Facing Fears While Wearing Floaties

I am deathly afraid of sharks. It is a largely unfounded, irrational fear that is the direct result of watching too much television. I’ve made baby steps towards improvement over the years—my first true snorkel session in Kauai comes to mind; once I stopped hyperventilating it was quite lovely—but then 20 minutes of Shark Week on Animal Planet and I’m back to square one. Have you seen the one where they put mannequins in the water to see the bull sharks’ reaction? Sharks love legs! And unfortunately for me, I have 2 of them.

That said, I always look forward to a beachside stay, but not because of my desire to hop in the open water. I enjoy the lapping sounds of the surf like any other California native, but as soon as someone says, “Who wants to go for a swim?” I’m suddenly experiencing stomach issues.  So when we pulled up in the seaside village of Guzelçhamli, Turkey, I expected it to be no different. There were plenty of other attractions to keep me busy—a small collection of restaurants, the Zeus Cave where legend claims Zeus hid from either his angry brother or his jealous wife depending on the day, and the huge Milipark with hiking trails and stories of an elusive rare leopard. But one thing was working against me: it was hot. Super hot. And the water was cold. So I threw on my suit and headed out with Erin for my first swim in the Aegean. Oh boy.

Over the course of that swim, and others, I slowly made my way further and further past the sandy-bottom of the beach and out into the open sea. As I watched my friends effortlessly float along in the waves, I began to feel my muscles relax and the tension in my limbs and core loosen. If they weren’t afraid of being eaten alive, then why was I? I finally let myself enjoy the experience of being bobbed up and down as my feet dangled below the surface. And despite what the title of this post insinuates, I wasn’t even wearing floaties. So this is what everyone has been raving about.

I would by no means say that my fear of open water has been conquered, but some very serious progress was made during our time in Guzelçhamli. I will also admit to googling “sharks in the Aegean Sea” and found that while uncommon here, the largest great white EVER was landed in the nearby Mediterranean. Why anyone allows me access to search engines is beyond me. Back to square one, or perhaps two, I go…

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