In the Ocean

I was invited to go to Hawaii with some friends, and like any other travel-loving person, I said hell yeah! 

Maui is gorgeous, plain and simple. It is a stunning lush green and cleaner than any place I have ever been in my life. The people living there – lifers and transplants – are so good at being chill and going with the flow. As I met people and collected experiences, I kept saying to myself I could learn a thing … well, I learned many things during my Mauieek, but my best lessons came from the ocean. 

As you can imagine, being on an island with my “let’s go swimming” friends and having an adventurous alter ego, I spent a lot of time in and on the water. The problem is, I have almost drowned as a child, I’m not a strong swimmer, I always think of the ways I could die, my stress level is usually high (though you can’t always tell from looking at me), and when I panic, I hold my breath (y’all, not breathing helps absolutely nothing). But nonetheless, I wanted to swim, see turtles, ride waves, snorkel, and get on as many boats as possible. 

My friends and I established a morning ritual -- we’d wake up and have breakfast, let the food settle, and then go for a morning swim at the beach across the street; it sounded like a fun time. Welp, my first day in the water was scary as hell because shore breaks can be evil. Have you ever been in a washing machine? No?  Well, neither have I, but when I got stuck in the shore break, that’s what I assumed it felt like. On the way into the water, you can see the strength of the wave and run into the water before the next wave comes. When you are leaving, you can only look at the waves behind you for so long. If your timing is off, you get rolled. So back to me… of course my timing is off, and the wave knocked me down. Sand and water rolled me in circles while force feeding me with salt water. As soon as I was able to stand, here comes the next heavy ass wave. The worst part about getting caught in the shore break is that EVERYONE, including my friends and the lifeguard, just stood around watching while my ass rolled around for what felt like 10 minutes (really like 10 seconds).  So, after finally making it out of the water and showering away all the sand out of every-freaking-where, I decided that the ocean and I would need to come to an understanding before I could ever return.

My second day at the beach was all about my pride. I couldn’t let the water defeat me so soon (fyi, sometimes pride can kill you, but I’m an asshole, so let’s do it). I walked up to the shore line and whispered - because talking out loud would automatically make people question my sanity “Listen Ocean, I like you. In fact, I think you’re beautiful and I want us to be friends, but if you roll me in another wave, I’m going to be pissed. Be nice to me, damnit.” It was the standard conversation that I have with anything in the Universe giving me trouble, and with one brave breath, I went back into the water and gracefully avoided being rolled for the rest of the trip. This experience brought me to my first lesson - the ocean is a big, scary bitch, but she’s worth standing up to (results may vary lol). The beach routine continued, and we even spent a few days beach hopping, turtle watching, and riding wave boards, but I still had one hurdle to cross before Ocean and I really learned to love each other.

The fifth day in Hawaii was SNORKEL DAY! I had overcome my fears of dying in the ocean and was excited about seeing all the beautiful coral, fish, and turtles. My joy lasted up until I realized just how far into the ocean the boat was taking us. Now, I knew we were getting on a boat and going into the ocean for the best underwater views, but I had become attached to the idea of keeping the shore in my line of vision. 

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The further the boat took us, the more difficult it became to breathe. I stopped talking and started excessively checking the equipment I got from the crew. My heart raced, and I could feel my throat closing tighter and tighter as all the thoughts of dying rushed back into my brain (because that would be fucked up). 

The boat finally stopped, and it was time for us to get in the water and for me to figure out how to keep us all on the boat. I made my friends stay longer, so the captain could re-explain the safety rules. I made everyone wait until the other patrons had gotten in the water. I would have thought of more reasons for us to stay put, but my adventure ego crept out – Ok girl, stop stalling. Put these flippers on, grab a board to float with, and get in the water. I got in the water and the voice of adventure disappeared (ain’t that a bitch). I immediately held on to the side of the boat while everyone swam off to enjoy the scenery. It literally took 20 minutes for me to get my act together. 

I started with breathing: breathe in through your mouth, breathe out through your mouth (say it 7 times). After that, I closed my eyes and put my face in the water, reminding myself to breathe (7 more times). Then, open your eyes… “Oh shit, this is cool”. At that moment, I forgot to breathe through my mouth and sniffed in all the water a deep breath could offer (stupid). I flopped around as if I was drowning for a moment, and then tested the breathing method a few more times. As soon as I became comfortable again, I let go of the boat. The lifeguard, who watched me the entire time, said, “If you swim out a little further, you can see the turtles.” I crept out to middle of the water. That was the best decision I have even made; there were fish, coral, and turtles all over. I spent hours having the time of my life, seeing everything I had never seen before, and making friends with the ocean. 

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On our way back to land, the crew gave us food and alcohol (yeeeeesssss, I needed those drinks). As I drank, I realized my second and most important lesson - you will be a fool not to do all the things you want to do in this life. 

Maui is everything I could have imagined and more. I am so thankful to have a traveler’s spirit (thanks MOM) and the ability to experience this beautiful world with eyes wide open and a sense of humor. I hope you take a chance and do the same. 

P.S. Ocean, I love you girl! 

  in the Ocean - a playlist to match the vibe of this blog

Lots of love, 

Nini

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