How can you live and work abroad as a scuba instructor?
To work abroad. This is a question that I get asked a lot from my friends back home. They’re always intrigued as to how I can live and work in a country like Costa Rica. It is quite rightly known for its incredible beauty and its recent success in renewable energy and environmental conservation efforts.Costa Rica was actually just announced the other day that it ran on renewable energy for 300 days out of 365 this past year. That is an incredible feat.
Many of the other global superpowers should look up to Costa Rica in that respect and try and follow their lead as they pave the way to renewable energy success. It’s also one of the only countries that does not have a national army. The Costa Ricans focus on peace, love and “pura Vida” which means pure life.
So I think you can agree with me when I say the quality of life here is second to none.
So, in an entity I feel incredibly lucky and also when I get down about the little things I take a step back and take it all in. The incredible sunsets, the people and the quality of living. I don’t drive a car here or have any method of transportation apart from my 2 legs but that gets me pretty far. Work is a 20 minute walk through the bustling town of Quepos, small and quaint but has everything you could ever need.
My day at work
I’m lucky enough to work at an incredibly beautiful marina that’s more modern than one might expect. With working here (at Oceans Unlimited) comes a lot of freedom and self authority. You have to be assertive and show the company that you want to be there which I of course really do. My day will end at around 5 or 6 depending on how busy it is and what time the boat comes back. After which the whole group of us normally go for drinks and then all go back home, eat and go to bed. Simple life right? In a nutshell yes, it is simple and very much enjoyable.
What does my work involve?
The kind of work that I do is working as a PADI OWSI soon to be an MSDT. I teach different courses from Discover scuba and open water diver as well as guiding certified divers around the reef. A big part of the course as well is what we call resort operations. Whether it’s filling tanks, fixing equipment. working the front desk. All the little things that round out a job that a lot of places don’t teach. We covered it all here.
It is challenging but always rewarding work. You can look at my other blog post about the first few weeks of being an instructor! Right now it’s the beginning of high season, so we’re all hoping to get even busier than we already are. There’s an upcoming PADI IDC starting in a few days so Oceans Unlimited is about to be swarming with new OWSI’s eager to start teaching!
Things to make it easier
However there are always little things that make life a little bit more tricky. For one, the language is different. As much as I would love to be fluent in Spanish, that’s far more easily said than done. Aside from the fact that it’s a pretty difficult language to learn, I also work 6 days a week. My day off is either a comatose day filled with food and sun, or, I try and see other parts of Costa Rica. There is a lot to explore.
This doesn’t leave an awful lot of free time. This is also tricky not for just trying to get things done, but in terms of having people back home. The best way to describe the time difference is that it’s awkward. It’s 6 hours which doesn’t sound like a lot. But by the time I get home from work it’s already too late for them, and in the mornings it’s too early for me.
Day to day living
Money? That’s a big part of it, to all those who think that Costa Rica is cheap because it’s in central America. Let me be the one to tell you that it’s not the cheapest here. I can promise you that for free. The big things like rent and travel aren’t too expensive, but then again it’s all relative to your income depending on where you are in the world. For example my rent is 2 weeks paycheck, but at home it would be just one week if that.
The things that add up fast are groceries. If you eat like a local then bueno, but you have a craving for some good cheese? Be prepared to spend $15 or more for it, which is fine most of the time. I do just cringe a bit on the inside when I hand over my card to the clerk when I’m buying my weekly shop.
Resources for working abroad
So how do you go about trying to get jobs abroad? The internet is your friend, there are literally thousands of jobs that you can find that fit what you want to do, your qualifications and most of the time there’s a way to get around the whole “having to work in your country of citizenship”. For example, there’s work visas, sponsors and having work exchanges or internships. In terms of scuba jobs, there are so many websites that you can look at. A good one is the PADI pros site, although this site does require you to be at least a Divemaster.
The dive zone, and there are scores of facebook pages all with jobs openings, so there are a lot of options out there, it’s just about utilizing your time effectively to find the best option for you. Also if you’re currently working in an IDC centre or any scuba shop, there will be someone there. Someone, who knows someone else who knows someone who has x y and z job opening, it’s about making connections and utilizing what you have at your disposal. The dive community is pretty small, and only 3% of divers in the world go on to become a PADI pro, so everyone knows everyone pretty much.
Being independent and working abroad
There’s also a lot of joy that comes with being completely independent and working abroad. Meeting new and interesting people from all over the world. Trying to learn a new language although it’s incredibly frustrating sometimes. There’s a huge and pretty steep learning curve, is also a great experience. I do get homesick like anyone, but Facetime and Skype eradicate that most of the time.
Missing birthdays and Christmas’ are also hard. But, it’s just up to you to decide whether that’s something that super important to you. On the whole though, living and working here has been and still is a life changing experience. It has helped me grow a lot as a person. I’m extremely lucky to be here but at the same time, I’ve also made it happen for myself. And if I can do it then I know that you can to.