Shirking safe: The jobs where thrill seekers need only apply

Looking for a career change that will really challenge you?

1/16/2022 12:40:00 PM

Not everyone is content with a secure 9-5 that offers zero drama, some people want to risk their lives for a living 😅

Looking for a career change that will really challenge you?

So who are these people not satisfied with safe – and what makes them take on a role that risks their life? Every. Single. Day.She had never considered scuba diving, but on a whim, decided to sign up to the adventurous club to meet new people during her freshman year.

‘But at the end of the year, the club took a trip to Egypt,’ Samantha explains. ‘The water was crystal clear and so warm. We saw so many amazing fish. It was there I realised I loved diving – just not in cold water.’‘It means you get a build-up of oxygen in your joints or brain. If you ascend really quickly to the surface, the bubbles in your body can expand really quickly and lead to decompression sickness (‘the bends’) or an air embolism in your lungs. It’s one of the things you have to be most cautious about in diving.’

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Copy link Adrenaline-thumping, perilious, risky… Not the usual things you’d look out for when searching for a job, however not everyone is content with a secure 9-5 that offers zero drama. In fact, some workers actively seek uncertainty to add to their CV. So who are these people not satisfied with safe – and what makes them take on a role that risks their life? Every. Single. Day. Here, we speak to three career thrill seekers to find out why they chose jeopardy for their job. ‘Swimming with sharks is emotionally tolling – things could so easily not be fine’ It was after lowering herself down into the depths of the cold English waters, that Samantha Symonds says she distinctly remembers regretting her decision to join the scuba club at Brunel University. She had never considered scuba diving, but on a whim, decided to sign up to the adventurous club to meet new people during her freshman year. ‘I hated it,’ Samantha, now 29, says – recalling how her dry suit hadn’t kept her dry on her first dive. ‘I was really cold and really wet. I asked for a refund.’ The club didn’t offer reimbursement for the hefty dues she had already paid, so Samantha promised herself she would stick with it until she obtained a diving qualification – while also vowing never to dive after she’d qualified. Samantha says that in her job, making the wrong decision could have fatal consequences (Picture: Supplied) ‘But at the end of the year, the club took a trip to Egypt,’ Samantha explains. ‘The water was crystal clear and so warm. We saw so many amazing fish. It was there I realised I loved diving – just not in cold water.’ Although her original career path saw Samantha complete her English degree at university and work in marketing, she was itching to do more. So, after a couple of years behind a desk, Samantha took a trip to Malaysia to pursue a dive master course that would qualify her to teach people how to scuba dive. Although the role would come with risk, Samantha felt both were worth taking – even if making the wrong decision could have fatal consequences. ‘When you’re diving, the pressure of the water around you as you go deeper means you get more gases dissolving in your blood,’ she explains. ‘It means you get a build-up of oxygen in your joints or brain. If you ascend really quickly to the surface, the bubbles in your body can expand really quickly and lead to decompression sickness (‘the bends’) or an air embolism in your lungs. It’s one of the things you have to be most cautious about in diving.’ Following her training, she ventured to Thailand, Fiji and Australia, teaching dozens of people to dive in dangerously wild waters, where even more factors could lead to injury or death. ‘I wanted to help people feel safe underwater,’ Samantha says, explaining why she was passionate about teaching people to dive in open waters. ‘I’m good at helping people through their fears and calming them down, which actually makes them safer.’ Even though she was aware of the risks her students faced, she was confident she could introduce them to an exotic underwater world and help them deal with their fears safely. Samantha has worked in Fiji and Australia so she can pursue a career swimming with sharks (Picture: Supplied) As she guided people through their dives, she often encountered a hazard that equally frightened and fascinated her – sharks. ‘They can smell one drop of blood and detect small electronic impulses in the water, such as a heartbeat,’ says Samantha. ‘They are made of pure muscle because they have to constantly swim to stay afloat. And they have really sharp teeth – one row of teeth behind another – so that when the old teeth fall out, there are more sharp teeth to replenish. They are basically perfect hunting, killing machines.’ It was with these ancient, beautiful beasts Samantha dived beneath the water to swim alongside. Fascinated by the creatures, Samantha eventually moved to Fiji to work with a shark conservation project, doing scientific dives to collect data and feeding them. Then, she moved to Australia. ‘I worked for Sydney Aquarium in their oceanarium beside the harbour,’ she says. ‘The shark tank was actually “floating” at sea-level and I would take people diving with sharks in the tanks.’ ‘The first sharks I saw were smaller reef sharks,’ Samantha says recalling the first time she came close to them in Thailand. ‘I saw what I thought to be fish moving in the distance and then realised they were sharks. I had a jolt of fear – was quite nervous.’ When sharks detect something unusual in the water, even a human heartbeat, they get closer to investigate. While reef sharks are not considered dangerous to human unless provoked, there is a risk of an ‘explorative bite’ that could do serious damage, even if unintended. ‘On a night dive, when I had seven divers with me, there were small sharks around and they were really active and feeding,’ Samantha describes, recalling how nervous she was to keep both her and the divers in her care safe. ‘The sharks were all swimming up to my light and I had to literally move them away with my torch.’ ‘I never regret this career path, it has felt worth the risk,’ says Samantha (Picture: Supplied) While everything turned out OK in both instances, Samantha knows just how quickly things can change. If sharks are mating, feeding, or simply exploring, they can easily injure whatever is in the water, including humans. ‘I once took a group of 17-year-old highschool students, who were certified divers, to do a bull shark dive 30 metres beneath the ocean surface,’ Sam recalls. The group were swimming down to get behind a rock wall, where they planned to safely feed the infamously volatile bull sharks. ‘You are supposed to go straight down to the wall – it’s not good to be floating in the middle of the water because sharks usually attack from below,’ Samantha says. ‘But the girl was taking a long time to get down so I went to try to reassure and help her. I could just see the shadows in the distance of the bull sharks coming closer.’ Luckily, both Samantha and the girl made it to the rock wall before the sharks had a chance to investigate the ‘intruders’. A dive master, in charge of the whole dive, reminded Samantha after just how dangerous a situation she had been in, being in the open waters with one of the most dangerous sharks in the world. ‘The whole situation made me feel shaken, introspective, and conflicted,’ remembers Samantha. ‘I realised how my two goals – to teach people how to look after themselves safely while giving them insight into a beautiful other world beneath the waves – can sometimes be at odds with each other. After the incident with the highschooler, I found myself catastrophising about what could’ve happened to a young girl, when it felt like it was under my watch, but ultimately that’s a tool so that I can learn, plan ahead and if a similar situation were to arise again.’ While the pandemic forced Samantha to return back to England, she plans to return and continue instructing people to dive amongst sharks. ‘I never regret this career path,’ Samantha concludes. ‘I have seen and experienced amazing things most people only dream of – it has felt worth the risk. But I couldn’t do it full time again. It was physically and emotionally very tolling – so easily things could not be fine. I don’t want anything to happen on my watch. They are wild animals and something could always go wrong. But it is so empowering to face your fears – it makes you feel alive.’ ‘As a bush pilot I can make around 40 life threatening decisions every day ‘ Recalling the very first time he went on a bush flight, Ryan Farran reckons he was around seven years old. At the time, he and his family were living in Papua New Guinea as missionaries, helping local villages with whatever they needed. ‘Bush pilots are people who fly into the the jungle, landing on on airstrips without paved runways,’ Ryan explains. Experiencing such a sense of adventure and the freedom of being up in the sky, it was a moment that changed his life forever. ‘I decided then that I wanted to be a pilot.’ Once he finished highschool, having moved to America, Ryan held onto his dream of becoming a pilot and started training to fly planes. ‘I flew for about a year and a half, but just got bored. It didn’t have any purpose behind it.’ ‘It’s my way I can help people and I really enjoy doing it,’ says Ryan (Picture: Supplied) So, for the next five years, Ryan and his wife trained as missionaries with hopes of leaving the States to return in Papua New Guinea and help the communities he had spent years alongside as a child. ‘We were coming to the end of our training and visited some friends that were in aviation,’ recalls Ryan. ‘They took me out on a ride and, just like that, I knew I wanted to get back into flying.’ In 2014, he and wife got their dream of relocating to Papua New Guinea and flying into the bush to give supplies to local people – but Ryan soon realised the role came with added risks: horrendously turbulent weather and dangerous terrain. ‘I fly to the mountainous places and the low land swamp areas,’ he explains. ‘The first two years I was flying, it was really stressful. When you finish training and they let you go solo, you’re now the only one making the decisions in the air. I had headaches all the time as a result of it all.’ Ryan also had to contend with tropical weather that changed in an instant, airstrips laden with slippery mud, landing sites meters away from cliffs, and drafts of wind suddenly pushing up or down on the single engine aircraft. ‘They are all dangers you are mentally prepared for, but when they happen, you might not react the way you had expected.’ Ryan recalls an incident when he first started flying in Papua New Guinea that caused his adrenaline to spike in fear. ‘I was coming to land and the winds weren’t doing what I expected them to do,’ he says. ‘But there wasn’t enough room to turn back and get safely out of the valley.’ Simultaneous updrafts and downdrafts were pounding on the plane as Ryan attempted to get it under control before he reached the cliff, only a metre away. ‘That was a leg shaker. It was really close.’ The stress of the job as a bush pilot isn’t often discussed, says Ryan (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto) Another time, Ryan was flying at an altitude of 18,000 feet in the mountains when he entered into a cloud that formed a thick sheet of ice on the front of the plane. ‘If you get too much ice on the plane, you create drag and your propeller won’t be efficient enough,’ he explains. ‘Instantly, my air speed dropped down. I immediately turned back around and it took 20 minutes of flying in the sun for it to melt off.’ Although bush flying carries with it risks that could easily lead a pilot and his passengers to their deaths, Ryan says that the stress of the job isn’t often discussed. ‘I don’t think bush pilots talk about our own personal fears a lot,’ he admits. ‘They want to give this persona they are super confident in all situations. But we’re making an average of 40 life threatening decisions every day.’ After a few years flying, the pressure left Ryan exhausted from the spikes and crashes of adrenaline he endured multiple times a day. ‘It was at that point I knew I had to make changes so I wasn’t tired all the time.’ Now he schedules his flights around the weather, content to cancel flights when conditions appeared too risky. And despite the immense pressure of the job, Ryan says his three children and wife would never think of holding him back from something he loves so dearly. ‘They don’t even get nervous for me,’ he says. ‘On days when I would come home stressed out, my wife would just tell me to go do some wheelies on my motorcycle. It’s nice to have someone back up what you’re doing.’ Although he still faces daily danger, Ryan insists he wouldn’t want any other job. ‘There’s purpose behind why I do it,’ he says. ‘It’s my way I can help people and I really enjoy doing it.’ ‘When people get tired, mistakes happen’ Tree surgery is one of the professions in the world with a high potential for injury and death due to the heights climbed and powerful machinery used. During the last 10 years in the UK, 24 tree surgeons have been killed at work and nearly 1,400 have suffered an injury. But in a country replete with trees that need cutting and trimming, it’s a profession many decide to venture into. Jack Bath always craved an adventure in the outdoors, stemming from childhood spent in Bournemouth exploring forests and beaches. Jack says he quickly learned that working as a tree surgeon was a dangerous career (Picture: Supplied) In 2006, at just 17 years old, he joined the Royal Marines and served for six years before working in counter piracy on a ship sailing through the Indian Ocean. ‘I’ve never really been an office sort of person,’ says the now 33-year-old. However, when became engaged to his future wife, he knew his endless days of travel had to come to an end. ‘The Royal Marines paid for a resettlement in further education so I started looking at what courses would be available,’ Jack explains. ‘I knew I wanted to work outdoors and for myself.’ He thought tree surgery would be a good fit – it was outdoors, a job to pay the bills, full of adventure, and the course was fully funded by the Marines – but Jack hadn’t considered its reputation as a hazardous career choice. ‘It wasn’t particularly on my radar when I chose it, but quickly learned it was a very dangerous job,’ he admits. For his first three years in the role, Jack’s days had been drama-free, but then one day he was climbing his last tree of the day as the wind unexpectantly picked up speed. ‘I was carrying out a technique called step cutting where you make a 50% cut from both sides of the branch, with a half inch gap in between, as this allows you to use both hands to snap the branch off in a controlled way,’ Jack explains. ‘However, when I went to make my second cut, the branch snapped backwards, hit my saw, and knocked it towards my chest.’ Jack’s heart raced as he imagined all the possibilities of the accident. ‘The chain grabbed my sleeve and pulled up toward my armpit. Thankfully, instead of a ripped chest, he had a ripped sleeve. ‘I was very, very lucky not to injure myself.’ ‘The gruelling days pulling your own body weight up and down the tree all day takes a toll on climbers’ bodies (Picture: Supplied) ‘Tree surgery is about awareness at all times,’ adds Jack, explaining that although there are precautions to be taken to protect tree surgeons – who he refers to as climbers – accidents can happen when they get physically drained, or corners are cut. ‘When people start reaching, stretching, and dangling – that’s when branches can snap, throw the saw up, and it can come down and hit you on the face,’ he says. ‘It’s when people get tired that mistakes happen.’ Jack remembers an incident when someone in the company he was working for suffered a nearly fatal accident. ‘He was about 40 feet up in the air and only had one point of attachment,’ Jack says. When cutting trees, climbers ought to have two points of attachment so that in case one rope snaps or comes loose, the other keeps him secured. ‘He cut through the rope and fell straight onto the pavement. He broke his pelvis, femur, both his legs, pelvis, and lower part of his spine. He had to have rehab for two years.’ ‘Tree surgery is about awareness at all times,’ says Jack (Picture: Supplied) Jack says that despite the dangers his wife is fully supportive of his job. ‘She knows I’m a capable, safe person,’ he says, adding that they both feel the role has been good for his mind and body. ‘It’s been fantastic for my mental health – it attracts good people, and it’s outdoors and active.’ More: