Vysia Yong Duffield, originally from Malaysia, did her Divemaster course in 2016. She currently works as Head of Digital and eCommerce at L’Oreal. Though she works in the digital space, she lives her best life in the ocean. She believes in kicking ass, making ‘IT’ happen and paying it forward. #TeamMermaid
My first experience diving (“Discover Scuba Diving”, or DSD) was when I was a teen, during a writing expedition to Mabul, Sipadan. I fell in love with the ocean then, and always wanted to get my diving licence, but life and working the startup grind got in the way. Every time I had a business trip, I would find time to do a DSD to explore the underwater world of the city, which i did in Mexico, Bermuda, Nice, Florida and California. 15 years and about 10 DSD’s later, the startup, Unruly, got sold and I finally had some freedom to take a break. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but knew that I wanted to accomplish two things during that sabbatical:
- Do something I’d never otherwise be able to do
- Have fun, spend the time well, and have something to show for it in the end that will significantly add value to my life or can potentially become an optional career path
During my research, I stumbled on a blog about how this guy and his kid went to Utila Dive Centre and he got a DM, and how the experience changed his life. I went on to the UDC website and filled their contact form, not expecting much, but Stephen Shaw got in touch within the day. We had a con-call, where he addressed all of my concerns (it was my first time hearing of Utila, I haven’t dived in years), did more research on the Zero to Hero program - liked the idea of having structured fun - and booked my place for the July Divemaster course.
I bought a one way ticket to Honduras, and within a few weeks, packed up my life in London
It’s almost magical how synchronicity works. I posted this on Facebook, my friend connected me to her colleague, who gave me some tips on diving and even lent me a dive computer and many different dive swag and sent me on my way. As I was donating a lot of my stuff to charity, I met Jay, who runs 1LoveCommunity in London, whose friend, Tasha, lived in Roatan. He put us in touch and she helped ensure that I was ok, especially when I got stuck in La Ceiba when the flight was delayed and the last ferry had left. I lived a very independent lifestyle in London, so I really had to learn to trust in the kindness of strangers whilst travelling to a place I’ve not heard of before, whose language I couldn’t speak.
I thought diving would be easy - after all i did so many DSDs - I had to re-learn how to breathe, see and move underwater.It was almost like being born again. I also came to quickly realise that diving on your own and being responsible for others’ are two different ballgame altogether. The buddy system (and also assisting in Open Water training etc) taught me to be empathetic to others, and be vigilant in looking out for others.
The people I met in Utila were also so different. My dive mentor, Jemma, was also a huge inspiration of someone who sees what needs to be done in this world and works to make the world a better place. She’s just launched the Utila Coral Restoration, a project aimed at restoring the populations of endangered coral species in Utila. The other folks I met in Utila also taught me the value of relaxing and trusting the universe, to chill and enjoy the moment. They taught me that sometimes, its ok to have it all and decide that it wasn’t what you wanted at all, and start finding your passion again.
I don’t think I will ever be like that, I love the city life and love what I do as a career too much, but it did give me a great perspective. The dive community is fantastic and supportive and I know that if I ever had a family, I’d look to the Bagby’s for inspiration - what a wonderful family!
Know what you want, do your research but don’t get stuck on indecision. Everyone has a different experience and journey, so don’t compare yours to others.
I’m planning to take up TEC diving in the next 2 years.
I’m going to Bali in a few days. As fate would have it, my Open Water and Advanced Open Water instructor, Eugene Beery, is now based there too, so I’m planning to dive with him. Funny thing, life, how it comes full circle.
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