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Freediving with Orcas in Norway: The perfect incentive to quit the job you’ve been complaining about

Words: Corinna Halloran
Photography: Adrien Nisan

We all have passions, but few risk it all to live out their dreams. Jacques de Vos did. 

Meet Jacques de Vos, a South African who spends most of the winter jumping into the frigid waters of Northern Norway to follow his life’s passion: free diving and photographing orcas and humpback whales. However, he wasn’t always a free diving photographer with co-ownership in an Arctic expedition company.

From the pages of the (theoretical) “Jacques de Vos’ Guide to Life”, here’s how to quit your job and do what you love. 

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Listen to your gut

You know that nagging feeling you get when you know you should do something but you (for some ridiculous reason) haven’t done it yet? Well, that’s your gut speaking and the longer you delay on listening to your gut, the louder (or bigger) that gut is going to get. This can often lead to an internal shouting match, but your gut will always (without fail) win.

When Jacques de Vos was a young boy, he always had an interest in the world under the sea and for most of his childhood he wanted to become a marine biologist. This curiosity for life underwater only grew further when his aunt gave him a book about whales and other sea creatures. “In the book there was a little description about orcas and what orcas are,” de Vos said. “That always fascinated me, the way they looked. This was the apex predator.”

As we all know though, life doesn’t always go according to plan and this was exactly the case for de Vos. Rather than studying marine biology, he ended up getting his degree in chemical engineering. So, instead of ending up under the sea, he ended up above the sea working in an oil field.

Fortunately, in 2009, his gut took over and de Vos headed back to his roots and began scuba diving fulltime.

orcas, ocean, sunset, birds

© Adrien Nisan

make it work

Sure, risking it all for your passion is terrifying—especially when there’s a lot of money going out, but not a lot coming back in. The hardest part can often simply be saying, “I’m going to commit to my passion”. 

When de Vos decided to quit his job in the oil fields he looked to his childhood obsession with the ocean and coupled it with a new-found love for photography.  “I always had this love for the ocean so I started scuba diving,” he continues. “In my free time I worked up to the point of being a scuba instructor. This is where I started developing my photography more—using freediving.”

Boom—cash flow. Sure it feels like any one can be a photographer these days, but not everyone can be a freediving photographer who swims with whales three times bigger than the average human. It’s all about finding that unique angle to give yourself a competitive edge that no one else can emulate.

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sunset, sunrise, mountains, nature

© Adrien Nisan

Be accessible

Now that you figured out your competitive edge, expand upon it and then market yourself. Thanks to the internet, your dream can reach millions of people within a fraction of a second… just use this tool wisely.

And de Vos has done just that with his company Arctic Freediving. The expedition company “provides big experiences to small groups” who want to sail, paddle, swim, and dive alongside some of the Earth’s most magnificent beasts.

On his expeditions, not only does de Vos work with some of the area’s best skippers, all of whom know the waters like the back of their hands, but he is also one of the best freediving guides money can buy. Each expedition lasts just over five days during which de Vos leads guests on a once-in-a-lifetime experience sailing on the North Sea under the Northern Lights with orcas and other sea creatures. De Vos continues to grow his photography portfolio with each expedition.

Quitting your job for your passion is slightly terrifying. After all, there is a reason why we have the tendency to stay at the same deadend job for years.  But living safe gets you nowhere fast. So why not take a page from Jacques de Vos’ book of life and do what you actually want to do?

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