A thin, sweaty line

The moment I shrugged and got in the taxi, I knew things had turned.

I had been told that the ride from Cancun bus station to the ferry port would cost 40 pesos (about $3.50). When I question the 70 pesos quoted by the taxista, he points across a busy traffic circle to a shared van. Faced with the option of hauling my heavy dive gear and over-packed bag 50 meters to save $3, I choose ease.

Backpacking, especially for an extended period of time, dramatically adjusts internal economics, the value of things. Yes, you absolutely haul your gear 50 meters to save $3, because $3/day saved over one year equals an extra month of travel. These transactions seem insignificant on a daily basis, but will have lasting effects.

But now I’m on vacation. I’m not backpacking. Yes, I’m staying in hostels and eating relatively inexpensive street food. I’m refilling my water bottle for free instead of buying a new one. For the most part, I’m hauling my dive gear instead of taking a taxi. But after three nights in a sweaty corner bunk in a 10-bed dorm, getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and sleeping and average of 3 hours/night, the prospect of hauling my gear that extra 50 meters to save New York City pocket change seems impossible, if not foolish.

I shrug and get into the taxi.

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A claustrophobe. Underwater. In a cave.

OK. Technically the part of the cenotes I dove are “caverns,” not caves. All this means is that you can see light/an exit to air. But still, as a human with a fear of getting stuck underwater with no way out, diving through an underwater cave (sorry – cavern) was kinda a big deal. One must be so careful these days.

(“…Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante,
Had a bad cold, nevertheless
Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe,
With a wicked pack of cards. Here, said she,
Is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor,
(Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!)
Here is Belladonna, the Lady of the Rocks,
The lady of situations.
Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,
And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card,
Which is blank, is something he carries on his back,
Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find
The Hanged Man. Fear death by water.
I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring.
Thank you. If you see dear Mrs. Equitone,
Tell her I bring the horoscope myself:
One must be so careful these days….”)

So yeah. Today I dove the “Dos Ojos” cenote. And it was amazing. And I didn’t freak out even a little bit. Oh – and I didn’t die by water.

A cure for bullshit

Whenever I need a break from bullshit, I go diving. I still remember July 2007, almost a year into the most disorienting and downright wacky job of my life, I took off for a week’s diving in Tobago. After just one dive, the salt cleansed every ounce of bile from my blood. The canned oxygen, sucked in through rented regs, oozed out from my lungs to find and repair frayed nerves. The warm water conducted away all the tension irradiating my body and drowned it like a rat.

And so last Monday morning at 1.30 am I found myself throwing bathing suits and dive gear into a bag. After overpacking in a sleepy delirium, I dug up my dusty passport and called a car service to carry me to the the airport, and freedom.

Twenty hours later I was 20 meters deep, following the bubbles of Ugo de la Sala, co-founder of the  Megalodon Dive Center on the island of Cozumel. It doesn’t matter what we saw, or which dive sites we dove over the past 6 days. What matters is that those 11 dives hammered at my reset button until it took.

It’s been 2 1/2 years since I returned from my experiment with the Range Life, and I’ve been doing a fair bit of flailing. Constructive flailing, however; I did, after all, buy an apartment. And focused flailing; most of it has been experimenting with the right balance of motion for me; always on the road, but not always away.

Now I’m reset. I’ve stopped flailing. Can’t wait to see what happens next.