“You’re kidding me, right?” Jodie replied. I bashfully turn my gaze to a spotted pebble on the ground near the pool’s edge. I’m suddenly and acutely grateful for my sun kissed chocolate skin, since I’m pretty sure I would be defenseless against the oncoming blush. My cheeks are burning. Or maybe it’s my new sun block? Still, I keep my stare diverted to the shimmering pool as the awkward silence builds. Unbeknownst to Jodie, I’m quietly racking my brain for an appropriate response to her seemingly harmless question. But her somewhat accusatory tone is pretty hard to ignore. Unfortunately, my reaction is nothing new. This is my typical response to having to explain one of my most embarrassing problems: I can’t swim.

See what had happened was…

Before I attempt to explain myself, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and debunk a few stereotypes. She doesn’t want to ruin her fresh hairdo, right? Nope, I’m a natural and have been my entire life. Moisture is my friend, not foe. I bet she’s afraid of water? Not at all. Just the opposite, I love H2O. Some of my friends would even argue that despite my shortcomings, I might lack a healthy fear of open waters. Regardless of my love for all things water and having access to swimming facilities in my youth, I never learned how to swim. Not even a haphazard doggy paddle can keep this dead weight afloat. I could go on for hours coming up with 101 excuses but it won’t change one simple fact. My ability to freely engage in an aquatic life of my own has been severely hindered. Especially when I travel.

Hold on! Don’t play that tiny violin just yet. While I may not be able to cliff jump into a turquoise abyss, swim with mermaids or sharpen Olympic level diving skills, some of my most cherished traveling memories were born at sea. Despite my handicap, if you slap a life vest on me, this Rosie the Riveter spirit washes over me and I’m game for just about anything. Just below, I’ll share a few of my most memorable experiences.

  • I held on tight to my noodle and ‘dove’ right into an Italian adventure. My mates and I played with slippery squid, narrowly escaped the dangerous zings of jellyfish and ate focaccia till our stomachs content. All while basking under the intense Mediterranean sunbeams. On that day, only Italian was spoken.
  • Belize has one of the most magical and captivating barrier reefs in the world. Second only in size to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, the Belize Barrier Reef is home to an exquisite array of underwater creatures. Here, I ‘swam’ with sharks, sea turtles and stingrays. I even think I found Nemo!

 

  • Cave ‘swimming’ in the Aegean Sea should have been one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.  Just upon arrival to the cave’s mouth, I caught a serious case of cold feet and returned to the boat.  Someday, I hope to get another chance to conquer that cave.

More often than not, throwing caution (or common sense) to the wind, leads me to some pretty unexpected moments. Even though I can’t swim, I’m constantly searching for a way to enjoy some of life’s most valuable gifts.   So I guess what I’m trying to say is, I try not to let my limitations keep me on the ground. Do you have any fears or shortcomings that you wish to overcome?  What’s stopping you from doing so? We all have to start somewhere.  Let’s get out of our own way, leap and make a splash!

P.S. Jodie taught me how to float that day in Tuscany and swim classes begin next month!


Travel Noire

Modupe Sonuyi

When not delivering laughing gas to her patients, Modupe is a full-time dreamer, adventurer and abuser of exclamation points! Intrigued by the wonders and whimsies of the world, she is constantly plotting her next opportunity to grab a camera and explore the beauty, life and culture of unfamiliar lands. She loves sharing her travel experiences with others, in hopes of inspiring just one person to get up and get lost!

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