An Unusual Gathering

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By Treta Sellers, Scuba Instructor

I am returning to my life after a magical week in beautiful Belize. Why was I there, especially during a pandemic? Well, to put it bluntly, I couldn’t imagine not going. This trip was a year in the making, and when Belize opened its borders to international travel in October, there was no question as to whether or not I would make the journey.

After passing my required COVID-19 test, I was on a plane very early on the morning of December 5 to finally visit a destination I had been wanting to visit for over 20 years. Not just for relaxation — though there was plenty of that — but for a very specific purpose: to dive on some of the most pristine, vibrant reefs in the world, and Belize did not disappoint!

I’ve been on many dive trips in my life, and they all have provided me with wonderful memories and experiences that were unique to those trips. What was different this time was the bubble we were in because of the current dearth of travelers created by the pandemic. Our group of 22 people was the only group at the resort. Imagine a big resort, with two huge pools and over 40 rooms, right on the beach, with about a quarter of the guests it would normally have. If you’ve ever watched a movie that deals with the world after an apocalyptic event, then you can imagine what it was like for us. We were not allowed to leave the resort unless we were on a dive boat.

That kind of isolation can create bonds quickly between people, and our group bonded quickly, the love of diving we all shared creating the base for lasting friendships. It was unlike anything I had experienced before, and it left an indelible memory on my mind and heart.

As I reflect on last week, I can’t help but feel awed and humbled. Humans long to gather together and share our lives. Seeing a smile, hearing a laugh, sharing energy — these are all things we have missed doing together in 2020. We crave it, and at the same time, we look sideways at anyone who plans to be in the same room with friends and family during the holidays. And for good reason: There's no need to get sick, or get anyone else sick, if you don’t have to!

But, what is the lasting effect of the isolation? Zoom is a poor substitute for actual interaction and exists only as a Band-Aid until we can share physical space safely again. Ironically, while diving, communication is limited to signing and whatever short messages you can fit on a slate. In a very real sense, you can be “alone” in the water while surrounded by fellow divers.

The way we have been forced to cut ourselves off from each other has felt so unnatural, and yet I can’t help but feel that it will be hard to go back to life as we knew it. As I hovered over the Belizian reef, watching the fish commune in their little homes, I felt more like myself than I have in a long time, because I was with my people, doing the thing I love doing the most.

My goal for 2021 became clear: create more opportunities for divers to come together, and to create new divers along the way. I plan to find my way into youth groups and schools to inspire the next generation of divers to carry on learning about how the ocean systems support all life on our precious planet. My love for the ocean, and the sport of scuba diving, brought me closer to a group of strangers I now call my friends, and I look forward to the next adventure!

This post is part of a series produced by CircleAround and NAWBO. Founded in 1975, NAWBO is the unified voice of over 10 million women-owned businesses in the United States.

Treta Sellers is a scuba dive instructor with a burning goal to inspire others to learn about how the ocean affects the life of every being on the planet. 

Read our other stories in our Travelpalooza series.

Tags: Navigating the Pandemic, Travel, NAWBO, Mental Health, Self Care, Friends

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