The Unexpected Calm of Learning to Dive - By: Stefanie Cash

There are a lot of experiences and adventures on my bucket list. But until I took a job with an agency that specializes in dive and adventure travel, scuba wasn't one of them. This was partly just a matter of priorities—there were so many other things to see and do. But honestly, the idea of breathing while underwater did seem a bit scary. After all, I'm not a fish.

The pier at Secrets Aura Cozumel
The pier at Secrets Aura Cozumel

The Cozumel Connection

One of the perks of working for an adventure travel agency is getting a chance to... well, travel! So, my team and I headed to Cozumel, Mexico to meet with the Department of Tourism and hotel management to ensure our quality control procedures and become familiar with what’s new in Cozumel. And that's how I found myself at Dive House, filling out the paperwork to begin my career as a scuba diver. Was I excited? Sure, but also a quite nervous. My hands were actually shaking as I was filling out the paperwork. I thought to myself, “You can do this. You've mastered things that were a lot harder, and these instructors and dive masters know what they are doing.”

And I was right. My instructor, Victor Sosa was smart and professional, but also really chill. There was no pressure to perform, and when he showed me how to set up the gear, I got it right away. We started in the pool, and it turns out I had no problem breathing underwater. There were some early fails with learning how to clear my mask underwater, but I kept pushing myself and eventually mastered it.

One of the five fully equipped dive boats of Divehouse Cozumel
One of the five fully equipped dive boats of Divehouse Cozumel

Taking the Plunge

As I'm standing on the swim platform, about to go overboard for my first real dive all I keep thinking is, “This is really happening.” Victor promised me there'd be no surprise skills drills this time around, and he'd be right next to me the whole time. Still, even with the confidence, I'd gained in the pool; I was a little intimidated thinking about going in the ocean.

Nevertheless, I took a giant step forward and found myself in the ocean, and all my anxiety just disappeared. I used to think of scuba as sort of an adventure sport, but what I didn't realize until I tried it was how methodical and relaxing the entire underwater experience actually is. It's just you and your breathing, floating in silence. Everything from the surface is forgotten. And for me, that was amazing. I'd been going through a pretty stressful time in my life and searching for some solace. I'd tried yoga and meditation, but those didn't seem to allow me to escape the chaos of life. I’ve never felt more at peace at peace than when I was 60 feet underwater. For the first time, I was able to just let go of all the cares, concerns and worries and be totally in the moment. It was the first time my brain just shut off and become totally Zen. Funny, who would have thought that the road to inner peace was 60 feet under the water?

About to take the plunge!
About to take the plunge!

Let's do it Again

As part of my time in Cozumel, I did some other things outside of making sure our hotels and operators were working up to standard. Checked out the town, went to the beach, and had an awesome massage at the Secrets Spa by Pevonia. But the thing I looked forward to every day was getting back in the water. Every dive was a new discovery. There was so much to see, from the little stuff like sea horses to turtles, rays and groupers. I loved the drift dives. You just step off the boat, float with the current and then get picked up at the end. On one dive, we went out to the edge of the drop-off, where the reef drops into the dark blue, and there's no telling what's out there. I felt like an astronaut, exploring an unknown world.

I know it sounds cliché to say something like “scuba was a life-changing experience.” But in some ways, it was. Ever since I came home, I've been thinking “when can we go again.” I can just close my eyes, remember all the things we saw, and get that same tranquil feeling. Next, is getting my husband certified so he can experience pure bliss and we can explore the unknown together. And maybe we'll do something new too. Learning to dive has helped my overall confidence. I've never tried a zip line, but hey, if I can breathe underwater, why not?

My Dive Instructor, Victor and I
My Dive Instructor, Victor and I