Traveling for Yourself, Not Others
Sometimes there are bad travel days, and I shouldn't even be complaining because I'm sitting on an island after a morning of diving, eating banana pancakes with honey. And a smoothie. But still. There's always going to be an off day of travel, even if you're staying put in one place.
I woke up at 530am to get to Roctopus by 6am for two fun dives today. As I was getting ready to head to the ATM, I realized I didn't have my Charles Schwab debit card on me. Then it dawned on me: I had totally forgotten to take it out of the ATM several days before. I literally just left my card in the ATM. All of my travel money was in this account, and the debit card refunds all ATM fees, which is huge (and the main reason it's my travel debit card). But in a hurry to get on the dive boat, I didn't have a lot of time to deal with my lost debit card.
On the boat, the sun was shining and the seas were calm. I loved it. Since I had finished my Open Water Certification, I was doing two dives just for fun with Alexis, a Dive Master (not Instructor). There were two other girls coming along; one from England and the other from New Zealand. We dived at Chumpon Pinnacle, which is considered one of Koh Tao's best dive sites. The visibility was good, but my mask kept leaking water. I was distracted for most of the dive as I dealt with water in my mask. Our max depth was 18 meters for a bottom time of 40 minutes. We saw two great barracuda fish, banner fish, a hexagon grouper, angelfish, and parrotfish (my favorite because they are rainbow colors!). I wish I could take photos underwater...
For our second dive, the boat headed back towards Koh Tao for a more local spot: White Rock. The visibility was awesome! I didn't even know where to look - fish were everywhere and I was able to control my buoyancy enough to poke around the coral quite a bit. I love watching the baby fish (literally the size of my pinkie fingernail) swim in and out of the coral beds, especially the "Finding Nemo" fish that live in the sea anemone. The mask was good for the first 25 minutes and I was totally elated - this dive was awesome! But again, the mask started leaking. At one point, my mask was partially full of water, nearly up to my eyes. I kept clearing the mask, but couldn't get it to fully clear. I still managed to make it the length of the dive (depth of 15.4 meters with a bottom time of 53 mins), but was relieved when we popped up on the surface of the ocean.
Oh! What was really cool was that we spotted a Bluespotted Ribbontail Ray on the second dive! It was tucked underneath a big rock, but you could see its massive eyes peeking out from the ocean floor.
Anyways, the fun dives were awesome and another good dose of confidence, but I hate having issues with my mask... Hopefully I can work the problems out with Ty tomorrow.
Which brings me to the Advanced Certification! I had been debating this for a few days. The Advanced Certification is two days - it's less skills based and more focused on specialty dives. It also allows you to dive to 30 meters (98 ft), which is the maximum depth for recreational diving. Open Water Certification allows you to dive up to 18 meters (59 ft). A part of me was really interested in the Advanced Certification - the other part of me felt totally content with the certification I already had.
Getting off the boat this morning after two awesome, if not somewhat frustrating dives, I debated if I would regret not going for the Advanced Certification. And I decided that I would regret it; mainly because I knew the one reason holding me back was fear. Not the lack of time or money, but fear of diving deeper, fear of water in my mask, fear of making a mistake on the ascent. And I couldn't let fear be the reason why I walked away from an awesome opportunity on a beautiful island with a diving school that I completely trusted. So I paid the $215 (my poor bank account...) and asked Ty to teach me personally, the same instructor who got me through the Open Water Certification. Over the next two days, I'll dive a shipwreck, complete a night dive (eek!), learn how to use a dive computer and how to identify marine life, and complete a buoyancy obstacle course. This course is a big part of me confronting a fear and choosing to do it anyways. I'm not thinking about the fact that there is absolutely nowhere to dive in Indiana... Just means my next trip abroad will also have to have some pretty amazing dive sites!
The fact that I no longer have my Charles Schwab debit card is a pain in the butt. But that's why I brought a backup debit card - my personal Chase checking account. I was able to transfer all my funds from my Schwab account to my Chase account, and while it will take a few days to process, I'll be fine. I hate paying ATM fees though; it's like wasting money for no reason.
Which brings me to my other struggle of today... My Advanced Certification was originally supposed to start Monday, but got bumped forward to tomorrow. Which means I will finish Tuesday morning, and I can leave Koh Tao if I want to, with 5 days of travel left before I fly home. I instantly started googling ways to get to Chiang Mai, now that I had an extra day. There were so many options: ferry, bus, train, plane. All with different arrival and departure times and price points. By bus or train, the journey is 20+ hours. With limited time, I would have to fly to Chiang Mai, a challenge considering I cannot fly less than 24 hours after diving (it's a diving rule due to the nitrogen in your body) and the nearest airport is several islands away. Then I'm pushing it with my 2am flight out of Bangkok on Monday morning.
The more I started looking into it, the less interested I became in even getting to Chiang Mai. I didn't want to deal with the hassle of travel. I didn't want to squeeze in three days in a new place. I didn't want to choose between the 6am ferry or 3:15pm flight or the 12 hour overnight train. Everyone travels for different reasons, but you should travel for yourself. My reason for this trip was to get away - to rejuvenate, to focus on myself, to be selfish with my time. My goal was not to see as many places as possible, which I have definitely done in the past - 4 cities in 10 days in Nicaragua? Yup. Everyone has said great things about Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand; it was on my list from the beginning. But I never locked in any part of my itinerary. Besides arriving on Koh Tao, I had made no other plans. And then I fell in love with the island and with diving. I like my little routine here - my breakfast smoothies, my morning dives, my sunset walks on the beach, and dinner with a different group of friends every night. I also really like the banana nutella crepes I've been getting...
I am totally content to finish out the rest of my trip on Koh Tao. I tried to make Chiang Mai happen, until I accepted that I just simply didn't want to go, and that's okay. This is my trip, and I already know I have no regrets.