A couple years ago, I traveled to Thailand and Sri Lanka. These two countries had a huge impact on me. When you get out of your comfort zone and face your fears, you can live exciting experiences and feel that shift in yourself of feeling stronger and happier.
Honestly before leaving, I kept living in my fears of what could or may happen. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a difficult time with them and I have my huge list of fears (spiders, being attacked by leeches, snakes, heights, other people’s judgement, abandonment, not be able to breathe and so much more…), but the experience to have lived through some of them and had a great experience afterwards, has helped me face those again or even new ones.
Though some are still a huuuuuuge struggle… Just putting this article on the internet is totally making me come out of my comfort zone. It is something I desperately tried to procrastinate but then I remembered how it changed my travels to face my deepest fears…
You can also read about how I went through my fear of going to a Daoist temple to train in martial arts for 2 months and it brought me such an amazing experienced that completely changed my life!
That is why, in this article, we are going to start with Thailand, where I had to work a LOT on surpassing my fears.
Snorkeling, I thought “Yeah this is going to be so much fun!”. I had tried it a few years ago during an afternoon, I was sure it would come back to me really fast. But I had forgotten that the last time I was with Yannick (my boyfriend) who showed me for a while how it worked, and the water only reached my stomach…
So naturally, when the guide asked us in which group we wanted to go : the beginners group who were going in a calm place to see the pretty fish or the advanced group “We are going to swim really fast to another side of the island to go see the sharks!”, I choose the group who will make me face my fear (see the nice sharks ^^).
The struggle to breathe
That’s when I see everybody already leaving, they’re all swimming super fast and I am standing there trying desperately to put that damn mask on that blocks you from breathing through your nose.
As soon as I get it on, I start feeling really uncomfortable of only breathing through the mouth. I try to put my head under water and then because of my fear of not being able to breathe, I start breathing in pretty strongly through the snorkel. I start panicking immediately, my heart is pounding in my chest, I can’t even think logically, I only know that I am suffocating. I come out of the water. With tears in my eyes, I tell Yannick that I can’t go, I can’t follow them. I feel terrorized at the idea of continuing and I can’t move.
I see that he’s disappointed of not being able to go on the adventure with everyone and his fear that I am not going to be able to enjoy the day.
The guide, who was back with lightning speed, comes up to me and asks how is everything going. I tell him that I was panicking because I couldn’t breathe with the mask on. He just smiles at me. You can tell that he’s used to this type of problem. He tells me “Just remember one thing, BREATHE OUT! It happens quite often that people keep breathing in through the snorkel, but they forget to breathe out so they hyperventilate.”.
Just keep breathing, just keep breathing…
He then advises me to test it out in a calm area. I go there immediately, determined to surpass this anxiety to be able to have some fun. “There aren’t many people and I can stand in the water without it going over my head, ok so everything will be fine” I tell myself. I am trying to rationalize the situation as much as possible. Then, I put the mask back on, I start to breathe outside of the water, I repeat to myself over and over again “breathe out slowly, breathe in, breathe out slowly all the air in your lungs, …”.
I come close to the water and finally decide to go in. I continue to tell myself in the softest way possible to breathe out slowly and calmly. Then, I realize I am actually doing it!!! I stay there and continue this simple exercise for several minutes, then I push myself to do it while swimming. I feel so ecstatic by seeing all these little fish of different beautiful colors around me that I start feeling comfortable. I feel so happy and appreciative of surpassing my panic and to be able to see this beautiful scene with the love of my life.
Then, we come back to the boat to go see another part of the island, there the whole group stays in the same spot, we can go at our own pace, ahh that feels so good to take our own sweet time. The guide explains to us the issues with the corals and how to protect them. We swim out to see the corals. Fish of all shapes and colors swim by us. We are in such a peaceful silence. I finally start feeling comfortable with the mask. I don’t see it as a torture instrument anymore but as an object that connects me to my environment, to discoveries and joy. I forget my fears and my hyperventilation that has been my struggle since I was a kid. I feel so free.
Turtles are so meditative
The afternoon was the biggest adventure! The guide warned us that we were arriving in a place where we might see sea turtles!!! He explains to us that we need to stay at a certain distance away from the turtle and to never swim over it, because it needs to go back up to get some air and if we are too close, it will feel threatened and won’t go up to breathe.
Everyone goes their own way to search for the turtles in their natural habitat. After a while, I see the guide not too far away making signs at me to come see. I swim closer and there I see it, a giant sea turtle that was as big me!!! Ok I am not very tall, only 1m57 (about 5.1 foot) …but facing an animal that is the same size as you is quite impressive!
It’s walking/floating on the sand and eating. It is so beautiful!
For the first time in a while, I am not worried about what other people are thinking or what could happen to me in 5 years, no! I am present in that moment. I am in awe in front of the beauty of nature and the animal kingdom. I feel so lucky to have lived this experience. I have lived so long in the stress of the future, here I am, enjoying being in the now so easily. That is what I call meditation.
Another lesson to be explored
Unfortunately, my meditative state left about ten minutes later. Not everyone had listened to the guide and wanted to get too close to the turtle. Several times it tries to go up to the surface. It keeps coming to the middle of the water, but seeing people who were too close, goes back to the bottom. Feeling threatened or annoyed, it starts swimming away fast.
Never would I have thought that a turtle could swim so fast! I feel very sad for the turtle and I don’t understand why the people didn’t respect the guide’s rules. I feel judgment and anger about their behavior of not being able to just enjoy the view at a certain distance so as to not bother the turtle. Letting go of judgement is a teaching I explored more in Sri Lanka which I will tell you about in another article.
The freedom from letting go
This day thaught me that when you accept your fears and slowly at your own pace try to live through them anyway, you can experience the most wonderful adventures. You grow and become a stronger person. You feel so much freedom when you let go of those thoughts that hold you back and become amazed by the opportunities that open up to you! Go and live your dreams!
Thank you turtle for teaching me so much without even needing to talk.
If you have lived an experience where you pushed yourself even if you were afraid or uncomfortable and had an amazing experience as a reward, please share with us in the comments!