I sat down on the toilet in the tiny bathroom in the ship, slowly taking deep breaths. My heart was thumping, and my legs couldn’t stop shaking. The ship was resting in the middle of the ocean between Cancun, Mexico and Isla Mujeres.

I thought back at my conversation with the man upstairs on deck,

“There will be no sharks, right?” I nervously asked in a low voice and gestured “no” by waving my index finger, staring at the ocean below me.

He laughed and I read his lips, “no sharks. Trust me —- no sharks in (pointing at the ocean) here. Only (stretching his arms as pointing somewhere far) cold waters.” His mouth opened but no sounds came out. Prior the conversation, I took off my hearing aids to prepare for jumping overboard.

I squinted my eyes at that thought. He gestured, saying that he would be with me in the middle of the sea.

middle in the sea, my eyes widen at that thought.


Over the past many years, I feared of anything with large water bodies, such as lake, river, cenote and ocean. I just couldn’t bear the thought of the unknown and dangerous sea creatures. Despite the fact that I did faced 30 minutes being in the ocean at Xcaret few days before, my fear didn’t disappeared. It will take a lot of steps to do it. Furthermore, I have poor eyesight. I relay heavily on my glasses and contact lenses daily, and I cannot survive without it at all – not even for one minute. What if I see a shape of sea creature swimming around me but couldn’t tell if it’s a seal, shark or dolphin? Moreover, swimming is not one of my expertise. I know how to swim, but I’ve never been a strong swimmer.

I’ve always told my friends for past many years that I’ll face my fear with baby steps.

I knew I had to face my fear one day, and I knew Cancun was where I should begin.

I exited the bathroom and spotted everyone lining up to jump down into the ocean for snorkeling. Without my contact lenses, everything was a complete blur. It was difficult to find my instructor who promised he would be there. Then, I saw a faded image of someone waving from the ocean, gesturing “come.” I descended down the stair, put on my snorkeling gears and jumped down into the vast ocean. I couldn’t help but to held my legs up close to my chest and swam only with my arms. Fear rushed through me, my heart wouldn’t stop beating drums.

Embarrassingly, I clung onto the life ring tightly as if the ocean would swallow me whole and disappear into the darkness. “Control and relax, nothing will happen,” my conscience spoke. The instructor was with me the whole time, making sure I would be okay. I  was somewhat embarrassed that I was the only one  in the entire group who was clinging onto the life ring  whereas everyone else was exploring  around freely – perhaps some without fears. The instructor who was with me only gestured with me with “okay?” (thumb up) instead of speaking.

It was quite challenging to convert your fear of sea into feeling of ease and suddenly finding the beauty of it.

I  urged myself to look  into the sea below me. With my first look,  I started panicking a little more.  As I exposed myself more and more,  my heart naturally slowed its rhythms: I saw beauty.

A school of  fishes cuddled together, swimming around gracefully. Corals and other plants were dancing among with the ocean’s rhythms. The sea was clear and blue, unlike California’s. The beauty and its silent of the ocean (to me, it was completely silent) was just astonishing. Although everything was blurry, it still eased my fears for the rest of snorkeling session, despite that I still hung onto the life ring.

Before I knew it, the snorkeling session was over when the instructor tapped me on the shoulder and gestured “come.” I wanted to explore more! I was happy that I faced my fear and how it subsided for a while there. Now, I’m still going to do baby steps. What would be my final step, if you wonder?: shark cave diving! 🙂

While sitting on the deck after snorkeling, watching the sea waving after another and soaking myself with sunlight, my mind wandered in a beautiful silence beauty. It’s natural for everyone to have fear, but it’s up to us to face them. It takes a lot of courage,  but we do have the power to face them. With self-reflection and changing your perspective, we  can make our fear into a power. We discover more about ourselves, who we are. It’s extraordinary to notice how much your mind change when you experience a significant lifetime experience, an experience that changed how you perceive on things. 

Remember, baby steps! 🙂

Do you have a huge fear that sometimes takes a  troll in your life? If you do, how did you faced them or plan to face them?

10 Responses

  1. Like you, I was recently the snorkeler hanging onto the life ring in the Mediterranean. I am not a fan of snorkeling because the mask aggravates claustrophobia, but also, like you, I felt I had to face this issue. My experience was cold and murky (it was late spring), so I didn’t see too much. But I think whenever we push ourselves to do these things, we are glad that we did. Congratulations!

  2. I give you so much credit! I can relate because I’m also fearful of the water. I will climb mountains, explore caves, etc. but swimming in the middle of the ocean would require a lot of courage for me. I try to tell myself I don’t want to miss out on something amazing while I’m traveling so I try to go for it.

  3. The mystery of what lies beneath! Always a slight fear of mine where swimming in open water – at least this water is nice and clear!
    And yes to shark cage diving!! 😀

  4. I’ve never tried snorkeling because I’m afraid and I’m not even a good swimmer but it’s on my bucket list and after reading your post I’m so into trying it the next time I’ll have the opportunity.. You’re so courageous and inspiring !! Keep doing great stuff and safe travels 😉

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