I think it’s the moments when I stop trying to suppress those parts that make me authentic and instead start to truly embrace them, when life rewards me with more of it all. It can come in various forms. Sometimes it’s an experience or opportunity and sometimes it comes in forms of people. Two years ago life rewarded me with a person named Edmund Jin.
Edmund grew up in Beijing, China and came to the United States as a young man. His first job in America was delivering newspapers. He is hardworking and driven, so with a strong will and intense focus, Edmund soon left newspaper delivery behind to become a successful entrepreneur. He now owns the 2nd largest importing/exporting home décor company in the world. I met Edmund on the set of a traveling TV show he was producing called Harbor House Life. He was filming a spearfishing segment in Hawaii and I was brought on set to be his guide.
After a day on set I was asked to come on the road with Edmund and his crew to be in more episodes. I saw it as a great way to travel and see the world but realised quickly that it was no joke when it came to work. We worked long hours, sometimes starting as early as 2:30 in the morning and it wasn’t uncommon to work around the clock, sometimes finishing at 4am the next day. It was an adventure show, so we often worked in very grueling conditions. We sometimes slept in yurts or tents with no electricity in temperatures of over 100 degrees. We’d fi nd ourselves hiking on remote islands to our destination while lugging heavy camera gear and luggage across miles of sand and through jungles.
Somehow the harder it got, the more I was I hooked on it all. I liked this kind of hard work. And I knew I’d take it any day over a desk job. It kept me on my toes, it challenged me mentally and physically, and I never knew what was coming next. Realising this about myself also made me see that Edmund was just like me. Okay, in so many ways he was nothing like me. He’s a savvy businessman who understands the ins and outs of what it takes to run a multimillion dollar cooperation. But he’s like me in the same way that his spirit craves so much more than that. Edmund Jin craves the things in life that money simply can’t buy.
It was always in those most challenging moments that I would notice this. Times when we would have to build a campfire on the beach when storms were rolling in, or when we’d be forced to balance across fallen tree trunks over strong rapids while carrying all of our water logged gear that we just recovered from the bottom of the ocean due to a small boating mishap, or simply just having to “make it work” when somehow we ended up half way across the globe but our luggage didn’t.
In those moments, I would look over at Edmund to see how he’d react and it was usually in those exact moments that I’d see a big mischievous smile come across his face. It was a smile I knew too well. Edmund wasn’t there to make an adventure TV show anymore than I was. It was just how he justified the whole thing. He was there for the actual adventure.
Apparently I was right. Even after we wrapped all 10 episodes of Harbor House Life, Edmund still called me, along with a handful of his closest friends and colleagues to see if we were up for more. With or without the cameras.
Needless to say I was in. So we continued, one adventure at a time and following each trip would eventually be a new phone call or email with another destination in mind. But nothing could have prepared me for one email in particular. I actually didn’t even have to open it because he had me at the subject, Africa.
Yes! Yes! Yes let’s go to Africa!!!! And so we went. My first moment of truly feeling like I was in Africa was flying into our camp in the Maasai Mara in our small prop plane. As we approached the ground, the tiny dark specks I saw sprinkled over the vast grasslands started to take shape and move! We got closer and I swear we flew right over the heads of a family of giraffes! I thought I was seeing things but our cameraman, Ryan McInnis, who was riding shotgun in the cockpit, whipped his head around faster than I could finish my own thought and said “Did you see that?! Those were giraffes!” We landed and were helped out of the small plane into the dry heat of the Mara and there were zebras everywhere! Zebras! It was amazing to see them running wild across the warm plains that seemed to go on forever. I was just so tickled and amazed. I couldn’t believe my eyes and it blew my mind to think that we hadn’t even gone on an actual safari yet. I knew in that moment that every bit of wanderlust and anticipation stored up in that imaginative 7 year old heart I had as a kid was about to go absolutely effing wild.
And wild we went, literally. The next few days consisted of going on daily safari drives that would last until the sun went down. The camp we were staying at had strict rules that we made it back before dark to ensure our safety but it was so hard each day to pull us away from the sights and encounters we were making every minute while exploring the Mara.
From Tanzania we flew to the little tropical island of Zanzibar on the East coast of Africa, where we were greeted by our friend and spearfishing guide, Eric Allard. We sailed overnight from Zanizibar to a little atoll called Latham Island. We lived on our boat in close quarters and as much as I enjoyed the safari portion of our trip, my heart gave a huge sigh of relief to be back on the sea.
Living on boats does something special to my soul. Everything else in life starts to feel so far away that the connection I have to my inner guidance, a higher power and my sense of self in it’s most pure form gets intensified more than it does anywhere else. When I am at sea, I feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I feel free.
When I heard we were going to dive in Africa when planning this trip, I imagined murky cold green water with little visibility. That and Great White Sharks. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The water at Latham was crystal clear, tropically warm and full of life. Everyday I swam in this beautiful underwater garden and I felt like a fish rewetting its gills and being set free. I was finally back in my element, and boy, was it beautiful.
We spent the next few days freediving and hunting and we were extra selective in what we speared There were fish everywhere, it wasn’t hard to not go hungry… it was only hard to decide what we wanted to eat. It didn’t take us long after surveying the area to all agree that the fish we would choose to hunt would be none other than the rugged, powerful and oh-so- delicious, Dogtooth Tuna.
We worked as a team to find the fish and took turns dropping down to about 80ft to try and bring them in. It was challenging but exciting as every dive was filled with action. We hunted every day, rain or shine, and every day was nothing short of spectacular.
Dogtooth Tuna are the strongest fish I’ve ever hunted. They have sharp dinosaur-like teeth that make them seem like prehistoric sea monsters of the fish world. And they were delicious, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
We shared our catch with the local fishermen in the area. We all agreed that it is important to us to give back to the local community and we watched these fishermen sail for miles in their little boats and bottom fish for days in the hot sun trying to catch small reef fish to take back to their villages. When we gave our fish to them, they were grateful and would try to give us gifts in return. Whatever they had, we’d always try to refuse, but did accept occasionally some green mango to be polite. The fishermen were always happy to be able to sail home early with enough meat to call it a week.
After eating our fish, we would boil the heads to make soup and when the soup was done, we’d keep the jaws of our Dogtooth Tunas. We used them for entertainment at night and would play games with them or create art out of them.
We wrapped up our trip on Thanksgiving Day all sharing (fighting over) the last bottle of beer we had aboard. 🙂
This was actually the 2nd Thanksgiving in a row that we all spent together in the middle of the ocean. We shared gratitude for our families and loved ones back home, for the friendships we’ve made throughout our adventures and the experiences shared. We thanked the fish in the sea for nourishing us all, and the animals in the safari for taking our breath away… and we simply thanked Africa, for being so primal, so wild, so beautiful and for giving us an eye opening reminder and beautiful example of where we come from, from nature itself.