Nerdy Cat Scuba Travels

A Cat Lovin' Engineer taking a career break by traveling, doing a divemaster internship, and diving around the world

Category: Travels (page 3 of 3)

Experiences associated with traveling

I love you, Global Entry!

southwest boarding tsa precheck

One item I invested in before I left my job was Global Entry. I was on the fence about it for a year. I wasn’t sure if it was worth my time and effort to spend $100. Global Entry is card that gets Americans a “front of the line” pass when coming from international flights and a “front of the line” pass going through security when flying domestically.

The application process is similar to a job security clearance screening. You will have to give information on your job, you previous addresses, income and other similar information.  I had most of it already since I had to have it for my defense contracting job, so it wasn’t that inconvenient.  If approved, the $100 fee is valid for 5 years. I was approved within a month and then kept checking the interview website for openings for a few days before I got my appointment.  Within another week of the interview I got my shiny ID card.

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The Truth will set you free- Overstaying a Visa

map-of-the-schengen-area-svg_orig

Key:Blue area are countries within Schengen and Orange Areas are “to be added” countries. Grey Countries are not part of this treaty.  (Map from Wikipedia)

This map would have been useful to me before I started traveling. Whoops. When I took a leave of absence, I flew to Finland, then Holland, then to Africa, then to Madrid, then to France before settling down to Iceland.

When I had planned my Iceland Divemaster program, I checked the Icelandic immigration website and found that I could stay in the country on Tourist Visa for 90 days. This worked for me because I was paying for the Divemaster program and I was not working. I didn’t need any special visa. Once I got to Iceland I met a lot of tourists. One couple in particular told me of their one year sabbatical and how it was hard to get around the Schengen area. Huh? That’s when I felt a deep lump forming in my belly.  I went home and googled “Schengen.” Oh to my stupid American surprise that I found this map.

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Stykkishólmur: Diving on my day off


Stykkishólmur is a city in the west area of Iceland where most people come to take a ferry to the West Fjords. About 1000 people live in this small city. After speaking to the harbor master we learned we could dive right next to the bay and at the surrounding islands. The visibility was pretty good- maybe 5-10meters, but the currents were pretty strong. We spotted some cod, many many crabs, medusa jelly fish, sea urchins, and star fish.
I’m getting hungry. We hop on Seatours on the Viking sushi sea tour. The ship took us to various islands along the bay. It starts to rain lightly rain. Bad idea to wear jeans.  The boat stops at various islands and talks about the region and points out a lot of different birds.  Like most tourists, I’m most interested in Puffins.  In Reykjavik, the puffins are all on one island and kinda far away. On this tour, I can really see these cute little birdies! Look at those cute beaks!

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Being a Tourist in Iceland: Dogsledding Day!

dogsledding Iceland

Finally! A reason to take some time off from the internship. My sister and her BF have come to Iceland to visit. I started planning all the fun activities as quickly as I could. One awesome thing about Iceland is that the touring companies give out discounts to other companies’ employees. If I like the tour, I can recommend it to our customers as another activity to do.

In case you are wondering what awesome adventures you can do in Iceland, here’s what I have planned for my Sis:

Day 1: Pick up from Airport. Relax. Walk around the city, go to the Summer Festival. Eat at Icelandic Fish and Chips.

Day 2: Dogsledding on Langjökull glacier. Then take the 4×4 route to Thingvellier National Park. Go to Fontana (the real icelandic geothermal spa!)

Day 3: Puffin Tour in the morning, Laxness Horse Riding in the afternoon

Day 4: Big breakfast in town. Escape Room. Fishmarket, then Drinking at Fredrickson for the boot liters.  Meet the rest of Dive.Is staff. Party!

Day 5: DIY Golden Circle Tour. Snorkeling at Silfra.  Geysir. Gulfoss. Followed by the best restaurant in town – Grill Market.

Day 6: bye bye 🙁

There’s so many things I wish I could take them to if they had more time. Hopefully they like what I’ve organized and love Iceland as much as I do.

Customer Dive of the Day: My Experience at Kleifarvatn Geothermal tour

Kleifervatn collage

Yesterday Dive.is sent me on a customer guided tour of Kleifarvatn. Kleifarvatn is the largest fresh water lake in the Reykjavik Pennisula region. The big draw here is the geothermal activity. While diving you can see thermoclines, bubbles coming from the ground, smell and see sulfur deposits and hear the “fizziness.”

The dive site required about a 100-200m walk on the rocks before swimming another 100m to the active geothermal zone. The good news was that Patrik carried everyone’s tank to the dive site- which really saved me from exhaustion. Dive.Is likes to have every new employee, divemaster candidate, or Instructor Development Course (IDC) candidiate have a “customer tour” before they start working. The purpose is to show the newbie how a tour should feel like, and give you the customer perspective. Since I actually paid for a silfra dive last year during my holiday in Iceland, I was given the option to dive here instead.  It’s sooooooo nice not to carry or assemble any gear. Just jump right in! Nothing to worry about here. What a treat. This place made me feel like I was on a movie set. No one around.  We could be expecting Matt Damon to pop out of nowhere with his Martian outfit on.

I felt a little more relaxed in the open atmosphere compared to the silfra night dive. There were just a couple of times where I struggled with my fin and then lost track of my buoyancy.  But I’m here to learn, right? I can’t start the program perfect. (Although I really wish I would be better)

Once the dive was over, this tour also included a trip to Seltun.  The area is a small hike around geothermal hill where temperatures beneath the surface reach 200°C. It reminded me of the Hells gate geothermal spa in New Zealand. Unlike NZ, this place is free.  Hells gate charges $35 NZD just to tour the area. On top of that, you have to pay more for the spa area.    A big bonus over Hells gate is that you can hike up a hill and get really close to all the mud and steaming holes. I suppose if you really want to get that mud, you could dig into at the top and camouflage yourself. I decided to just stay dry and as I was. At the top of the hills we saw a grand view of the different lakes around the area.

This was my favorite part of the day.

Lessons Learned:

For Scuba people: Choose a divemaster program where you get to dive interesting spots!

For Tourists: Come to Iceland, its got Seltun for FREE!

Goodbye Engineering – Hello World

I’ve been working since I was about 14 years old. My first job was working for my friend’s mom at one of those Thai Food places at Festivals. During high school, I folded clothes and talked people into buying denim at the Gap.  When I got to college I worked a variety of jobs- internship at Raytheon, a grader, and teacher’s assistant (TA) for engineering classes.  Once I graduated with a B.S. Electrical Engineering, I got a real paying job in Engineering.

I got into this habit of working really hard, then taking a crazy vacation. Work Hard. Take a Break. Repeat. in 2014, I worked 7 months straight (7 days a week) with a total of 3 days off.  My team had an important job to do by a deadline; so everyone worked everyday until we delivered the product. I bonded with all my team mates, but I felt the disappearance of my personal life. What happened? When did life turn into only work? After three long years without a proper vacation, I took 7 weeks off of work to go to my friend’s wedding in Thailand and unwind.  It was great. I set goals and told myself I wouldn’t get into the same habit.

In 2015, I felt myself drifting into the same habit. I wanted to be different, but I couldn’t stop dedicating my life to my work. I needed to put the same amount of effort in my personal life as I have been at all my jobs.

Personal Leave of Absence – A Sabbatical

I don’t think any of my managers were happy to let me leave, but they all understood. I have been a “Far Exceeds Expectations” type of gal. But I told the truth and said I wanted a break and needed to pursue my personal life. I met someone while in Thailand back in 2014 and fell in love. I wanted a chance to see what life would be like without the pressures of work.

Logistics

It’s not easy to leave your life behind. I have a great apartment in Santa Monica. I have a rental townhouse in San Diego. I’ve been a cat mommy for 16 years. I have a car, I’m a hoarder.  The list goes on and on.

Here’s what I did…I spent a month de-hoarding and donating all my stuff to salvation army.  I vacuum sealed any clothes I would need the next year and boxed up other important documents and stuff that I didn’t want stolen. I filled my garage with boxes of anything personal from my apartment.  I called my landlord and told her I needed to leave but would like the chance to come back. Being the nice lady she is, she let me sublet my apartment. That saved me about $200 a month in storage costs.  Coincidentally a swimmer friend was looking for a place at the same time so he agreed to sign a sublease with me and my landlord.

Next I spent about 2 weeks searching for someone that would watch my cat, Jade.  My close friend in San Diego volunteered her spacious house for Jade. I spent the next two weekends at her house with Jade making sure the cat was ok with her temporary accommodations.

Everything was hard to do, but I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I could see the freedom of doing whatever I wanted. Jade would understand, mommy needed a break. My family would understand. Friends were excited for me. Let’s DO THIS.

 

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