Beyond and Beneath the Sea: A Current of Affairs

I sat with my new Japanese friends eating the surprisingly delicious lunch provided by the Reef Magic staff on the pontoon. They were happily chatting away, discussing all the fish they’d seen snorkeling so far.

“Did you see any cool fish diving, Hilary?” I stuffed my face with a sushi roll and nodded. I didn’t really know how else to respond. The events of the past few hours raced through my head like a VHS tape fast forwarding. I was still in shock for all that had happened. And in case you missed the ridiculous and unexpectedly romantic first dive experience I had, let me break it down for you:

1. I had FINALLY made it out to the Great Barrier Reef. It had taken weeks of planning, wishing on stars, and sheer motivation (especially after my ankle injury) to finally get out here. And experiencing twenty-foot swells on the way out along with witnessing countless compadres falling to sea sickness, I definitely earned the experience.

2. I had just gone scuba diving for the first time. Not only was it amazing, surreal, unbelievable (insert your most mind-blowing descriptor word here), I was at the Great Barrier Freaking Reef. I was beyond stoked for finally having done it.

3. Then there was the unexpected flirtation with the tan and toned Australian scuba instructor. Our flirtation and underwater courting dance (literally) had culminated with an underwater kiss. My life was ridiculous.

One of the other scuba dive instructors asked me if I was interested in doing a second dive. The short answer was, “No duh,” but not because of Romantic Rick. I mean, it was nice but I had come here to dive and explore the reef (not the sexy guy that was supposed to make sure I didn’t drown). Plus I figured this was something he did all the time (I mean, if I was a hot Australian, what better place to woo a girl than while you’re staring down a Napoleon Wrasse?) I didn’t hold it against him; I knew what it was and I was okay with it. After weeks of being gimpy and feeling unattractive, it was nice to know that someone still found me worth flirting with.

So here I sat with my new girlfriends, stuffing my face so I didn’t spew my secret. The girls discussed whether they were going to do an introductory dive, take a ride on the semi-submersible boat, or go lay out on the sun roof. I looked at the clock, wondering what time my next dive was. On cue Rick walked up, his wetsuit unzipped so his abs were on full display. I put more food in my mouth.

“Hey girls!” He waved at my friends and then nodded to me, “Mademoiselle.” Oh he was good. He sat down next to me and whispered. “So how was your first underwater experience?”

I chewed and swallowed, contemplating how to answer. I smiled out of the corner of my mouth and replied, “Memorable.” He grinned. “Do you dance underwater with all of your students?”

He took my teasing in stride, “Only the special ones.” I rolled my eyes at the line. He was smooth, but not that smooth. He leaned in, the saltwater from his hair dripping on my leg. “So it looks like you’re the only one doing a second dive today, love. Sounds romantic, yeah?”

I raised an eyebrow, not quite sure how to respond. I hadn’t expected to have more time alone with him. I hadn’t even been sure he was going to be the instructor for the second dive. Did I want this? Oh whatever, it was going to be awesome. I finally decided on, “It will be an experience, for sure.” He nodded and patted my leg.

Brandon called for him. He got up and walked back to the diving area, calling over his shoulder. “I’m ready when you are!” He disappeared below deck. I let out a heavy exhale. This was all so ridiculous!

I took my time finishing my meal, only getting up when I started to feel cold. I was suddenly itching to get back in the warm water away from the wind. Brandon refitted me with a weight belt and oxygen tank. “You’re in for a real treat on this dive,” Brandon said, “Rick’s going to take you to the outer reef. It’s a longer dive and you’ll go a bit deeper, but Rick will take good care of you.” Rick sat on the steps leading down to the submerged platform watching the process. When I was ready Rick took my hand and led me down the steps.

“You ready?” He asked in his Aussie accent. I nodded and gave him a thumbs up. Holding my hand we pushed off the platform and back into the Big Blue.

We swam in the opposite direction this time, making our way around a giant anchor chain and along the outer rim of the reef. I crooned into my mouthpiece as Rick pointed out the vibrant colors and curious creatures surrounding us.

Rick swam ahead of me, his eyes carefully combing the surrounding coral. I waited when he held up his hand signaling me to stay where I was. His trained eye spotted fish hiding in the sand and he pointed them out. He picked up a baby feather star fish for me to hold. I squealed as it danced in the current across my palm. I didn’t know starfish could be fuzzy!

Rick signaled for me to wait while he uncovered a Hawaiian Spiky Sea Cucumber. He balanced it on my head and smiled as it used its suckers to grip my hair. I laughed and placed it gently back in the sand, petting it in thanks. Rick tucked my mussed hair behind my face mask and we swam on.

We swam through a trench hand in hand. My face hurt from grinning so much. How had I managed to be so lucky to get here? How was I ever going to explain this magical moment to anyone? Would photos ever be able to capture the true beauty of this memory? Or was this just one of those things that I would have to remember in my heart?

Rick pulled me out of my thoughts, tapping my shoulder. I gave him a quizzical look and he grinned. Grabbing my hand he guided me to the edge of a drop off. I was shocked at the sight that greeted us.

The giant clam was at least three-and-a-half feet long; I estimated it must be at least twice as old as me. Rick gave me the signal it was okay to touch and guided my fingers over it. The clam contracted with the rhythm of our touch. I had no thoughts. My mind was gone. But I felt connected to this creature, like by touching it we were sharing an energy and a purpose bigger than us. I hesitantly swam away as Rick motioned it was time to move on. My eyes lingered on the majestic being, wondering what words of wisdom it had.

Rick led me beneath an overhang. I traced the rocky ledge with my fingers. He pulled ornate shells from crevices to show me. I could barely form thoughts as I stared wide-eyed at the beauty in my palms. He placed the objects carefully back in their homes and we continued. I felt Rick’s aqua eyes watching me closely as we moved through the blue.

Rick checked his watch and shook his head. We started swimming towards the pontoon. But Rick guided me up to the surface before we reached the submerged platform. We were under the boat. “Wanted to give you one proper kiss,” he explained as he ran his hand through my hair, drawing me close to him. Turns out kissing above water is a lot less complicated than trying to snog with the starfish. Go figure.

As I took off my weight belt, Rick asked if I wanted to go on a third dive. I politely declined. I wanted to see what some of the other activities were like. Plus my body was tired from the weight of the equipment. He nodded and watched me as I flipper-walked my way to the snorkel area.

As I got into the water I heard one of the staff announce over the intercom that there was only a half-hour left til departure time. Had time really gone that fast? I swam over the coral, trying to soak up all the beauty that I could in the limited time available.

After playing with the Napoleon Wrasse (who was more like a small dog than a fish), I heard the sound of the ten minute warning bell sound on deck. I swam among the fish and the coral, thanking them for their kindness on my journey. Then I closed my eyes and made one final reef wish: I wanted to see one last marvelous sight. I wasn’t picky on what that would be, but I hoped and put the wish out to the universe. When I opened my eyes I was stunned at what I saw below me. Did the Reef really hear my wish?

A sea turtle munched on the algae beneath me. I shook from excitement, letting myself float unnoticed above him. I desperately wanted to swim down and touch him, but I didn’t want to push my luck. I heard one of my new friends called my name faintly. Time to go in, I sighed. I would have happily been swept away in the current. I wished I could live out here and never have to return to land. I wished I was a mermaid.

The spell of the water clung to me as I climbed up to the deck. I wrung out my hair, grabbed my clothes and filed back on the catamaran. I stared out the window, my thoughts and heart twenty-thousand leagues below us.

Rick sat down next to me and smiled. We spent the following hour talking. I knew that it was unlikely I would ever see him again. But still, while I learned about him and his dreams of diving in Central America, I started imagining us meeting again by chance. He could teach dive and I could write about it. I mentally teased myself for being such a girl. We exchanged information and a hug before leaving.

Later that week I made my way to Brisbane, still feeling the magic and the mystery of the reef lingering around me. I spent most of the following days lost in my thoughts, reliving the moments over and over.

Rick found me on Facebook. My heart skipped a beat as I realized that now we were actually connected. Now there was a potential for us to keep in contact, perhaps to meet again. I scrolled through his profile with curiosity, my imagination working overtime. Then I stopped at his About page. This is wrong, I thought.

But there it was… Rick was “In a relationship”. The link of her name led me to the profile of his blonde beauty.

The thoughts that followed my discovery were many, but only one word left my lips and rang through the lobby of the Brisbane YHA Hostel.

“BASTARD!”

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98 thoughts on “Beyond and Beneath the Sea: A Current of Affairs

  1. Pingback: Getting Down (Under): The Australia Playlist | The Nomad Grad

  2. Eeep! How fantastic! What an adventure!! I was tickled pink reading this whole thing. I am so glad that Romantic Dick was there to help make the moment more beautiful. That which you found out later surely doesn’t take away from the spell of the GBR. Maybe there’s an explanation, maybe there’s not. Maybe he’s “one o’ them guys”, maybe not. Who cares! You snogged a Aussie hottie while swimming in the most beautiful place on earth. Much deserved funness on a trip that tried your soul.

    • Oh, you are too awesome! Thanks so much for this comment. I could not stop smiling when I read this.

      I can’t wait to share more awesome adventures with you. Lots of love to you my dear!

  3. Ugh! What a fantastic way to end your dive! It’s a shame about that last little tidbit of information, let me tell you, I know the exact feeling, and being a thousand miles away and not being able to do anything about it except blurt out expletives is unimaginably frustrating. Long run it’s always worth it though. 🙂 I love reading about your travels! I can’t wait to hear more! Hope your leg is feeling better by now. xx

    • Hey miss Hailey!

      Yes, that sea turtle was a lovely touch. I kind of wonder what would have happened if I asked to be turned into a mermaid instead though…

      And it happens. I’ve found on this trip I just say things and then dissect it later. Luckily I never seem to be around the same group of people for too long so when I blurt out things like that, I only get questioning glances for awhile =).

      SO happy you’re enjoying reading about my adventures! I can’t wait to share more with you!

    • Wow, thank you so much for your accolades! I am so glad that you loved the post! And yes, those Aussie boys are adorable. Sigh.

      I’m guessing you’ve had some of your own experiences Down Under?

      Happy adventuring!

  4. Gorgeous shots… I took two reef dives when I was living in Australia – one in Cairns and one in the small town of 1770 (yes, the town is a number lol). Both were amazing – the reef in 1770 was heartier and would rise above the water by a few feet at low tide, but the Cairns ones were carpety soft! But… I only saw clown fish in 1770… so you do the math lol

    • Thank you so much! Sounds like you had some amazing dives. I have never heard of 1770, but hopefully I can check out at some point!

      Whereabouts are you now? Do you go diving a lot?

      Happy adventuring!

      • Haha I’m back in Canada… I was there in Australia in 2009 for school. Didn’t go diving that much because I was trying to conserve funds but did see a lot when we were there! We were in Cairns right after a week of rain and went to this great waterfall called Milla Milla Falls – probably the most picturesque waterfall there is, if the water is flowing.

        Great time overall though – Tasmania is my personal favourite!

  5. Now isn’t that a story straight form a “Eat, Pray, Love” sort of movie/book?! Glad you shared, too bad the guy turned out to be… well, just one of ‘those’ guys. Great experience, though!

    • Haha, what a great compliment! Thank you so much. Yeah, I guess it kind of is. I like to call it, “Realistic Romance”. =)

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post! Can’t wait to share more with you.

      Happy adventuring!

  6. *smiles* you are so real! This is like reading paperback except that you make it so real! It’s like a story out of a book but it is actually happening right now to someone in this world. That in itself is the magic I found as I was reading your post.
    The sea creatures are awesome too!

    • =) This comment left me beaming! I don’t think the other coffee-shop goers right now could ever understand why I’m so happy. Really, this comment means so much to me. I strive to always show the practical side of traveling and be as honest a I can with you guys and I am thrilled to hear that you appreciate it!

      Lots of love to you, my dear!

  7. I so enjoy reading your posts and the photos are beautiful. What a wonderful adventure and life changing experiences. I think the Romantic Ricks of your travels add humor and another layer of interest to your stories (as long as there is no broken hearts for you)!!! Thank you for sharing so candidly.

    • Hi Anna!

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! I am so happy to hear you enjoyed the story! And yes; you’re absolutely right! It’s great material! And all is well. I’m not crying about it, but I certainly enjoy talking about it, haha!

      What kinds of amazing adventures are you on these days? Happy adventuring!

    • Haha, thanks so much!

      And YES, you should do it! I’ve met a bunch of backpackers who rented a car and just drove up the East Coast. I flew, but I’m kind of thinking the next time I come here I’ll do just that!

      How is Korea going for you? Hope all is well!

  8. Those are amazing photos!! Oh well, too bad it didn’t get any further with the kidding dive instructor. Well, there are more of them out there – the available ones 😉 You still did GBR and got to snog underwater.

    • Oh trust me… I’m definitely looking on the positive side on this one. I’m not broken up about it. If anything I find it funny. Thus is my life, haha. I am one very lucky girl!

  9. AHHHH what a JERK! He was just TOO smooth to be true. It still seems like you had an amazing experience diving, though! Definitely “memorable” in more ways than one. 😉

    • Oh yeah… I’d say it’s memorable all right! Haha. I don’t think I’ll soon forget Romantic Rick and his wily ways. But I’m not torn up about it. I’m sure he’ll get what’s coming to him. And I still walk away with a fabulous sea adventure. So all in all I’m rather happy.

    • Hahaha! Yeah, I’d say there were a lot of ‘fishy’ things going on. Oh well. It was fun for what it was. Plus it’s a better ending than, “They lived happily ever after.” Who wants to read that boringness? 😉

      • I wish I had the time to have a “Great Adventure”. Work keeps me too tied up. I have a month of vacation/sick time saved up but I don’t have a chance to take it because I’m too busy. One of these days though….

        I’m doing small things though to compensate. Trying new things, diving in to other cultures, etc.

        • That sounds like a very frustrating situation! Hopefully you’ll find a way to get away from the grind and enjoy some of that time off soon!

          And yes, everyday adventure is just as important as those abroad. =)

    • Haha, yeah! A practical romance I’d say. Or maybe more like the beginning of a RomCom? I don’t feel my story’s over just yet! 😉

      Glad you love the photos! I hope you’ll come back!

      Having any great adventures of your own lately?

      • Very practical and…realistic romance. I’m going to barcelona at the end of the month. First time I’ve ever been abroad, and first time proper holiday without my parents. Very excited to explore the city 🙂

        • Haha! Yeah, I bet you’ll do some ‘exploring’ of the ‘city’! 😉 It sounds like an amazing adventure! How long are you going for? So excited for you! You’ll have to send me pictures!

          • Just for five days. My best friend has taken a year out as part of studying French and Spanish at our uni to do a year abroad. She’s currently aupair’ing in barcelona then will be moving on to teach in france. Que very cheap holidays for myself all year! I will do, hope your aussie adventure continues to excite 🙂

  10. Well, despite the downside of the revelations that followed the trip, from reading this and swimming along next to you it sounds like you had a pretty damn good adventure. I’m jealous! Now let your foot go heal!

    • It WAS and amazing adventure! I can’t wait to go back and do it again (well, you know, minus the sleazy guy 😉

      And I think the saltwater helped tremendously. That water is magical. But yes, back to healing. I’ve still got a long way to go yet! =)

  11. ahahahah… grrrrr… anyway, the Reef was all you came for and had the magic moment to live it; now, a kiss is always nice… but the ending quite… grrrr (no words there!). I wanna dive the Great Barrier Reef too! I’ll need the contacts you can give, if you’re willing to share (not that I want to have anything to do with such Rick, but I truly would like to see such a clam! and turtle, and… everything else!). did you take the pictures with your own camera? which is it? it’s one diving equipment I’d be willing to spend money on :-/ or are they pics from the Diving Center?
    How’s life in Fiji now? Any new diving experience?
    Have fun! and keep telling us about it, it’s such a treat!
    Thanks! have a great day,
    Jul’

    • Haha, it’s all good; the experience was wonderful, regardless of the ending. I’m not bent out of shape about it. It’s comical. It’s a good story. And you’re absolutely right! I came for the reef.

      And yes! I’m more than happy to give you any and all contact info that you need! When are you going? You can use their cameras to take photos, bring your own, as well as purchase photos from them. Really your choice! Message me and I’ll walk you through the details. =)

      More fun stories to come! Lots of love!

      • Oh unfortunately, it’s not an upcoming trip… but it’s on my list! I’ll remember to ask you again when it comes to life… Eager for more fun stories to read! Write well!

        My next stories are memories of past travels, trying to have a few friends have their mouth water and their mind racing for a bit of adventure! I hope it works!

        Show me Fiji! Make me dream about my next-next-next trip! ahahaha

        xoxoxoxo Take care and Enjoy yourself!

  12. Hilary, my heart skipped a beat when you put your wish out to the universe and received that breathtaking view of the turtle! How amazing! You’ve inspired me to go see it for myself – Aussie was already on my list of places to go, but now I’ve got to see that reef! Haha But I am sorry Rick turned out to be scum 😦 Maybe these kinds of things go with the territory of travel romances – based on what you’ve shared here and my own experience with “Ireland” I can only assume travel romances are generally more complicated than you might want them to be (we should swap stories soon). But hey, at least now your future screenplay has a character we’ll love to hate 😉

    • Hey love! I’m so glad someone else felt the magic of the moment. I felt very special when I was graced with the presence of the sea turtle.

      And no worries about Rick. I don’t know if it necessarily goes with the territory of traveling or just with some men. Luckily he’s not my problem and I find the thing more funny than insulting. Though I do feel pretty bad for his girl.

      And yes, this is all GREAT material for that future screenplay… haha. I hope I have the balls to put it together!

      • The Universe and I exchange those kinds of moments frequently – this week I’ve been feverishly trying to sell/give away my furniture and when I hadn’t gotten any offers on one piece in particular I closed my eyes and asked the Universe to take care of it for me. Not even 5 minutes later I got a call from someone who wanted it. The Universe NEVER says no – we’ve just got to learn how to phrase the questions!
        You rock life’s face off so of course you’ve got the oves to put a screen play together! And when you do, I’ll be watching 🙂

        • See? How awesome is that?! SO excited for you. It’s wonderful when you can allow the universe to worry about it and you can just go along for the ride =).

          And you’re so sweet! I hope I don’t let you down! =)

  13. Oh he really was good. I realize that all bastards use the same pattern of lines. This was another grin-inducing post, I must say, up until your discovery that he was in a relationship, that is. I was kind of expecting it though. Anyway, your second dive must have been so amazing judging from the pictures and your lovely descriptions. You really are a great writer and a great adventurer!

    • Oh yeah… he totally overdosed on bad lines, but that’s okay. He’s doing his thing and it works for him. I’m not bitter. Posting about it gives me some sick satisfaction anyway (how twisted am I? haha).

      And I’m glad it was another grin-inducing story! I aim to entertain and share my adventures (hopefully inspiring others to have some of their own!) And thank you so so much! I hope to continue writing and adventuring for a very long time!

      How are things with you?

  14. NO!!!! What?! agh. Now everyone at work is wondering why I just yelled “nooooo” out loud…
    At least it provided a surprise ending?
    (Did I type all of that so fast that I didn’t realize I was still in Japanese keyboard mode and had to type it all out again? Maaaaybe.) I really love the honesty with which you wrote this.

    Well, at least you had an awesome couple very custom dives 🙂
    Also, AWESOME that you saw a turtle!!! Your pictures are incredible!
    What camera did you use to take all these?

    Above all, my favorite part of this post was that one of the repeating characters was that Napoleon Wrasse.

    • Ahahahahaha. Oh my gosh I almost died reading your comments. Seriously… If I ever publish these blogs anywhere I’m going to need to include your comments. My stories sound SO much better with them!

      And yes, I’m all about a unique experience, haha!
      The turtle was my favorite! I wish I had more time to admire and swim with him. Next time!
      I rented out a camera from the company. Some of them I purchased off of the underwater photographer there. I couldn’t begin to tell you what cameras were used… Sorry I’m not more helpful!

      And yes, the Wrasse is definitely a character worth keeping around. Too bad I’ll have to wait for my next GBR dive adventure to bring him back =(

    • I feel sorry for her too, Denny! But I don’t want to make any assumptions about their relationship. (For as far as I know, she could have an ‘it’s okay as long as its underwater’ clause).

      But I’m pretty excited for me too =).

  15. Hillary, I want larkycanuck productions to be your manager for a book soon to published by you and licensing rights to produce a movie and marketing rights to branded merchandise.

    • Oh, you flatter me so!

      But seriously.. keep those positive vibrations out there. I would love to do all of the above. I just need some time and motivation to make it happen. =) Plus, everytime I sit down to chew over, “Should I have a clothing line? Should I start writing a book?” I always think, “Nah, who would want that?”

      But maybe I need to rethink my narrow minded outlook?

  16. Oh Hilary! Your adventures are so awesome and I love reading about them. I have to admit, diving sounds scary to me, but I’ve never had an opportunity to think about it. I really admire your ambition to explore the world. Keep enjoying life and your experiences. (I thought Rick turned out to be a bastard, too. Too bad his relationship doesn’t know his true colors).

    • Hey Brenda! I absolutely recommend diving! You literally have a whole other world to explore under the water. It’s remarkable. I think you would love it. You let me know when we’re going and I’ll meet you anywhere in the world. I’m more than happy to share that experience with you!

      And yeah… bummer about the boy, but I’m not too heartbroken. It’s not my karma and I’m sure he’ll have to face it someday. Until then, I’m going to continue to put positive vibes out there for a mate worth my match! =)

  17. All things considered, it still sounds like you had one heck of a time – I’m absolutely terrified of the ocean, but between the photos and the prose, it felt like I was right there for the whole thing…

    Any plans to turn this into a novel or screenplay? :3

    • I’m so happy you felt like you were on the journey with me! That was the idea and I’m glad it came through.

      Yeah, all things considered it was amazing. I have no regrets. But it IS kind of funny. =)

      I would LOVE to turn this (the post? the blog?) into a novel or screenplay. I’m a little inexperienced when it comes to those things, but maybe with enough encouragement I can do it. =)

      • The post itself feels like a scene right out of a movie, but the whole premise of your blog – an epic story about a woman finishing college, leaving home behind and seeing the world – it’s like art waiting to happen!

        You’ve definitely got talent when it comes to writing. I’m just glad I get to see it in my feed reader every so often. 😀

        • =) You are too sweet! I don’t often view my life as an epic journey, but I guess you’re right… It is kind of crazy!

          Thank you for all of your support and kindness. I am so grateful that someone finds my story worth following =).

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