Tag Archives: career break

PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC) and the Instructor Exam (IE)

Yesterday was my last day in Mexico for a while so I thought I better get this post out sooner rather than later!

When I started this blog I set out to become a PADI Open Water SCUBA Instructor.  Well I made it!  It’s been a lot of work but hugely rewarding and 4 months has blurred past at incredible speed . When I arrived in Mexico I was qualified to Advanced Open Water with Nitrox.  I still had to pass Rescue Diver, Emergency First Response and Dive Master.  The Instructor Development Course (IDC) seemed so very very far away.  6 months on and I have the Open Water Scuba Instructor qualification with Master Scuba Diver Trainer prep completed and Side Mount Instructor.  I don’t regret the change and time invested for a second!

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Jo and Angel as Course Directors and mentors.
I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Jo and Angel as Course Directors and mentors.

To anyone considering going for Rescue Diver I can definitely recommend it.  It has to be the most fun and useful diving course I’ve done so far.  First you learn how to look after yourself if you get into trouble then you learn how to look after others.  For the first time in your diving life you will start to look beyond yourself and become aware of how other divers might be feeling, what that could lead to and how to help them before any really serious issues arise.  You practice the rescue drills often enough for them to reliably kick in when they’re needed. It will give you more confidence and overall resulting in you becoming a better diver.  Included in the Rescue Diver course is Emergency First Response if you don’t already have it. If you are keen my top tips here are:

  1. Anyone can do it.  It’s not just for people looking to go professional.  It’ll take you out of your comfort zone but you’ll never regret it.
  2. Find an instructor that regularly teaches the Rescue Diver course. All instructors are qualified to teach the course but not all instructors have the experience to do it justice and give you value while making it fun.
  3. A group of 4 students is the perfect number to have in a rescue course.  1 or 2 students runs the risk of being very dull while more than 6 will likely equate to many more hours in the water than are comfortable.
Maybe don't try this at home...
Maybe don’t try this at home…
Brought Back to Life and Loving it!
Brought Back to Life and Loving it!

The Dive Master program was a real joy for me and the other guys doing the course at the same time.  We had a lot of skills to master and experience to gain but I’m confident we will all remember that time as one of the most fun diving periods of our lives.  Since experience can only be earned and not taught and experience was what we seriously lacked the most important task was to dive. Diving, diving and more diving.  The program we signed up to allowed us to volunteer for all and every dive going as long as there was room on the boat.  Some of us made the most of this while some preferred to have a little more dive/life balance.  In either case we were given just enough responsibility to push us and keep things interesting while not enough to cause any real havoc.  That said, there was more than one occasion where an instructor debriefed us after the dive in a less than glowing fashion. Some might even go so far as to say we got torn a new one on occasion!  Completely undeserved obviously!  Some things to consider before you go for Dive Master:

  1. Choose between working for free to earn your DM qualification or paying for a DM course.  Working for free will take a lot longer and in most places you’ll work bloody hard but I’ve met many people that did this and not one of them regretted doing it this way.  Paying for the course is quicker and, in my case, was a fantastic 3 months of my life diving as little or as much as I could handle.
  2. Do your homework before choosing a dive center to do your DM course.  There’s Facebook groups such as Dive Jobs Worldwide which are full of people willing to offer opinions and help on which dive outfits are the good ones.  Don’t be afraid to ask.
One of my dive buddies during Dive Master training.
One of my dive buddies during Dive Master training.

The Instructor Development Course (IDC) that leads onto the Instructor Exams (IE) were expected to be by far the hardest diving challenges I had faced to this point.  Later on, it turns out, the biggest challenge is actually doing the job you worked so hard to get qualified to do but hey, that’s for another post!  The IDC and IE are, in reality, just not that difficult if you’ve been trained well as a Dive Master. You do need to be willing to put in a bit of study and preparation time.  There’s already loads of info on the net about what’s involved in an IDC and IE so I’ll leave it you if you want to look it up.

IDC MARCH from TheGoProFamilly on Vimeo.

So where to next?  London for a week and then to Thailand.  I’ll be on Koh Phi Phi starting the 19th of May. For the next couple of months at least I’ll be updating from there.  There’s plenty more I want to write about Playa Del Carmen and the journey so far so stay tuned folks!

Ciao for now Ben

Tequila, Panettone and a Slice of Serenity – Feliz Navidad!

I’ve been privileged to have experienced Christmas in many different countries around the globe and can honestly say I have no preference between a summer Christmas with a BBQ around a swimming pool or a winter Christmas with snow and an open fire. They both paint a wonderful picture on the surface with the reality having both pros and cons. In short, bah humbug!

Not knowing many people, having a student budget and lacking motivation, this year in Playa Del Carmen Christmas was looking like a none event for us. That was until one of our fellow diving students, Ricky, invited us to his place on the 24th for an Italian Christmas dinner. Actually, several people ended up inviting us to dinner. The people around us are just incredibly welcoming and giving!

Antonio Banderas in Playa Del Carmen
Me and Antonio Banderas.. I mean Ricky C

Ricky lives with Marco, a very cool diving instructor and Max, the most helpful and welcoming man in Playa who knows everyone! They’re basically a house full of awesome Italians. Arriving unfashionably early at 9pm, we were welcomed in by Max’s parents, ushered out to the bar by the pool and handed a beer.

As the night progressed we were treated to large quantities of lasagna, aubergine parmigiana (I think that’s what it’s called) and other amazing home made Italian dishes (thanks to Marco’s Mum!). The panettone, pandoro and coffee rounded off a night consisting of several toasts of tequila washed down with margaritas and interspersed with beers.

Moral of the story. If you’re ever invited to Christmas by an Italian, say yes please immediately!

We were fairly well behaved on the tequila and margarita side of things as we had this great idea that we might get to go diving with Bull Sharks on Christmas day. Turns out most of Playa had the same idea and the dive boats were too full for us to join the party. Who knew Christmas day was when everyone in Playa wanted to go diving?!?!

Plan B! We took to the streets to explore more of Playa… Turns out, those that weren’t diving were also exploring Playa!

Quinta Avenida, Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
The Masses…

Wondering down 5th avenue brought as back to a cool little shop we’d seen weeks previous called The Little Teapot. Perfect place to escape the crowds and watch the world go by. Just for fun and because we can here’s a short clip of the adventure. (Phils videography debut!)

With our sanity restored we headed to Mamita’s Beach to walk off the amazing peanut butter cookies. A little stroll north and we discovered a small slice of serenity. A pleasant break from the masses of people everywhere.

Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
How’s the serenity? Espléndido!

With our legs giving in from a hard days exploring we decided to head home for cervezas and chorizo. As usual, despite my best attempt at imitating Ebenezer Scrooge and although some fairly important people in my life were missing, I thoroughly enjoyed my first Christmas in Mexico.

Buon Natale, Feliz Navidad and Merry Christmas all 🙂

Sunburn, Bull Sharks and Nitrogen Narcosis!

Through the very short history of this blog you’ve seen me talk about my travelling buddy Phil. Some of you will know him, some will have seen a picture of him:


Since we’re taking this leap at the same time we thought we’d keep the blog interesting and add his point of view from time to time. So without further preamble…

Hola mis amigos!

So one week in and we are burnt, broken and shattered… But life is great!

We are 2 days in to our Rescue Diver course, searching for apartments every night, cooking dinner on what can best be described as a camp cooker and getting more dives thrown our way than we can poke a stick at… it’s exhausting.

Cooking on a Camp Stove
Cooking on a Camp Stove

The diving has been amazing though, stingrays, giant crabs, lion fish, scorpion fish, turtles and eels under every rock not to mention a multitude of little fish.  We’ve been stung by coral, “narced”, attacked by fish that clearly think they’re bigger than they are and fought against currents that were somewhat like being in a washing machine… Never a dull moment!  The highlight however would have to be sitting on the bottom while a 2.5m Bull Shark casually did a few swim bys not more than 10 foot away… AMAZING!  Next we surfaced to do some Rescue Diver drills completely unperturbed by the group of 3 Bull Sharks and 2 baby sharks that were now swimming about below us.  Who woulda thought we’d be so relaxed.

Setting up Dive Gear
Setting up Dive Gear

On top of that, the people we are training with are amazing!  The team is like a big family looking out for one another and our instructor Aitor is full of stories and little pearls of wisdom.  I feel like every conversation we have leaves me as a better Scuba Diver.

Well that’s all for now folks coz this little black ducks gotta go and study…

Actually Studying!
Actually Studying!

Hasta luego!!

What made you do it?

Last week my boss sent out the email letting everyone know that after 8 long years I had finally decided to hang up my suit and start my big adventure. This sparked a barrage of congrats and questions, the 2 most common of them being “Where are you going?” and “What made you decide to take the leap?”

The Decision

The where is easy, Playa Del Carmen in Mexico but I digress… The how or why I made the decision is a tad harder. Everything I’ve read on taking a sabbatical has shown me that everyone has their own reasons. My original life plan was to save for a deposit on an investment property while working my way up the old corporate ladder until two things happened to make me question that plan:

  1. London property prices rose quicker than I could save
  2. My boss resigned and a colleague asked me if I was going to apply for his job

On one hand the idea of bigger challenges was appealing yet the concept of walking the tightrope of office politics associated with that level was anything but. The realisation that I was unlikely to ever be happy in the direction I was heading was both terrible and wonderful at the same time. Several months later and it’s only wonderful.

Around the same time all this was going on, a good buddy of mine that I’ve spent many years travelling with decided he’d had enough of London and was going to Playa Del Carmen in Mexico to get his SCUBA Diving Instructor qualification.

"You know you could come with me..."
“You know you could come with me…”

Over several pints we discussed what this decision might mean for him and what life might be like during and after the trip… Goddamn it sounded good! Just as I was contemplating just how good it sounded he, casual as you like, suggested that there was no reason why I couldn’t go with him…

I scoffed, laughed and moved the conversation along but the seed was sown.

Having grown up in Oz I’ve spent a lot of time living close to the beach and miss it hugely. Oz is where my love of diving grew from and my fascination with marine life. I’ve also long had a passion for photography so an opportunity to be exposed to all of these things on a daily basis was simply too compelling to ignore, almost…

Ocean Reef Beach W.A.
Ocean Reef Beach W.A. Home! I spent almost every morning and afternoon here for several years.

Excuses Are Not Reasons

I spent months finding reasons why I had to stay. At the time, in my head, they seemed so important however in hindsight they were simply excuses. Luckily I have some fantastic people in my life, not least of which is my girlfriend, who helped me talk through them all.

  1. I can’t go, I have a mortgage – rent the apartment out if necessary
  2. I’ve spent over 10 years building a career – you’re not happy, it’ll be here when you’re back
  3. My girlfriend can’t leave – she’d hate it if I didn’t go because of her
  4. and so on

The core difference between a reason and an excuse comes down to priorities and sometimes we prioritise things to the point where there no longer appears to be a choice. Children, for example, rightly become your priority over hobbies and other passions. Fortunately I have no such responsibilities and thanks to several people and an open mind to get through the fear of drastic change, I was finally relieved of my excuses.

Your Choice

Several people have spoken to me about wanting to take a sabbatical. They worry about asking for time away from the office. I tell them, “What’s the worst that can happen? They say no!” That’s the answer I received. I’ll do a later post on how you can increase your chances of approval but think hard about what you will do and how you will feel if your request is refused.

Being without a proper income is a scary thought! Figure out how long you can afford little or no income. Keep in mind it’s possible to travel for less than your current living expenses.

Losing the job security I had been building for years felt like such a big risk until I took a step back, looked at the market and realised that job security is a complete illusion!

Having a mortgage to pay off without regular income. This one’s a tough one! Each person’s position here is different so my advice to you is get professional advice. I spoke to a Real Estate Agent, checked my Ts & Cs of my mortgage and spoke to my mortgage advisor, several times, before I got comfortable with the plan.

Taking The Leap

To those of you thinking about a sabbatical, be brave! Are your reasons really just excuses? Planning a sabbatical is much easier once excuses are eliminated so find someone you trust that will help you look at why you should rather than why you shouldn’t. As cliché as it sounds, a pros and cons list can also be really useful here.

When I can I’ll share the plans I have made, the tools that helped me prepare and the articles that I read along the way but until then…

Ciao for now!

p.s. A big thanks to Steffi and Phil for your support! 🙂

The Count Down Begins!

4 weeks and counting… the well paid and comfortable job comes to an end, I wave farewell to London and everyone I love that keeps me here and I move to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico for 5 months.  The beginning of a journey towards becoming a SCUBA Diving instructor, Spanish speaker and proficient underwater photographer.

I intend this blog to be the telling of that journey.  As well as keeping friends and family updated I hope it will help and inspire people that might be thinking of taking a sabbatical, career break or just thinking about making a change.

I’ll be learning how this blogging malarkey works along the way so must beg your patience.