#TBT: What I Learned from Snorkeling in Jamaica

In honor of #throwbackthursday, let's go back to one of my first adventure lessons.

This post originally appeared on the She Dares blog.

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There is no doubt that adventure can be fun, but it can also be uncomfortable, scary even.

Some may think that I’m fearless because I do things that are considered wild and crazy. The truth is that a lot of times, I’m actually nervous. I channel that fear into adrenaline and pump myself up to just go for it without thinking about it too much; because it’s thinking about it when doubts and fearful thoughts come up and try to take over.

I’ve learned that in these uncomfortable situations is when we grow and learn valuable lessons. The take away lessons are probably one of my favorite parts of adventure. Experiential learning is so powerful.

So you might still be wondering what I’ve ever been afraid of.

On a recent trip to Jamaica, I finally conquered my fear of snorkeling. To some people, snorkeling may seem harmless, compared to roller coasters, zip lining, and flying trapeze (all of which I’ve done); But for me this was a bigger deal.

The first time I tried was a few years ago in Abaco, Bahamas. I put on the gear, put my head in the water, freaked out and convinced myself that I didn’t need to do it.

This time in Jamaica, my friend booked a fun-filled day with Cool Runnings that included Dunn’s River Falls, a dance party boat ride and yes, snorkeling.

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When they first mentioned it, I got nervous but told myself that this is something I needed to do because I couldn’t less the opportunity to pass again. I’m IN JAMAICA, just do it. I don’t want to look back on this trip and regret punking out. So I agreed, got the gear but was still freaking out on the inside. I tried to distract my mind by taking pictures. When we got to the location and everyone was instructed to line up for flippers, fear took over, and I convinced myself that I didn’t need to do it and gave my gear back. Then as I was watching everyone go, I thought to myself Really Danielle you’re just gonna punk out like that? (I’ve realized that the feeling of defeat is worse than the feeling of fear for me; and inversely triumph is greater than fear.) So in true Danielle fashion I decided at the last minute to get the gear and just do it. When I put on the headgear, I really freaked out. I don’t know if I’m technically claustrophobic but I really do not like the feeling of not being able to breathe out of my nose. With the combination of the Jamaica guides telling me to relax (there’s something about the Jamaican accent that makes “relax” very convincing) and my friend telling me that she’d capture pictures (I never want to pass up the opportunity for a fun picture), I jumped in.

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With the guidance of a very patient guide, I swam out and stuck my head in the water and spotted a few pretty fish. Still a bit uneasy but so proud of myself I shared my discovery, but he was unsatisfied: “With all the fish in this Jamaican water you only spotted 2 fish” and it cracked me up because of how ridiculous it really was. After a few more unsuccessful attempts of me swimming around to find more fish, my guide told me to relax (in that special Jamaican way) and challenged me to keep my mask in the water for 15 seconds and stay very still.

We already know how I feel about a challenge. So I did it, and that’s when it happened!

I relaxed into the flow of the water and submerged into all that was happening around me and saw a whole beautiful world of fish and underwater life. In that moment, I felt humbled, true relaxation, connection and appreciation for the experience I was having. By the time I got back to the boat I felt like a whole new person, having conquered my fear. For the rest of the day, I reflected on that sensation of how it felt to relax, and I had an a ha moment of how that can apply to other everyday situations.

I’m sometimes flailing and trying so hard to make things go how I want, but there are times when I just have to relax and breathe and allow things to work around me. I’ve since practiced this when trying to plan out every minute of my week, or stressing over every RSVP and detail for an event or obsessing over pennies and cents of due bills. Now don’t get me wrong, yes, planning and structure are important, but crossing the line to obsessing and stressing feels different. It is in that moment when we feel stress rising that we have the opportunity to choose to relax and let it be.

I want to leave you with this Bob Marley classic. It may seem cliche, but when you get it, you’ll really get it. (Click the link for some instant relaxation).