Koh Samui, Thailand

The Story Of My Life | Koh Tao, Thailand

On the morning my sister and mother and I decided we were going to go snorkeling, I woke early, still adjusting to the time difference from San Francisco. It was 5:45am and the entire house was quiet with my sleeping family. I grabbed a coconut from the kitchen and climbed the steps to the third floor of our rental, my bare feet against the glossy wood floor and I drank the water, watching the slow sunrise over the mountains and the boats. 

Our tour boat was set to leave at 9:00am, and we traveled on it for over an hour, only to be met with a smaller boat as the group broke up into smaller portions, being led by separate excursion guides. In Koh Tao, we were handed gear and a time to meet back at a designated spot, and I remember staring at the goggles and tried not to consider how many people had put their mouths against the breathing gear. It took me over 10 minutes to practice breathing through the snorkel, I kept coming up for air, the water both distracting and confusing. But once I focused, it was amazing. Not just because my sister was there, or because everywhere I turned I heard a foreign language- a man from Spain swam neatly by with his son, offering instructions- or because the water was so clear I could see everything- it was all of it and it could only be as marvelous as it was because of all those things together. My sister and I collected coral pieces and swam and I thought that was the whole excursion.

But rather, after meeting at the designated spot, after climbing back into a small rickety boat to get to our bigger boat, after our bigger boat and 20 or so other tourists climbed in, after we ate ourselves full from a lunch on the boat, our tour guide said, “we are now docked a quarter mile off the coast, you are welcome to snorkel for another hour or so before we return to Koh Samui.”

I was confused. I thought, didn’t we already snorkel? Didn’t I already have my amazing, transformational experience in the water on that island collecting coral (ahem.. not so legally) and swimming with the fish? It took me a few moments to process that we were allowed to snorkel off the side of the boat, into that deep and beautiful water. I threw aside my life vest and grabbed my snorkel gear and jumped in. And it was extraordinary. There was nothing between me and the ocean, the water so deep I could barely see the bottom, and water so clear I could see everything around me. It was beautiful, like an aquarium. A man had his GoPro camera underwater, his movements causing the fish to scatter a little. I would be remiss as a photographer not to mention that, I did not have (but definitely wished for) an underwater camera, and so the experience is forever glowing in my memory and only shareable with my words. I talked to a beautiful man from Israel who told me about staying in Thailand for a month, and I observed a family from Korea with their daughter and her tiny goggles and regarded the simplicity of my life in that clarifying moment, like lightening. I needed to be brave in a different country, and swim in the depth of the ocean that my feet could not reach and feel good about keeping myself afloat. 

Before the boat was set to depart for Koh Samui, my sister and I set aside our gear and with wet hair and bare, sunburnt faces, climbed the railing of the side of the boat and counted to three, jumping into a deep and warm ocean that caught us safely, in ripples and waves.