We’ve had the great privilege to have a chat with avid divers Chris Taylor and Carrie Miller — a power couple diving in locations across the globe while simultaneously supporting our reefs!
They have a brand new book from National Geographic, released on February 26th, 2019. Order a copy of 100 Dives of a Lifetime today to take in the beauty of our oceans and their adventures! The book contains “100 breathtaking scuba diving sites around the world — from the cenotes of Mexico to the best wreck in Micronesia — through stunning National Geographic photography, expert tips, and cutting-edge travel advice.”
We are so excited and humbled that Chris Taylor and Carrie Miller made some time to chat with us. Learn more about them by reading our interview below:
Tell us a little bit about yourselves. Where are you from, what are your hobbies, and what brought you to diving and environmental activism?
We are Chris Taylor and Carrie Miller (@thedivetravelers), a married couple who both love diving. I (@christaylor_diver) am a PADI Divemaster who’s worked in the scuba diving industry for a number of years, including as dive supervisor for Rodney Fox Great White Shark Expeditions, which is where Carrie and I met. (Sharks bring everyone together.)
I’ve wanted to dive since I was a kid, and hopped in the water as soon as I moved to Australia. The first animal I saw on my very first dive was a grey nurse shark, and from that moment I was hooked.
Carrie (@carriemiller_writer) has been writing for National Geographic for 20 years, and her work has taken her around the world, from Mongolia to Nepal to New Zealand. Carrie is also a water baby, but it took her a few attempts (including getting over a very bad experience) to get her Open Water certification, which she did last April in Fiji. She did around 40 dives in 20 countries in 2018, and she’s really loving having a new underwater world to explore.
Outside of diving, traveling, and working (which keeps us crazily busy), we both enjoy things like hiking, kayaking, and spending time with friends. Carrie was a competitive horseback rider and boxer for several years, and she also learned to fly sailplanes (gliders). We both feel that life is a gift and we try to make the most of our time on this planet.
I think that “environmental activism” can have a rather negative connotation, which shouldn’t be the case. It should be part of our day-to-day lives, rather than a cause we embrace. Carrie and I both care about the planet, and the creatures, people, and cultures that inhabit it, and we try to make decisions that help rather than harm the world we’re living in it. And that takes a lot of time, energy, and curiosity — you have to be engaged. None of us can afford to sit on the side-lines. We all have to do what we can, from voting for politicians who believe in science and aggressively support actions to reverse the effects of climate change, to minimizing our plastic usage, to supporting local initiatives that are making a difference — for example, banning harmful sunscreens in Florida.
On our year-long National Geographic assignment (34 weeks in, we get off the road mid-May), two things have made an impression:
1) Every place Carrie and I have visited have experienced changes in weather patterns. Every. Single. Place.
2) In every place we’ve visited we’ve come across passionate people doing incredible work to protect and look after their corners of the planet, which makes us feel overwhelmingly optimistic.
And we’re hoping we can use our project to shine a light on the work they’re doing.
How would you characterize your passion for the environment? Was there a particular moment in your life where you knew you needed to be on the ground doing work to protect the planet?
I think most divers realise very early on that we are having a huge impact on our environment, because we are in a privileged position to see what’s happening both on land and under the water. It’s all connected, and divers see that connection.
If I dive in a well-managed marine park, I can’t help but think that this is what everywhere should look like. The fact that only a small fraction (less than 5%) of our oceans are protected shows how critical things actually are, and how far we have to go to get the balance back to where it should be.
We can all do our part to help in any way that we can, and travel — tourism — is actually one of the biggest ways we can make a difference. Getting out and seeing for yourself, asking questions, traveling mindfully, and spending your money wisely (i.e. in places that are doing the right thing protecting their environment) makes protection economically viable. This goes for land and ocean spaces equally. Tourism must always benefit the local population positively so there is value in protecting the environment.
With more and more brands loosely using terminology such as “eco-friendly” or “reef-safe” how do you ensure that you’re using a product that is truly safe for you and the waters you’re diving in?
I was astounded to find out that very few brands actually do proper testing to see if their claims stand up. I think, for starters, making sure not to use sunscreen that is mineral oil-based but still contains toxic chemicals is a good start. What impressed me about Stream2Sea was the open information on the website about all aspects of your testing. You back your products and are transparent about your research, and that’s important.
For consumers, it’s important to do your homework, rather than blindly trusting labels, and it’s also important to reward companies for their transparency. As we transition into clean energy and more ‘eco-friendly’ products, there are going to be mistakes, things that don’t work as planned. Companies that immediately own up and fix the problem should be rewarded with customer loyalty. All businesses want to make money, but some are actually trying to do the right thing and some are riding the waves of trends. It’s important for consumers to be mindful about which is which.
Where did you first hear about Stream2Sea? Do you have a favourite product?
We read an article about reef-safe sunscreen and were impressed that the article actually named names, rather than generalizing (as articles do, for fear of making mistakes). I looked at all the companies’ websites and found the test information on your site. For me, the openness of your company was the thing that got me interested in giving Stream2Sea a try, and we haven’t been disappointed.
We’ve been using the un-tinted sunscreen for months and are impressed with its performance. It doesn’t absorb the way oil-based sunscreens do, and that takes a little getting used to, but we’ve found the sunscreen actually provides better protection, almost acting like another protective layer, and it requires less re-application, even on days when we’re in and out of the water in unrelenting sun.
We’ve also found that the After Sun is a miracle-worker: any time we’ve accidentally gotten a bit too much sun, if we put on the After Sun before we go to bed, any redness or irritation is gone by the time we wake up. It really does help soothe and repair the skin.
You’re working on an amazing project with National Geographic. How did that come about?
Carrie and I developed this idea for two years before we sent it to National Geographic. When Carrie and I met, I was a diver and she wasn’t, which is a dynamic you see a lot in diving – couples, families, or groups of friends that are a mix of divers, non-divers, and/or different dive levels. On our travels, I’d often spend time underwater and Carrie, who prefers to experience a place rather than sitting on a beach all day, would have a land-based adventure. We’d meet up later in the day to do something together and share our stories. It’s a great way to travel.
We were astounded that there isn’t too much information out there about this way of traveling. There is heaps of diving information, sure, and plenty of guidebooks, but not much that combines the two.
And we knew the information needed to be first-hand, rather than researched: that’s what divers and travelers prefer. So, we find ourselves just over halfway on this amazing, challenging year-long adventure.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Most days start around 7 a.m. and wrap up around 8 p.m. Usually I spend half a day to a full day diving, while Carrie will go exploring on land. If the diving is suitable for new divers, or divers who want an easier experience, we’ll dive together, which is something we’re highlighting in this project. (This dynamic is getting more challenging as Carrie’s dive skills increase – now she wants to spend more time diving with me, which is great.) We always spend time with a local conservation initiative in each area, as well.
The evenings are spent typing up notes. I’m organizing the trip, which is no small task, and Carrie’s writing the book as we go along, an even bigger task!
We don’t have any days off and are on two international flights each week, so it’s not a holiday, but it really is the adventure of a lifetime. And hopefully it will result in an extraordinary resource for other travelers and divers to create incredible experiences of their own. That’s the goal.
What is one thing that makes you excited about the work that you will produce? How do you anticipate your work will affect the world?
The more people travel and experience the world, both above and below the water, the more people will see for themselves what’s out there – the wonder, the diversity, the challenges – and the better opportunity we have to protect and save it. We want to provide a resource to help people plan their own dive travel adventures, and to arm them with questions and information to travel more mindfully.
What is your favourite part about all the work you do—blogging/writing, research, ecotourism activism, social media work…?
The diving, of course! Carrie and I feel privileged to see so much of the world, and we’ve met so many wonderful people along the way. That’s the best part of our job.
When you’re exhausted from your travels—whether from the work you’re doing, or the enormity of environmental efforts, etc—what keeps you going? Where do you see the future?
Humans really are extraordinary creatures. Fear and greed can cause so much damage, and apathy even more so (the “it’s too hard” or “it’s not my problem” mentality), but when we put our minds to it, look what we can achieve: we’ve walked on the moon. Cured diseases. Written great literature. Raised engaged and curious children. Tended gardens. Shown caring and empathy for others with no thought of what we get in return.
It’s so easy to forget that stuff, especially in the negative whirl of social media and endless media cycles. It’s easy to forget that every single one of us has the power to effect change, and that every day we make decisions that add up.
One of those decisions is whether to have a dire outlook on our future (“climate change is a myth”, “Dems and Republicans”, “it’s too late to save the planet”), or to make the decision to be optimistic. Kind. To do better today than you did yesterday. It is a conscious choice.
Carrie and I have met so many amazing people on our travels – ‘ordinary’ people who have made it their life’s mission to do what they can to make a difference. And that’s what keeps us going. That’s what we’re looking forward to sharing through our project, and – hopefully – to inspiring others. That’s what keeps us going.
What advice would you give a traveller planning an adventure and hoping to travel light and EcoConsciously? (Are there products, Stream2Sea or otherwise, that you would recommend they bring along?)
The small things add up.
See if you can substitute your every day products (a reusable glass or steel straw for plastic ones, Stream2Sea Shampoo & Bodywash for Shampoo and soap, reef-safe sunscreen for oil-based products) for more eco-conscious ones. It’s worth remembering that most of the water ends up in the ocean eventually, even if you live in a land-locked place.
Carrie and I are traveling with reusable shopping bags, glass straws, bamboo cutlery sets, reusable water bottles, reusable travel mugs – even some small Tupperware tubs that we use for bowls (with the lids as plates) or extra storage. These items help us avoid a lot of single-use plastic on our travels.
Imagine if everyone did the same – it’s not the ultimate solution, but it sure would help.
Where is your favourite place in the world to dive?
I’d have to say Byron Bay in Australia, this is where I learned to dive. The biodiversity and sheer amount of wildlife is amazing.
Where is your favourite place in your hometown to hike?
We’re homeless for this year, but we were living in a small town in New Zealand’s Southern Alps called Lake Hawea, which had miles and miles of fantastic trails, right outside our door. That’s Carrie’s happy place.
While on assignment, have you experienced promising international discourse about the importance of ocean-friendly products?
There is a lot of increasing awareness and dialogue about straws and plastic bags, and we do see some hotels and restaurants responding, which is great. It’s a small part of the problem, but bars that display signs explaining why straws are available only on request help raise awareness of the larger issue.
It’s also heartening to see established marine parks that locals and visitors alike are benefiting from.
But there is a mountain of trash out there. We’ve traveled to so many places with unsafe drinking water where bottled water is a necessity – we cringe every time we have to buy a bottle. And the overfishing is appalling.
The reality is that these are global problems requiring a combined global effort to combat and repair them. We should all do what we can on a daily basis, but we also need to reward countries that are protecting their environments with our tourism dollars, we need to vote, and we need to hold businesses accountable.
As one scientist said to us: “We still have time to act, but the time to make the decision to act has passed.” It needs to be now.
What is one environmental protection tip you wish the world would follow more often?
Conservation can be lucrative. A shark can be worth more than a million dollars in tourism over the course of its lifetime, or $200 for its fin. Marine parks attract legions of divers, spending money in hotels, restaurants, and shops. Renewable energy, eco-friendly products, and sustainable solutions to serious issues like plastic pollution will create jobs and boost the economy.
People need to speak up about why they’re making the decisions they’re making (choosing this place or this product, not voting for that candidate) so the word gets out fast that this is our future: get with the program or get left behind.
We are huge fans of your work, thank you for doing it!! What would you tell a young adventurer hoping to explore the world as thoroughly as you have?
Thank you! We appreciate it. To all the young adventurers and explorers out there – it’s not easy, but it’s worth it, and failing is part of the process. Don’t give up. To those of you who think the world is beyond hope or well and truly explored, in a speech earlier this year, the legendary Bob Ballard said that this generation of middle schoolers is going to explore more of the Earth than all of the previous generations combined.
There is so much to see and do out there – don’t wait. Get started, and go see for yourselves.
Take the Safe Sunscreen Pledge!
Take the Safe Sunscreen Pledge and we’ll send you a digital 20-page resource that dives into ingredients to know, ingredients to avoid, what “organic” and “biodegradable” really mean, and what is truly “reef-safe.”
Thank you for being part of a global movement to protect marine and other ecosystems from unsafe ingredients! What we put on our bodies DOES make a difference, and your positive choices help protect the planet!