Welcome to my new feature, “Case of the Fridays.”
I decided to start this project out of curiosity relating to uncommon occupations and their benefits/drawbacks, and what provides these individuals with passion. I know a lot of people in 9-5 jobs that would like to embark on extraordinary careers, so hopefully one of these posts may lead them to the inspiration to do so, or provide them with a resource to begin that journey.”
It’s not luck. ’You’ make the bed that ‘you’ sleep in. I think it should be damn-well comfortable!
So what I’ve created with this feature is an inside look at the lives of individuals who’ve inspired me by the way they’ve shaped their lifestyles and careers. In these interviews, I’ll ask them about how they got started and what it takes to maintain their careers – as well as what effects their lifestyles have on their long-term vision (dating, family, kids, etc). At the end of the interview, I ask each person if they’re willing to respond to questions from readers or anyone interested in getting involved in their area of expertise.
I hope you guys get a lot out of this – the world is at your fingertips!
My first interview for this series is Lee. I met Lee during an expedition he led out in the Papua/New Guinea region via live-aboard boat (blog post coming in 2 weeks). Lee has traveled the world and seen some of the most amazing scenery one can possibly have access to throughout their lifetime. He’s taken a lot of risks and traveled on one-way tickets to parts unknown, and I think he has a lot to share from his experiences.
Without further delay, here’s the interview I had with him while I was adventuring out in the Asian-Pacific.
(Here’s a photo to give you a visual of what the environment was like during our interview)
What is your name?
What is your occupation?
Expedition Leader specializing in the Coral Triangle of the Asia-Pacific Region.
How long have you been doing what you currently do?
What level of schooling have you completed?
Masters in Marine Bio, and planning on going back for a PhD. I’d like something to fall back on.
Did you have a 9-5 job before that?
I guess you could say yes, I was switching between 9-5’s – mainly construction management, project engineer. I didn’t find it challenging though, it just wasn’t something I wanted to do.
How did you become involved in the work that you currently do?
After college, I became a dive instructor because I was always interested in the Marine environment. Moved to the Florida Keys – it was almost a ‘right of passage’ for instructors to work in the marine environment in that area.
1995 was a year with horrendous hurricanes, & the reality of being a dive guide at that age and those conditions, you’re not making a lot of money. So I had an opportunity to open a dive shop in BC – went up there & worked it for a couple years…found that I really loved the tropical environment (you could dive the same area every day and see something different…and the warm water was also great)
At an early age, NatGeo always enticed me with the Coral Triangle, but I never really had the means to get out there. So I went to a dive show called DIMA – found some people that were working out in this part of the world. Met a guy with a place out here that I could stay, and he told me he would hire me.
My brother was having some tough times with family, and I had to pass on the initial opportunity in order to be there for him. I still had my airline ticket (1-way), so I went to Guam and walked into a dive shop – gave them my credentials. Went down to Palau and never went back (to Guam).
I met Ethan and Ron, two other guides that had already worked as established expedition leaders while in Palau. Went and got my masters in Marine Bio in Guam, came back, and proposed the trip of doing Palau with Ron & Ethan vouching for me to submit to their company – Wilderness Travel, and it was a go!
What is it that you love about your work?
You get to meet great people, see some great things, I’m able to talk about the Marine Environment that I love to people that are interested in it. I get to share my passion with others that are also enthused. Maybe that’s why the Florida keys didn’t cut it…
What is your least favorite thing about your work?
Being away from the family. I’m away about 5 months out of the year when you add up all the trips cumulatively.
Is there anything you miss about life back home? (In the states)
Rita’s Italian Ice. And pizza.
Living in this part of the world, one of the things I do miss is a bit of a stricter sense of order in society (paying attention to stop signs). Open roads. A wide open road, like the ones outside of Vegas you can do 90 on the freeway. There aren’t many open roads here, and the ones that are – they’re in bad shape so you can’t speed.
What are some of the advantages of your job compared with the regular corporate career?
It’s a much more relaxed-paced life, I’m doing what I love and I know some corporate people can say that, however I get to see what most people go and do when they take a break from their job.
What are some of the disadvantages compared with the regular corporate career?
Not much opportunity to make more money, in kind of a weird way – the idea of going into work and knowing in your head that you only have a set amount of hours that you have to put in, then you get to go home and be with your family -that sounds nice. Here I have to work 24/7 and be away from family for weeks at a time. The “on/off switch” of working a normal job can be appealing.
How different is the dating scene for you? Is it easier/harder to make time to be with your significant other?
It was actually pretty easy to meet girls – you’re living a glamourous life and ‘working’ in the area that most people dream to visit. Most girls that I dated would just be coming through for a week or two, which was nice at the time that I was more into the dating scene. I was also somewhat of a pseudo-celebrity being the only foreigner in the local scene, so that helped! Haha
Do you tend to prefer to live paycheck to paycheck or with a savings plan accounted for? Is your income predictable and regular, or entirely dependent on what you produce?
Well, I was paycheck to paycheck before I got married, but now with a wife & daughter – it’s savings based. We find it’s more important to have no bills, and have a little money put away – rather than put away more, and have less bills.
How do you imagine your retirement, or lifestyle past 60?
Lounging somewhere in the Phillipenes, watching my daughter grow up. Doing some sort of project though, I’ve got to do something. Not sure what, but maybe a guide book or stay involved in the education on the Marine Environment in some way.
How much longer do you envision yourself working as an expedition leader?
Probably 5 more years at the most. I know I’ll miss it dearly.
Do you see your career facilitating a lifestyle suitable for raising a family?
I would say no – when you’re working you don’t see your family, however when you’re off – you can make it so that you have a lot more solid time with family when you are home.
What are your top priorities in the ‘big picture’?
My daughter, my family. Outside of my family, keeping an ear and an eye open to make sure I don’t miss opportunities for things I can do after this. If there was such a thing as a tourism consultant, I’d love to develop programs for trips.
In your lifetime, what experiences are important to you?
When I was younger it was about having fun, then when I got older, it was about seeing the world, and now it’s about being able to provide a great tour and keep me in the top of my game.
If you had any advice to someone just graduating college or thinking about switching careers, what would it be?
First I would suggest they asked themselves if they’re ‘serious’ – most people aren’t, so don’t kill yourself thinking about it.
If you are, just DO IT. It’s scary, but be scared. It’s exciting. There have been several times in my life that I’ve bought one way tickets, and I think it’s a great thing. It was kind of a break from growing up in middle class life. I wanted to do something on my own, where I could turn back and there’d be no one there to fall back on and look to for support. I had to make it happen. You’ll be a stronger person after it’s all said and done, regardless of what happens.
If you do something half ass & fail, you feel like you let yourself down. And I’ve been there before – it’s a learning experience.
If someone wanted to do your job, what is important to maintain a position?
Innovate, and maintain a clientele that with stick with you, and lead great expeditions.
Who inspires you?
I’ve always gone against the system, growing up in a straight-laced town…ultimately I was in my rebellious phase when it came to my career. When parents tell you “this or this” is what you’re supposed to do…
I read National Geographic and dreamed of doing this kind of work…with something that challenged me. I could be a deckhand and see this kind of stuff, but it wouldn’t be enough. I used to collect all the maps from all the destinations National Geographic used to cover and just study them.
Robert Lynn Nelson – he painted an amazing piece called sea of magic. He captured “freedom and beauty”, which is what I wanted in my life. I wanted to study killer whales, which represented freedom to me. I realized they represented the ocean and all it’s amazingness, which is really what I wanted to study.
What did you want to be when you want to be when you grew up?
An astronomer. I loved reading science fiction when I was a kid. Didn’t do it because there was too much math.
What is one of your favorite sounds?
My daughter laughing.
What’s your favorite memory from your past?
When my wife and I were first dating, we would go out kayaking in some of the most beautiful places on earth. I would be off-and-on back in town & it was great spending time with her.
If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be, and why?
I’d be a killer whale. They’re one of the most amazing organisms on this planet. Apparent intelligence, surrounded by the environment that I love the most, and an apex preditor that no one fucks with.
What are some of your favorite smells?
Freshly cut grass, warm soft pretzels fresh out the oven.
If you were a character in a famous movie, who’s role would you play?
Denzel Washington’s character in Crimson Tide. He made some of the toughest decisions of life & death when it comes to other people. It takes some of the most tough and strong character to make those kind of decisions. Indiana Jones never had to look at someone and decide whether or not they would live or die.
If you could go back to any point in history for a month, what time period would you visit?
I’ve always been impressed with Leonardo Da Vinci, Ben Franklin, and Alfred Wallace. I’d have to go with Ben…I feel like you’d just get a sense of insight and enlightenment just being around the guy – seemed like he was a pretty intelligent and wise guy.
If there was one celebrity you’d like to punch in the face, who would it be?
I’d love to punch Bernie Madoff, anyone who affects so many people on such a negative personal and financial level, they deserve to get hit by a ton of people – and I’d like to be one of them.
If someone wanted to get in touch with you and ask you more about what it takes to get involved in your career, what would be the best way?
Email me at LJLExpeditions@gmail.com
On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to get back to them?
10. I get back to everybody. I still have guests write me from years back sending a photo of a fish they saw on a trip they’ve just gone on!
If you have any feedback for Lee or suggestions for future interviews, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!