Scuba diving is one of those things that must be practiced, not only for the purposes of keeping up one’s skills but also, legally, in order to limit the liability of dive operators. Most waiver forms ask if you have been diving in the past year. If you haven’t, dive companies typically require you to do a short practice dive so they can evaluate your skills and make sure you aren’t going to make a deadly mistake on their watch. It’s also a great excuse for guaranteeing one dive trip every year, minimum.
Far too often, I find myself deep down the rabbit hole on travel sites, learning of interesting places that, heretofore, had never crossed my mind, but have instantly found a place on my Must Do travel list. Sometimes I bring the distraction upon myself by purposefully visiting one of my favorite cheap travel sites just to see what deal I can snag. Sometimes the rabbit hole opens before me while I'm booking a hotel for a conference. Who knew how awesome Madison, Wisconsin, could be?! And sometimes I'm lured into the cavernous, gaping maw by a clickbait article that seems too good to be true. Weather.com, you are the CHAMPION of this. Months ago, I was looking at projections for the 2017 hurricane season to see if our upcoming dive trip to Roatan, Honduras, would see good weather or foul, when I started down the proverbial rabbit hole. One interesting article led to another until I finally came across an advertisement for a fast ferry crossing from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to Grand Bahama.
After Angela and the boys received their PADI Open Water certifications in 2013, we decided to create a new tradition in our house. Zack and Ben were both quickly becoming young men who would rather spend free time and school vacations with friends than with their parents, and understandably so. That pulling away is both natural and important to develop their independence, and we encourage it. Also understandable is our need to continue spending quality vacation time with the boys. So we began balancing their need for independence against the irresistible pull of epic travel. Plus, their friends don't dive.
I make high demands on my camera equipment. Not only must it produce high quality video and still photos, but it must also be compact, lightweight, quick to set up, and able to attach to anything. For bonus points, it should also be waterproof. Because, scuba diving. The 360fly HD is just such a camera, waterproof qualities included.
I learned how to dive in 1984 from a salty Australian dive master named Murray Hill. There were several Aussies who lived on the Bouygues-Blount Joint Venture compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and they always talked about diving the Great Barrier Reef as a source of immense national pride. So, even though I was treated to some truly amazing diving in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea during those early years, I always placed diving the Great Barrier Reef at the pinnacle of my Adventure Travel list.
We've experienced some long flights on our travels, but Los Angeles to Brisbane is a whopper. It's a good thing that Angela packs a plethora of snacks in her carry-on bag. Just one of her many travel tricks. The length of the flight is exacerbated by moving east to west across the International Date Line, so we decided to spend several nights in Brisbane to recover from jet lag and adjust our internal calendars. As it turns out, we couldn't have picked a better city for our introduction to Australia.
In a marriage that has been purposefully built on and around adventure, Angela and I promised each other that Australia would be our tenth anniversary trip. We started planning and saving years in advance, wanting to make our Australian journey the epic experience that the island continent so rightfully deserves. With the planned trip still a few years away at the time, Angela's parents began toying with the idea of making the journey with us. We had already traveled with family and friends on numerous occasions, including multiple dive trips, quick jaunts to Florida, and even our honeymoon cruise to Mexico and Belize. We enthusiastically welcomed the company and began expanding our original plans to meet a wider variety of Australian interests. We also reminded them that we were then only on year seven of our marriage, that Australia was still three years away on our original timeline, and that we were nowhere near our savings goal to be able to afford the trip. But Angela's father, Dan, is a man of action. When he decides to do something, it gets done. And with alacrity.
Angela and I do our best to travel with carryons only. There really is nothing more satisfying than getting off a plane, bypassing other travelers waiting at the luggage conveyors, and getting our passports stamped first in immigration. It's a small victory, but it pays off with great dividends when you're in competition for taxis, hotel rooms, or all-you-can-eat breakfast buffets in Tangier (more on that later). In our experience, traveling light and moving quickly is essential. But I'm unwilling to sacrifice high-quality video or photo footage for the sake of convenience; therefore, I have whittled my camera gear down to the essentials. This is what I pack for every trip.
I attended my first destination wedding last weekend in Orange Beach, Alabama. My childhood friend, Kyle Nuckolls, married his best friend, Lisa, in a beachside sunset ceremony, and I couldn't be happier for the two of them. It's fitting that Kyle and Lisa chose to have a destination wedding. They are, after all, marrying adventure, too. They both have that spritely spirit that looks forward to the future, respects the past, and yet stays firmly rooted in appreciation of the beautiful, fleeting present. In spending these few days with them, I came to realize that Kyle and his family had a greater influence on my own wanderlust than I had previously understood.
In looking for our next home, it must be a place that inspires stories. These are some of the stories from our life's adventures that have inspired us. They are why we travel. That first real trip is crucial. When, for the first time, you travel further than Grandma's house in Eclectic, Alabama. When the road becomes exotic, not only in destination, but in composition, asphalt giving way to concrete, then to cobblestone, or to sand-swept hardpack. When the familiar southern drawl loses its cadence, slipping from a Tennessee twang to the rounder sounds of a South Carolina conversation, and then on to thicker, wilder accents, leading inexorably on to unintelligible foreign tongues that leave you grasping for recognizable words. That first true step into the unknown either makes or breaks a world traveler. The feeling of being alone, out of place, uniquely foreign when you have lived your whole life up to that point in a sea of familiarity and predictability is either something to be loathed, or it's something to be loved.