Jen Hatfield’s life reads like an episode of Survivor. Scuba diving. Sky diving. Living with indigenous people. And she hasn’t been voted off the island yet. Hatfield consults on governmental affairs for Florida Swimming Pool Association and the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals. But she’s as comfortable bungee jumping as she is walking the halls of Congress. “Everyone has that something that reboots their batteries and reawakens their spirit,” Hatfield says. “For me, it’s the new adventure that awaits each time I go traveling.”
Hatfield was a teenager when she had her first experience abroad as part of a church group’s trip to England. While there, she caught the travel bug and has had it ever since.
After graduating from Virginia’s College of William & Mary in 2000 with a degree in government, she went to work for the National Republican Senatorial Committee in Washington D.C. She left that job to work on Andros Island in the Bahamas as a contractor at a U.S. Navy test facility.
Hatfield started law school at the University of Florida in 2002, but there was no way she was going to stay in the Sunshine State for all three years. She signed up for a semester in Australia and while planning that trip, figured she might as well see as much of the world as possible. Hatfield ended up traveling on a round-the-world ticket, stopping in Europe and Singapore along the way.
While in Australia, she managed to fit in some scuba diving, which is one of her favorite ways to explore the world. “While I’m underwater, all the pressure’s just gone. I love that feeling!” she says. On a side trip to New Zealand that summer, she went skydiving — twice — and bungee-jumping.
Hatfield also spent a summer term in Costa Rica in an environmental law program. On a break from that, she traveled to neighboring Panama, where she had an extraordinary time staying with indigenous people living on islands off the Panamanian coast.
Through an American she met in Panama, Hatfield spent a week with the Kuna people, a group that’s not cut off from civilization, but maintains most of their traditional customs and ways of life.
During her time there, Hatfield lived as the Kuna did. She was concerned when “Odie,” her guide, arrived to take her on a hike with a machete in one hand and a rifle in the other, but was relieved to learn that the machete was for cutting brush, and the rifle was in case they ran into wild pigs.
The Kuna huts were arranged around the perimeter of the island, with the back door leading to the sea. “It was amazing,” Hatfield says. She was glad for one bit of modern science though. “The mosquitoes were really bad. I was glad I’d taken my malaria pills,” she recalls.
Despite all the travel, Hatfield graduated from law school in 2004. She was still interested government, so she went to work for Allan Bense, then speaker of the Florida House of Representatives in Tallahassee.
In 2006, Hatfield was approached by FSPA about becoming their director of government and public affairs. She accepted the job, but not before taking some time off for more adventures, traveling to Spain, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt and Israel.
Travel has had to go on the back burner since Hatfield started with FSPA. She still goes scuba diving as often as she can, sometimes in Hawaii or the Florida Keys. In 2009, she added APSP to her portfolio, becoming their government affairs associate.
Her experiences meeting and living with people from other cultures has helped her in her work with the pool industry. “I can adapt to different circumstances and people and I think that has helped me in my professional career. I have to deal with all kinds of people,” she says.
Hatfield’s work life is a bit more complicated now. In 2010, she struck out on her own and formed J. Hatfield and Associates, a government relations consulting firm. She still represents FSPA and APSP.
What’s Hatfield’s next adventure? One recent trip put her back in the Bahamas, this time visiting her boyfriend. “I still have the travel bug,” she says.
Off the beaten track
- Andros Island is the largest island in the Bahamas. It’s also one of the least-densely populated areas in the Western Hemisphere outside Alaska, northern Canada and the Amazon Basin.
- Kuna women wear intricately sewn blouses called molas.
- Other notable alumni of the College of William & Mary: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Glenn Close and Jon Stewart.
- The first modern bungee jumps were made in 1979 from the Clifton Suspension Bridge in England.