MAYA PHOTOGRAPHED BY DANNY COPELAND
Maya Santangelo is a Rolex scholar, dive instructor, marine biologist, and ocean lover.
T: If you were given the option to live permanently in the sea, would you take it?
M: There are certainly some days where I wish I had gills, no doubt about that. On the other hand, there are days where I’m so grateful that I have the ability and opportunity to speak up and do things for those that don’t have a voice. If I knew that I had done everything I possibly could to do good for the ocean, I would. Until then, I wouldn’t.
T: You travelled all around the world last year? We believe travel is one of the best ways to get to know yourself better, is there anything that surprised you about yourself while abroad?
M: Through my travels I learned that I’m capable of not sweating the small stuff. Traveling all around the world spending time with so many different people in so many different settings requires a level of patience and adaptability. I appreciated that I didn’t let little things like sleeping on top bunks or tiny couches or sharing a living space with several other people or having holes in my mosquito net or not being able to eat the food I like bug me - it meant I was focusing more on the things that mattered and making the most of the experience that I was there for.
T: Do you think you’ll continue to live a nomadic lifestyle?
M: A nomadic lifestyle definitely has its challenges and sacrifices, but my relationship with the ocean and the goals I want to pursue are ones that I feel so strongly are worth sacrificing for, and I know I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. Home is where my dive gear is, that’s for sure.
MAYA IN THE NIKKI RING
T: Name something you’ve checked off your bucket list and another you can’t wait to check off soon.
M: Without sounding ridiculously cheesy, I’ve never really been one to have a bucket list... some of my favorite experiences have been to places I never even thought of going to or expected I'd get to. Rather, I find that I appreciate things in the moment and recognise the experiences that make my heart explode with passion and inspiration. Some recent ones for me were seeing a wild yellowfin tuna charge through a school of scalloped hammerheads diving Cocos Island, diving with the great whites of Guadalupe, and an expedition to the Arctic. Having said that, a few things that get my heart racing just thinking about them are experiencing the pelagic magic of Socorro (next month!), and diving in Antarctica (hopefully soon!).
POLAR BEAR PHOTOGRAPHED BY MAYA IN THE ARCTIC
T: What does the sea mean to you and your life?
M: I never imagined the ocean would shape my life the way it has. I fell in love with being underwater ever since learning to dive, but it grew to be so much more than a hobby or even a career. The ocean drives every curiosity and passion I have and I know that I’ll never be able to live my life with another purpose or direction than learning about the ocean and sharing it’s magic with others.
T: What are your three favorite Thessalonike items?
M: Nikki Ring, Mano Set and a pareo always packed in my bag!
T: What's your main advice to others interested in making their day to day lives more eco-friendly and safer for the ocean?
M: Educate yourself! Knowledge is the most valuable thing you can have when it comes to doing good for the planet. Educate yourself about the threats the ocean faces and understand that even just a simple action from a single person can make a difference. Just like every component of the ocean plays a functional role in the ecosystem, every action we make has an impact, so we may as well make it a positive one! Say no to single use plastics, make reusables a part of your life (I can’t live without my water bottle and diva cup!), ride your bike, buy second hand, eat less meat, consume seafood mindfully… start with one thing! The rest will follow, and you’ll wonder why you didn’t do things like this sooner. Even better, educate someone else and pass it on :)