I Hated My Job So I Quit and Became a Dive Instructor

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(Courtesy: Merry Hutchins)

Who: Merry Hutchins, 43. For many years, I was an advertising executive in New York, but I secretly always wanted to be a dive instructor.

Why: After too many years being bored and unhappy in the corporate grind, I decided to pursue my passion of scuba diving on a professional level. Plus I got laid off from said life-sucking job.

Where: I decided to go to Bali because I had been there twice before and loved it—the culture, the people, the quiet lifestyle. And I knew the island has some of the best diving in the world. I specifically chose Nico Vervliet with Baliku Dive Center to be my dive master “mentor” and spent three months in Amed, Bali. Then I moved to Roatan, Honduras, to teach. It’s been three months and counting. I would love to eventually go back to Indonesia to work and live, if the opportunity arises.


(Courtesy: Merry Hutchins)

How I Did It: It takes about six or seven weeks to become a dive master in Bali and the cost is around $1,000 for the training plus $300 for books/materials. I got certified to lead other divers. You get paid about $4.50 per diver per dive, but it’s not about the money. I left because the rainy season started and work dried up. The cost for the Instructor Development Course with Barefoot Divers Roatan is cheaper than a lot of other places in the Caribbean, and there is a protected marine park around the island—which is why I came here. It’s around $2,000 for the course and books/materials, plus PADI fees of around $1,000.

Why I Love What I Do: Being a dive master is really fun because you’re just diving with other certified divers and showing people cool stuff. Being an instructor is much harder but very rewarding, as you see people progress from never breathing underwater to becoming certified—and I get to share my passion with them. It’s wonderful to see their excitement as a whole new world opens up.


(Courtesy: Merry Hutchins)

What Have You Learned? Life is short. Grab it by the balls and do what you love. Sometimes you need a helmet.

Travel Inspiration: I want to see all the beautiful things in all the seas and oceans and have a good time topside as well. And as an instructor I want to share that with others.

How I Changed: I’m much more relaxed. I don’t sweat the little things. Anything I set my mind to can be accomplished somehow, some way.


(Courtesy: Merry Hutchins)

Roatan, Honduras

Why I Love it: The locals are friendly and helpful; it’s a beautiful island with stunning views from the hills to the ocean. I am fluent in Spanish, so that helps, but most people speak both Spanish and English. It is also fairly easy to get items you may want from the States at the local stores.

What I Don’t Love: I do not love bugs/mosquitos/sand fleas/biting ants. Mopeds are very expensive to rent, and it’s not really a “walking” island—but cheap taxis are everywhere, and the Servicio Touristico (local jitneys) are plentiful and affordable during the day, making it easy to get around.

Where I Live: I pay $200 month for a room in a four-bedroom house five minutes from town. Sometimes there are other instructor candidates staying here, sometimes I’m on my own. You can get a two-bedroom apartment for about $700 month in the West End; it’s a little cheaper the farther out of town you go.

A Day in My Life: It is slow season in Roatan, so I don’t have a full-time job yet. I have been doing some freelance instructing. If I’m working, I spend the day teaching in and out of the water. I have rum and gingers at Sundowners with my friends to watch the sunset, then get my lessons ready for the next day. When I’m not working I may do a few “fun dives,” take a walk, hit the beach for a swim, and relax.


The Reef House Resort in Roatan, Honduras. (Photo: Merry Hutchins)

Secret Address: The laid-back family-run Reef House Resort in Oak Ridge is only reachable via water taxi—it is on its own cay. They cater to people who just want to dive (three dives a day and meals are included). There’s a house reef, so you can do shore-entry dives.

Most Memorable Meal: At Creole’s Rotisserie Chicken, you can get half a chicken, two sides like coconut rice and beans, plus a beer, for about $10.

Off-the-Beaten Path Find: Tita’s is at the far end of the beach in the West End next to Suenos del Mar Resort. It has swinging bar chairs and serves strong cocktails and tasty local food. Tita herself is there most days.

Favorite Sunset: Sundowners Bar on the beach has a happy hour from 5-7 and Honduran beers for $1.50, but it can get crowded. Head to Tita’s if you want a quieter scene.

Best Dive Spots: Mary’s Place near Brick Bay is famous for its swim-through cracks in the reef—but it is better suited for advanced divers. Blue Channel in West End is not too deep and perfect for snorkelers. You need a boat to get to the reefs to dive but all the sites can be reached about 10 minutes offshore as the reef surrounds the island.

Safety: The mainland is really the dangerous part of Honduras. While crime does happen here, I just make sure I am always with someone at night and don’t do anything stupid like carry a ton of cash or flash an iPhone.


The town of Amed, Bali. (Photo: Merry Hutchins)


Why I Love it: It is such a small place, just little villages that I passed through every day on my way to the dive shop. It’s pretty easy to get to know the locals, and they invite you to their homes to eat and drink.

Where I Stayed: Sutari Homestay in Amed, which costs about $15 a night. My stand-alone bungalow on the beach had a high-ceilinged bedroom with a ceiling fan, bathroom, separate small kitchen, veranda, outdoor shower, and views of the Ganung Agung (big volcano). The hotel is run by a man named Made, whose father is a fisherman and would bring me fresh caught mackerel every morning. I also paid $60 for a monthly moped rental and about $3 a day for food.


My $15-a-night bungalow at Sutari Homestay. (Photo: Merry Hutchins)

What I Loved: Seeing all the jukungs (fishing boats) coming back after a night of fishing as I was getting up at 6 a.m. every day. Another highlight: riding my moped along the roads that wound up and down the coastline. Oh, and drinking arak with the local gents!

Most Memorable Meals: There’s a great family-run restaurant called Homestay Titi Sedana, which has delicious food, great service. I also liked Wawa Wewe Beach for local food/drinks and music.

Favorite Bar: Amed Kedai has live music a few nights a week, right on the beach in Jemeluk Bay.


View of the volcano from the beach in front of Sutari Homestay. (Photo: Merry Hutchins)

Best Sunset: The sunset viewing point above Jemeluk Bay—there’s no restaurant, but locals and tourists alike head there to watch the sunset and drink a few beers.

Best Dive Spots: The USAT Liberty Wreck in Tulumben or the Japanese Shipwreck right in front of Baliku Dive Resort.

Parting Thoughts: As far as I know, we only get to do this thing once. Make the most of it and all the great things there are to see and all the wonderful people there are to meet.


(Courtesy: Merry Hutchins)