I should start by saying, I hate putting my face in water. I don’t know why. My mom concluded long ago that I drowned in a past life after I freaked out at the community pool. She made me take lessons. I learned the basics. I persevered. But when I failed my blue level badge because I wouldn’t do a stride jump into the deep end, I was done with swimming altogether.
So naturally, many of my vacations are…ocean-based. Chalk it up to an awesome group of friends who love to sail in exotic locales and FOMO. Thanks to them, I’ve learned to almost enjoy snorkeling. I’m a hot mess with that contraption on my face because I’m also moderately claustrophobic, but they’ve handled my spluttering, swearing and dogpaddling like champs.
I have a few rules when it comes to swimming in the ocean. I never go alone. I need to be able to see the bottom. And, I will only get my hair wet for triple-A fish sightings. When I’m not snorkeling, you will not find me in the water. Unless, my husband has sunstroke and is hanging out under the boat, but that’s another story altogether.
On the day in question, I was not snorkelling. It was the first day aboard. We had left the marina in Raiatea, French Polynesia, and sailed to our first mooring spot, just a bit offshore of what looked like an uninhabited island. But as the sun set, a fire sparked to life and music started to play. We were intrigued. We dined, cocktailed and then finally jumped in the dingy to investigate. I remember getting out of the boat, meeting a handful of locals and at one point, getting pushed down the beach by a three-year-old. It was fun. Then, things get a little fuzzy.
When it was time to go, we piled back into the dingy. It’s not a big one, inflated so you sit on the edge. Not normally a problem for me, but…somewhere between the beach and the boat, I’d like to believe I leaned back to take in the stars and lost my balance. Truth be told though, I have no idea. One second, I was upright and dry and the next, underwater.
Everything went quiet. I can still feel the cool water filling my ears as I slipped below the surface. Where a moment before there’d been midnight murmurs and beer-soaked giggles, there was suddenly – nothing, save the sound of bubbles. I was lost. Alone. Weightless. Completely untethered to the earth. And then just as quickly, hands plunging below the surface to haul me back in.
It wasn’t pretty. I came out of the water like a cat who has slipped into the bathtub, arms and legs flailing from the surprise, probably a few claws extended and something between a screech and a howl escaping from my lips. My t-shirt and shorts didn’t offer much to grab onto, so I was also the proud owner of a pretty substantial wedgie. My buzz instantly evaporated.
As I sat quietly for the few minutes it took to get from my dive spot back to the boat, I tried to figure out what had just happened. Had we executed a hard turn? Was I pushed? Did I have secret training as a navy seal and I’d just been activated? The only answer my friends could come up with – it was probably the beer. Fair enough.
I was lucky. I didn’t drown. I didn’t have my phone in my pocket. My glasses were still on my face when I emerged from the depths. The only thing hurt was my pride. The next morning, as we unpacked red solo cups for the day’s drinks, I grabbed a sharpie and drew a stick figure leaning over the edge of a tiny rowboat on mine – woman overboard. I owned it. But what, if anything, did I learn?
Travelling with friends could save your life. Kidding. I’m pretty sure strangers would have done me a solid and fished me out, but I wouldn’t have been in the middle of the South Pacific, island hopping for a party, without my crew. Having friends who travel, and are willing to do it with you, can open up new locales and adventures. Invite them over for dinner and hit them with this – where in the world would you most like to go? Chances are, a few dream destinations will overlap.
This year, I’m going to share a bunch of stories from the group trips I’ve been part of. They’ll be short, hopefully funny, and peppered with tips on how to roll deep around the world.