That one dive

"Underwater, it doesn’t matter who you are...


Earlier this year, I was in a difficult place. I was getting over a break up. Again. 

Around that time, one of my best friends had just come back from a trip to the south of Egypt and suggested that I go to Marsa Shagra, a lodge in Marsa Alam, to disconnect and clear my head. Marsa Alam is a town in the south known for its beautiful natural beaches and coral reefs. My immediate reaction was “Absolutely not. I’m not that adventurous.” 

My friend was quite insistent. He wouldn't let up and kept pushing me to go. So, one Thursday morning in March, I set off on a 3-hour car ride to Marsa Alam from Gouna for a few days to clear my head. 

A few hours after check in, I found myself sitting in my tent with nothing to do. I opened one of the books I had brought with me and just couldn’t read it. Opened another one. Same thing. Nothing was drawing me in. I just sat there trying to figure out what the hell I was going to do for the next few days. 

This particular lodge is popular amongst divers as it has its own house reef and is close to other great dive sites. Out of sheer boredom and curiosity, I decided to take an intro dive. 

For the next hour, my instructor explained the intricate details of diving. I zoned out a few times but it was nice occupying myself with something new. 

A few meters down into the dive, it felt like I walked into another world. I’d never seen anything quite like that. Their coral reef was busy with marine life and beautifully colored corals. It was quite overwhelming actually. 

It must have shown because my dive instructor held out his hand and I took it. This stranger's hand, guiding me, comforting me.

I let go. I didn’t think about anything. I didn’t worry about anything. 

All I had to do was just breathe. I can’t remember how long that dive was for. It felt like hours but in actual fact it was probably 30 minutes. I came out of that dive feeling calm. Those 30 minutes gave me peace. It quieted my brain. I loved the freedom of disconnecting from the world. 

Here’s the thing about diving. This is my take away. 

We are not dealt the same cards in life. And what you’re dealt with more or less dedicates how life goes for you. Your job is to navigate through it in spite of what you’ve been given. 

Underwater, it doesn’t matter who you are, how much money you have, who your family is or where you’re from. You’re no one.

When you’re 30 meters down and look up and see the sheer amount of water above you and the overwhelming vast blue below. It's right then when I feel truly helpless and insignificant. I loved that feeling. 

It got me out of my head. I am no longer the center of my universe. There is no pressure to be me. It is liberating, in that moment, to feel free.

It's nice to know that there is a place you can visit for a few hours and have that. Even if only for a while.

Diving has also taught me how to look after myself. The process of setting up your dive gear. Knowing that you have to do it properly for your own safety. Underwater, you have to manage your anxiety and stress, you have to learn to calm yourself. The worst thing you can do is panic as the consequences could be serious. The first thing they teach you is, when in doubt: Stop, think, act. 

Since that trip and 50+ dives later, I have grown. From my discomfort of doing something entirely new and different, I have learned and continue to learn how to manage myself better. 

Every Friday, I head out on a boat on the Red Sea. There's a moment when the boat still hasn’t left the dock and I'm just sitting on the top deck looking out on the water. You should see what the water looks like early in the morning.  The sun is gentle, the water is still and calm and I know I’m about to have my day. My perfect day.

Sylvia "Sivs" Schoonderbeek

VP of Growth & Partner at Elves

Sivs is 42 year old Dutch/Egyptian professional living by the Red Sea in Egypt. She’s passionate about writing on female solo travels, well, because she is a female solo traveler :)  

When she’s not in the office, she’s off diving most weekends and recently became a certified Master Diver.

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