So, you want to travel forever and make money on the road? After giving you ideas on how to travel for free and how to make money while traveling now I’m talking to people who are doing just that! Maybe they can inspire you to also make your dreams of a life of travel a reality?
How to become a Scuba Diving Instructor – Interview with Ally
I recently caught up with Ally Toullec, originally from Paris, Ally’s career takes her all over the world and under the sea! Ally is a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer and over the last 3 years she has been lucky enough to dive and work as a scuba dive instructor in paradise in countries including Thailand, the Maldives, the Cook Islands, South Africa and all over South East Asia. She is now based in Bristol working as eMarketing specialist for PADI, combining her passion for diving with her career as a marketer.
Wow, being a scuba diving instructor seems like a dream job that has allowed your work is many tropical locations! Briefly, what made you want to be a diving instructor and how did you make it happen?
It is definitely a dream job!I always loved the ocean, I sail and surf and as well but when I was on a 10 day holiday in Thailand for my birthday with a friend in Koh Phi Phi, I, complete randomness, tried scuba diving. Straight away I was hooked, I trained to become a dive instructor….and I came home from my 10 days holidays 4 years later. Whoops!
Can you describe your life as a diving instructor in 3 words?
Passionate. Epic. Crazy
What is the best part about life as a diving instructor?
So.many.best.parts. Being underwater feels incredible and having been able to do it everyday, several times a day even, is amazing. The feeling you get from being with all this marine life is something so unique, so relaxing, it is a powerful drug. I love taking people for the first time underwater, that moment where we go down and I can see the panic in their eyes, until they realise they can breathe easily and then the spark of excitement from it. It makes for a very special bond with your student. Obviously living in paradise in not exactly the worst part either.
I also love sharing my passion for ocean conservation, a lot of people are not aware of how bad we have trashed our seas. Teaching diving creates the perfect platform for me to create awareness on shark finning, overfishing or silent killers such as plastics in our oceans. I am now launching a blog called I AM A FINATIC, on surfing, diving and marine conservation as I hope to bring those two communities together to make a difference.
And are there any downsides?
Let’s be clear, there is no money in diving. We work long hours for merely enough cash to feed ourselves. We do it for the lifestyle and the love of the ocean. I think for the resort market, which I mainly work for, so many tourists forget, or are unaware of that. As a Divemaster (the previous level to Instructor) I work 6 hours trips for about a fiver, and after that do a 4h shop shifts without getting paid in the hope to sell some diving. But now, not all places are like that.
Do you have one stand out highlight of your time as a diving instructor or a particular favourite location that you have worked?
I was lucky enough to train a couple of people to pro level and it was probably one of the most rewarding experiences. Their training involved spending 5 weeks with me, getting trained from their first level of PADI Open Water Diver to PADI Divemaster meaning that they were able to guide divers themselves and work in a dive centre. Both of them are now very active instructors and I am so proud of these two ladies who also happen to be some of the loveliest people.
Underwater, my highlights probably include seeing my first mantas, my first whale shark (I nearly cried of emotion into my mask) and every time I get to dive with sharks which are my all time favourite animal.
Favourite place to dive? Oh, but there is so many I haven’t seen yet! For now I would say Bali (Tulamben and Nusa Penida) and South Africa (Cape Town is insane!) have been incredible spots. Maldives was great too, but I got to fun dive (literally meaning diving for fun without customers) more in both of these places.
And what has been the greatest challenge?
Learning to be patient. I had never taught before and it was very interesting for me to know how to deal with people reactions to the water, learning that people have their limits sometimes, and that their emotions will play a big role in the way they will behave in such a new environment to them. It took a little bit of time for me to get used to that, but I did get some really good advice from my PADI Course Director (the person in charge of forming instructors) Richard Reardon. Mainly, I learned that when everything goes wrong take it with a pinch of humour. In the end, you are in a beautiful location, doing something that most people don’t, it’s never as bad as it looks.
What do you wish you had known before becoming a scuba diving instructor?
That it will change my life upside down…. I would have done it way before! Since I went diving for the first time, it has been a crazy whirlwind of different countries, different oceans, palm trees, hard times, good times, new friends….I love it!
What about the future? Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Well for now I am in the UK. I work for PADI and I get to visit dive centres all around the EMEA region so it’s a little bit of a dream job. Diving wise, I thought I was a warm water diver but I have now experienced cold water and it’s been great! The marine life is very diverse here in Europe as well. It might not be all Nemo like but I am pretty geeky with my species and it’s always a pleasure to see something new, no matter how small it is. Hell, I went surfing with a seal in Cornwall this weekend!
I guess in 5 years, I hope to be still travelling as much as I do now, still diving and surfing everywhere I go! I don’t exactly know where I’ll be, but it will involved sea water I hope! I am thinking working on my first level as surf instructor too. Anyway, I am only happy by the sea.
I am stoked with life (by the sea), and I just want to share that with as many people I can!
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, what tips would you give for people wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Make a plan. If you are still at uni, finish your degree first (yup, the good old cliche of “Stay in school, kids!”). It’s just that I wish I had planned my time and finances a little bit better (I ended up doing my Master Degree at the same time that doing my Divemaster training and it got a little bit intense), because for a while it has been really tough as I was not prepared at all for this new life.
Also, there is always a way. Don’t stop yourself at “Oh, I wish I could do that”, 90% of the time you can. As I said make a plan to reach your goals, put money on the side, have your electronics in order. Might sound like a weird advice, but your never know where you will be doing your dive training/teaching and go find a shop to repair your mac on some desert island!
And also be committed. Working in the dive industry can be frustrating at times but the perks are worth every bad day. If you live on a party island (like a lot of dive places are), don’t waste your money and time on getting drunk every night. There is going to be a lot of hard work ahead of you, yet I would start everything again without a ounce of a doubt.
Thanks Aly for being so inspirational – what a dream job and best of luck for the future.
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Great reading and extremely comprehensive post – pretty much covers everything…