When Daniel and I travel, we’re always up for doing things a little out of the ordinary. In August, we journeyed to the island of Paros from Athens to do a little beaching and to enjoy the Aegean for a few days. We didn’t expect that we would be taken on for a wild ride and that we would be snorkeling along with an expat and her family and led by a friend of the famous Jacques Cousteau.
We had befriended a woman named Clare who had kidnapped us the day before after finding us staring at a menu and wondering if we should venture inside. Asking if we wanted to come along with her to her tai chi class on the local mountain, we hesitantly agreed. We didn’t know it would lead to squeezing ourselves into wet suits the next day and getting to know her cousins.
Regardless, the company we snorkeled with was one of the best in the area. We arrived at the Aegean Diving College just in time to learn a bit about some of the local sea creatures and some of the history of the area. We spanned a history from the beginning of time and finding fossilized shells to bullets from World War II to plastic from our modern era (okay, maybe that wasn’t as exciting). We were helped by Peter (our 70-something guide) in order to find gear that fit. After sizing our goggles and giving them a good spit in order to keep them from fogging, we headed out into the water.
Sometimes snorkeling is peaceful, other times it can be a challenge depending on where you are and what the weather is like. While the beach was paradise on Paros, the waves were a little rough to be braving them without any sort of experience. I had been snorkeling before, but it was Daniel’s first time. I was incredibly impressed how he managed the waves and how he took a strange experience and laughed at it.
I took along my Activeon camera, which has a cover that you can use while underwater. This turned out to be a great idea, because it allowed me to take a video of Peter showing us various pots from the ancient Greeks and Romans, anemones, and corals. Sometimes, the waves were a bit rough and I had to catch my breath above the surface, but when I found the rhythm I wanted, it was incredibly peaceful to putter along and see the white sand and items from history.
We were out for about an hour before we emerged from the sea. We walked back to the school and checked out the photographs we had taken before agreeing to get lunch with Peter and Clare. Daniel and I ordered a large plate of meat (we were hungry after the exercise) and a glass of wine to enjoy after our expedition.
“Where is the strangest place you’ve ever dived?” I asked Peter, who was a treasure trove of stories about his adventures and his time on certain expeditions.
“It’s hard to narrow down,” he said in a very refined British accent before stuffing a large oyster in his mouth. “But Turkey has some wonderful spots. Australia. I don’t want to return to these places, though, because I know they will have changed. We’ve really fucked up our planet. I want to start to fix it here because this is where the destruction began—the beginning of some of the greatest civilizations.”
He mentioned how he has been trying to keep alive coral that hasn’t yet been bleached, but that we were going to have to do a better job of taking care of our world for it to mean anything.
“I won’t be around much longer—and then who is going to do it for me?”
On this note, we paid for lunch. I was glad I had been kidnapped the day before—if only for this reason. It’s a reminder we all need every now and then as we choose to travel and expand our horizons. What are we traveling for? And how are we going to take these experiences and somehow make the world a better place because of them?
This snorkel again reminded me why I love to do this and why it’s important. Seeing the effects of humanity doesn’t mean anything until you see it for yourself and until you make an effort to be more aware of what we’ve changed.
Have you ever had a trip like that where you were reminded why you travel?