That Time I Tripped Out Under the Sea in the Best Possible Way

There are several different ways to escape to another world and enjoy hallucinatory effects. By 2018, I was certain I had experimented with every imaginable type of “trip”…some good and some bad. Until I went to Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii and had the best trip of my life.

At the hotel I was staying at, someone told me where to get the good stuff and how much it would cost. I trudged through the sand until I arrived at a small beach hut. I handed over my sweaty cash to the tan surfer/hippie and I got my stuff.

I was nervous about the trip I was about to take. It was my first time and I didn’t know what to expect. I parked my bikini-clad tush on the shore and casually looked around the beach to see how other people were doing it.

People of all ages were having a great time—they made it look so easy. They didn’t have a care in the world. I wanted that too. I was ready to detach from reality for the next two hours with the $25 I just paid for my escape.

I lowered my rented snorkeling mask down over my face. Slipping my feet into the fins was easy, but walking in them was a different story. Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walking” started playing in my head. Except my version was “These Fins Aren’t Made for Walking.”

I considered crawling on hands in knees and gliding into the water, channeling my inner 500-pound Hawaiian monk seal, a creature that felt like an accurate depiction of my movements at that particular moment.

But, I had neither grace nor gravity on my side as my trip kicked in. I stumbled into the water, spraying a fountain of sand and water. Couples and families scattered away from the rookie snorkeler, clearing a critical path so I could flail in isolation.

I was in. Phase 1…complete.

Now it was time to put the plastic breathing tube in my mouth and try not to think about how many other previous tourists had done the same with my rented mask. Next phase…stick my face in the water, float and kick my fins ever so gently, and enjoy my trip.

The water visibility was piss-poor at first. What gives? I thought Hawaii was one of the best places to snorkel. All I could see was sandy blue water and I wondered if the tan surfer/hippie in the hut had duped me.

Eventually, the sand settled back down onto the ocean floor and my vision slowly adjusted. The hallucinations had officially kicked in. I blinked hard and stopped breathing.

I saw an orange thing, a blue thing, an orange/blue thing, a pink thing, a yellow thing…then there were fifty colorful creatures floating through space like it was freaking rush hour under the sea.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. Because I had forgotten to breathe through my tube, I started choking violently. I jerked my head up out of the water, inhaling with gusto, once again channeling my inner 500-pound Hawaiian monk seal with monstrous sounds that terrified small children nearby.

Above the surface, my chest heaved as I threw off my mask and caught my breath. Fully tripping out by this point, I tried to pull myself together so nobody else knew I was on something. It was a hallucination. These things happen sometimes.

No, it wasn’t a hallucination…a realization that totally freaked me out. A completely different world existed under the sea that I didn’t know a damn thing about. Movies, documentaries, books, Instagram videos, and screensavers had done this undersea world a disservice.

All those years I spent in the ocean, growing up in Southern California and traveling around the world. Yet, I never knew what lied beneath the surface—a colorful cornucopia—a busy-body society like ours, a fragile ecosystem like ours.

I wanted to “trip out” again. I could handle it this time, without drowning in awe.

Everyone else’s swimsuit asses and snorkeling tubes were happily bobbing up and down in the water as they observed the secret underwater society. It was time for my snorkeling ass to get back out there.

I took things slower this time and focused on my breathing. Once again, it was cloudy and then the clouds parted to reveal one fish, a few fish, then suddenly…fifty fish. How could something so familiar like the ocean become so radically foreign to me when I took a peek inside? I was beyond high…I was levitating.

I lost track of time. Because here, time didn’t exist. I managed to make it back to the beach hut right before my gear rental time was up. My sea legs attempted a jog in the sand. No longer the monk seal on dry land, I had turned into a giddy wet muppet.

And, that was it. That was how I got hooked on snorkeling. I snorkeled every day of that trip, addicted to this secret underwater society that I was now strangely a part of.

As we go through life, we can fall into this trap of feeling like “we’ve seen it all.” This was one of those times when I was proven wrong and I will never forget it. What about you? Any “good trips” that turned your world upside-down?

love your enthusiasm mareike dornhege

Before talking to Dr. Mareike Dornhege on Love Your Enthusiasm, I knew next to nothing about sharks and have never encountered one. Unless you count that silly Jaws ride at Universal Studios, where the tram dips suddenly toward the water while a plastic shark “attacks” the tourists.

What we think we know about sharks? Turns out…a lot of misconceptions. I was so nerdy-happy to chat with Mareike on the show about her shark passion and wisdom.

From a young age, Mareike drew scientifically-accurate sharks instead of flowers and kittens. Her love for sharks eventually brought her to her calling as a shark ecologist who is on a mission to bring more awareness to the world about the beauty of sharks. Mareike was also one of the only women to host Shark Week 2020.

If you are looking for an escape, Mareike’s deep-sea adventures take you to this otherworldly place I just described. Where I only scratched the surface with snorkeling, Mareike has journeyed much further into the depths of the ocean to see and study some truly extraordinary creatures and ecosystems.

Grab your fins (er…headphones) and enjoy!

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12 thoughts on “That Time I Tripped Out Under the Sea in the Best Possible Way

  1. God, I miss travelling! It’s good for us because – as happened to Britt – it takes us right out of our everyday lives and everyday problems.

    I never got past the forgetting not to breathe and choking stage with snorkelling, but about five years ago, I had one of the most peaceful and transcendent experiences of my life: just sitting in the beautiful garden of a Crusader-era church in Byblos, an ancient seaside town near Beirut .

    It was a stressful trip overall – your President was launching rockets over Lebanon into Syria while we were staying there! – but there was something about Byblos and the St. John-Mark church that was magical, and we made the day trip on the terrible choked roads out of Beirut several times, just to lose ourselves there.

    I’d go back in a heartbeat to experience that peace again… maybe in 2021? Thanks for reminding me of the pleasure of travelling, Britt!

    1. I think we all miss traveling! Glad I have memories to rehash right now…it helps.

      That’s such a crazy story. I’ve never experienced anything like that during my travels. I can only imagine how magical that peaceful moment must have been. A moment of hope to hold onto forever!

  2. What a great post Britt. You had me at hello 🙂 I love snorkelling and have done a heap of it over the years. The absolute highlight was the GBR in Australia. There’s nothing like it – well not that I’ve been to anyway.

  3. Never having taken ‘stuff’ (and being too old to start now, I can’t remember being affected in that way. I guess the nearest ‘wow’ I’ve had was taking off east out of Geneva Airport, over the Alps on a clear day. I even forgot my fear of flying for a while.

    In ancient places, graveyards, historic battlefields where many died, I’ve often tried to summon up other-worldly feelings but nothing has worked so far.

    1. That takeoff sounds magical, Roy. I haven’t seen the Alps yet. I’ve been to Europe so many times but never gone in and out of airports with that view.

      One of my most surreal landings was going into Singapore airport at 5am and it was still dark. This was the trip when we went to Bali over the holidays. As we were about to land in Singapore for our layover, they played a piano version of Silent Night in-flight.

      This was the longest flight I had ever taken in my life, so I was pretty loopy. I almost thought I was hallucinating when I heard Silent Night playing on Singapore Airlines.

      I never get sappy about holiday music. In fact, we were thinking traveling to SE Asia during Christmas would remove us from all things related to holiday festivities. But, coming into Singapore—which was beautifully lit up at night—with that song playing…I was in tears.

  4. Britt, you know my love for the ocean and how much I love scuba-diving ! Snorkeling is the absolute paradise, especially in particular places. Happy to know you were introduced to the underwater beauties in such a fabulous one as Hawaï (never been and it might remain a long-lost dream of mine…)

    I loved reading your blog today and hearing Marieke the other day on the podcast ! Sharks are magnificent creatures, as well as every other we, Human Beings, see as rivals or dangerous.
    It was particularly interesting to hear Marieke talk about them in such passionate terms.

    I don’t think I ever experienced that “trip” you’re refering to as strongly as you have but scuba-diving on the world’s second biggest coral reef in Mexico and Belize, or around Rapa Nui island (Easter island) in Chile sure gave me the goosebumps and addiction one might refer to as an undersea trip.

    Now, skydiving is my new adrenaline, although it is not while out free falling that I encounter any kind of wildlife 😉

    May we all experience such wonders again soon !
    Take care xoxoxo

    1. You have been to so many incredible places. I think you’ll still make it to Hawaii though one day! Worth seeing (expensive as hell) but an unbeatable place for underwater activities from what I understand…and from what I have now seen myself. 🙂

      I can’t wait to snorkel again one day! I’ll leave the scuba diving and the skydiving to you, my brave friend!

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