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Staying Power

Words by Tania Roa
Illustration by Līga Kitchen

Adventures in nature don’t always have to be pursued in other lands, sometimes they can be found closer to home.

Growing up, I had the privilege of travelling across the United States and to other countries with my parents. Whenever we visited somewhere with beaches, I would ask if we could book a snorkelling tour so I could immerse myself in the underwater world. I loved everything about it – the fish, the coral reefs, how the sunlight broke through the ocean surface and the noise of an active underwater community. Every time I went, hours seemed to pass by in a flash and all I wanted to do was to stay longer.

These unforgettable experiences always seemed to happen when I was far away from home. For years, I thought I was only able to snorkel on vacation. Despite being a 40-minute drive from the beaches in California, it never occurred to me to bring the passion I found during those trips home.

One fateful day two years ago, that all changed. I bought a beginner’s snorkelling kit that included a mask, snorkel and flippers, and it transformed my life. I had recently learned about the kelp forests blanketing the Pacific Ocean, which was so close to my house. So, I began to research where I could see these famous underwater forests for myself. I eventually found a few coves renowned for snorkelling and decided to jump right in (literally).

I knew nothing about where to look for marine life, but my leap of faith was well worth it. Within 20 minutes, I spotted a stingray, a number of fish and the iconic garibaldi – California's bright
orange state fish. I was astounded by how a seemingly small action could open my mind to all I was missing. This coast was so close to where I grew up and I thought I knew it like the back of my hand. But I didn't really understand what was happening under the ocean’s surface, until I bought that beginner’s kit. Soon, I realised I had to rediscover the place I called home.

To this day, I am still exploring the Californian coast like never before. I used to regret coming home after a trip because I thought it meant I could no longer do all the wonderful things I did during my vacations. But, by reinventing what adventure meant to me, I began to find a deeper connection with the beaches I had known my entire life. I fell in love with the landscapes and the ocean all over again. The snorkelling mask became a physical and metaphorical lens – a tool I used to see the world around me more clearly, with more focus, and in all its colourful glory.

Snorkelling brought fun and spontaneity back into my daily routine. Although I still enjoy travelling, I have redefined my understanding of adventure and what it means to appreciate the Earth’s beauty in all its complexity. My idea of paradise changed from somewhere thousands of miles away to a place I have known since I was a child. By choosing to unlearn my prior notions of the outdoors and relearn what it means to embrace nature, I found that, often, you can find adventure right in your backyard.

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