Facing My Biggest Fear and Becoming A Diver

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Deep has been one of my biggest fears for my entire life. I’m okay on boats, both big and small, but push me off into the water and though I might act manly, * Cough* and act like everything is fine, * Cough Cough*, I assure you, that inside I am freaking out. It’s not because the water is deep, but because I have no clue what the hell is floating, swimming, or moving up towards my otherwise helpless torso. In my never ending quest to better myself, I knew one day I had to face this fear.

About a month ago, I was swayed by beach bum, water lover, and fellow travel blogger, Chris Stevens from Backpacker Banter, to spend the last couple of weeks in November diving off the coast of Thailand with him, along with the offer to spend December in Bali diving, learning to surf, and just enjoying the tropical paradise. Like it or not, there was a lot of deep water in my near future. It was time to man up and face it. I had to get my diving license.

My nerves shot through the roof as the boat brushed against the dock. My friend Luke, who was with me when I almost was eaten by a bear in Alaska, and I had reached the Thai island of Koh Tao. I wasn’t alone. I had some comfort. Slinging our backpacks over our shoulders, we began the walk to Big Blue Diving School. We checked in and crashed.

Lessons started the next day. We spent the afternoon watching videos and doing diving homework to pass the test. No one wants to be in a classroom on vacation, and Big Blue realizes this and makes the class, which only lasts a total of a couple hours, as relaxed and stress free as possible.

Learning the Equipment.

The next day we divided up into groups. This is another point of praise for Big Blue. Legally the maximum number of people in a group is eight per instructor. Big Blue narrows that to a maximum of 6. This gives you more personal time with your instructor, making you feel very comfortable and relaxed – a huge plus if your fear level is on par with mine.

Our instructor was a diving badass named Chris. He has 750 dives under his belt and enough hours underwater comparable to 2 months. He led our group of 5 to the beginners pool where he taught us the basics of setting up and putting on our gear. I cannot lie. I was terrified about what was coming next, putting the regulator in my mouth and actually going under water.

Our bodies sank in the deep end of the pool. Panic filled me as I inhaled from the regulator for the first time. I could literally hear every beat of my heart. I have trained my whole life not to breathe underwater and now this guy was telling me to. All I could think about was ripping off that regulator and escaping to the surface, but then the strangest thing happened. After a couple of minutes, Chris went around to each of us in the group and asked if we were ok, and at that moment, I realized I wasn’t dead yet. In fact, I was breathing just fine.

The next item of business was to go through the drills. In order to be a diver, you have to learn particular skills, like how to get water out of your mask (my least favorite), how to ascend quickly but safely if you get into trouble, how to find your regulator if it slips out of your mouth, etc. I eagerly paid attention knowing that we would be doing this in the ocean tomorrow.

Actually Diving

The ocean rocked the boat as we suited up. After the previous day, I was torn between determination to see this through and the inability to make myself move. I heard the boat engines cut and before I knew what was happening, Chris and a couple of other group members were in the water. I shuffled my blue flippers to the side of the wooded vessel and allowed my toes to hang over the edge. I took a deep breath from my regulator, closed my eyes, and took one gigantic step into the unknown. As I hit the water, I filled my BC (basically an inflated and deflated life jacket that connects all your diving equipment) and hurriedly kicked over to the others. I noticed I was much calmer in a group of seven in the sea. After all, if something decided to eat one of us, I had decent odds of living.

The moment was upon me; we all deflated our BC’s and allowed ourselves to descend to the bottom. My ears popped as I slowly sank. The sea was cloudy and my sheer terror wrestled with my weakening resolution. Seven meters deep; my heart was beating quickly. Eight meters deep; my thoughts were racing. Nine meters deep; I’m not sure I can do this. Ten meters deep; why? WHY am I doing this? Eleven freaking meters deep; my heart, my head, and my body were simultaneously shouting different messages but then something amazing happened. We started swimming and suddenly I started feeling comfortable.

In the next couple of days, we dived three more times and soon I found I was not only comfortable being under the water, but I loved it. After I saw the peaceful underwater world, I began to realize how silly my fear actually was. I floated above schools of hundreds of fish, was awed by the curiosity of the moray eels, and played with a puffer fish. Life under the water was calm and actually soothing.

Now, just a couple weeks later, all I can think about is scuba diving! Becoming a Dive Master has been added to my bucket list, plus I can’t wait for the upcoming months of diving in Bali. I think it was Tim Ferris who said, “The thing we fear to do the most, is the thing we most need to do”. In just a few short days, I turned my biggest fear into a new passion.

 

I want to give a huge thank you to Big Blue and especially Chris and Ryan for being the best damn instructors I could have had.

  • http://www.thetravellerworldguide.com Hogga

    so brave! I don’t think i could do that

    • http://abackpackerstale.com/ Stephen

      Thanks Hogga! I am now an addict!!

  • Christie Leachman Gnagey

    Several years ago when we were in Mexico my first husband and I decided to go scuba diving. I figured that he would be fine and that I would be one HUGE panic attack. On the way into the ocean he slipped on the sand bag path and sucked salt water. When he put his mask back on it kept steaming up and he couldn’t see. Finally he just went back to the beach and drank some Coronas. I went ahead with the scuba diving and surprisingly found that I was doing fine and actually enjoyed it. While underwater I saw some scuba divers go by and boy did I want to join them! I really had the bug by then! When we finished our session I was seriously wanting to get some scuba gear on because they would have started us right there in the ocean. Unfortunately, we had to get back to the cruise ship. I know exactly the feeling that you are describing…..once you relax and just trust your breathing it is SO relaxing and peaceful….. and BEAUTIFUL underwater !!!

    • http://abackpackerstale.com/ Stephen

      Hey Christie thanks for sharing. I know the feeling of the bug. I haven’t dived in over two weeks and it is all I am thinking about :) Will be back under the water in a few days!

  • http://adiamondabroad.com Denise

    Congrats on conquering your fear – I’m sure it’s a good feeling! For some reason I was never interested in diving until the past couple years…now it’s on my list!

    • http://abackpackerstale.com/ Stephen

      Thanks Denise! I had to beat it. I would move it up the list. It is mindblowing. Koh Tao is one of the best places to learn in the world, and Big Blue is awesome.

  • http://www.thetravelhack.com Monica

    You’ve taken me right back to when I was learning to scuba dive. I was terrified too but became addicted so quickly. So jealous of all the diving you’re going to be doing!

    • http://abackpackerstale.com/ Stephen

      Thanks Monica. It is so addicting. Feel free to come visit for some dives if you are in the area :)

  • http://www.backpackerbanter.com Chris

    stoked i bullied you into it and it panned out ok bro!
    Bring on the Similan Islands and Bali! :)

    • http://abackpackerstale.com/ Stephen

      Just a couple more days till I start my Advance!!! Yeah Boy 30m here I come :) I don’t know if I am worried or excited for Nitrogen Narcosis.

  • http://www.choosingfigs.com Val

    So awesome that you did this! It’s still one of my big fears and I can’t bring myself to try diving. Every time I contemplate it I chicken out. Proud of you!

    • http://abackpackerstale.com/ Stephen

      Thanks Val. It was actually a good decision. Once you do it and see the world down there you will be in love. Talk to Chris he is good at c convincing people to do it lol!

  • http://www.goseewrite.com/ Michael

    Good job on this! Looks beautiful – thanks for sharing, makes me miss Thailand

    • http://abackpackerstale.com/ Stephen

      That is a huge compliment coming from you Michael! Thank you so much!

  • http://www.getlostjosh.com Josh

    This is one of my biggest fears too. It’s something I have always wanted to do but at the same time I’m terrified to do it. It’s good to hear I’m not the only one haha.

    • http://abackpackerstale.com/ Stephen

      Haha true and as someone with a similar fear I say go for it!

  • http://www.curiousnomad.com Mig

    Congrats on your accomplishment! I’d love to learn in either Thailand on Honduras where it’s more affordable.

  • http://www.pointsandtravel.com Cacinda Maloney

    Welcome to a whole new world!! I only have about 150 dives, but fell in love with the underwater world!! Congrats on conquering your fear.

    • http://abackpackerstale.com/ Stephen

      Thanks! I love the underwater world… I just want to see a damn whale shark.

  • Kate

    So glad to have read this! I’m going away next year (including koh tao, bali and gili t) and I’d love to learn to dive but I feel I’m going to freak out. I suppose its the unknown, and my irrational fears of being eaten! Haha.

    • http://abackpackerstale.com/ Stephen

      Kate you can do it!! I promise you chances of getting eaten are slim to none :)

  • http://www.arubawatersportscenter.com Carlene Lowe

    Wow! So inspiring! I love reading such stories like yours. Conquering ones fear is the bravest thing on Earth. Hope to see you in Aruba for a scuba diving.

  • http://eclectictravelgirl.com Laura

    Congratulations on your scuba certification! I did mine earlier this year and I too am hopelessly hooked. I’m hoping to travel to Thailand or Indonesia in 2014 for some great diving. Happy New Year to you!

    • http://abackpackerstale.com/ Stephen

      Thanks Laura! Congrats on yours as well. I think we are both hooked.