Kind of a bold title, isn’t it?
It’s 100% true.
That blurry photo is me. It’s me during the second time I ever snorkeled in my life. (The first being a very sketchy set up off a catamaran in Cuba in 2005. Now that I think about it, I’m surprised I made it out alive.) I know it’s hard to see, but my face is full of joy. I am at home in the ocean!
I even know what day this was – February 5, 2012. I was on my very first trip to Roatan with my friend Steph, and it was our second day on the island and a guy named Justin that we met at the bar offered to take us out snorkeling in the bay. I even know exactly where I was in Half Moon Bay… right by the sunken submarine where I saw my first octopus. I was kicking around and freediving down and having the time of my life on vacation on a tropical island.
You know what else I saw during that snorkeling trip? This:
I know this photo kind of sucks (Steph was using some sort of crappy underwater camera I think – luckily we’ve both upgraded since then!), but you guys – this is a photo of the moment my life CHANGED. Cracked wide open, veered completely in a different direction and took me places I never imagined. This sounds cheesy, but it’s true. I don’t know how many of you know this… I know there’s a lot of readers today who haven’t been around from the beginning. I get the feeling that most of you thought I took a dive vacation to Roatan and loved it and just stayed here. How many of you knew that before I came to this island I had only snorkeled once? That I had been offered scuba diving lessons by my neighbor when I was 14 in exchange for babysitting his kid and I said, “no way, scuba is for losers!” and never thought about it again? How many of you knew that when I took my first trip here, I was running away from so many things in my life that I took a 3-week vacation from work, found the cheapest flight to Central America (which ended up being Roatan), and showed up here not knowing a damn thing about diving or Roatan? I had Googled the island once and saw that it was in the Caribbean with beaches, and that was good enough for me so I got on a plane with some bikinis.
When I was snorkeling that day, and marveling at parrotfish (which were pretty damn interesting at the time…) I looked down and was completely startled seeing these scuba divers below me. At the time I had no idea what was happening and why divers were underneath me (I now know, from teaching in that exact spot, that there was a class going on!), but watching these guys slowly gliding down there, getting up close and personal on the reef, stopping to look at creatures with no time limit on needing to take a breath – my mind was blown and right that second I decided I HAD to do it. I wanted to be them, I wanted to do that, I wanted to breathe underwater. Whenever we played the ‘what superpower would you want’ game as a kid, mine was always, always to breathe underwater. I used to have dreams of living in the ocean. For two years, I had the Finding Nemo reef scenes playing on my TV after I got my cable cut off. (Did you know in the special features on the DVD there’s a bunch of looped relaxing reef scenes?)
Thank god for my friend Steph, who was brave enough to get certified in chilly Canada and came along on that trip with me at the last minute so that she could do her Advanced Open Water course. We got out of the water from that snorkel and walked right into a dive shop where I signed up for my Open Water course on the spot. If she hadn’t been with me, I might have chickened out. Or I might have given up on my course, because I really struggled with the dive tables at first. I remember sitting in our hotel room drinking rum & pineapple out of teacups and her going over and over the tables with me until I got it. She high-fived me as I nailed each part of my course, and she tagged along on my first open water dive – which was the day I decided I was going to dive forever, and that I had to share this with other people. I knew from my first open water dive that I wanted to be an instructor. We also did some of our advanced course dives together. She held my hand on my first night dive, where I was terrified and was underweighted and panicky at the end when we sat in a sand patch with our lights off to see the bioluminescence. By the end of the trip, we were both Advanced Open Water divers with a dozen dives and big dreams in diving.
I’m telling you this story because I want you all to say YES. Say yes to going snorkeling with a random dude, say yes to the roadtrip your friend wants you to join, say yes to a sailing club, say yes to that wedding invite. You have no idea where anything will lead, who you will meet, and where it can take you. I went snorkeling and looked down at some divers and it changed my life. I went from a paralegal on the 14th floor of a skyscraper in downtown Vancouver to a dive instructor in the Caribbean in the same year. All because I said yes.
[And yes, Steph became a dive instructor too! While I did my best to convince her to join me for a divemaster program on Roatan, she had a bigger travel itch to scratch and left Canada shortly after I did – she went through Asia to Thailand and did her divemaster there and then went on to Malaysia. She’s now an instructor in the Philippines and we meet in Canada each summer to try to convince each other to move where the other one is 🙂 Love ya girl!]
|Steph and I on West Bay Beach in 2012|
(side note: I no longer look like this, thanks beer)
Your post put a smile on my face because I could completely relate. My first dive was off the coast of Maui and when I submerged that first time I felt like I had been transported to another world. It was pure magic and exhiliration. For those that discover the underwater world, life is never quite the same.
I’m so glad you liked it! It’s the best experience, isn’t it?? 🙂
Rika, have to acknowledge an association with the early pictures and the mention of beer as a life-changing item. Same thing happened to me. I wasn’t sure if it was the years or the beer. Thanks for your words and even the blurry pictures. 🙂
Rika - Cubicle Throwdown says
Hahah I thought you might like this one buddy – one of the few where my enthusiasm is not based on bashing RECO or incompetent bank employees 😉
Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) says
What a great piece of inspiration, Rika! As someone who has pretty much been along for the ride since the beginning of the blog, it was fun to take a look back at what kickstarted this whole dream, especially seeing how far you've come in that time. Sometimes it's those little decisions where we could have just as easily said no instead of yes that change our lives… it's crazy to think that there was a time not all that long ago when you weren't a diver!
Amanda Walkins says
Loved this post, Rika!!! So great to feel your excitement and enthusiasm!