It’s been more than a year since Valentine Thomas left a hedge fund career in London to travel the world spearfishing. She’s been sharing amazing photos and stories of her adventures on Instagram @ValentineThomas, which has attracted more than 150,000 followers so far. We caught up with her in New Caledonia over email to learn more about her travels.
Originally from Montreal, it might seem like an off-beat adventure for a 29-year-old beauty, and it was for Valentine, who worked hard to overcome her fear of the oceans after getting stuck in a dangerous rip-tide at age 14 in France. Over the years she was able to overcome the anxiety she had with free diving and actually learned to love the sport. It was leaving a comfortable life for a world of adventure that was the hard part, she explained in a recent interview with LiveOutdoors.
“Sometimes, discomfort is the way to discover yourself,” she wrote. “Not the yourself you already know or being told to be, but the better version of yourself you don’t know yet.”
Her travels have taken her to 16 countries around the world, which she’s been able to finance in part through a sponsorship with Riffe International, makers of spearfishing equipment, and hosting an upcoming video series.
With each trip along the way she discovers unique diving locations where she spears some impressive fish, including large tuna. Along with intriguing underwater shots and photos posing with the catch of the day, she also shares some pretty stunning bikini shots as well when she’s just relaxing, which certainly won’t hurt to grow a following.
Always with a message of conservation, this spearfishing dynamo shows a high admiration for the sport and the marine life along with loads of gratitude for the hospitality she’s shown along the way. And as we found in our recent correspondence and her posts on line, this young woman is extremely thoughtful.
“We think that the modern society knows it all, but when you spend time with people that have nothing, you realize that we are the ones that have a lot to learn,” she told LiveOutdoors.
She also reflected on her trip so far and a scary shallow water blackout that almost took her life. Scroll down for the interview below and follow Valentine on Instagram @ValentineThomas
LO: I read you left a job in London that you weren’t happy with. What were you doing? And was it difficult at first to embark on your journey?
Valentine: I was working at a hedge fund in London. It wasn’t an easy move. I was leaving a very stable life; a house, a car, a bf and two dogs. London is a very superficial city though and I felt that it was dragging me towards the wrong path. Buying things you dont need, with the money you don’t have to impress people you don’t like type of life. But despite the challenges i faced (being broke, sleeping in my car, being scared about the future) it felt right straight away. I am building a life for myself that correspond to everything I believe in.
LO: How is it going now? Are you ever homesick?
Valentine: It has been a little more than a year that I am homeless now and I’m loving it. It can get lonely sometimes as I can’t really have a relationship at the moment. You know the feeling after a long day or a long trip where you sit on your sofa or bed and sigh: “finally home”, well I don’t have that. On the other hand, when I travel the world, I stay with locals that make me feel home and show me their ways, so I feel like I have little homes everywhere… hehe.
I’m finally starting to make a living out of this. I have little contracts here and there and I’m co-hosting a TV show which gives me my main financial stability.
We are so detached from how our food comes from that we need to be reminded that we are not aside from this ecosystem, we are part of it and you have to respect it. We need nature as much as it needs us.
LO: What is the goal of your travels? Do you have a time frame or certain number of places you plan to visit?
Valentine: Apart from the destinations set up by my work (the TV show), I picked my destinations according to the people I will meet there. I am still at the stage where I need to build as much content as possible for myself in terms of video and pictures, but I am also seeking to explore as many places as possible. Travelling by yourself teaches you a lot about yourself and the person you really are. I also learn a lot about other cultures. We think that the modern society knows it all, but when you spend time with people that have nothing, you realize that were the ones that have a lot to learn. I want to make sure that the day I come back to “the real life,” the values I’ll have will be in perfect accordance with who I am and not the person I’ve been told to be.
I want a family one day so I’ll have to slow down at some point, but I am still young so I have time to think about it haha. To be honest, I think that the thing that will make me slow down and get an apartment and stabilize is someone I’ll meet.
LO: What are all the countries you have been to over the past year and what place was your favorite?
Valentine: France, Spain, Greece, Portugual, Tanzania, Cape Verde, Mexico, Bahamas, USA, New Zealand, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Bermuda, Canada, Barbados, South Africa. I fell in love with Africa. First of all, the sea is amazing, the fish are abundant and you have amazing underwater scenery. Second of all, people are amazing. Its shocking how people with nothing share the most. I have been offered a bed (people were willing to sleep on the floor, I obviously declined), I’ve been offered meals (when the person had barely nothing), I’ve been offered help and hospitality from the heart and I’ve seen a real sense of community where people help each other. Where having two breads means you give the other to your neighbor and where people are always happy.
LO: Where do you plan to visit next?
Valentine: I’m currently in New Caledonia for a couple weeks exploring wild diving spots. Mid November I am doing my freediving instructor course in the Maldives then filming in Mexico. I have nothing planned for the two last weeks of December, but they won’t stay free for long 🙂
LO: You mentioned in one post about a blackout. What was that about? Was that the most dangerous thing that happened to you?
Valentine: Blacking out is the worse and most common danger of spearfishing. I’m the only one to blame for my blackout though. I saw a fish down at 25m and didn’t take the time to breath enough and I didn’t wait enough after my previous dive. I was using a pole spear, I missed the fish and it went a few meters away so I reloaded and chased it. At some point I told myself, wait a minute, I’ve been down there a while, looked at the surface and realized I wouldn’t make it back. With a gasp of panic, the little air left in my body left instantly and I felt my body squeezing itself inside me. I started to ascend hoping that my buddy was looking at me (if he wasn’t, I was most likely going to die). Luckily he was, he lost his brother due to a black out a few years back so he was an astute diver regarding safety. I blacked out when I reached the surface (shallow water blackouts normally happen within 0-10m deep on ascent). It is the closest I’ve been to death in this sport.
LO: Have you ever done any modelling? And do you have a photographer along with you on the trip? Your shots are great!
Valentine: Hahaha thank you for the compliment, I am not a model. I never travel with a photographer which is too bad as I could have much better pictures haha. When I meet people abroad, due to low budget and my desire to experience local culture as authentic as possible, when I go its a bunch of people sharing the same passion and having fun without taking it seriously and video and photograph everything. I should make more of an effort though hehe 🙂
LO: What do you like most about spearfishing? Did you have to overcome any fears?
Valentine: The food! Cooking is my other passion and I practice this mainly to catch my own food. Despite the fact that I’m homeless, I’ve never eaten that well in my entire life. For me being in a great location, going out at sea with friends, having a good time, interacting with amazing sea creatures, bringing back fresh dinner (fish, lobsters, crabs, etc) and sharing an amazing meal cooked on the beach, is the true definition of paradise. Spearfishing allowed me to feel closer to nature, to feel part of the ecosystem and learn how to respect it. When you put yourself in the food chain (you’re catching dinner but can also become dinner), it gives you an immense sens of respect for what you hunt and what is around you. You don’t feel that by buying a piece of cod at the grocery shop.
LO: I noticed you mention a lot about ocean conservation. Why is this important to you? Where does your passion for the oceans come from?
Valentine: My passion for the ocean used to be fear. It took a couple years of hard psychological effort to fight the anxiety, but with time, it became fascination and passion. My dad is a sailor, he built his own boat when he was 20 and travel around with it so I guess it was deep down in me.
The importance of this sport is to show people where food comes from. We are so detached from how our food comes from that we need to be reminded that we are not aside from this ecosystem, we are part of it and you have to respect it. We need nature as much as it needs us. It is very humbling again to put yourself in the food chain and not being on top of it. We are throwing away resources like if they were infinite and its so wrong. Sometimes it bothers people to see a bleeding fish (and I get it as myself struggle to see a bleeding animal despite the fact that I eat meat), but it’s because we look away that the food industry is being so bad. I have been sitting front row in the past years to notice the degradation of our oceans, seeing animals tangled, seeing nets stuck on reefs, hearing dynamite under water (!!!) and returning to locations a couple years later and see how the population of fish dramatically reduced. It’s sad and we need to realize it to make changes. Plastic and over fishing are the worse.