Along with working as coach for global nomads living around the world, I also post an Interview Series on this website where I share the stories of global nomads who have moved abroad, are traveling the globe, or are transitioning to life back at home.
This week’s interview features Cat, whose found a way to make a career out of combining her two loves: travel and diving. Originally from SE England, she was first inspired to explore the world when she went overseas on a school trip to Peru at age 18. Her love for scuba diving started during University when she learned to scuba dive in Thailand. She later returned to Thailand to become trained as a dive instructor with PADI so she could travel the world teaching and diving. After living in Thailand she moved to Fiji, and then the Cayman Islands–where she met her dive instructor partner. In 2016 they made the leap to move to Mexico and start their own boat charter and dive business El Duque Adventures.
Hi Cat, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Growing up we had an active and outdoors lifestyle and I always enjoyed the adventures that we took. I went on my first big overseas trip when I was 18, it was with a group from my school and we spent a month in Southern Peru – since then I have been inspired to travel and explore the world. I studied Geography at University and then taught High School for a while, I enjoyed the subject and the students could be fun (sometimes!) but I wasn’t ready to settle into one spot. Whilst at University I went on a trip to Thailand and learnt to scuba dive – I fell in love with the underwater world and had done some diving on subsequent trips to different places.
In 2006 whilst I was teaching I made the decision that I wanted to explore the world and what better way than teaching (which I enjoy) and diving (a sport I love). In 2007 I moved to Thailand and over the course of 7 months became a dive instructor with PADI. I worked for a while in Thailand and then Fiji before moving to the Cayman Islands. It was there that I met my partner (also a dive instructor). We worked for many years in different countries before deciding that we really wanted to be our own bosses, so we took the leap to move to Mexico and start our own business. We moved to La Paz, BCS, Mexico in 2016 and have been working since then on developing our boat charter and dive business using our combined knowledge from our years of work in the industry to make it something that we are proud to call our own and to provide experiences that are just a little bit different from average. Besides diving I enjoy being in the great outdoors and learning about our amazing planet – my new years resolution is to improve my freediving skills – kind of like underwater meditation.
When was the first time you left the UK? What was your life like before that?
As a child growing up most of our trips were within the UK, except for annual ski trips in Europe. The first time I went away by myself without my family was when I was 18, since then I have done a mixture of solo and accompanied travel. During summer holidays from University I worked in both the USA as a camp counsellor and in Spain as an activities organizer for a holiday club – both times gave me a taste of living in another country rather than just being there as a visitor. It was great to see things from a different perspective and also to spend more time with people from different cultures. It made me realize that there is far more to life than living the expectation of having a job, kids, house, mortgage etc and I liked the freedom of exploration. I was lucky enough to grow up in a family that values going out and experiencing the world but it was still a big change to pack my bag and leave! I left the UK because I didn’t want to get pulled into a lifestyle that was based on what you have not who you are.
What motivated you to move to Mexico?
Recently my partner and I were living in Canada (he has duel Canadian/ Mexican Citizenship) and we really enjoyed where we lived. It was a beautiful little town on the west coast, and we he had a good job, but we both felt that something was missing in our lives. We wanted to be our own bosses and to work for ourselves. To start the boat charter and dive business that we wanted was not so feasible in Canada due to higher costs and the area we lived in was not so easy for diving. So we found an opportunity that would allow us to move to Mexico and start a business here, so after some investigation, we decided to go for it! It was a difficult choice to make as we did have a good lifestyle in a lovely part of the world but everyone we met was very supportive of our decision and encouraged us to try it. Having a good base of supportive friends and family helped ease the transition and Norm having family in Mexico to give us advice about running a business here was very informative.
What’s the most difficult part about travel or living outside of your home country? How do you overcome these difficulties?
I find the time difference for talking to my family hard and not being able to see them very often. My parents recently visited us and it was the first time I had got to see them in two years, but it felt great to be able to show them my new lifestyle and now they can put a picture to the places I describe for them. I find the language barrier difficult – when we first moved to Mexico I knew little if any Spanish, one year later I’m not yet fluent but I understand a lot and can hold a conversation. This has come through some trial and error but mainly through perseverance and also forcing myself to speak and not be nervous about making mistakes – everyone I have met is always so encouraging because they realise that you are making the effort. The last part that I find difficult about Mexico is the time it can take to get things achieved in terms of paperwork – getting my work permit involved many visits to immigration always with another paper!
What’s the best part about travel or living outside of your home country?
Living outside of my comfort zone and experiencing something new. Here in Mexico the people are so friendly and everyone is always ready to help you – there is a real feeling of community. We live on our boat in a small marina and it is such a lovely atmosphere.
What experience have you had abroad that you want everyone to know about?
One of my most memorable occasions came one year on Christmas day, I was working in Mozambique and was teaching a dive course, the student was quite nervous and went through his air quite quickly, meaning we had to cut our dive short. We were doing our safety stop whilst floating along in the blue water and out of the corner of my eye I caught a flash of silver. We turned to look and there was a marlin swimming by, he did a few passes and then disappeared into the blue. It was one of the best sightings I have had whilst diving because it is so rare. It made me appreciate that good things come out of all situations – if we hadn’t surfaced early from our dive then we would never have seen this amazing creature.
What has living outside of your home country taught you about life, romantic relationships, family and/or professional ambitions?
Living outside of your home country and moving away from friends and family means that you keep in touch with the people who really matter. You have true friendships rather then shallow acquaintances. One of my best friends and I discovered the joys of letter writing – we make a concerted effort to hand write proper letters every few months rather than just a quick text or email. This means we put time into the friendship and I feel more connected to her. I also learnt that even if you don’t see them all the time, family will always be there for you.
What are 3 things on your bucket list? These can be travel destinations, career ambitions, etc.
To grow our business and make it successful and sustainable. I also really want to visit the Galapagos and Antarctica. Both of these places seem like different worlds in terms of the landscape, ecology and marine life I will find there.
What advice do you have for people who are considering traveling or relocating to a new country, but are feeling doubtful?
Just go for it! Things we probably not work out according to your plan so be flexible and proactive and see what happens.
Do you have a favorite quote, book, movie, etc. that you’d like to share with readers?
My favourite book changes depending on my mood – my current favourite is ‘The Cloud Spotters Guide’. It is informative yet whimsical in tone and a very interesting read.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself before starting this journey? What do you hope people say about you on your 70th birthday?
I started my journey looking for adventure and have managed to see and experience many things. Life is not easy and I do worry about money and the future but I try to remind myself that life is for living now, not waiting for retirement to do all the wonderful things. I hope on my 70th birthday people will say isn’t she lucky to have seen and done so much, I hope she continues to explore for many years more.
Thanks so much Cat for giving us a glimpse of your adventures of pursuing your love for travel and diving! Want to learn more about Cat’s adventures and her and her partner’s company? You can find her on her company’s website and its affiliated Facebook page.
ABOUT MELISSA PARKS, THE FOUNDER OF INTENTIONAL EXPAT:
I moved from Seattle (USA) to Madrid, Spain in 2009 in order to work as an English teacher for a year. I soon discovered that when you accept the invitation to become a global nomad, life may take you in unexpected directions! This one year abroad turned into ten, and during that time I earned my master’s degree and PhD in Clinical & Health Psychology, lived in both Spain and the Netherlands, became fluent in Spanish, transitioned from an accidental to an intentional expat, and met my future husband, a fellow global nomad. I recently relocated back to Seattle and provide online coaching for global nomads, If you’re a global nomad yourself and want to be featured in a future interview, please get in touch!
Would you like to learn more about my coaching services for expats and global nomads? I offer a free 30-minute consultation for potential clients so that you can see if my coaching services are a good fit for you: