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Tales of a Modern SCUBA Gypsy

Brenda Yorke is a Canadian dive photo professional who plans to return to Bonaire next month. Today, her “home” is where the diving’s great, the water’s are clear and there’s something interesting to photograph. She took a few minutes to talk about her “dream lifestyle”.

The dream of living the scuba lifestyle — sunny beaches, warm waters and no more boots (well only those of the neoprene type). Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone could live this diver’s dream….

I guess I’m one of the fortunate ones, living this idealist dream for the past 5 years. I don’t miss the Canadian winters at all. Moving from island to island, experiencing each islands nuances and cultural differences gives me a thrill. Making friends that come and go and others that definitely warrant as “a keeper”. There are many great things about this wonderful lifestyle that I have chosen, freedom to travel, having a new (to me) home to live in each year and the variations in dive geography and underwater species.

One of the biggest downsides to this gypsy lifestyle – having to downsize and pack each time you move onto another location. Except for my ever-faithful dive buddy “Lenny” the rubber shark who has a place in my BC on every dive, nothing’s off limits to being “left behind”. No matter how hard I try, I acquire more things during my stay. For me personally, this has been a once a year ordeal. As a female, and I know that the ladies can relate to this – we need stuff! We need to feel good that we can present ourselves to clients and fellow divers with a certain level of fashion.

This involves carefully chosen separates that not only pack well, we also need matching footwear. I also have to mention the large number of toiletry items and our gasp! Hairdryer. I see male scuba pros with their one piece of checked luggage. Which would include their gear and a few pairs of shorts with t-shirts and toothbrush thrown in – so carefree! I want to be able to do that, I fret every time I have to move, have to choose what to take and what to leave.

Underwater Photographer Brenda YorkeWith all of the current airline baggage weight restrictions, it has become my own worst nightmare. Upon approaching the check in counter the digital read out looks like a big hand just waiting to grab your wallet. Beads of sweat falling from your brow as you just lifted those bags yourself – they’re heavy!

I have learned to sacrifice items over the past years in order to ease my frustration with the airline luggage restrictions. I now think like a gypsy and that is as a minimalist. Consider what you can actually live without (there goes that hairdryer).

Forget about the image that you wanted to project in your previous life, where clothes and belongings were par for the course. Give in to the island way of life and relax, who really cares if someone has seen you in the same outfit more than once a week.  It’s hard as an ex-corporate employee to let that go… but oh so freeing when it happens.

Some of those that live on some islands cannot buy certain items for themselves. This is what I call the ‘lifesaver’ for me… I give things away. It makes others happy and makes me happy. I can travel with less stress and feel as close to carefree as I possibly can, with only 2 checked bags that are underweight.

Here are a few pointers to reduce your luggage footprint.
1.    Make sure your gear is really dry and all air is out of BCD.
2.    Use wetsuits/booties as bumpers/protectors on either end of soft bags.
3.    Use your dry bag for any liquids, keeps them contained if breakage occurs.
4.    Stuff your shoes and fins with rolled up shirts or socks.
5.    Fill your mask case with small items (swimsuit) along with your mask.

Nothing beats sitting around a Canadian summer campfire and seeing the interest in your friends eyes when you relate to them your stories and experiences. This melts away any angst over the trials and tribulations of the dreaded – “here I pack again”…

PS – The comment regarding the male pros goes out the window if he’s a photographer or videographer.

Now that luggage angst and frustration, that’s a whole other story!

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