The unspoken sacrifices of following a career that requires you to move
Updated: May 10
Following a career that you are passionate about seems like a dream lifestyle from the outside eye. But there are unspoken sacrifices that come with turning your dreams into a reality. It’s not an easy route, life can be unstable at times and the journey can take an emotional toll.
My career choice that makes me fall into this category is marine biology. But becoming a marine biologist is never simply just a career choice; it’s a lifestyle decision and commitment you make with your heart.
For the past 7 years I’ve traveled the globe with a passion for marine conservation. I’ve been successful, failed miserably, experienced major highs, gained unique industry skills and have been exposed to things that make me feel at one with nature. These are the things you can’t learn from reading books, watching documentaries or studying at uni.
However, my reality has often been doing jobs that haven’t rang true to my soul, periods of unemployment, flying internationally after being selected to volunteer in competitive marine programs, expensive short-courses, and staying-in to study at home instead of socialising with friends. Marine biology isn’t all sexy science and mermaiding with sharks like Instagram makes it out to be.
I have compiled 8 common sacrifices that have remained present throughout my career so far:
Marine biology jobs aren’t everywhere and are often seasonal. This has meant that choosing a new “home” and then successfully reigning in a career-job is as likely as rain in a drought. You can be hopeful that it will happen, but the probability is low. Jobs are commonly “right place - right time - knowing the right people.”
In the past have always been offered the job, then moved to my new “home”.
Be ready to move at the drop of an email.
Job are commonly in very remote places. Small islands, desert towns that feel like an island or on boat out at sea. Time-off can be hard to come by, and even with time-off, going anywhere is expensive due to the isolation. This also means for family & friends to visit, it is difficult and only occasionally happens.
Your support network in these isolated job-sites are often only those people immediately around you.
Most likely you’ll be chasing contract work, especially to begin with. This can often only guarantee an income for a certain period of months, then what? Hope you have enough money saved up to support unemployment? This one makes things logistically challenging.
The passion-jobs usually aren’t the best paying either. Short-contracts and low salary has often lead me to choosing temporary work like hospitality to pick-me-up off the floor of broke-ville.
Resilience and budgeting is key.
My life is in a storage unit
My brother & I share a wardrobe at my Nanna’s, my surfing/diving equipment is in my dads shed, my clothes are at my boyfriends, but everything else has been in a storage container for years. Although I’m an organisation freak, I have lost track of what I have and haven’t thrown away. I’ve also learnt that it’s easier to only own the things you need & use frequently. Everything else is a bourdon.
Life without general comforts and familiarity
Yes I love vegimite on rice crackers and red wine at home. Apart from the fact that I travel with vegimite, the comforts of familiarity are often few and far in between. Especially as I hit my late 20’s, these comforts have become even more valuable to me. The days of dirty clothes, scrounging every last penny and living from a backpack are long over. I appreciate now more than ever a red wine in front of the fire, early morning yoga and living close to my Nanna.
Distance from family and friends
This is an obvious one. At the beginning of this lifestyle making new friends with every move was pretty exciting, don’t get me wrong. But with the natural process of ageing and becoming more and more introverted with time; it has become very difficult.
In the past I got so fed up with always living away from my family that I convinced my bother to do the move to Coral Bay with me. We worked together on the boats taking people snorkelling with whale sharks on the Ningaloo Reef, Aus.
Once again I live far from my family and my boyfriend. It doesn’t get any easier wth practice.
Having the opportunity to live amongst numerous cultures is something I keep close to my heart. I value these times more than anything else from my times spent living overseas. But it isn’t always easy. Different languages, ways of life, expectations, standards for women and religions.
Facing your Insecurities
In times of discomfort you often come head-to-head with your deepest insecurities. When you don’t have a safety net of home, you are forced to deal with them.
One of my insecurities is self-doubt. I sometimes get caught in the headspace that I’m not good enough and I don’t belong. I felt this heavily when I was in the final stages of my Dive Master Training in Indonesia. I was forced to fall into the guidance of the net of female mentors who surrounded me. Feeling their love and support is what picked me up and moved me forward.
Advice I can give you
People are kind and want to help
I’ve been in sticky situations, but nothing a kind stranger couldn’t help me out of. A great friend once said to me “if you can’t find the answer, go to a coffee shop or a bar, have a drink and you’ll figure it out later”. The late Mackerel.
Appreciate your home and the support of your loved ones
They will always be your number 1 fans and home is appreciated more with distance from it.
Try get a financial net behind you that gives you the freedom to fail
This makes failure and job-fall-throughs easier to swallow. Work and save when you have the chance. And learn how to budget!
Don’t sell everything you own
Each job/location/course requires you to have a different selection of things. If you have the luxury of mouse-proof boxes in a friend’s garage, then do that.
Don’t let the fear consume you
You can always go home or return to a job you’ve had in the past. Risk-taking gets harder with age. Your young, adventurous, risk-taking days are limited; so make the most of that fearless spirit.
Don’t wait for your mates
Real friends will push you upwards and onwards. You might even inspire the courage in them to follow a path they’ve always wanted.
If it all gets too much, take a break
For the past year I have been on a study-cation. I studied for my Captains licence & completed my Dive Master. I even worked a “normal” job. I needed a break from the tourism industry and I wanted to be paid properly! You don’t always have to be the hero. If your body or mind needs to chill, let it chill! This unstable life can be emotionally draining and consuming.
The point of this article
The intention of this article is not to discourage you from choosing a career that requires you to move, but an attempt to prepare you mentally.
There is also no pot-of-gold at the end of the dream-rainbow. Instead there is the possibility that you’ll discover more about yourself and the world.
A career that requires you to move offers you purpose through an adventure of a lifetime and stories you’ll be proud to tell your grandkids!
Pics: @aaaliph @oceanwildly
If you are wanting to read more and connect with others who are feeling the pull of isolated conservation work, check out the Lonely Conservationist . You are not alone..