travel

2019 Sustainable travel, marine conservation, and cultural immersion

In 2019, I will focus on publishing more about marine conservation, sustainable travel tips, and cultural experiences I’ve had traveling. These are topics that excite me and easy for me to write about. As I settle into this next chapter, I want to share more about my passion for the ocean, sustainable traveling, and connecting with people.

Blue Starfish Wakatobi

Yall should know by now, I LOVE SCUBA DIVING.

Most of my travels has been specifically to go scuba diving. The entire process is electrifying for me. From waking up at 6am, gearing up, log rolling into the water, swimming through the schools of fish, and everything in between….right up until I lay my head down to sleep because of pure exhaustion. All of it excites my soul.

Countries I’ve scuba dived:

  • Malaysia (PADI - Open Water Certification)

  • Philippines

  • Indonesia (PADI - Advanced Open Water Certification & SSI - Rescue Diver Certification)

  • Thailand

  • Belize

  • Vietnam

With the exception of Belize & scuba diving in the pool tank at Epcot DisneyWorld…. majority of my hours underwater has been in Southeast Asia. *disclaimer I am biased* BUT…. they don’t call it the Coral Triangle for nothing. Southeast Asia, specifically Indonesia, has some of the most pristine, untouched coral reefs in the world. From endless swaying field of soft coral to the multiple giant manta rays feeding in strong currents. The Coral Triangle has it all.

Coral Wakatobi

The Coral Triangle has been on my radar, since I started watching National Geographic and BBC’s Blue Planet as a kid. (shoutout to my dad for mixing in animal documentaries in between Rugrats & Disney movie). Extensive research has been done about the coral triangle, yet we know more about the moon than we do about our oceans. Despite the billions (USD) in charity, NGOs, and conservation programs, the ocean still needs more attention and care. Covering more than 70% of our planet, our ocean is the most important ecosystem. It regulates our climate, the air we breathe, and the food in your fridge.

World Wildlife Fund For Nature: Coral Triangle http://wwf.panda.org/knowledge_hub/where_we_work/coraltriangle/

World Wildlife Fund For Nature: Coral Triangle http://wwf.panda.org/knowledge_hub/where_we_work/coraltriangle/

For my master’s thesis, I looked for topics I truly cared about because the next 2 years would have been painful if I didn’t. So much thanks to my advisor for reminding me how much I love scuba diving. I found research articles and countless authors who wrote about marine conservation, marine protected areas, and sustainability, BUT something was missing….the perspective of fishers! As a social scientist, I wondered why wasn’t there more research done with fishers as the main voice of these marine protected areas?

Fast forward to finishing my thesis…I was awarded a Fulbright grant to continue my research in my dream location: Wakatobi National Park, Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia

2018 I spent the year in Indonesia doing research about marine protected areas from a social scientist lens. Given my ancestral background, many asked why I didn’t choose Vietnam. Well, I have a love for scuba diving and research. Indonesia is arguably in the heart of the coral triangle. So, WHY NOT combine my love for scuba and research in the heart of the Coral Triangle?!

WWF: Coral Triangle http://wwf.panda.org/knowledge_hub/where_we_work/coraltriangle/

WWF: Coral Triangle http://wwf.panda.org/knowledge_hub/where_we_work/coraltriangle/

There are endless reasons why the Coral Triangle is significantly important. Personally, I want to scuba dive with whales and sharks. Morally, because it’s the right thing to do and balancing nature and people for future generations to enjoy beyond watching BBC and National Geographic documentaries.

Spending time and money on what you love is not a loss

It has officially been one week since Raja Ampat. I spent a stupid amount of hours for layover and delays, but well worth my dream trip. Although only 4 days of diving, it was soul satisfying to be back underwater. 

I spent nearly 2 days of travel and spent more than I would in a month on food in Indonesia and it was all worth it. When I spend time and money on scuba diving and traveling….I don’t see it as an expense. It’s self-care because this is EXACTLY what I want to do with my life. Until the day one of these nonprofits or NGOs finally hire me for marine conservation, I’ll be hustling to make this my everyday. Just like the friends I met in Raja Ampat, Indonesia!

Since moving to the direction of travel diaries, I wanna write about the conversations I had with a few of the people I met. I like traveling alone especially when scuba diving because I am in control of my schedule and activities. There are days when I want to dive and there are days I want to just lay on the beach. Also, when scuba diving, divers tend to be really friendly and always have a story about diving.

here’s my story from Raja Ampat:

IMG_1781.JPG

I was inspired by an independent Indonesian woman with a successful scuba diving shop. She is a strong 40 year old woman living the life she intended. Diving everyday is a choice out of pure joy, not financial obligations. She saw Raja Ampat on TV, decided she wanted to go, and 9 years later still living there and running a successful business....the only thing she misses from home is her momma. She talked about how Raja Ampat in prior years had so many whales passing through, but she hasn't seen a whale this year yet. She's had to move her business a couple times, but she possess a non-attachment and ability to pick up and start over attitude that I have too. I felt a sigh of relief for my future when I met her. 

Her business partner has a similar story. He saw Raja Ampat on TV, decided to move from a landlocked city in Java to Bali to learn how to be a scuba diving instructor. He made his way to Raja Ampat and doing exactly what he wanted. 

We had a conversation about Indonesian's body structure and western body structures. Indonesian have a hard time floating, while my Dutch friend and I need 4kg weights to sink. I got a good laugh at Sandy's reenactment of trying to pass the floating test for his scuba license. 

And it's stories like these, which is the main reason for travel. Meeting Indonesians and listening to their stories breaks all the stereotypical images the media portrays.  

This is miniscubaThao. Once I get some super glue for all her pieces, She's going to go scuba diving with me too.

This is miniscubaThao. Once I get some super glue for all her pieces, She's going to go scuba diving with me too.

There's no limit to what you can achieve

When there's a pause or delay, use that time to chase one of the many other dreams you have. I am currently waiting on research permits and official letters to come around. Until then, I just booked the trip of my dreams. Going to where Nat Geo and other documentaries have filmed and I am going to experiences these places with my own eyes. Raja Ampat, here I come. 

rj di r4

beauty beyond measure

a friend who inspires me to chase my wildest dreams @raymondjakub

Thank Goodness Square Space was invented

Research does pay off.

Looking for something in between Blogger (not pretty, but easy to start) and Wordpress (gorgeous themes, but code by yourself). 

I FOUND SQUARE SPACE. Thanks to a couple friends like @whit.in.wanderlust & Lisa Miles for telling me about it. 

I am in love with the customization, simple design, and almost intuitive design process. 

I finally feel ready to get moving on creating content and tell you some stories about traveling in Southeast Asia, scuba diving, and living in Indonesia.... all through the lens of a Vietnamese-American living the dream she's always wanted. #manifestthelifeyouwant

Let's get it

taken in Malaysia