Jessica Reynolds | Ocean Nomad
Jessica Reynolds has spent the last 10 years travelling the world. Following her dream to be forever connected with the ocean, her joy for life and captivating personality has connected her to ocean guardians around the globe, it is through these connections and love for the ocean that Jess continues her journey, soon to be working alongside Ocean Works in California to help make real change.
How do you spend your time?
I spend my time nicely balanced between working on the ocean and playing in the ocean… As much as is physically possible. I work as a freelance chef for sail yachts (crossing the Atlantic for the 6th time this December) and whenever there is a free week or month, I go to where the surf is fun, reliable and cheap... I also immerse myself there for a while amongst the locals, the travellers and waves.
What are your fondest memories of childhood that impacted your choices or lifestyle?
The fondest memories from childhood would have to be the summer holidays as we were fortunate enough to go camping on the West coast of France. We would be at the beach all day, playing in these pretty gnarly waves, they have super strong currents and massive rip tides. I am one of 4 kids so we would all look after each other whilst getting smashed in the shore break. Learning to respect the ocean and her tremendous strength from such an early age was a blessing as it has made me more confident in the water now. She is humbling, that’s for sure. We were all natural water babies and fell in love with beach life and the community that comes with it. I knew from these early years that I was destined to remain an ocean dweller and this was where my heart was most happy.
Are there any people who were particularly influential in your life or who inspired you?
Luckily, my mum had noticed how much I loved the ocean and as soon as it was possible, started to send me off to sailing weeks and regattas during the summers. As none of my family surf, I was not encouraged to get out there and give it a go, even though I desperately wanted to. Especially in France, since the surf scene can be so intimidating as a girl, I was told to just sunbathe and that surfing isn’t for ladies. Until I was 26 years young and living in Australia (cliché…) It was here that I met my surf instructor boyfriend for the next 3.5 years (double cliché!) and surfing just took over from there. So I definitely have him to thank for making me go out and appreciate great waves when they are there and for teaching me the technique, rules and etiquette behind surfing. It is so important and yet not that often taught to beginners which can be pretty dangerous (and frustrating). We would surf everyday in Aus as often as we could, wherever possible... He taught me that no matter how your session goes, you are constantly learning and getting stronger. As long as you are having fun, you are doing it right. It changed my entire outlook on surfing and made me a better, happier surfer, for sure.
What learning path did you choose after school and what other career paths did you take before you found what you wanted to do?
After school years were over, I decided to continue the adventure and applied for ski season work. I ran a large chalet in the French Alpes for 3 years during the winter and taught sailing in Camp America in the summers. This path was extremely fun and although I never really made any money, I had the kind of fun you can only experience in those years of your life where just one hours sleep is plenty and you are physically capable to ride all day on the mountain for six days a week...Five months straight!
After this, I managed to fall onto an extremely lucky streak of yacht work through a friend and eventually found myself in a chef role on the largest private sailing yacht in the world at the time The Maltese Falcon. Although this took me worldwide, it was not right. I had learnt how to surf a few years previous but seeing these breath taking spots from a port hole in the confines of your cabin, not being able to explore their beauty and surf the waves, was actually torture. This wasn't a fulfilling adventure at all, but it served its purpose and now I was experienced in the yachting world and had an essential string to my bow. I had made countless contacts and could now go ‘Freelance’. Ahhhh yes, this actually means…. Fun-employed. Perfect.
Although I still haven’t found my ultimate job or what I “always wanted to do”, I’m currently happy in this current state of ‘Work to Live, not Live to Work’. Don't get me wrong, I love my job, I am a very capable, creative and experienced chef, but it’s not my passion. Nothing makes me light up more than seeing dolphins surfing off the bow or a palm tree lined beach with a wave so long and beautiful my smile hurts my face.
How settled are you on your current path?
I am happy and that is the most important thing. Things are constantly changing and nothing is set in stone. The spontaneity and freedom I have is invaluable to me, as something that I actually fear in this life is monotony. Keeping things exciting, fresh and new is the key to not just being alive, but feeling like you are living.
What future plans do you have?
"If there’s a will, there's a way". My future plans only ever venture into the next six months - maximum! I have ten days work in Mallorca, which pays for a surf trip to Brazil for two weeks. This is swiftly followed by a four week Atlantic crossing to the British Virgin Islands on a 60m Sail Yacht, then three weeks work in Antigua, a month in Australia chilling with my sister, having beach days with her family and then twelve days work in St Barth’s in the Caribbean. Come April, I will aim to find some work... Then in May I have a great friend sailing around Madagascar and two weeks there would be epic. There’s a will... So there’s a way!
What battle have you fought that you consider being the most important?
I have found it a constant battle to just do what makes me happy and not be criticized for it as it’s not “the norm”. Doing what I want, when I want, living for the great times, flitting around the world 'willy nilly,’ being a health freak, taking several months away to surf with buddies, living in a wicked dreamland which, as it turns out, is my actual real world. I have just turned 35 and I don’t have a house, a car, a mortgage, a credit card even… And I couldn’t care much less. I have so many amazing memories and experiences I wont ever forget. I don't need to comply with what society thinks a woman of my age should have, should be doing or should have accomplished. Im not going to force anything to fit in "the box". I roll on through life and it’s never disappointed me yet. You can’t control life, so let it be. There is no ‘ticking clock’, only you can know when you are ready to settle down - although I hate that term. The biggest risk you can take in life is working yourself to death all your life, on the gamble that you can afford to do it later.
What would you most like to change about the world/environment?
The education system - it’s so outdated and flawed! Kids aren’t learning about important life skills to make us all better humans. We should be schooled heavily on topics such as the environment, health, mental health, starting a family, disabilities, racism, coping, wellness, social media, life goals, drug addiction, communication, social awareness, self defense, travel… I could go on. Obviously I would love the environmental issue of the pollution of our oceans taken more seriously. I try to lead by example and educate wherever possible. The swiftly dawning statistics about the amount of micro plastics that we are now ingesting is enough to give me nightmares.
What do you value most in your life?
I value my health and my family the most in my life… If you don’t have your health, you have absolutely nothing.
What are the most important lessons you have learned so far?
You cannot blame anyone else for your misfortune or your mistakes… It's all on you. If you want to travel the world and completely switch up everything you know, you have to pull your finger out and do it yourself, make it happen. It’s that easy.
As a solo female traveller, I’ve learnt too many mini lessons to recount. I started exploring at 18 and haven’t stopped. I was not lucky, I was not loaded, I was not experienced and I was not organised. I just did what felt right - faked it till I made it, never strayed too far from the beaten track (I’m not an idiot) and when something fell in my lap, I was grateful. I never outstayed my welcome and tried to ‘pay it forward’ as best I could. I may not be a millionaire by my bank statements but I sure feel like one in my memory bank. CRINGE. Hahaha…! I'm one fortunate girl… That created her own "fortune".
Are there any books that have guided your thinking?
Not really, no… I’ve read a bunch of books along the way, the normal traveller ones, “must reads”…Shantaram, Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Into the Wild, The Alchemist… But the one that really made me realise that I am not alone and I am fine to just keep going is “What I Was Doing Whilst You Were Breeding”. Highly entertaining, laugh out loud funny, crude, honest, adventurous and real.
What brings you the most joy?
Paddling out with mates, surfing crystal clear waters, being the private audience to a sunset that warms your face, dolphins, turtles and pelicans all enjoying the same blissful vibes... Feeling totally engrossed in the moment. All the while laughing and giggling... Heart racing, eyes wide, body aching and soul full. These are such precious memories to me and how bonds are well and truly formed between buddies. There is no better feeling.
What legacy do you hope to leave behind?
That just because everyone is following the same gravy train (mmm gravy), that doesn’t make your path wrong. Do what makes you happy, your passion… Whatever lights you up, and the rest will fall into place. Money can always be made again and again, but time is precious and is the most valuable thing you can spend. Explore more, push your limits and don’t be afraid...