Arriving in Bali: Choosing Where To Do My Divemaster

The jet lag is gone and I’m now safely in Bali, ready to take on, what I’ve been told, is the most fun course diving has to offer – a Divemaster internship.

I’ve spent a week on my tod, wandering around Sanur, finding my feet (apart from a couple of chats with the locals – one taxi driver, Norman, said I looked like I was 18 and would I like to meet his son? He’s got high cholesterol from eating too much rice, but he’s having acupuncture and is losing weight now. Oh yeah, I was tempted by that offer…).

Slowing down to appreciate the journey
Slowing down to appreciate the journey

There are loads of places where solo travellers gravitate and quickly make friends, but Sanur isn’t one of those places. There are a lot of couples and families on holiday, just chilling out. But I’m not here to just wander around and be on holiday, so it’s no great shakes: my purpose was to sniff out which dive school I’d like to do the Divemaster course with.

I visited the 5* CDC PADI centres, as I figure I’m going to get the best service there and I want the teaching to be thorough. So that helped narrow my search a bit, as there are so many dive schools here. Not really a surprise with such a biodiverse ocean at their doorstep.

It’s hard to choose between the best schools, because they’re all well certified for a reason. I chatted to Blue Season Bali (who I applied for the Best Dive Job In The World with all those years ago!), Bali Scuba and Crystal Divers. They all had slick operations and I would’ve been in good hands with all of them, but in the end, I went with Crystal Divers.

I can’t give you a better reason than that I got a good vibe from them. They’re really flexible and will let me take as long as I like to do the course, which is exactly what I want. I don’t want to rush through it and pass the exams without the experience to back it up; I’ll have more hands-on experience of how a dive centre runs day to day. After working for myself for a couple of years, it’ll be nice to be part of a team again. Even if it’s only for a few months. Who knows where this will lead, anyway?

I also went with them on a couple of fun dives and they have it all down pat. In my first day of diving in Bali I saw a frogfish, two white tip reef sharks, nudibranchs and octopi. Hmm, pretty amazing.

I’d recommend just walking around and asking your questions before you choose where to do your Divemaster course. A website only gives you so much information and if you’re committing your time, money and effort to this, it has to be the right choice for you. They also seem like they know how to party on many levels – I met them the other night for a round of bingo. Bonkers. Seriously though, I’m an old fart who doesn’t go clubbing anymore, so I don’t know how I’ll keep up with these 21-year-olds…

The yoga school has its own sacred cow. Don't see that at the village hall class with Pat.
The yoga school has its own sacred cow. Don’t see that at the village hall class with Pat.

I’ve also been doing lots of yoga at a lovely yoga school by the sea while I’ve been at it. There aren’t many moments in life where you get to work on yourself and force yourself to go through total loneliness to see how you cope. I’m away from my loved ones and my comfort blanket that has become my dog, with no idea what the next few months, or life in general, have in store for me. It’s the first time in my life I haven’t had a plan with a back-up plan, with an idea of what’s going to happen after that plan.

I am terrified, but I’m also working hard to be passive with myself and see where I go now. Yoga is all about the power of now and I think these past few months have been the first time I’ve had to bring the focus totally to the present. I’ve always been two steps ahead in my mind – most of us do it on a daily basis. Mindfulness is difficult, but is calming and doing yoga feels like giving a gift to myself. For those who have never done it – it’s not simply an exercise class, but takes so much thought and changes your perception of the world.

Although it seems like I’m wandering off track, there are a lot of similarities between yoga and scuba diving – in fact, I’ve done yoga scuba before! It all comes down to breath, which means life. So, I’ll keep on breathing to control my haywire mind and hopefully, find the stamina to drink all night and dive all day…

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They Should Teach Karma At School

I hear the word ‘Karma’ most often used in the context of revenge, but that’s really not the point of the concept.

It’s more about showing us how to be decent, good people. I saw this hanging up at a yoga retreat in Sicily (will share my experiences of that with you soon) and spent minutes letting it sink in every day.

Maybe we all need to read and learn these lessons from a young age – being kind to each other is the only way humanity will survive, surely? No good impressing Ofsted if we grow into people full of greed and selfishness.

Looking for the light and love in people…

  

Kind To You & Nature: New Eco Beauty Products Reviewed

Protecting the planet doesn’t have to mean taking part in organised activities, like beach cleans or conservation programmes. Although they are extremely worthwhile and essential, there are everyday choices we can all make to help take care of the environment, as well as ourselves.

Scanning the ingredients list in beauty products is now something I do just as much as the food I buy. From a personal-care point of view, if I’m trying to be (mainly) healthy with the food I eat, why would I throw the equivalent of junk food on my face, by choosing something crammed with chemicals?

And if I’m trying my best to buy sustainable, ethically sourced food, it’d be irrational to not care what my beauty brands put in their produce. I’ve talked before about checking for plastic particles, or microbeads, in your beauty scrubs, which the Marine Conservation Society has been working for years to eradicate with its Scrub It Out campaign.

Eco beauty brands: natural ingredients for a healthier skin and world
Eco beauty brands: natural ingredients for a healthier skin and world

So, I’ve been looking for the emerging eco-products making waves in the beauty market; products that work but don’t cause harm to the earth, animals or the communities who help make them.

Although it might be hard to get it right every time, thanks to some businesses ‘greenwashing’ or jumping on the natural ingredients bandwagon without really being true to what they promise, I do my best to make the most responsible choices. The eco beauty brands you can trust are those that are transparent about their ingredients and their origins, and employ sustainable business methods.

Here are some pioneers of the eco beauty industry I’ve put to the test:

Fresh Therapies: Natural Nail Polish Remover, Nail Polish Remover Wipes and Nail Elixir

I’m never going back to nail polish removers that are packed with acetones.

What a joy to discover Fresh Therapies, a company that’s managed to make a nail polish remover with natural ingredients and is not tested on animals.

A fresh approach to nailcare
A fresh approach to nailcare

As soon as you open the bottle of the simply titled ‘Natural Nail Polish Remover’, you feel like you’re pampering yourself rather than just taking off nail polish. I can’t say that I particularly enjoy removing nail polish usually; it isn’t a relaxing or indulgent aspect of self maintenance, like lying back with a face mask in the bath is.

But the zingy, lime fragrance that pops in the nostrils feels like you’re giving yourself a treat: the process of removing nail polish actually feels nourishing rather than damaging to your nails and skin.

My nails have always been my weakness; they’re my stress point and I gnaw on them absent-mindedly. As a result, not only have my nails been short, my cuticles and skin around the nail have always felt neglected. After applying this product, I felt like my nails had been given a treatment and that I was healing myself.

To test the efficiency of the product, I also tried it on my toenails. The polish seems to weld on if I haven’t changed colours for a while (euw), so this would show whether it could cope, despite its gentleness.

You do have to rub a bit harder than you might with other chemically-packed removers, but it does work and all the polish came off with no hassle. And a little does go a long way, making its price tag of £8.99 worth it. Buying cheaper products that harm us is surely a false economy anyway.

I also tested the Nail Polish Remover Wipes – the same product, but in a handy, travel-friendly size. They do the job just as well and I’ll definitely be popping them in my bag for when I’m on the move.

As my nails could do with some extra looking after, I gave the Nail Elixir a try. This little bottle of oils is an indulgence that deserves a permanent place in anyone’s beauty box.

It soothed the sore areas around my cuticles and left skin and nails feeling soft and smelling like I’d visited a spa. Even though I applied it quite generously with the pipette, the oils soaked in quickly without needing to walk around with my hands out flat, like I was in an alerted state of a game of slaps.

I also love how the products don’t come in plastic packaging and that they’re gentle enough for pregnant women, sensitive skin and children.

The Fresh Therapies range is worth spending a few more pennies on for the strong and healthy nails it leaves you with. Or even just the smell that makes you go oooohhh.

Zk’in: Calming Cream Cleanser and Relief Moisturiser

Our skin changes throughout our lifetime and mine changed about 3 years ago, which I’ve struggled with constantly. I never had skin problems before and didn’t spend my life on a quest for products that would be kind to my skin, as I do now.

I’ve been looking for the best sensitive products on the market, which would calm and soothe rather than irritate.

Australian brand Zk’in (pronounced simply as ‘skin’ – not ‘zke-uh-in’ with glottal stops and clicks) has just made its debut in the UK, which promotes organic skincare. I tried their sensitive range of Calming Cream Cleanser and Relief Moisturiser.

Zk'in: Great for soothing sensitive skin
Zk’in: Great for soothing sensitive skin

As soon as I applied the cleanser, it felt extremely gentle and I realised I’d got used to most products leaving me with a stinging feeling. The Calming Cream Cleanser was just that and I felt like my face was being caressed. *Blissful sigh*

My skin was left clean and glowing with no tightening sensation, as is the case with lots of mass-market products I’ve used before.

The usual highly sensitive areas, which often flare up, felt relief. Plus, it works. I think there’s a feeling that some natural products must be so gentle that they can’t do the job, but this removed heavy make-up, including thick eyeliner. I enjoyed the two-step process of removing make-up with a cotton pad and then reapplying the product for a deep clean.

I followed this with the Relief Moisturiser, which left my face feeling silky and nourished. The overall effect was a zingy, healthy glow to my skin and I felt rejuvenated.

Zk’in clearly try to be transparent with their ingredients by giving an organic percentage rating of each product; the cleanser racked up 85.93% and the moisturiser clocked 92.51%. This might fall short of your expectations if you make your own beauty products in your kitchen and know that they are 100% organic, but if you don’t cook your cleanser just yet, the brand ticks the list for being not tested on animals, vegan and the cleanser is palm oil free.

The moisturiser is palm oil sustainable; I’m on the fence about deriding this yet in favour of everything being palm oil free, because replacing it with other, less yielding, oils would use more land. For now, my guiding thought is that palm oil sustainable products shouldn’t be dismissed – as long as they really are and businesses get palm oil production right.

Zk’in’s range of products is definitely one to watch and a brand I suspect will become a new beauty staple.

Africology

Like Zk’in, another brand making its UK debut is South African-born luxury beauty brand, Africology. And I know I go on about smells a lot, but their products really did grab me with their spa-quality fragrance.

There’s something transportive about smell. I might be sat indoors looking out at the rain lashing against the window, numbed in the brain from the sheer amount of work to do, but a smell can take your mind to another time and place, lifting you out the slump.

When I opened the Africology products, I pictured myself in a fluffy robe and those open-toed towel slippers that make you shuffle around like you don’t have knees. Quite disappointing to realise there isn’t a therapist on hand to work out your knots when you put the lid back on and shut the spa scent away.

Smells and feels naturally beautiful
From a South African kitchen: smells and feels naturally beautiful

I tried a few of their products, including their antioxidant masque, body balm, moisturiser and exfoliating cream. What stood out to me, smelly sensuality aside, was their use of African potato in their ingredients. I know, sounds weird. But it’s helpful for treating acne, eczema, psoriasis, skin cancer, arthritis and er, prostate enlargement. Who knew?

Their products are jam-packed with organic ingredients, which left me feeling healed and revived. What stayed with me after applying products was, yes you guessed it, the smell. I caught whiffs of myself and felt expensive and nourished all day.

I’ll be keeping Africology goodies in my bag for when I need a pick-me-up.

Ermana

Ermana‘s products make you feel like you’re getting something special and made with love. As they’re made in small batches and come in cute cardboard boxes with a batch date, stamped by hand, you really feel like you’re getting some homemade goodness.

As you’d expect from a natural beauty brand, their ingredients are 100% organic and are free from all the nasties you want to avoid when you turn to eco products.

The pots are densely packed with botanical oils and waxes and they go a long way; they’re also dinky, making them perfect for travelling.

Little pots of organic delight from Ermana
Little pots of organic delight from Ermana

I tried the Comfort Balm before going to bed, which I applied to my temples and wrists. Breathing in the scents of lavender, ylang ylang and geranium soothes as well as nourishes. It’s ideal for those dry or chapped areas and leaves you feeling buttered up and delicious. Like a marinade.

The Refresh Lip Balm is simple and effective. Some lip balms don’t seem to last very long, making you reapply frequently, but this little pot of natural lip love kept my pout feeling hydrated and soft. The grapefruit tang perks you up too, without that artificial blast of synthetic smell you get from chemically-laced products.

I do enjoy a ritualistic cleanse and the Cleanse Balm allows you those few minutes of calming  rejuvenation. After a minute of warming up the balm between my fingers, it melted into my face, quenching the skin instantly. Once I’d removed the balm with a hot muslin cloth, my skin felt plumply smooth, without that need to throw on loads of moisturiser.

High street cleansers tend to make my skin feel stripped and tight, but the natural goodness of shea butter, cocoa butter and coconut oil simply worked in tune with my body.

Ermana’s use of oils, butters and waxes isn’t only kind to the skin – it means you’re getting more for your money. An obvious win. They don’t use water to bulk up the products and therefore there are also no preservatives to prevent bacteria growing.

I rate their ethos and attitude. My quest for something that finally nourishes and cares for my skin, without costing the Earth, may be over.

What eco beauty brands do you use? What do you look for in eco beauty products – ingredients, packaging, community projects…?

Please note: these products were gifted to The Adventure Girl’s Guide for review. I have made every effort to include the best eco beauty brands and declined to review those that I believed didn’t fit in with the conservation aspect of the blog.

Finding Your Balls

 

Photo by Karli Drinkwater
 
This is my last picture quote for a while, I promise! I found it helpful and thought you may like the sentiment too. Seen as the ethos of my blog is to go with all your heart and balls, I reckoned this was a good reminder. And getting through things you think you can’t will make you fierce and strong in the end, so I’m going to keep on going with all my heart. And, yes, my balls. 

Keep Breathing

 

Photo by Karli Drinkwater
 
I was recently told that humans are meaning-makers as a way of getting through the hard times, when sometimes there is no meaning. Bad things happen. We lose.

So maybe it helps to remember the basics of getting through each day, without looking ahead to something much bigger and overwhelming. I created this from part of Tom Hanks’s final missive in the film Castaway. I love the ocean reference and the thought that something could happen to turn things around when you feel like there’s no hope.