Do you have a hero? Do you have a mentor in life? I think we all have someone we look up to and who are inspired by each and everyday. Heck, it may even be a handful number of people that you consider your mentor.
This past weekend, I had the honor to meet one of my heroes/mentors: Jean-Michel Cousteau (JMC). Being the son of the historic ocean explorer Jacques Yves Cousteau, Jean-Michel has also made a huge name for himself in the marine conservation society. Jean-Michel founded the Ocean Futures Society, a non-profit whose mission is as follows:
The mission of Ocean Futures Society is to explore our global ocean, inspiring and educating people throughout the world to act responsibly for its protection, documenting the critical connection between humanity and nature, and celebrating the ocean’s vital importance to the survival of all life on our planet.
When I found out that JMC was going to speak at the Travel and Adventure Expo held in the Long Beach Convention Center, I knew I couldn’t miss this opportunity for the world! I even won 4 tickets to the event on the Travel and Adventure Expo’s Facebook page – I guess my contest luck is continuing through 2013 :)
There was a rush for his autograph after his speech, and I decided to wait patiently for an hour for the crowds to die down. I wanted my meeting to be memorable, and last more than 1 minute. And let me tell you, it definitely worth the wait.
Whilst waiting, I got to have some great conversations with JMC’s right-hand woman with his Ocean Futures Society, Holly Lohuis. She’s been working with the Ocean Futures Society for the past 15 years as the field producer/executive coordinator for JMC. She’s a marine biologist, educator, and passionate ocean conservationist. My friend Josh who was with me at the show, said that she reminded him of what an older version of myself would be like. I take that as a huge compliment!
Some younger girls and boys approached JMC and told him that they wanted to be a marine biologist just like him. And my heart smiled when I heard Jean-Michel say, “Don’t listen to what anyone else says. Do whatever you love.” Not too long ago that little girl was me… and I have wanted to be a marine biologist since I was 5 years old. After years of Sea World Camps, marine biology field courses in Baja, and lots of hands-on volunteer experience with numerous marine organizations, I can happily say that I followed my dream. I earned honors receiving my Bachelors of Science Degree in Marine and Coastal Ecology, and I couldn’t be more happy. Now I just need to find a job that sums up my love and passion for the ocean and marine science education…let the job application process continue!
The time FINALLY arrived to come face-to-face with JMC:
Jean-Michel was such a pleasant, personable, funny, and passionate individual to meet first hand. I honestly thought in my head, ‘I wish he was my grandpa!’ haha. I bought his book, Explore the West Coast National Marine Sanctuaries with Jean-Michel Cousteau, for him to personally autograph. I think it MAY have been the beautiful Humboldt squid that caught eye to buy the book , and Holly even pointed out that she actually was the diver photographed on the cover ! I would definitely love to dive with Humboldt squid one day, I should actually add that to my Bucket List right now…
In 2005, the Ocean Futures Society teamed up with Ritz Carlton hotels around the globe to exclusively home JMC’s Ambassadors of the Environment program. The Ambassadors program, “provides educational, outdoor adventures to guests and the local communities of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, and The Ritz-Carlton Reserver, Dorado Beach.” I have actually been in the interview process for the a couple Ambassadors programs at the Ritz-Carltons listed previously, and when I disclosed this information to JMC, he was super impressed by my determination and dedication to be a part of his marine education program. He autographed a very kind and personal message in my book that I will cherish forever, and told me to keep in contact about the Ambassadors program.
After that, I was on Cloud 9 for the rest of the day Josh and I walked around the whole Expo entering in every contest possible to win dream vacations. Between the two of us, we are hoping the odds are in our favor to win at least one of the contests haha!
This whole experience just solidified to follow my love and dream of working in the field of ocean conservation/education. There’s nothing I love more than the sea and doing whatever I can to protect it for future generations. Life is too short not to do what you love for a living. It’s time for me to find my next journey in life! I’M SO READY! Cheers to your hopes and dream