by Carmel on May 29, 2013 · 40 comments


Rockin’ the side pony at Alki Beach, 1986

From an early age, I always loved the water. My mom used to tell me the stories about how when I was one and we went to visit my grandparents in southern California, I jumped into the deep end of the pool after only have been exposed to a few water babies classes. (Side note: apparently there was a time in my life when I had no fear…or I had a death wish. Same difference.) I still love the water and I relish any time when I’m able to get out into a lake, the ocean, or even a kiddie pool. I feel free in the water and I will wait until my skin is completely pruney and I’m on the verge of burning before I finally drag myself out. Given all this…

Why would I be afraid of scuba diving?

Here’s the thing about when I swim – I rarely put my face in. I will dunk myself under water to try to touch the bottom of the pool or to get over the shock of cold water. But if I’m under there and start to think about not being able to breathe, I panic. After many swim lessons, I still avoided doing it the “right way” because that meant putting my face in the water and only occasionally coming up for air. So instead I look like I’m drowning, pulling my face out every.single.stroke. Do you know how long you can swim doing that? Not long. I tend to prefer the backstroke.


On top of the water, where I belong

As we prepare ourselves to set off on this year-long adventure, the idea of scuba diving came up. I (foolishly) asked Shawn, “so, since we’re going to such popular scuba diving areas, do you want to try it out? It’s pretty expensive…” I sat there, waiting for his reply to be something along the lines of, “No way! I’m not paying all that money to suffocate under water and get left to drift off at sea. Forget that.” Instead I got, “yeah, I think that would be fun.” Shit. Ok, so his response was really what I was thinking.

I have this thing about breathing. I like it. I tend to give myself panic attacks when I get overwhelmed and since I have asthma, that usually means I start to hyperventilate. The idea of trusting myself to breathe with something in my mouth with a tank stuck to my back and being underwater for that long really freaks me out. I can’t even bring myself to snorkel.

But I love the ocean.

Much like outer space, the idea of the depths of the ocean fascinate me to no end. There’s a whole other world down there. Letting these fears win means missing out on all that.

Thinking about it, though, what do I really fear? It’s not the water. It’s not even really the breathing.

It’s the letting go.

I have this nasty habit of trying to control things. I plan and plan and plan until I give myself some illusion that I can actually control anything. I’ve learned some very hard lessons in the past couple of years about trying to control anything or anyone around me. It’s not possible. At some point, you have to state your intentions, trust the tools you’ve been given, take the leap and let go.

So, here it is: I’m going to do it. I’m stating my intentions. I’ve been given ample advice and resources from friends who scuba dive. It seems that each time the idea pops up into my brain, something happens that encourages it. And look what popped up on my Twitter feed today as I finalized this post.


Ok, I got it!

I feel like I need a challenge along the way to push me (as if travel for a year wasn’t enough of a challenge). To encourage me to let go. To test my own trust in myself and my abilities.

And I don’t think Shawn will let them forget me out at sea.

Love with a Chance of Drowning – A Memoir by Torre DeRocheThis post is part of the My Fearful Adventure series, which is celebrating the launch of Torre DeRoche’s debut book Love with a Chance of Drowning, a true adventure story about one girl’s leap into the deep end of her fears.

“Wow, what a book. Exciting. Dramatic. Honest. Torre DeRoche is an author to follow.” Australian Associated Press

“… a story about conquering the fears that keep you from living your dreams.”

“In her debut, DeRoche has penned such a beautiful, thrilling story you’ll have to remind yourself it’s not fiction.” Courier Mail

Find out more…


{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Ana May 29, 2013 at 7:46 pm

My brave Mellie – So proud of you and your interest in doing something that does not come easy to you. I know you can do it – just as you did as a little kid when we took swimming lessons together. Love you baby girl!


Carmel May 30, 2013 at 7:11 am

Thanks, mom. I don’t know when I lost that sense of adventure! Or jumping straight into the deep end.


Tracy May 29, 2013 at 7:49 pm

So….scuba diving is incredible. And terrifying. If you are in Thailand, you should definitely go to Koh Tao, it’s an island full of scuba diving schools that are prepared for scared tourists. I went to Big Blue Scuba and they were amazing, they even got my passport back to me when I left it on the island after returning to Bankok!


Carmel May 30, 2013 at 7:12 am

I have a friend who works for PADI and has done some diving in Thailand. Thanks for the suggestion. See? So many pushes toward doing it…


Torre – Fearful Adventurer June 11, 2013 at 6:51 am

Learn with Ivan Alexis! He’s a dive instructor in Koh Tao at Sunshine divers. He specialises in helping people to overcome their fears. 🙂
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Carmel June 12, 2013 at 7:19 pm

Noted! I like those kind of people.


Kim May 29, 2013 at 10:52 pm

Do it, do it! Scuba diving scares me too… but we’re also talking about getting our certification this fall. I’m also fascinated with the depths and mystery of the ocean.


Carmel May 30, 2013 at 7:13 am

I figure I probably won’t ever get a chance to go into space, so this is the next best thing. And bonus…under the sea, you don’t have to pee into a bag like you do in space (another thing that changed my mind on that whole astronaut career).


Kellie May 30, 2013 at 1:48 am

Despite having a water phobia and being a total non swimmer until about 3 months ago, I have been Scuba diving. I have absolutely no idea how I managed this, not once but twice. My fear left me once I was under the water, when I’d totally forgotten that I was in the water I was ok. This or the mean/encouraging Australian who shouted ‘If you don’t do this you will regret it for the rest of your life’. I hate to admit it but he was right. Sucba diving to this day is one of my proudest moments. Overcoming that fear will make you feel on top of the world (or below the ocean).
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Carmel May 30, 2013 at 7:14 am

That mean person shouting that I will regret it the rest of my life would be my brain. Thanks for the encouragement!


Brian May 30, 2013 at 7:08 am

DO IT!! I have wanted to learn how to scuba dive for a while. Unfortunately, our travels have yet to take us somewhere where we could try it out. That and another fear of mine (fear of losing money). I think that once we hit SE Asia, both Kim and I will at least try it out. Who knows – maybe you could show us the ropes!


Carmel May 30, 2013 at 7:15 am

Yeah, it’s not cheap! But at least SEA will be more reasonable than anywhere in the States. Ha ha…you are so funny, Brian! I do hope we’re in the same country at some point in time. Maybe after we’re all diving pros.


Janice Stringer May 30, 2013 at 8:52 am

Scuba diving for me is about trusting – trusting in the other person to not take me out of my depth until I am ready. To trust their words and deeds match, to trust in another until I feel confident enough in my ability to let go and trust myself. That I know enough to keep me as safe as I can, with the knowledge I have and in the environment I am in.
For me Scuba Diving is all about trust…:-)


Carmel May 30, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Trust is another big one, definitely.


Erica May 30, 2013 at 12:04 pm

It took a bit of meditating to get past some of the things you learn but I think you can do it. I swim the same way – head above water and snorkeling used the freak the hell out of me. If you can get through scuba, it will change your relationship with the sea, I promise. 🙂
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Carmel May 30, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Hope all this yoga and meditating I’m currently doing will help in the long run.


Sarah Somewhere May 30, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Brilliant post Carmel!!! This : “I have this nasty habit of trying to control things. I plan and plan and plan until I give myself some illusion that I can actually control anything. I’ve learned some very hard lessons in the past couple of years about trying to control anything or anyone around me. It’s not possible. At some point, you have to state your intentions, trust the tools you’ve been given, take the leap and let go.” Oh yes!
As you know, my scuba experience wasn’t great, but I put it down to being cheap (I went with a cheaper company who didn’t give me the time I needed to adjust and feel comfortable), and well, that’s about it. I think getting in a pool and learning how to breath first is key, something I never did. Live and learn… maybe I’ll try again some day 🙂
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Carmel May 30, 2013 at 12:51 pm

This will be one area where I won’t want to go too budget. I got the insider scoop from Steph about their scuba instructor in the Philippines. She said Tony felt very similarly about the whole scuba thing, too, and was very comfortable with their instructor.

Again, hopefully all this yoga practice will come in handy!


Brianna May 30, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Funny I just posted about this! We just went scuba diving for the first time in Cabo Pulmo Mexico and the only thing I would recommend is some countries, although 5 star PADI certified, are too relaxed with training you and doing a medical questionnaire. I wish I did my research first because even though this place was highly recommended on trip advisor and other sites I should have been more informed.

My poor boyfriend got sinus squeeze the first dive (occurs if you have allergies and sinus problems) and on the second dive face squeeze where his blood vessels in his eyes burst (if you don’t blow through your nose in your mask while descending or if your mask is too tight). He wears sunglasses indoors or even looking at the tv and the doctors tell him he won’t heal for weeks and the zombie look is here to stay for awhile. All this could have been prevented if our instructor had a medical questionnaire and did not take us 40 feet deep after a quick 20 minute instruction. We should have practiced certain things before going in the water. If you Google it there are a ton of things that can go wrong when you go that deep!


Carmel May 30, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Ouch! I have really bad allergies, but have been doing allergy shots for almost 2 years, so hopefully that won’t be a huge issue. Good to know so I can look out for it, though. I’m really torn on going to read your story…but I probably will.


Hannah June 1, 2013 at 6:43 am

You seriously could not be any cuter in that photo! I loved this post, and can really empathise with this fear as well. We went snorkelling in Koh Tao, and even that scared the crap out of me. The funny thing I found though, was that even though I never fully relaxed, and couldn’t help scanning the depths for the shadowy shape of Jaws, I still went in. Again. And again. And so will you – and you’ll do great 🙂


Carmel June 2, 2013 at 5:57 pm

Gee, thanks. 🙂 I had a lot of hair at that age…kind of like you now! Glad to know I’m not alone in my control-freak ways.


Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) June 2, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Well, you already know all about my “learn to dive” experience, and Tony’s too, so you know we both support you whole-heartedly in this endeavor. I think the key will be to just take it slow, and I really think that if you could start with some snorkeling first, that would be ideal, just so you get used to having your face in the water and proving to yourself that you can actually breathe with something stuck in your mouth. When you do decide to try diving, be sure to shop around and find a shop where you like the people & trust your instructor… everything I have read says that the bond between you & your instructor is really the most important thing, and I completely agree. Since you’ll be heading to the Philippines, I think that would be a great place for you to at least consider giving scuba a try and one of the least priciest places too. Check out our secret island that I sent you the details for; an excellent experience all around!

I can’t wait! In a few months I just know you’re going to be posting here triumphantly about how you conquered this and are now a scuba convert! 😀


Carmel June 2, 2013 at 5:59 pm

That’s great advice again, Steph. I feel (somewhat) brave enough to tackle this given what you and Tony have talked about and that Tony had a similar relationship to the sea that I have and managed to emerge victorious! Thanks again for the tips and the contacts (wink, wink).


Casey @ A Cruising Couple June 3, 2013 at 5:26 am

Congrats on deciding to take on the new challenge and adventure! Before I got my scuba certification I was quite skeptical.. honestly I couldn’t snorkel to save my life and sometimes I get a bit claustrophobic! Now I have my Advanced Open Water and I’ve even thought about getting my Dive Master! Just relax and breathe, and try to stay present. Sometimes I still find myself worrying about the nitty gritty underwater rather than taking in the amazing depths of our world 🙂 Scuba diving really is an experience like no other. Can’t wait to read about your experience!


Carmel June 3, 2013 at 6:48 am

I have to say, it’s quite encouraging to hear how many people have succeeded in getting their scuba certification, despite an initial fear or resistance to doing it. I think when you have a fear, you start to believe that everyone who does whatever you’re scared of just has a natural inclination toward the activity. It couldn’t possibly be that they had to overcome a fear, too! (<--at least that's been the excuse in my head). How many difficult things in life can be tackled by being present? Great advice. Thanks!


Casey @ A Cruising Couple June 6, 2013 at 8:07 am

I couldn’t agree with you more about the natural inclination excuse. I know I’m guilty of it! It’s certainly hard to picture successful people (at whatever it is I want to learn) sitting on the brink of the unknown just like me! You have me inspired to go out and try something new now 🙂


Charlie June 4, 2013 at 10:13 am

You’re so brave to try it! I’m terrified of scuba diving too (of what’s in the ocean in general really). I just about managed to make myself snorkel at the barrier reef (becuase, well, you have to) but I was having a low level-panic attack the whole time! My boyfriend really wants to scuba dive when we go on our rtw trip next year, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do it – which I’ve not told him yet! I can’t wait to read about your experience. Congrats for facing your fear!
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Carmel June 4, 2013 at 10:16 am

You can congratulate me after I do it! I’m going to try to remember everyone’s kind comments and encouragement as we get closer to the actual experience.

At least you didn’t miss out on snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef! That’s a huge step!


Marisol@TravelingSolemates June 8, 2013 at 7:34 am

Hi Carmel, what a beautiful post. I love your writing.
I think the best way to conquer fear is to first acknowledge where it is coming from. I’m glad you did and you’re on your way to exploring the amazing underwater world. You will love diving!
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Carmel June 12, 2013 at 7:18 pm

Thank you for such positive feedback. I am sure I will be following up on this post…if nothing else with stage 1 of the fear conquering–snorkeling. But who knows? Maybe I’ll just end up diving into the deep end and going straight to scuba.


Kathleen June 11, 2013 at 5:44 pm

I am with you on trying to control everything and anything within reach. I really believe at some point I thought it was possible. I learned the hard way that it wasn’t. I think learning to, “state your intentions, trust the tools you’ve been given, take the leap and let go.” can actually be quite liberating. You no longer have the weight of the world on your shoulders.

My husband convinced me to get certified to dive a few years back and I despite my initial fear, I loved it. But I always went with him since he could double, triple (ok, quadruple) check my gear. Since he passed away, I am going to go solo (with a guide, on a dive boat, etc, etc) this summer for the first time without him. I feel your fear, but after being under the water, can assure you it is worth it. As soon as I got down, I was in awe of the world below the surface that I was able to relax and enjoy myself. I hope I have the same experience, and learn to trust myself more, this time around.

Good luck!
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Carmel June 12, 2013 at 7:22 pm

I know I have it in me. I’ve survived a lot worse and I think standing up to them will help me realize how many of my fears are really overinflated.


Rika | Cubicle Throwdown June 12, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Awwww….I really hope you try it! I’m a scuba instructor on Roatan and I have people all the time who are scared shitless 🙂 Make sure you’re really, really comfortable with your instructor and you will be fine! Also I recommend doing as much snorkeling as you can first to get used to the idea of breathing with your face in the water. My students who start out terrified and end up certified divers having a blast are my favorite students! Can’t wait to hear all about it 🙂
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Jimmy Dau August 13, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Scuba diving is the best thing I ever did. Such a magical world underwater. You just have to remember to breathe if in doubt 🙂
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Carmel August 22, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Breathing when in doubt is probably a good thing every day, huh?


Karen Montgomery October 27, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Great job Carmel. I have snorkeled a lot, and I still panic in the first few minutes, until the breathing levels out. Scuba diving is a different animal. Have fun with it. Facing your fears is a good thing.


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