It was 2015 winter in Hungary and I was thinking about going on a backpacking adventure I have never done before. After hitchhiking 8000 km in Europe I got the travel bug bad. Then one day I saw a video about a guy who hitchhiked a boat and crossed oceans. That’s how the idea was born. I was going to cross the Atlantic Ocean and explore Latin America for a year.
My family laughed at me, as they knew I was terrified of water. I absolutely hated it. So it was hard for them to understand why I voluntarily wanted to spend weeks so close to something I had listed as public enemy number one. They got me there, I had no idea either, but it was just a gut feeling.
I began harsh preparations, as I knew this trip was going to change my life, but I needed to be ready to accept the rapid or fundamental changes were going to occur during such an adventure. Thus I put myself through a 3 months distraction and health diet. It was not about getting fit, or getting mentally prepared. I was ready. Subconsciously I have been preparing for this over 7 years. But I wanted to test myself if I could deal with big changes, resist peer pressure if I could adapt to radically new situations, and if I could learn to love constantly being challenged. So I stopped alcohol, meat and boys all together.
This experiment actually went beyond my expectations as it turned me into a vegetarian for a year. Thanks to my new diet, my mind was sharper than ever and my body was more energetic than ever.
Set sail on the Atlantic
Just a few days into my search for boats on the Canary Islands I found a catamaran that was willing to take me across the ocean. I had no idea where we were going to touch land again, but I was eagerly looking forward to seeing a new world.
As days passed slowly during the crossing, I had plenty of time to gather all my thoughts and write a list I wished to accomplish over my year in a continent, I have never seen before. Plenty of lists were created about self-development goals, fears I wanted to get rid of, skills I wanted to learn, childhood issues I hoped to work through and new experiences I needed to have. For now, I would like to focus on my list of fears I was getting ready to overcome.
A cliché is a cliché for a reason, but I found it to be true, that the only way to defeat a fear is to face it. I have done such a great job on a subconscious level by hitchhiking and putting trust in strangers, leaving jobs and friends behind every time I moved countries, why stop there? The excitement was intoxicating and as soon as I arrived in the Dominican Republic just three weeks after we set sail, a new chapter started in my story.
My biggest fear had always been water. Not the swimming pools, although I never felt comfortable in them either, but wild waters like rivers and seas. How can I hate something so much without knowing it? This question was floating in front of my eyes as I was staring at the deep blue. As the saying goes, I tested the water. But it took 7 countries before I finally broke the mistrust.
After 6 months on the road, I was spending time in Colombia where I met two dive masters who kept pushing me to try scuba diving. No matter how hard I resisted, they just went on and on about how I need to see what’s down ‘there’ to never be afraid of it. So it got me thinking, maybe they are right. Maybe this is what I needed to do. Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer, so as I was volunteering in a hostel, I saved enough money that I could invest in scuba diving.
I did not see this coming
Instead of a discovery dive, I wanted to literally throw myself in the deep water and kick my fear once and for all. On the first day of my Open Water course, my heart was going crazy and I was anxiously preparing mentally. We geared up on shore, I learnt about the equipment, but it was so hard to pay attention, as my mind was rushing through the possible bad outcomes of my first dive.
Even though I have never seen a shark before, and I knew there were no such dangers in the area, I kept picturing how I would need to punch one to survive an attack. I know I was an idiot, but it calmed me down as I imagined myself putting a shark in its place.
Then it was time to submerge. That first breath under water is something a person never forgets. It was so unreal, so magical. I was in the sea! The feeling rushed through my veins and I was hooked. It was like a personal drug to me. During my first dive, I watched carefully my air consumption so I could stretch the experience for as long as possible and when everyone else run out, I could still stay with one of the instructors for an extra eight minutes, which is when I saw my first turtle.
In the water, I was weightless, carefree and I was home. As I watched the wildlife, the gorgeous coral and my bubbles rushing towards the surface I knew it right there that I found love. Two weeks later my Open Water, I signed up for the advanced course. Everyone around me was just as surprised as I was. How could I have been so damn terrified of something one day and completely, blindly in love with it the day after?
That’s when I understood how important it is to face my fears and I have almost completed my entire list 10 months into the trip. Now I’m actively seeking the opportunities to cross another off the sheet.
Fear to love, love to passion, passion to career
Currently, I’m in Mexico interning for a scuba school since I decided to become an instructor. It didn’t take long to be sure about this career choice. Every time I go diving there is a smile on my face you can see from shore. I’m the first one in and the last one out.
For my whole life, I have been avoiding the sea because of bad experiences that happened a long time ago. Taking that first breath through my regulator taught me a lesson and gave me strength to battle all the rest of my demons without hesitation.
So why are we avoiding facing our fears? Above the obvious, I discovered another reason. When I fell in love with diving, I wasn’t expecting all the things I would need to sacrifice in order to keep it. All my plans changed, my savings started to go down even faster, the projects I had in mind were dropped, I had to hurt my family and some friends again, break promises. It was a brutal transformation, but when you know you found it, you can’t let it go, you can’t delay it, you can’t stop it from happening.
I have been looking for the passion that is going to pay my bills and fill my heart with love for 8 years. So I would encourage everyone to face their demons because demons can be angels in disguise.
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