I could feel the panic beginning to set in.
Maybe it was the rolling wave action. Maybe it was that I was staring down into the deepest clearest waters I ever had seen before.
I'm sure it was actually a combination of both. That and me battling the tight, uncomfortable mask and big breathing tube jammed into my face.
No, this first snorkeling experience was not living up to the excitement I had anticipated.
This was about 18 years ago during an excursion on vacation in Key West. I was 30 years old. I have always been a decent athlete and very into physical activities, but I was out of my comfort zone on this one. If the sport had a ball and teammates and was played on dry land, I was outstanding.
As my team sports days began to fade further in the rear-view mirror and my interest in more travel and adventure began to see the first embers, it was time to broaden my expertise in other types of sports and activities.
My initial attempt at snorkeling was humiliating, however. There I was flopping around in the waters, trying to get a hold of my breathing and alternately fidgeting with my mask and gazing down into the unbelievable beautiful -- and at the same time imposing -- reef system.
I quickly tired myself out (it might have been 10 minutes in), called it a day and backstroked my way to the boat past the crowd of happy snorkelers that included more than a few kids who were no more than 7 or 8 years old.
"What the hell just happened?" I said to myself.
I didn't think I would ever enjoy this sport, but now it is one of my favorite things.
Most of my travels have been to warm-weather destinations, and we always check out what the snorkeling will be like and the best places to go. We even bought our own gear to travel with and have tried snorkeling in Alaska (it's fantastic!).
I often think back to that first attempt and wonder what is different now.
My evolution into a halfway decent snorkeler represents in microcosm how I have learned and grown overall in my life's Second Act, as a post-30-year-old adventure-seeking traveler.
I never really left the United States, except for forays across the border to Niagara Falls or Toronto, from my hometown region of Rochester, New York, until I was 30. I didn't even know what I didn't know.
And what I did not know until then, as I lived my fairly insulated life working and living close to where I had grown up and spent all my years -- and it was not unpleasant, by any means, you must understand -- was that traveling is a revelation.
Meeting new people and experiencing new places, foods and sports -- even when they are humbling and fear-inducing -- help me realize that world is small and that we need to connect and share to make life more vibrant (at least, that's how I like to think about it). Here are some of the tops destinations we've been to so far.
I had always been fairly shy. Now, I like to put myself out there a little more -- sometimes a lot more depending on how many beers I have consumed.
I'm willing to try new things. I even am eating more unique foods, much to Mrs. In The Loop's delight.
My initial snorkel fail was turned around when I ventured back out into the ocean, learned to relax, breath easily and enjoy the experience instead of overthinking what was happening and how I cannot control everything (a big issue of mine). You're not going to win that battle with nature.
More new activities followed. Things that I had previously not even considered undertaking -- like running, biking, hiking, ziplining -- have greatly enhanced my travel experiences and enjoyment.
Now, about that innate fear of scuba diving I long have battled. I think it's time to dive right in a conquer that one, too.
What type of transformative moments have you had in your travel?
Please share in the comments below.
Thanks for reading,
Travel fit. Travel happy.