Failed Attempts, Fresh Perspectives

“It’s like flying underwater,” a friend once told me of scuba diving. Flying amongst all the corals, the exotic fish, and the fluorescent colors… Of course, I was excited to try it for myself! And what better place to do it than Koh Tao, Thailand, one of cheapest places in the world to make your scuba diving certification.

From the moment we stepped off the taxi on Sairee Beach, all we saw were signs for underwater adventures. Big Blue Divers, Divers. Simple Life Divers, French Kiss Divers… (Guess which one I picked ;). My adopted lil’ sis, Bailey, and I signed up for a one day explorer course, with the option to upgrade to a certification course.

Bailey Diving in Koh Tao
Now a few things to note… I’m not an avid swimmer. And by “not avid,” I mean I only learned to swim a few years ago. Mmm… and I haven’t exactly been practicing! But all the same I like going in the water and love new adventures. Plus Bailey and I had our own patient, French scuba instructor to ourselves. So what could go wrong?

Just breath. The number one rule in diving is to breath deeply. (I just came off a month’s worth of yoga training, so I thought I had this down.) And it was pretty easy to do while we were scanning the surface. Quite exciting, even. But what happened when we started to descend felt overwhelming – the ear pain, needing to remember to breath quickly out of the nose to relieve pressure, and which buttons deflate and inflate, and how to go up slowly, and so on… I got a little overwhelmed. It was a combination of feeling like I wouldn’t remember everything and also thinking in my head “This is so unnatural!” Yeah, I quit early ☹. A failed attempt. Meanwhile, Bailey was like a little mermaid determined to find Nemo. (And she did, so she told me!). Everyone’s first time is different.

Was I heartbroken? No, I’ll try it again someday and even more slowly. Perhaps one on one with an instructor, too (cute and French are optional). In a strange way it actually felt good to have the freedom to stop when I wanted to. No pressure.

In the evening we happily joined three French guys for dinner. I’d been exchanging glances and polite conversation with one of them all day on the boat so I was looking forward to continuing a flirtation. But, alas, not all Frenchmen are created equal. This one pulled a bait and switch and started hitting on my friend halfway through dinner. Now, guys, the thing to know about women who are true friends – once one friend expresses an interest in a guy, the other steps aside. Yes, that’s right, even if the guy isn’t interested in the first girl. We just do this because we love our friends. Sorry to disappoint. So this Frenchman effectively managed to lose both our interests. Failed attempt #2.

After dinner we walked down to the beach. (Okay, there may have been a stop at 7-11 for beers and mixed drinks.) I got the opportunity to chat more with an interesting guy named Vincent who has been backpacking and sleeping in the mountains for the last few months. As the mountain sleeping may suggest – he’s a sun-worn man with dreadlocks, lean muscles and an optimistic smile.  A little older and wiser from his experiences. As we sat chatting on the hot and humid beach I could help but stare out into the water and say, “Je voudrais bien me plonger dans l’eau.” (I’d like to jump in the water.). Vincent, being Vincent, said, “Then do.” I joked, “Are you coming, too?” And he got up and said, “Nu ou habillé?” (Naked or clothed?)

Me being me, I said “Habillé.” At this point I realized I had committed to my passing wish. Vincent grabbed my arm and started running! And the water felt divine. It was, in fact, EXACTLY what I wanted to do at the moment and it felt entirely liberating to do it.
Flo, our third French companion, joined in and grabbed Bailey. We laughed and enjoyed being soaked and lost in the moment. Later Vincent said to me, “You see. When you want, do.”  A fresh perspective.

The next day I felt so creative and inspired that I filmed two more micro interviews for my blog. One with Vincent and one with Franco (a very kind soul from Argentina who you’ll read more about soon). I had a nice walk, watched the sunset from a giant rock overlooking the ocean, and felt a strong sense of gratitude the entire evening.

Koh Tao is a beautiful island, but a tourist island. It’s easy to forget with all the foreigners working there and visiting there that you are in Thailand at all. But there are ways to go off the beaten path and enjoy its beauties if you make some effort and perhaps stay somewhere other than Sairee beach. I realize as my trip continues that it’s easy to fall into the tourist traps – overpriced hotels and restaurants in a certain part of town. And easy to stay isolated with other tourists from Thai people.  So my takeaway? Much like the scuba diving, I can choose how shallow or deep I want to go… From here, I vow to go deeper for my cultural experience.

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