A Travellerspoint blog


“If you never stop when you wave goodbye, you just might find, if you give it time, you will wave hello again.”

I find that, between check-ins, layovers, and my occasional overnight stay, I spend a fair amount of time in airports. I think airports are really interesting places for a number of reasons – it’s amazing to me that they are always in motion, people coming and going every hour of every day, going someplace new, someplace revisited, somewhere they call home. I find it so interesting, and almost sad, that airports are repeatedly full of millions of people who may never meet each other, may only fleetingly see someone’s face, may never know someone’s story.

More than anything, more than the international and unknown locations, the movement, and the intersecting lives of strangers, I find that airports reveal the truth. Not just in the way that the security guards and machines reveal concealments and deceits, but also in the way that airports seem to unlock something in a person’s emotional depths. I find that the interactions between people in airports are probably some of the most honest expressions of human emotions you can see. Saying goodbye in an airport seems to be infinitely harder than saying goodbye anywhere else, and being reunited in an airport might be one of the greatest feelings there is. I’ve seen some really wonderful hellos in airports: flowers and kisses, tears, handshakes and hugs. The goodbyes are always the hardest – there’s always the person who has to compose themselves, turn around and walk away. It’s so hard to be that person, and even harder to watch them walk away from you.

I have been incredibly fortunate in my life to have met a truly wonderful array of people, and my constant travel leads to several hellos and even more goodbyes. We’re always in motion, coming and going, country to country. It never gets easier – I still can’t say goodbye in an airport and maintain my composure – but it’s just something I’ve gotten used to. Funnily enough, sometimes we discover strange, shared coincidences that lead us to believe we have been in the same place before.

Maybe we’ve even walked past each other in a crowded airport.

Posted by bgriffs 14:30 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Moving On

Goodbye Koh Tao

After 10 months living, working and diving in Thailand, I packed up my entire life into my black suitcase and said goodbye to everyone on Koh Tao. I was surprised, as I sat on the ferry and watched the island disappear into the distance, that I didn’t feel a greater sense of sadness leaving it behind; it had been my home since July, and I had met some truly phenomenal people while living there. One person so phenomenal, in fact, that I was leaving the island behind to move to Ireland with him.

Two boats, two busses, and one long day later, I arrived in Phuket, where I would be spending the night before my flight to Bali the next morning. Choosing my usual route of cheaping out and sleeping in the airport, I mentally prepared myself for a long, uncomfortable night. I was lucky enough to be offered a ride to the airport by the nice German girl who sat beside me on the bus, and I found myself in Phuket airport with 14 hours to spare before I could check in. Unfortunately, Phuket airport is a pretty small, useless place, with only one bar (that closes at 11), no free wi-fi, and sadly uncomfortable chairs. After a highly overpriced and flavorless ceaser salad, I found a reasonable stretch of chairs and sprawled out in my typical don’t-steal-my-luggage position, with my carry-on as a pillow and one arm wrapped protectively through my suitcase strap: not the most comfortable of positions, sure, but effective. I actually managed to sleep a few hours, a massive improvement from my last airport slumber party in Christchurch. I woke feeling rather rested, optimistic for my long day of travel.

I encountered a hurdle when I arrived at the check in counter for my first leg from Phuket to Singapore – my bag was 10 kg overweight. They were trying to charge me 600 baht a kilo – so 6000 baht total – for the baggage, but being as that cost more than the flight did, I found a way around it. Through a bunch of maneuvering, several items of clothing shoved into coat pockets, more layers than necessary in a humid country, and a far above the weight limit carry-on bag, I managed to get all of my belongings onto the plane. The doors closed, I settled into my chair, and closed my eyes. On January 19th, 2013, I left Thailand, the beautiful country I called home for so long … moving on.

Posted by bgriffs 13:31 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Saying Goodbye On The Road

Today is Thursday, February 14th, 2013. Today, many kilometers, hours, and time zones away, my family is saying goodbye to my remarkable Grandfather. His passing, while not unexpected, has brought everyone in my family both sadness and grief, but while I have been experiencing both of these in floods, I also am confronted with an ongoing sense of guilt. Guilt that I am not there to say my final goodbye and stand alongside the rest of my family as his long, amazing life is laid to rest, but also that I have gone the last 11 months without seeing him. I left home for Thailand in April of last year, and have not been back since, preferring instead the nomadic nature I have been frequenting over the past few years. I think, in general, we who spend so much time on the road take one major thing for granted: our homes. We expect that we can come and go, time and time again, and everything will be exactly as we left it each time we return. My next journey home, I will see just how absurd this idea truly is. The next time I set foot in Edmonton, a certain person will be missing, and his presence will forever be missed.

I have not only lost a Grandfather, I have lost a man who has been a constant presence in my life since my birth; a man who was unconditionally proud of me, and who was always happy to spend time with me. A wonderful, entertaining, loving old guy who I’m very lucky to have had in my life as long as I did.

So goodbye, Grandpa. Here in Dublin, Ireland, I send you all my love. I cannot say thank you enough for all you have ever done for my family and I. No matter which continent I end up on, or which country I find myself in, I will always miss you and hold you in my heart.

Posted by bgriffs 12:26 Archived in Ireland Comments (1)


Becoming a dive instructor

Towards the end of my time as a DMT, I began to seriously consider diving as a career, and decided to take the next step and start my Instructor Training Course. The ITC is an intense two-week ordeal involving academic, confined water, and open water presentations, all graded on a strict scale, making sure all integral points are covered. The academic presentations were 25 minute lectures on different sections of the open water manual and extremely easy to fail: if your presentation was too long or too short, you automatically were given zero; each presentation had to have at least three environmental messages and three safety statements; you needed to sell your students both a continuing education course and a piece of equipment relevant to your topic; and you had to keep the students’ interest whilst following an outline. Originally a daunting task, especially due to my habit of talking extremely quickly when nervous and general difficulties with physics (an important topic in diving), I grew to enjoy and excel at the academic presentations, especially in the area of aquatic life.

The confined presentations had the instructor candidates in the pool, where we were given 3 random skills and 1 minute to prepare a perfect pre-dive skill briefing. Skills in diving are extremely important, and range from clearing your mask of water to hovering motionless in one spot for one minute. Proper briefings had to include introductions, what skill you would be performing and its practical application, as well as a brief description of the skill. We then had to perform the skill at “instructor level”, meaning clearly and slowly executing the skill while highlighting the most important parts. Our “students” – the other candidates – were to perform the skills while making mistakes, and the instructor was supposed to catch the problem, fix it, and have them correct it. After each skill was satisfactorily completed, we were to congratulate the student and remind them what they messed up on – “positive reinforcement”, as SSI calls it. After repeating this for each skill given and following up with a correct de-briefing, we were given our grades, feedback, and what to remember for next time.

The open water presentations were easily the most nerve-wracking as they were the one part of the Instructor Exam that must be flawless. Make one mistake on an open water presentation and you had to re-do the entire exam at a later date. While extremely similar to the confined water presentations, being in open water offers one major difference: safety. If, at any point, your student was in danger, you would automatically fail the exam. This meant that any sort of buoyancy skill in open water needed constant contact with the student performing the skill as well as keeping an eye on the other students. There were no skill demonstrations by the instructor in open water, so you had to ensure your briefings were perfectly clear and everyone knew what was going on – leave something out in the briefing and you could be sure it would come up as a mistake from a student.

The last part of the ITC involves a rescue assessment – before you can become a dive master, you have to become a rescue diver, and to be able to pass your exam, you have to be able to complete a “rescue assessment”, which involves bringing an unconscious diver up from the bottom and bringing them back to the boat while performing the correct steps.

The ITC prepares you for your IE, or Instructor Exam, that happens at the end of the two weeks. Spanning over 2 days, the first day of the IE involves an academic presentation in front of the other candidates and your two examiners and your confined water presentation with 2 skills. Fail any part of day one and you’re allowed a re-do and can still pass the exam. Day two, however, was open water presentations and rescue assessments, and any mistake on that day means an automatic fail.

Day one of my IE was uneventful enough, with an excellent grade on my presentation on buoyancy and almost-perfect confined session. All through the ITC we had been working so hard to get to the exam, and pass it, so when the actual exam began you can imagine how nerve-wracking it was for all the candidates. After the first day, while you are incredibly relieved, you still can’t relax because the next day is the one that really counts, so you practice your briefings over and over, go to bed early, and try to convince yourself that you’re going to pass.

Day two of my IE, while nerve-wracking, was nothing short of amazing. It definitely had its stressful parts – like during another candidate’s presentation, when we were all kneeling in the sand, and my examiner pointed out that there was a massive jellyfish centimeters from my head – but I got to see my very first whale shark, which I took to be a good omen, and sure enough, by the day’s end, I was an SSI instructor. The rescue assessment was particularly interesting, because we did a beach rescue, which I have never done before, and as I was the only candidate who had not done my oxygen provider course – mine was to be the day after the exam – I spent a good 20 minutes being given oxygen while the other candidates practiced, and finished the exam on a whole different kind of high.

I was well on my way to having one of the coolest jobs in the world.

Posted by bgriffs 10:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

An Afterthought

Moments after I last closed my laptop, I left my hostel to walk the streets of Penang in search of this famously good Indian food. As I walked, the rain persisted, pouring down even harder than before. Living on Koh Tao, I rarely know what day it is, and here was no different. Being Sunday as it is, most things were closed, and I found myself walking around in the pouring rain, on streets I've never walked, and an old Malaysian man, hiding beneath a large umbrella, asked me, "Why are you out in the rain? Why don't you wait until the rain stops, and then move?" A perfectly legitimate question, as it were. All I could say was, "I don't mind the rain."

As I kept walking, I couldn't help but think about that man's question. Why didn't I stay and wait for the rain to pass? Why was I walking, barefoot, through unknown streets, soaking wet, drawing confused stares from people hiding beneath overhangs and umbrellas? The answer came to me quite simply, and quite quickly.

I was walking in the rain because I could.

I was walking in the rain because I am a young, able-bodied, world-loving traveller. I am a few weeks shy of 22 years old, and I have done things people twice my age never even dreamed of. I was able to feel the rain on my face, see the puddles and small rivers it formed, smell it, hear it soak the ground around me, and in one, beautiful, glorious moment, I felt unbelievably lucky to be where I was, and doing what I do. Sometimes it takes something life-shattering for us to realize how really lucky we are, and sometimes, all it takes is an elderly man questioning your decision to wander strange countries barefoot in the rain. I walked on with the biggest smile on my face.

Not 10 minutes after I sat down at the only open restaurant within 4 blocks, someone set off fireworks.

The world is truly an amazing place.

Posted by bgriffs 06:14 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

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