We are pleased to present our final Master Divers Life contest blog by contestant Vanessa Witt
I grew up in Minnesota, in the United States. To say I’m a Minnesotan is an understatement. I’m 33 and a half years old, and though I’ve now been traveling for 8 months, and have spent some time traveling and living outside of the midwest for past jobs, I have lived 30 of my 33 years on this planet in the heart of the midwestern united states for 30 years. For those of you who know a bit about United States geography, Minnesota is right smack in the middle, and next to Canada. It’s cold. I think it’s fair to say that in the world of divers, I’m a bit of a fish out of water.
But look, I think that’s a strength because despite spending my whole life far from the ocean, I have, just recently, become so passionate about this whole world underground I never had experienced prior to beginning my diving journey. I want to connect people, both long time ocean lovers and divers, and those just dipping their toes in for the first time, to this entire underwater ecosystem under the sea.
A little bit about what lead Minnesota Vanessa to the sweaty beaches of Thailand and beyond: Last fall, my company was relocating and I decided to not move, also known as become (f)unemployed and put all my stuff in storage, also known as become homeless, and travel the world. And I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty damn good. I tell you this, because the places I’ve visited and the things I’ve done in the last 8 months have really had a profound impact on me. They’ve shaped how I see the world and see my life, and basically see the meaning of life in general. No big deal. Just a little impact.
So the trip started in Thailand. I had this vision after my mom died (which kind of started the ball rolling on wanting to take this journey) that I wanted to practice yoga in Thailand. On a whim, before my yoga teacher training in Thailand, I decided to try scuba diving in Koh Tao. (The things you try on your way to following your plans are pretty cool, aren’t they?!) I never expected this experience would catapult me into getting my Open Water Diver certification, Advanced, and now here on a mission to become a divemaster in discovering this contest with Master Divers.
I LOVE DIVING now and am SUPER excited about the possibility to live on the beach and teach other people and share my love, which is why I’m here, duh. Isn’t it awesome?!
But I also want to take this moment to look at the need to save the ocean, why it matters, and how everyone can help save the ocean, and the world to improve upon their lives and improve humanity.… because I’m going to be honest, I knew this issue was a real concern, but I didn’t really understand it until I started to branch out more.
One of the reasons I entered this contest is because in the last year, I’ve realized how much associating my work and life to an organization that I share similar values with, is important to me. I love that Master Divers is invested in working to protect the marine habitat. I believe divers have a social responsibility to help advocate for our ocean and the need to protect it.
When I first thought about what my take on marine conservation and preservation would be, my immediate thought was reducing plastic consumption. It’s an issue that I feel compelled by the universe to take action on, and in the past month and a half since I found out about this contest I’ve noticed so much more information and education about it. For example, National geographic just kicked off a year long campaign to driving awareness about it.
When I came across the article, Plastic or Planet, the images associated with plastic waste was startling: “Imagine five plastic grocery bags stuffed with plastic trash, sitting on every foot of coastline around the world…. [that is the] estimate of what the ocean gets from us annually…. Ocean plastic is not as complicated as climate change. There are no ocean trash deniers, at least so far. To do something about it, we don’t’ have to remake our planet’s entire energy system… This isn’t a problem where we don’t know what the solution is… we know how to pick up garbage. Anyone can do it. We know how to dispose of it. We know how to recycle… It’s a matter of building the necessary institutions and systems… ideally before the ocean turns irretrievably and for centuries to come, into a thin soup…” (Plastic or Planet https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/06/plastic-planet-waste-pollution-trash-crisis/).
I urge you, reader, to PLEASE stop and take a second and think about ALL the plastic you throw away each day. Especially plastic bags, packaging, serving utensils and straws. How easy is it to reduce that consumption? SO EASY. Here are just a few small ways to help clean up your own personal footprint, and let me assure you, every little bit of effort helps:
Bring a reusable bag, or reuse or you bag.
Say no to a straw, or bring your own reusable straw (bonus points: aluminum straws are #trendy)
Don’t take disposable silverware.
Bring your own water bottle or Recycle the water bottle you do buy.
THAT IS NOT HARD. IT DOES NOT TAKE A HUGE SACRIFICE. IT TAKES CARING JUST A LITTTTTTLE BIT.
As I’ve been traveling this last year, I really have learned SO much. I’ve been gone for about 8 months, visited 32 countries and 7 continents. I’ve hiked mountains and jumped out of planes and danced the tango and pretty much everything in between… and the one thing that seems to always pop up for me, what I’m feeling in all these different environments, is gratitude. Our world is just awesome and the people in it, well we all grew up in different places yet there are so many things we share, most notably our planet.
Some of my absolute favorite experiences involved nature who are so lucky that we can travel to exotic locations and have awesome adventures thanks to Mother Earth, I think that we need to carry a little more of the load in terms of advocating for and protecting Her. In most of the places I’ve visited, I’ve gained a better sense for the people and the culture, and part of this what are their concerns and actions for protecting the environment. It made me realize you don’t need to live in Costa Rica to think about conserving water or live in Australia to think about the ozone or be in Antarctica to think about the ice melting or live on the beach in Koh Toa to be mindful marine conservation.
If you have another 5 minutes, read that National Geographic article and then think about what interests you from there. Is it the animals dying with their stomachs full of plastic? Is it thinking that the fish we’re eating probably has tiny of bits of plastic in it? Is it places in Asia just FULL OF TRASH? Look, there is so much information out there and there are so many ways to start trying to help. Maybe it’s reducing greenhouse gases with our energy consumption or the food we eat; or being advocates at our companies who are producing these plastic goods; or promoting research and legislation to protect the environment. I majored in social sciences at University, and most of my passion projects have been related to helping other people. But the more I learn about our world, the more convinced I am that people and place are connected. For most people, their food, their water and their job and essentially our well-being, is really tied into the environment. I don’t have all the solutions, and neither do you. But the first step is action. It’s engagement. Let’s all try to do our part, big and small. Because in this life, and for this world, it’s worth giving a damn. And Master Divers, thanks for caring and trying.