivotal trip ten years previously. At 18, with a few long years of schooling under my belt and another three years of academic slog stretching ahead of me in the shape of university, I was chomping at the bit to experience “proper travelling” for the first time. So when my boyfriend of the time suggested that I fly out to meet him at the end of his gap-year in an exotic, far-flung location, it seemed like the perfect time to get the stamp in my passport that I was craving. I don’t know what I imagined – I probably had some hazy vision of cocktails on the beach, skinny dipping in the sea and ‘finding myself’ – but I know for sure I didn’t get what I bargained for. In some ways I got so much more, and in others I lost out. I experienced highs that my
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Monkeys and mountains and more, oh my! Adventures in Arenal, Costa Rica

Costa Rica. It’s an eco haven, famous the world over for its wildlife and boasting some of the most impressive natural biodiversity in the world. Holiday-makers, backpackers and researchers alike flock in their thousands to the national parks that give Costa Rica its sterling reputation as Central America’s eco-tourism hotspot. But after three months living in the built-up touristy beach town of Playas del Coco, I was starting to wonder whether Costa Rica was fully deserving of it’s place on the podium off all things ‘nature’.
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Month #7 – the good, the bad and the unexpected

Location: Pulau Tioman, Malaysia The good Living in the paradise that is Tioman I’ve been lucky enough to see a fair few idyllic locations this planet has to offer. From Croatia to Costa Rica, Malta to Mexico, I’ve visited destinations which each boast stunning views and vistas, fascinating culture, and sunsets so beautiful they’ll break your heart a little bit. Each year, new ‘hot’ destinations are touted as the latest paradise and people the world over will drool over photos of immaculate beaches, captivating wildlife and ravishing rural landscapes. But, sadly, often the glossy travel mags fail to convey the whole picture; whilst showing one small if positively delectable slice of paradise, they’ll often neglect to reveal the bigger picture, the built-up, tourist-ridden cultural blackhole that hides just around the corner. Out of all the places that I’ve lived so far on this great adventure, beautiful though they are, I’ve yet to be treated to an example of a natural authenticity that is virtually unspoiled by the relentless steamrollering of consumerism and development. I’ve seen all too many times just what a behemoth tourist industry can be. So it came as a welcome surprise to set foot on a slice of paradise that really lives up to the legend. The fact that the Guardian have just included my front-doorstep in their list of the 50 best beaches in the world ain’t half bad either – I guess sometimes the glossy travel mags do get it right! The bad Tioman’s mini monsoon
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The legend of Tioman

A long time ago, when water cascaded off the edges of an earth as flat as coin and great monsters as big as glaciers ruled the seas, the East was a kingdom of promise and plenty. Mountain crevices would glint with the hint of diamonds as large as goose eggs, and molten gold ran through cracks in the seabed like oil; precious jewels, as ordinary as fallen leaves, lay scattered across the verdant hills like the million glittering eyes of an army of opulent insects. Within these lands, there lived a dragon princess called Tioman.
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The World is my Office – Julia

In this month’s The World is my Office interview, we hear from Julia, an accountant for Unilever who travelled away from her home in Germany many years ago, and hasn’t looked back since. Living and working in a foreign country, Julia shows that travel and a high-flying career can go firmly hand in hand. Since I first interviewed Julia, she has proven to everyone just how seriously she takes the travel aspect of her working life by moving to Unilever’s Mumbai office – now that’s what I call a global citizen… Julia, tell us a bit about yourself… I’m Julia, originally from Germany but have lived in various places across Europe over the last 10 years (and Australia for a bit). 5 years ago, I moved to London to start working and although I never wanted to stay longer than the London Olympics, I’m still here. In my free time, I try to enjoy all the amazing things London has to offer like theatre, sport events and restaurants. I also make sure I travel back to Germany regularly to see my family and friends and love to go on holiday – I usually try to go skiing in Europe in the winter and then a bigger trip abroad in the summer. How did you get into your line of work? I’m an accountant which might sound boring at first but I really like my job. I work for Unilever on the Tesco account, so work closely with our sales managers on
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Becoming a PADI diving instructor – Part II, the IE

“IE stands for It’s Easy. It really is, you’ll breeze through it.” Everyone said it, everyone really seemed to mean it, but it did very little to untangle the tight knot of nerves that had taken up residence in the pit of my stomach over the two weeks building up the exam. Or rather exams. Because the PADI Instructor Exam (IE) is in fact a series of tests and practicals that determine whether you are capable of safely and effectively teaching others how to scuba dive.
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Exploring Playa la Penca, Costa Rica

Guanacaste is famed for its beaches. They’ve earned this slice of Costa Rica global notoriety for their brilliant sand, clear waters and world-class surf. So integral to Guanacaste’s heritage are their famous ‘playas’ that the Pacific coast is peppered with towns which have taken their names from their closest beach; from Playa Hermosa to Playa Tamarindo, western Costa Rica is a veritable mecca for beach junkies. One such beach town, Playas del Coco, became my home for three months of my travels. It’s fair to say that we didn’t have a great relationship, Coco and I. Some days, driven to the brink of despair that any vestiges of natural beauty remained in this over-developed corner of the rich coast, I’d run to the hills in a desperate attempt to escape the sports bars and American diners of the main strip. Just a few kilometres away from the garish lighting and incessant noise, I’d find solace in the quiet, unadulterated calm of Playa la Penca. Not to be confused with Playa Penca – the large, popular stretch of beach which sits squarely in the middle of the long Pacific coast – Playa la Penca is a small, secluded cove which nestles demurely in between the resort towns of Coco and Hermosa.
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Teaching my Dad to scuba dive

My father has put his life into my hands once in my lifetime already – when he taught me to drive. Stubborn to a fault, I drove my poor Mum to the brink of nervous breakdown – speeding up when she said slow down, insisting that ‘people just don’t drive like they did in your day any more’, and shouting over the discordant wailings of my indie rock mix-tape that my driving instructor said it was ‘totally fine’  to have music playing while driving. It came to a head when, after pulling over for a terse dressing down, I slammed the gearstick into reverse so obstinately that it came clean off in my hand. And there ended the car’s no-claims-bonus and my mother’s patience. After that, I had to wheedle my Dad to take my out to practice as often as his nerves were up to it. Finally, after months of permanently white knuckles from gripping the grab-handle and toes permanently cramped from slamming on the phantom break, I emerged successfully as a bonafide driver. Quite a good one I’d like to think.
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Month #6 – the good, the bad and the unexpected

Locations: Coco, La Fortuna, Arenal, Monteverde – Costa Rica // London – England // Singapore // Pulau Tioman – Malaysia The good Where do I start? The sixth month of my travels has been defined by so many singular moments of complete elation that it’s impossible to pick just one to eulogise over here. Salsa dancing in the new year on the streets of Costa Rica, or watching the sunset from my favourite local beach. Teaching my Dad to scuba dive, or the consequent time we spent travelling around Costa Rica together.  Soaring through the canopy of a Cloud Forest on zip lines, or squealing in delight as inquisitive coatis sniffed my ankles. Seeing my family and bestest friends after half a year of absence, or enjoying the first hot bath, duvet and cup of tea I’ve had for months. And that’s all before I laid eyes on the paradise that is to become my home for the next chapter of my adventure – the mind-blowingly beautiful Pulau Tioman in Malaysia. January has taken my breath away on an almost daily basis and has left me with a backlog of anecdotes that are jostling for position in my editorial calendar. After such an eventful month, I can’t wait to share the stories with you but, as each seem to deserve their own post, I’ll whet your appetite with a snapshot of my month in pictures…
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Surprise surprise!

On the 20th January 2015, I spent the evening in a piano karaoke bar in Charing Cross. The year before that, I was in a pub in Victoria, wrapped up against the typical January cold. The previous year, I could be found dancing to Balkan Electro music (yes, apparently that is a genre all of its own) in Battersea. Want to know what I was doing the year before that? I can tell you if you like. Along with every January the 20th there’s ever been, bar a few unmitigated exceptions. That’s because January 20th is my sister’s birthday.
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The World is my Office – Ed

Ed is a good friend of mine and one of the people who actually inspired me to up-and-leave the conventions of a UK office-job lifestyle and travel the world. Watching him leave the safety net of Cambridge and jump head first into the unknown showed me that change is possible. After a year of getting sick of looking at his ridiculously inspiring Instagram photos, I finally plucked up the courage to quit my job and move abroad (and now can give him a good run for his money in Instagram wars…) so I’m excited to share his experiences in the latest ‘The World is my Office’ interview:
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Bucket list item #3 – celebrate Christmas in a foreign country

Roaring fires, presents under a lovingly decorated tree, family gathering together over a delicious roast dinner, novelty jumpers – that’s what Christmas means to me. It’s my favourite day of the year and no amount of scroogery (yep, that’s a word) will pop my festive bubble. Or bauble if you will. And yet this year, for the very first time, I found my self struggling to get into the traditional Christmas spirit. Where oh where is my Christmas spirit? OK, I have a confession to make. I have in fact spent Christmas in a foreign country a few times when I was younger – both in Canada, Italy and, a couple of times, in Germany – but these are all cold and snowy Winter countries where chestnuts on the fire and carols at midnight are still very much the norm. So in my constant quest for new experiences, I first penned this addition to my list with visions of palm trees, beaches and scorching hot weather shimmying through my mind. Last year, in beautiful Costa Rica, my vision would become a reality.
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Becoming a PADI diving instructor – Part I, the IDC

People choose to travel for many different reasons: to see new sights and marvel at the wonders of the world; to meet people and make new friends; to give themselves the time and space to heal from the pain of loss or heartbreak. My list of ‘why’ was long and complex, but right up there at the top was the chance to learn something new, to challenge and test myself. With half a decade passing since my university days, I was aware of just how sluggish my ‘learning’ muscle was becoming. Of course I learned things over my five years of work, lots of things in fact. I picked up new skills, became well versed in the nuances of office culture, and eagerly rose to new professional challenges. But the problem was, once I’d mastered something new, I’d start to feel just a little bit bored, unfulfilled. This was the driver that lead me down the road to professional diving. Not only would I be learning a whole host of new skills – communicating underwater, teaching, the art of perfect buoyancy control – I’d finally be putting the sleepy corner of my brain that was responsible for acquiring new, academic information back into action. Not just palm trees and rainbows – I wanted to travel to challenge myself by learning something completely new
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Vive la resolution!

I never used to be a big fan of new years resolutions. By which I mean, I never used to be very good at keeping them which is tantamount to the same thing. I tended to pick grandiose new challenges that I thought would make me a better, more rounded person, and then suffer the frustration and sense of failure that would come when I inevitably failed to have mastered Italian, learned how to kick box, and got a boyfriend by the end of the year (oh 2002, what a cruel year you were!) But last year, when this blog was still nothing more than my guilty little secret, I set about making a list of achievable goals for 2015. I tried a new approach, I focused on concepts rather than things – ‘say yes’, ‘be honest’, ‘live in the moment’ – and, in the main, I’m pleased to say I succeeded.
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Month #5 – the good, the bad and the unexpected

Location: Playas del Coco, Costa Rica The good Becoming a certified dive instructor Oh my god, you did your divemaster?? Why didn’t you say?!…she says sarcastically, well aware that I’ve spent the last couple of months inundating my readers with posts about becoming a divemaster. Well I am pleased to say that I am finally done with the divemaster chapter of my life, excellent thought it was, and am stepping proudly into the next part of the story – actual real live instructor.
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Bucket List Item #5 – Celebrating Thanksgiving with actual Americans

Bucket list item #5 – Celebrate Thanksgiving with actual Americans who can explain the full meaning of this holiday, and yams, to a clueless Brit like myself. Christmas is coming and Ellie’s getting fat. This is in a large part thanks to my first ever experience of the great American tradition that is the Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving is a holiday that has baffled me for some time now, ever since I first saw movies featuring quaint little children prancing around a stage dressed as turkeys, Indians and pilgrims – what the hell was this holiday all about? Is it like the American version of Christmas? And what on earth is a yam? All very valid questions for a young Brit to ask, and so I reserved a place for this mysterious holiday on my bucket list and vowed to get to the bottom of it one day. As it turns out, that day was Thursday November 26th 2015.
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Falling in like with Playas del Coco, Costa Rica

“I’ve got the perfect title for my first Costa Rican blog post”, I told James smugly as our tiny Avianca plane touched down at Liberia airport. “Oh yeah?”, he said, waiting as the other passengers on board – all seven of them – collected their bags and penguin-waddled past us down the gangway, “what’s that then?” Pause for suspense… “I’m in love with the Coco” I revealed ceremoniously, “like the song!”
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The World is my Office – Ruth

Today is a big day for ellieanywhere.com. After months of speaking with and learning from a whole host of inspiring individuals who make travel part of their full-time career, I’m delighted to introduce the ‘The World is my Office’ series. You can read all about what this series will entail here, but let’s get things started by introducing my first career-girl-come-traveller… In today’s interview, I catch up with Ruth, an editor for a leading academic publisher who travels the world with work. Ruth, tell us a little bit about yourself…
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Becoming a Divemaster, Part V – what, where, who, why, how

Over the last month, I’ve been reminiscing about my time as a divemaster in training (DMT) by sharing the ins and outs of becoming a divemaster. I’ve recalled what a day in the life of a DMT looked like and I’ve spilled the beans about the nitty gritty of the course itself. Now I feel it’s only right to round off my nostalgic recaps by answering some of your questions. My time on Roatan has been and gone and after 12 weeks of hard work, big laughs and good friends, I have emerged as a fully qualified divemaster. The three months I spent at Coconut Tree Divers were some of the most valuable of my life, and for anyone considering becoming a DMT, I would highly recommend it. However, I’m aware of just how much choice there is out there.
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Month #4 – the good, the bad, and the unexpected

Location: Playas del Coco, Costa Rica The good Getting featured on Lonely Planet When I first started toying with the idea of writing a travel blog, I was nervous about sharing my writing with anyone. Even the thought of a friend or colleague scrutinising my thoughts and expressions would send me into paroxysms of embarrassment. But, after months of scribbling away at all hours of the night and hiding my words in a secret corner of the internet, I bit the bullet: I made ellieanywhere.com live. Weeks after, I plucked up the courage to attend a travel writing retreat where, along with a group of like-minded women, I dared to voice a dream of mine – to travel the world and write about it, full-time. During the retreat, we each tentatively put together a list of dream publications that we’d like to see our writing published in and, for me, Lonely Planet sat right up at the top.
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Home from home – making a house a home whilst travelling

Moving. It’s an inevitable part of travel. Hell, it’s the whole point of travel: keep moving, keep exploring, keep going. But with the new sights and experiences that come with new places, also comes the inexorable administration of finding a place to stay. For the holiday-maker or backpacker, this is often a simple process of picking a hotel or hostel and finding somewhere safe to leave their belongings and rest their travel-weary head for a few days. But if you travel slow, the only affordable way to live is to rent yourself a home-base.
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Becoming a Divemaster, Part IV – the skills

You watch me. Three words that you’ll use more than any others during your time as a DMT. As someone who doesn’t exactly shy away from the limelight, it’s fair to say I’m not altogether uncomfortable with being the centre of attention, which is a good job as training to become a divemaster puts you in the spotlight time and time again. You. Watch. Me. After all, divemaster is the first rung on the professional diving career ladder. Divers of all different experience levels will look to you as the expert to act as a confident, calm leader whilst underwater, to find and point out interesting marine life, to explain how things are done, and to answer questions about anything from fish identification to equipment malfunctions. But, most of all, you’ll be looked to as a role model and, consequently, your diving skills need to be inscrutable.
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Diving the Pacific coast of Costa Rica in Playas del Coco

Diving in the Pacific – an adventure 65 million years in the making With the long-awaited sequel to Stephen Spielberg’s Jurassic Park hitting the screens this year, it seems like the world has once again been swept with jurassic fever. But for me, the original is still the best. The soundtrack, the drama, the slightly dodgy animatronics, and of course the setting. The original story is based in Costa Rica and, flying into the country over miles and miles of sprawling hillside, it’s not hard to see why. From the sky, Costa Rica stretches before you as an untouched paradise, carpeted in green. It takes only the smallest leap of imagination to picture a herd of diplodocus plodding over the verdant terrain, or a pterodactyl circling the mountain peaks.
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10 things I didn’t need to pack

When you’re facing the prospect of an indefinite amount of time spent travelling the world and living out of a backpack, it can be daunting to know what to pack. I spent the weeks before I left England trawling the internet looking for the advice of fellow travellers: should I pack a raincoat (yes), would I need hair straighteners (no), would my childhood teddy bear be too big to fit in my hand luggage (sadly, yes) Whilst I managed to effectively condense the pile of potential possessions from ridiculous to manageable (sense prevailed in the end, and I decided that I didn’t really need all four beach towels) there are still a few items that unnecessarily made the cut. For those interested in what not to pack, here are 10 things that you should probably leave at home…
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Becoming a Divemaster, Part III – the scenarios

I wrote recently about an important portion of the divemaster training programme – the academics. It’s here where you get stuck into the theory of diving, the science behind the sport and the knowledge required to improve your skills. But, important though the academics are overall, they can feel like something of a fun-sponge. Because, let’s face it, the reason anyone does their divemaster is because they want to, well, dive. The good news is that not all of the learning revolves round pen and paper. In fact, the whole point of the DMT programme is to get you in the water as often as possible and improve your overall diving abilities. That’s why you’re required to complete two distinct scenarios, both of which are designed to teach and test a very specific set of skills.
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Month #3 – the good, the bad and the unexpected

Location: Roatan, Honduras & Playa del Coco, Costa Rica (with the briefest of stops in El Salvador) The good Becoming a certified divemaster After 12 long weeks of sweat, blood and only the occasional tears, it was a true achievement to complete the PADI divemaster internship. My diving has improved a hundred fold since landing on the shores of Roatan, and I’ve learned so much about myself and what makes me tick underwater in the process.
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Pub golf island style – exploring the bars of West End, Roatan

Turning 27 isn’t an especially notable affair. It’s a fairly underwhelming age overall, edging one step further away from ‘mid-twenties’ and into ‘late-twenties-zone’. But turning 27 in a foreign country with new friends and new places to explore was a first for me, and therefore seemed like the perfect excuse to party.
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Becoming a Divemaster, Part II – the academics

“The academics” – it’s not the most inspiring title and, truth being told, it’s not the most inspiring part of the DMT (divemaster in training) programme. But at the risk of sounding like your mother / boss / headteacher, academics are integral to most of what we do. When it comes to diving, they are quite possibly the most important bit. It’s a shame therefore that the academic portion of the divemaster programme is often overlooked. Dive schools are keen to sell the time spent underwater, the friends you’ll make and the skills you’ll learn, but often avoid spelling out the details of what the less glamorous classroom time looks like. So allow me to enlighten you.
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Green-eyed in Ubud, Bali

The human eye can see more shades of green than any other colour. This is thanks to our natural history – we’ve evolved against a background of lush fields and forests where the ability to recognise subtle shifts in the hue of our, predominantly green, surroundings could mean the difference between life and death-by-leopard. I picked up this fact when I was younger, pocketed it in the ‘pub-quiz’ compartment of my brain, and promptly forgot all about it. That is until I visited Bali.
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Becoming a Divemaster, Part I – a day in the life of a DMT

Since my travels well and truly kicked off in July and I arrived in Roatan, Honduras, I’ve had a lot of emails and questions asking about what day-to-day life looks like for me. I’ve tempted you with pictures from beneath the ocean and stories from my romps and japers above sea-level. I’ve told the tales of my more ‘blog-worthy experiences’, and shared tit-bits of my activities in my monthly round-ups, but I’ll hold my hands up to the fact that accounts of my ‘normal’ daily doings have been somewhat scant. So please allow me to remedy that now.
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What we want vs. what we need

Leaving behind the materialistic, consumer-driven rat-race in search of a simpler way of living – it’s the driving force behind many people’s choice to travel the world. For me, it was a liberating experience to sell my house and the majority of my possessions, to sever the connection between the material things that tethered me to the UK and to pack my life into just one backpack. It was a welcome realisation to find that I didn’t miss the things that I’d taken for granted at home, the things that I assumed that I needed. Nail varnish, makeup, high-heels and expensive hair products have become obsolete, I wear a rotation of the same 9 or 10 outfits without batting an eyelid, and staples of normal evenings in at home – TV, microwave meals, hot showers – have quickly faded into a distant memory of a life that I no longer really crave. After a couple of months living merrily in more spartan conditions, I congratulated myself on the knowledge that I didn’t need large amounts of money or expensive things to make my travels happy ones.
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Month #2 – the good, the bad and the unexpected

Location: Roatan, Honduras The good The XVI Roatan International Fishing Tournament After 6 weeks of living in the West End of Roatan, I’d become happily accustomed to its gentle pace of life. Lazy days and relaxed evenings bleed into alcohol-fueled nocturnal activities, but when it comes to noise, hubbub and all-night parties, Roatan sits happily in the shadow of her party animal sister, Utila. That is until the weekend of the fishing tournament.
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Keeping fit whilst travelling – my night at “fight club”

I think I’m about to break the first rule of fight club… I went to fight club last night, and it was hard work. Sorry for blabbing and all, but I’m a blogger, and the first rule of blogging is that if you do something, you talk about it.
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Why Roatan should be your next travel destination

When I first made the decision to move to Roatan, I wasn’t surprised to find that not many people had heard of it. This little island, nestled in the Caribbean bay off the coast of Honduras, is but a tiny blip on the UK tourist industry’s radar. But what did surprise me was how violent the reaction to travelling to Honduras was. People were aghast to hear that I was willingly moving to ‘the most dangerous place in the world’. “Careful you don’t get stabbed”, or “make sure you carry a rape alarm” we’re standard nuggets of advice that people who had never even been to Honduras were so sagely offering me.
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Shark week

On July 5th, the Discovery Channel celebrated it’s annual airing of its ode to big fish – Shark Week. Unfortunately for me, on July 5th, I was stuck in a landlocked city in England with about as much hope of seeing a shark as I did of seeing the Loch Ness Monster, and so the week passed me by with little acknowledgement other than the odd sharky snap popping up on my Instagram feed. But arriving in Central America with three months solid diving stretching ahead of me, I began to consider the prospect of coming face to face with a shark a little more seriously.
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Rehoming my dogs to travel

How I made the heart-wrenching decision to travel the world and leave my pets behind I love dogs. I always have. I love all animals in fact but, at a push, I’d call myself a dog person. When I left home for university and endured a 4-year dog-free existence, I decided that enough was enough. It was time to fill the puppy shaped hole in my life. Choosing which breed to go for was easy enough; I loved big dogs but knew it would be unfair to have one whilst I worked full-time, so wanted to find a compromise, something with small enough legs that it didn’t need long rambling walks twice daily, but a huge personality to make up for it. Enter the pug.
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Exploring the mangroves of Roatan

It was with more than a little surprise that I realised that over a week had passed since I first arrived in Roatan. It wasn’t so much that time was flying – life doesn’t tend to live up to the clichés when push comes to shove – but that the days were being quietly swallowed up by the humdrum minutiae that had framed our arrival here. Finding an apartment, experimenting with a new language, discovering a problem with our visa that resulted in a day-trip to the broom cupboard that is Raotan’s immigration office, locating the one ATM on the island that will accept our credit card, and more generally just getting on with the business of learning new names, new faces, where to eat, where to get your washing done… the list goes on. It was this flurry of pedestrian necessities that defined my first week on the island, so it was a pleasant jolt from what was becoming the tiring business of adjusting to travel when I woke up on my first day off to the realisation that nothing needed doing; the day was free for exploration.
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Month #1 – the good, the bad and the unexpected

Location: Roatan, Honduras The Good The diving When I first began musing over the idea of doing my divemaster somewhere far off and remote, I couldn’t have even told you where Roatan is in the world. But as I began searching for options, this little island kept cropping up time and time again – “a diver’s paradise”, “an underwater haven”, “mecca for scuba fanatics”. And whilst it’s never wise to believe the hype until you’ve seen it with your own eyes, I’m delighted to say that Roatan has more than lived up to its reputation.
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Diving in Saint Lucia, and other topside activities

Saint Lucia is not a big island – just 27 miles from head to toe to be precise – but with only 2 weeks to enjoy everything it had to offer, it felt plenty big enough to provide all the adventure we could wish for. We set our sights on St Lucia as the perfect holiday destination – sand, sea and adventure and relaxation in equal measures. The lush green landscape is a playground for trekkers and sightseers alike, and the clear warm waters are a diver’s delight.
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Me no hablo (clearly) – trying and failing to speak Spanish abroad

With a couple of languages at just-about-passable A-Level standard under my belt and a healthy collection of stamps in my passport, I’ve always considered myself fairly adept at communicating abroad. I dub myself a ‘language person’ and charge brazenly into a range of foreign dialects with a whole lot of gusto (but not a lot of finesse or understanding surrounding the finer details of irregular verb conjugation) When it comes to travelling, I’ve always upheld the motto that “it’s better to try and fail, than to fail to try”, and have thus far gotten by with an armoury of basic phrases and an impressive range of facial expressions wherever I’ve been.
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Becoming a PADI Rescue Diver

You’re gliding through a warm, clear ocean, with the sunlight splintering overhead and swarms of tropical fish darting in front of your eyes. It’s the picture of tranquillity and calm. You spot a turtle sculling lazily beneath you and turn to point it out to your buddy. But he’s not there. Momentarily disorientated you turn circles in the water, stretching your peripheries to find him, but still you can’t see him. Panicked now, you retrace your path, searching desperately for a tell-tale string of bubbles or flash of fin. And then you see him floating motionlessly beneath you, head down, regulator out, unconscious.
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Planning to travel – funding the trip of a lifetime

How much it’s costing me to move abroad, and how I can afford to travel Have you ever gazed lustily at sunset-filled Instagram feeds or devoured action-packed travel blogs whilst sat at your desk, and wondered to yourself – how do they afford that? That was me a year ago. The notion of doing something as insane brave and exciting as quitting my job to travel the world was little more than a seed of an idea that had yet to flower. It wasn’t purely lack of courage or conviction that was stunting its growth, it was a very practical inhibitor – I didn’t have any money.
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The highs and lows of my all-inclusive holiday to Cuba

“I had dreamt of vintage cars and cigars rolled on the thighs of virgins, of smoky jazz clubs and salsa parties that spilled out onto the cobbled evening streets. Instead I got Happy Hour, aquarobics and an invitation to join a teenage drinking gang.” – The Truth about My All-Inclusive Holiday to Cuba I recently wrote an article for the online travel community Pink Pangea entitled ‘The Truth About My All-Inclusive Holiday to Cuba‘, inspired by a holiday I took in 2009. It was a holiday, of extremes. On the one hand, this was my first proper trip abroad with James – a true test of our relationship, one that we passed with flying colours, which saw us enjoy 14 days of each other’s uninterrupted company on a beautiful, tropical beach. On the other hand, it was a true failure in authentic travel – we saw little to no true Cuban culture, and the pre-booked activities we undertook were soulless and synthetic, designed to make easy money off the easily-pleased tourists that flocked in in their droves. 6 long years later and a lot has changed, not least my attitude towards travel. I no longer dream of brief bursts of sunshine and relaxation; holidays since have focused on the pursuit of more genuine sights and sensations. But whilst it may not have been travel perfection, the revisited series is an exercise of honest reflection for me; I look back on the highs and lows of my definitive holiday to Cuba: The highs
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Will I ever get sick of this?

Diving in Roatan for the first time It’s been a week since I stepped off the plane at Roatan airport and made my way to the place I’ll be calling home for the next 3 months: Coconut Tree Divers in the West End of the island. James and I had barely had time to dump our stuff and introduce ourselves before we were met with a proposition: “there’s a boat going out in 20 minutes, would you like to go?” Errr, I believe the only appropriate response to that sort of question is ‘hell yes!’, so we happily unpacked our kit and got ourselves prepped for the first ever dive in Roatan.
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Houston, we have a problem

How an emergency landing in Maine kick started my new life of adventure After a long, stressful and impatient build up that stretched over a year, it was a surreal feeling to wake up on the morning of my departure to Honduras. This was the start of the great adventure, the moment I’d been waiting for. Since moving out of our home a month ago, James and I have been living with his Dad in the spare room. We’ve spent 4 weeks packing in goodbyes and farewells to friends and family all across the country. Arriving at Heathrow airport was, after such a long build up, a pretty poignant moment:
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Planning to travel – moving out of rented accommodation

Planning to travel is stressful, there’s no two ways about this. You may read stories about inspirational people who have simply bought a one way ticket to somewhere obscure and just hopped on a plane, but I’ll bet that it’s not actually been that simple for them, that most of the time they’ve had a few more boxes to tick before they can simply venture forth. That’s why I’ve written a series of Planning to Travel posts – about the more mundane, administrative aspects of travel that you’ll need to battle through before you get to reap the rewards of a life of adventure. One of the most practical of these is sorting out where you’re going to live. Or rather where you’re going to stop living in search of a whole new life. Whilst many travellers choose to slot travel around a more traditional working schedule, factoring in holidays and city-breaks around their day job, some of us are after a more long-term experience. If you’re planning to up and leave your hometown for an extended period of time, there’s going to be some planning required when it comes to sorting out your current accommodation situation.
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A very English goodbye

5 things I’ll miss about the UK Tomorrow, I step onto a plane from London and leave England behind with no immediate plans to return. This is the culmination of a year of planning and what has proven to be a very busy, very emotional month. It’s only now, as the countdown to leaving life as I know it behind has reached its hiatus, that I’m starting to realise what it’ll mean to say goodbye. In an effort to pay England the respect it’s due after years of happy inhabitance, I have spent this last month partaking in the most British of activities that me, my friends and my family could concoct. From afternoon teas, roast dinners and bottomless brunches, to long walks in the rainy countryside and picnics in the park, I’ve painted an indelible image of Englishness on my mind that will serve as a mental postcard should ever I want a snapshot of home.
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