• Kyle Davis was in the U.S. Army Infantry, working as a combat medic, before deciding to start sailing around the world
  • Always attracted to adventure, Kyle took up sailing after selling his farm and began beachcombing for treasure
  • Through his travels, he developed an appreciation for sea glass and learned how much value it could add to his life

A former U.S. Army Infantry combat medic with a desire for adventure has built himself a life beyond his wildest dreams.

Kyle Davis was looking at his next steps after the service when he made up his mind to plant roots in Hawaii.

“After finishing my enlistment, I decided to use my savings to buy some land in Hawaii to start a farm. I decided that I’d really like to have a cave on the property, so I purchased a vacant 6-acre lot with a 3-mile-long lava tube. I spent 4 years there, turning the raw land into a permaculture farm while simultaneously going to the University of Hawaii to study agriculture,” Kyle tells PEOPLE.

“I hosted volunteers from around the world to teach organic farming to, and in return they helped me build the farm. With their help, we built roads, houses and fences, and raised a variety of animals and a huge collection of thousands of plants.”

He continues, “I absolutely loved my farm and the freedom of living in the little world I’d created for myself. At the same time, however, I longed to travel and experience the world. The responsibility of owning a farm is huge, and with mouths to feed and plants to water daily, there wasn’t much chance for adventures abroad.”

Kyle decided to change his path in 2017. After graduating college, he sold his farm to a tour company and decided to buy a sailboat and sail the world.

“Previously, I traveled around the world aboard Semester at Sea for a study abroad term, and loved the idea of freedom that having a boat would provide,” he explains. “I knew very little about sailing, so I set off to Thailand to take a 10-day sailing course and then quickly began my search for the perfect boat.”

It took months until Kyle purchased a Tayana 50-foot monohull sailboat in Portland, Maine. He spent the summer of 2018 getting his boat into shape. In his spare time, he enjoyed metal detecting on the Casco Islands.

“I’d always wanted to be a treasure-hunting pirate since I was a young boy, so the idea of sailing around the world looking for fortune really appealed to me,” he says.

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Kyle didn’t have any particular affinity for sea glass until a short expedition with his mom in Maine.

“Upon arriving at shore, she suggested we just walk the beach to look for shells. On our walk, she came across several pieces of sea glass, one of which was red. We knew almost nothing about sea glass then, but that was soon to change. After getting back to my boat, a friend came by to say hello and had his young son tagging along,” he recalls.

“My mom showed him her red piece of sea glass and he asked to have it; she couldn’t refuse the cute kid. Afterward, we looked up red sea glass online and discovered that it’s one of the absolute rarest colors to find, and so she was slightly heartbroken about having given it away. I told her not to worry, I’d go back out and find her another one.”

Kyle didn’t know how difficult that would be when he made the promise, but it took months and visits to “hundreds of beaches in the bay.” While he collected plenty of other sea glass, he couldn’t find that red piece.

Kyle continued his adventures, with plans to travel to the Caribbean in November 2018. Nature had other plans.

“After two weeks of snow and brutal storms, we reached Florida, only to have the boat get struck by lightning within hours of our arrival. Instead of heading for the Caribbean as planned, I spent nine months in Florida replacing the mast, rigging, and every electronic component aboard the vessel, which was a pretty big job,” he shares.

“I came across a sea glass store in St. Augustine where I learned that people actually sold sea glass, something I’d always assumed was worthless. This was an epiphany to me, and I began to hunt for sea glass more. Someone even bought me a book about sea glass, which taught me a lot about the different types, grades, colors and more.”

Kyle tried to head to the Caribbean again in July 2019, but the adventure was interrupted by another storm.

“We lost our propeller shaft at sea and nearly sank off the coast of Venezuela,” Kyle says. “We were able to save the ship, and headed for the ABC Islands, the closest place of refuge. We eventually made it to Curacao and hauled the boat out of the water for repairs. I imagined it would take a few weeks to fix everything, but the repairs needed were extensive and it ended up taking nearly two years.”

While those repairs were made, Kyle decided to explore Curacao, letting his crew leave and sailing the islands there joined solely by his “best friend and longtime Yorkshire Terrier companion, Little Coconut (LC),” in an inflatable boat.

“As luck would have it, the first beach we landed on was completely made of sea glass,” he shares. “I’d only ever seen a few pieces of glass on the beach here and there, but I never could have imagined what I’d just discovered. I quickly started beachcombing and, within minutes, found many of the rarest types of sea glass I’d read about in my book — reds, oranges, marbles, bottle stoppers, figurines and much more.”

Not only was Kyle finally able to get his mom her piece of red sea glass, but he impressed her with his “gold mine” of a find.

At the same time, Kyle’s mom began sharing his story with the online sea glass community on Facebook. The enthusiastic hobbyists were amazed by Kyle’s finds.

“Little did I know when I started out that sea glass is a big deal to a lot of folks. There are sea glass books, sea glass museums and even sea glass festivals!”

As he delved deeper, Kyle started understanding the value of his finds and decided to start a business, LC’s Glass.

“I was ecstatic to have found not only a way to generate income during my travels but also that it was the exact thing I’d always dreamed of doing, hunting for treasure. It didn’t take long and I was hooked!”

Kyle started offering tours and was even able to get his mom to join in on his new business venture, which also started to have a social media component. Kyle would livestream his sea glass hunting to show his legitimacy as a sea glass enthusiast, but also to show people these beautiful areas full of sea glass, off the beaten path.

“During my time in Curacao, I started a YouTube channel, The Bored Pirate, to boost business and expand the reach of my content. I decided to explore the two neighboring Islands during COVID, Aruba and Bonaire.”

He continues, “I discovered an island made of glass on Aruba, Sea Glass Island, as well as several other beaches practically made of sea glass. In Bonaire, I found underwater caves that are also completely loaded with amazing glass jewels. At this point, I was absolutely in love with sea glass hunting and decided it would be my mission to sail around the world, discovering unknown sea glass beaches everywhere I went. ”

Kyle also made it a point to give back to the communities that had given so much to him. “I would find amazing people in each place who I could hand the reins to for doing tours. I absolutely love to help people, so the idea of giving people good livelihoods in places where opportunity is scarce seemed amazing, and since then, I’ve successfully helped several people start sea glass tour businesses in the places I’ve found glass beaches, of which I ask nothing in return.” 

Once his boat was fixed, Kyle traveled around the Caribbean, enjoying sea glass beaches across St. Kitts, Nevis, Martinique, Panama, Colombia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Cayman Islands, all while sharing his journey online.

“I post beachcombing content every day and have been making a significant income for the last couple of years with sea glass. Having taken hundreds of people sea glass hunting now, I have a whole new appreciation for the passion myself,” he says.

“It’s so much fun! There aren’t many activities that are enjoyed equally by people of all age groups, but this is truly one of them. The look of joy and excitement kids, teenagers, adults and the elderly get on their faces when they find their first marble or rare color of glass is exactly the same. Not only that, it’s also great exercise and gets people outside, often as a family, having a great time together.”

While sea glass has become a business, it’s still very much a hobby.

“I don’t sell all of my finds; in fact, I keep the rarest ones for our personal collection at home. At first, I was selling most of my one-of-a-kind finds, but I quickly realized some pieces were priceless, and I’d never find anything like them again.

Kyle keeps his favorite finds at his parents’ home, where his mom has found creative ways of displaying them.

“Smaller pieces my mom has sorted into old printer trays in an antique printing desk. Some of my favorite keepers are from glass made with radioactive uranium, which glows under black light. Others are sea coins, which are the bottoms of old bottles that have been perfectly rounded into flawless circles of glass. I have collected thousands of marbles of every color of the rainbow, glass figurines, and more.”

And though he’s won awards for his sea glass finds, there’s still some that are on Kyle’s wish list.

“I would love to find would be a glass eyeball or a snow globe. I’d also like to beat the 200+ pound world record for the biggest piece of sea glass found.”

Kyle also treasures the exploring process, which allows him to add to his favorite places to find sea glass.

“I’ve found the most glass in the ABC Islands, St Kitts and Puerto Rico. My favorite places will forever be the places I haven’t been, though. What’s around the next corner is always calling me, and with life so short, knowing I’ll never make it to all of the beaches of the world, I prefer to see something new every day and explore the unknown rather than return to what I already know. ”

Sea glass hunting has also brought Kyle joy in the community that shares the hobby; he calls them “some of the kindest, most caring people I have come across.”

“Strolling beaches for hours on end, peacefully looking for lost trash that the ocean has magically recycled into jewels, is a very meditative respite from day-to-day life. It’s good for the soul and brings people great peace and joy,” he shares.

Kyle is currently in St. Kitts on a beachcombing adventure with his mom, with plans to head back to his boat in Panama in the spring.

“From there, I hope to catch a good weather window and sail to the eastern Caribbean to continue exploring as many islands as possible before the hurricane season begins. After that, I might head down to Grenada or Trinidad or just wherever the wind takes me and continue my hunt wherever I end up.”

As far as the future, Kyle has two things on his mind. One is finding himself another sailing companion after the death of LC last year.

“I am saving and fundraising money to bring back my dog LC. She passed away last year from brain cancer and I miss her dearly,” he shares. “I’ve been sailing solo the past couple of years with only her by my side, and without her, I feel a great loss, and being at sea seems lonely now. I preserved her genes cryogenically and will clone her once I have the funds. So soon, I hope to have Little Coconut back aboard with me!”

Another goal is to find a more permanent way to share his love for the treasures found on a beach.

“I collect other things on the beach as well, like sea beans, pottery, jewelry, shells, and other oddities — I even found ambergris once! Eventually, I would like to have my own beachcombing museum.”

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