Melissa Burovac

From travel to romcom and beyond – an evolution of my writing

In 2012, I embarked on a solo RTW trip that lasted nine months. I had never traveled solo before, and have a healthy dose of social anxiety plus a great fear of getting lost with my poor sense of direction, so this was an enormous undertaking for me. I had help getting prepared from traveler friends, creating lists of places to visit and gear I might need along the way. I put my furniture in storage, not knowing what to expect for how long I would be gone, sold my beloved Jeep Cherokee, and bought a one-way ticket to Mexico. I got a ride to the airport in Lihue, Kauai, carrying only a backpack containing clothes, a point and shoot camera, a 13” Mac laptop, and a water filter. A couple months after my 40th birthday, I was as ready as I would ever be.

During my travels I visited nine countries: Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Cuba, Australia, Cambodia, and Thailand. I encountered natural disasters in most of the countries — two hurricanes, a volcano eruption, an earthquake and a wildfire. As I blogged, my friends joked they knew where I was by where the natural disasters were occurring. “Something exploded? Let’s see where Melissa is!”

Blogging as I traveled was mainly to let my mother know I was still alive. I had childhood dreams of being a writer, but those got lost in the flurry of making a living after college and were completely forgotten. When I returned to Kauai after my trip I didn’t expect such a reaction to my blog; people were amazed I traveled for nine months, mostly solo, and that I didn’t die in the drug wars of Mexico, or some other place they only knew from news reports. Or even that as a woman, I was able to make my way through the world without trouble — some trouble, but not much. The women who followed me online were especially impressed and wanted to know how I did it all by myself. As I heard, more and more, “You should write a book,” I recalled those forgotten dreams of becoming an author and decided to give it a try.

Wandering was born from my blog posts, mostly written in bars and cafes around the world— a little bit drunk, a little bit lost, and toward the end, a whole lot homesick from being alone. This first book of mine was self-published in June 2014.

It wasn’t as easy as it sounds, though. I was working full-time as a bookkeeper, writing full-time after work — mostly from the back of my truck at the beach with a $200 laptop — and I was exhausted. I lost touch with most of my friends, and was a little depressed with the sudden lack of freedom.

Finally, though, Wandering was finished, published, and it was the most exciting thing in my life to see a book I had written in print. I immediately had dreams of writing more books, but didn’t see enough income to allow me to quit my regular job. I sent copies to every major outlet and publisher I could find online but no one picked up the book. While visiting my sister in Portland I took copies to Powell’s and sold them as used just so I could go back a week later and see my book on the shelf at a bookstore.

So what comes next? I wanted to be a full-time writer but it wasn’t working out exactly as it had in my daydreams. I didn’t have another book planned, and couldn’t begin to imagine what to do with myself.

One afternoon I was flipping through articles about writing on the internet and came across one about romance writers. The three women depicted in the article were raking in huge monthly incomes from churning out romance e-books, and I thought to myself, How hard could it be to write a romance novel?

I was sitting at a bar in Portland, drinking Bloody Marys and turning my imagination to writing a quick, sexy romance novel to generate some income — and I failed miserably. This is actually the only non-fiction scene in my second book Sylvie Writes a Romance.

I love to read classic fiction, sci-fi, horror, biographies — really, anything but romance novels. In my snobby view of the writing world I didn’t consider romance novels as literature, but just a means to pass the time, and not even as “real writing.” I was completely confused when I couldn’t write anything in that genre that was remotely good. It opened my eyes to how much work any type of writing entails.

I came back home to Kauai and bought a couple used romance novels at a thrift store, and sat down to read them. The books weren’t grammatically complicated, and didn’t contain any lofty ideas, and I sat down to write again, never actually finishing either of them. I just wanted to write something for a mass market so I could concentrate on writing something more profound.

I failed again and again, never writing anything I was happy with. But these failures evolved into a new project about a writer trying to write a romance novel and failing, turning to online dating to meet men and hoping to learn the meaning of romance. It’s more comedy than romance, which suits my style much better.

Sylvie Writes a Romance was born, and published in 2016.

Since Sylvie was written, I have been working on a sequel, plus trying my hand at writing a biography. I hope to have both published this year, and still have my sights set on a full-time career in writing.

 

 

Find my books on Amazon:

Sylvie Writes a Romance

Wandering

Leave a review on Amazon and I’ll love you forever!

Sylvie Writes a Romance on Smashwords – for Nook, Kobo, etc

Recent articles:

BookDaily.com

Travel Writing on JenniferSAlderson.com

Recent reviews:

Indie Reader Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance

Kirkus Indie Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance

 

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Wandering

Wandering Kindle sale – April 8 – 15, 2017

Aloha!

Because of Jennifer S Alderson‘s new group Travel by Book, I’ve arranged for a special sale of Wandering. Beginning on April 8, 2017 you can buy the Kindle version for only 99 cents! During the week, the price will slowly creep back up to the regular Kindle price of $4.99, so get it in the first couple of days for the best deal. Please share this post with anyone who might enjoy a fun travel/adventure book, and sign up for my blog for sales, short stories, and a first look at my new adventure book coming out later this year.

Wandering is the true story of my first RTW trip…

 

Traveling solo as a woman certainly has its ups and downs, but Melissa Burovac will be the first to tell you to embrace the adventure as you encounter it.

Facing her 40th birthday as a single woman in a job she was tired of, Burovac decided to do something. Always keen for adventure, she chose to buy a one-way ticket to Mexico—and quit her job, sell her beloved Jeep, and store all her belongings.

Though she’d gone on trips abroad before, Burovac didn’t feel like she’d ever earned the title of “traveler.” But that was about to change.

Wandering relates the adventures, and misadventures (she encounters so many major weather events that her friends start predicting where the next disaster will strike based on her next destination), of her nine months traveling through Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Cuba, Australia, Cambodia, and Thailand.

Her stories will crack you up—and they will inspire you. As someone with no sense of direction, no ability to plan, and plenty of social anxiety, her experiences prove that anyone who wants to travel can!

 

Happy reading!

Melissa

 

Check out my books on Amazon:

Sylvie Writes a Romance

Wandering

Leave a review on Amazon and I’ll love you forever!

Recent articles:

BookDaily.com

Travel Writing on JenniferSAlderson.com

Recent reviews:

Indie Reader Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance

Kirkus Indie Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance

Photography:

Kauai Adventure Photo

Birthday Week Kindle Book Giveaway

It’s that time again – the annual Wandering on Kindle book giveaway. Get it absolutely free between now and March 28th!

Check it out on Amazon.

Wandering tallies her hilarious as well as poignant experiences as she travels from Mexico through Central America, sneaks into Cuba, and journeys from Australia to Cambodia and Thailand. Read about her misadventures with crocodiles and the times she encounters erupting volcanoes…and two hurricanes…and a wildfire.

Burovac’s stories will make you laugh while reminding you that life is an adventure—and sometimes you just need to pack a bag and get lost.

Wandering on Kindle – Holiday Sale

Beginning today and ending on Christmas, the Kindle version of Wandering is on sale!

Get it at Amazon – Wandering.

And as always, you can read it absolutely free with Kindle Unlimited.

As a Christmas present to me, leave a review!

 

Stay tuned, my next book will be out in 2016!

Thank you!

Birthday week Kindle sale!

From March 22 – 29, 2015, the Kindle version of Wandering will be on sale to celebrate my birthday!  Get it if you haven’t already!

Find it on Amazon.

 

In other news, progress is being made on the new book!  I hope to have it ready for publication by the end of the year!

 

Thank you!

Melissa

Valentines scuba

Kona pt 3 – more snot and some whales

I woke up bright and early and ready for my four-dive day.  At Jack’s Diving Locker, they label the all-day people as ‘Dive Animal.’  I like that.  I walked to the shop early to scope out their GoPro gear and bought a new underwater housing; my camera started behaving mostly normal again (Why do you put rice with your wet electronics?  To attract an asian person to come fix it.  Is it a racist joke if you’re calling them smart? Probably.  Sorry, I giggled.  But I think I heard it from my Japanese boss).

Anyway, the new housing didn’t fit with my new red filter, so that will be someone’s gift.

Jack’s is a clean, professional dive shop with all the newest gear and gadgets for sale, and I waited there for about an hour before they even considered getting us to the boat; not super efficient.  The boat was nice, though, and I loved the crew.  We went all the way down to Kealakekua Bay at the Capt Cook monument, which took nearly an hour.  We had to go that far to find a place out of the continuing north swell, although the wind was still kicking pretty hard.  The first dive was good, and super cold again, and if you assumed that I had snot in my mask all day you would be correct.  Immersion in cold water for extended periods does not make a runny nose stop.

The fish and reef were about the same as 2 Step, without the cool ray and turtle.  The best part was getting in close to the rocks and watching the waves crash from about 20 feet below.  I had no trouble keeping off the reef, and the fish were happily swaying with the current.  The weirdest part was watching the only couple from the boat, they held hands for the entire dive.  Almost an hour.  And then they held hands during the surface interval.  And again throughout the second dive.  At times I would just stop and watch them instead of the fish, they were fascinating – two skinny, regular-looking white people, maybe in their late 20s.  Glued together, no matter if they had to turn around, or were stuck on the reef, or one was having equipment trouble.  Never let go.  I almost want to say it was romantic and Valentinesy but no, it just seemed pretty inconvenient for the most part.  And a bit ridiculous.

I had left my filter connected to my camera since I tethered it before I realized it would’ t fit the new housing; I had decided to give it to Shanti for helping me arrange my trip.  And I left it somewhere on the sea floor.

We found out between dives that the afternoon and night Manta Ray dives were cancelled due to the weather.  No more ‘Dive Animal.’  The second dive was much like the first, cool, but with lessening visibility and getting rougher.  By the time we were done I couldn’t feel a couple of my fingers.  I never thought diving in Hawaii could be so cold, even with Bill’s extra wetsuit on top of Pablo’s.

On the way home we saw dolphins chasing the boat, and whales breaching here and there.  We stopped a couple times to watch, and most people had never seen a whale up close before.  This was also about the time that we found out that all communications on the island were down.  We didn’t know at the time, but a construction worker grading some land hit a pole which knocked out all phone, internet and cell communication (except TMobile.  Crappiest island service provider was the only one working).  Seems like an important pole like that should be a little more protected.  Besides the couple and me, all the other divers were married guys whose wives were shopping.  Each of them was supposed to call for a ride when they got out of the water.  Each of them was staring at their phones, scratching their heads, wondering what their wives were gonna do when they didn’t call.  And we were almost three hours late because we dove so far away and kept stopping for whales.

When we got back I was able to reschedule my night dives for the next day, even though I was planning on driving north to see some friends.  But I had exactly 18 hours between the end of the night dive and my flight home, and like one diver told me, “If you’re going to give yourself an embolism, the manta dive is the only one worth it.”

And off I went to Humpy’s for a couple post-dive drinks.

Kona

Kona pt 2 – Snot diving

My first dives on the big island were completely unlike what I expected.  Since a northwest swell had started to come in, and all the dive companies I called were sold out, I could only find a company to take me on a shore dive.  Bill, at the Hawaiian Dive Shack, didn’t want to fill up a boat and cancel so he was turning away business.  But he was willing to jump in my car and take me somewhere.  To me, this meant picking him up at his shop, driving to the nearest pier, and swimming out; therefore, I didn’t bring much beyond my dive gear.  To Bill, a decent shore dive was an hour away, which I didn’t realize until 20 minutes into the drive when I finally asked him where we were going.  We drove to Honaunau Bay, or 2 Step, by the Place of Refuge.  The bay is called 2 Step because of the two rock steps to get into the water.  From a short distance I could see the Place of Refuge; if a criminal or defeated warrior in the old times could reach Pu’uhonua before being caught, he was given protection until no one was looking for him anymore.

Bill and I suited up and made our way to the steps for our first dive.  The swell was starting to come in so there weren’t many people in the water; instead, most snorkelers were standing around the steps wondering how they were going to get in, the water was surging and crashing on the rocks with each set wave.  We sat on the steps, put on fins, waited for a big wave, and let it suck us off the rocks.  After a short swim out, the visibility was good and plenty of fish were happily swimming along.  The highlight of our first dive was a spotted eagle ray cruising by, he let us swim with him until we were pretty far out and decided to turn around.  Half-way through this dive I noticed that my GoPro had condensation inside the housing, it was a panic moment.  But nothing to be done about it, it was either ruined or not at that point, so might as well finish the dive.  We saw a couple turtles, stayed out until I thought I was going to freeze to death, and my Dayquil wore off.  I had borrowed Pablo’s wetsuit, and it wasn’t nearly thick enough to keep me warm; I was mostly thinking of the $9 per dive over four days that I would save by not renting a suit, and not that I’m always cold.  I’d say ‘lesson learned,’ but I knew better already.  I did warm up a little trying to get out of the water through the waves, it’s easier to get sucked off a rock going in than to ride a wave in and not bash my head getting out.  Especially in front of a crowd, wondering how it would turn out.

I dried off my GoPro, Bill changed our tanks, we ate granola bars, and got ready to go back out.  I had taken four Dayquils before I left to make sure that my nose would stop running and my ears would clear, but since I hadn’t expected such a long drive I hadn’t brought any more and my cold came back.  Not enough to stop me from diving, though.  We made our daring entry through the waves, again, to the amazement of all the people standing around with fins in hand, and swam to the other side of the bay.  I didn’t risk bringing my camera again and just enjoyed the scenery.  My mask was brand new, and even though I used plenty of defog, I had to continually let in water, swish it around, and blow it out to get a clear view.  When my cold medicine wore off for good, about 10 minutes into the second dive, every time I cleared my mask I blew snot into it, which left slimy slug trails across my vision.  Awesome.

By the end of the second dive, getting out of the water was way more challenging.  There were no longer any other people swimming, they were all standing by the steps.  Bill and I floated for a couple minutes watching the set waves, which were pounding the rocks, forcing the people to run back and forth, tripping over each other to get out of the way.  In the end, it was either ‘just do it,’ or swim all the way around to the shallows by the Place of Refuge.  We just did it, and no one was hurt, just a banged tank; it was kinda fun, really.  As I sat back on the rocks taking off my fins, a man walked up and said ‘good thing he was with you.’

The ride home was a guided tour of the side of the island.  Bill was great, and wanted me to stop anytime I saw something interesting.  I also learned about his entire life.  He opened his dive shop when he moved to Kona, and has since been buying the stock from every shop that goes out of business.  His place is packed with gear.  He knows all the prices of every item of every competitor, and at the end of our trip, he gave me a regulator and a shorty wetsuit to put on top of Pablo’s so I wouldn’t be cold, even though the rest of my dives were with a different company.  All for free.  Super nice guy.

The rest of my day was fairly uneventful – a nap, a trip to the hotel gym after I finally saw a full-length mirror for the first time in months, and horrible pad thai.  Good times.

Kona

Kona 2015

written at humpy’s alehouse, kona 2-11-15

I really didn’t want to go to the big island by myself.  I had a week off work, little money, and no desire to spend more time alone.  Shanti talked me into going, and after all, what was I going to do at home all week?  The same things I do every day, including complaining about my upstairs neighbor, and being alone anyway.  There was a big northwest swell coming in and my favorite camping spot would be too junky to swim, and way too big to surf.

I spent an evening trying to find flights, hotels, dives, cars, all the necessary vacation things, and failed.  I’m just not a good planner.  Every time I found a piece of the puzzle, I stressed that the other pieces would sell out before I could book them; for some reason, Valentine’s Week is extremely popular in Hawaii.  Another depressing thought about being alone for vacation.

But Shanti persevered and booked my entire trip, except for the dives.  I had called in advance and made those reservations; there’s no reason to go anywhere if I can’t get in the water.  Dive shops have a much friendlier cancellation policy than airlines.

There are always little surprises when you let someone else book trips for you; I hadn’t realized that my flight from Kahului to Kona was on a puddle-jumper plane.  Normally I don’t mind them, but to get an idea of the conditions, a school in Kona cancelled because the wind gusts ripped off the roof that day.  And there were lots of kids who had no idea of what ‘indoor voice’ means.  Its pretty intense on a small plane, and I forgot my headphones.

We landed successfully and I retrieved my rental car.  I had a choice of a blue, four-door Hyundai or something that resembled a Smart Car.  I still envisioned that Andy might join me and I wasn’t sure either of us could fit in the tiny car, even separately, so I picked the Hyundai.  I made it to Island Naturals to buy food, and ultimately to the Holiday Inn Express.  Shanti had printed me maps for everywhere I needed to go.  She’s so awesome.  I sometimes wonder how I got through life before her.

By the time I got to my room at the Holiday Inn it was dark.  I had three bags: one of camera gear, one of Pablo’s borrowed scuba gear, and a tiny sack with some clothes.  My room had two beds and I immediately decided that one was for sleeping, the other for snacking and napping.  The building next door contained a pizza place called Longboards, specializing in taro crust, and I ordered a medium to go, for my snack bed.  After an hour walk to reacquaint myself with Kona, I had been there for a couple days with Shanti, Pablo and Jason a few years ago, I came back to the largest pizza I’d ever seen.  And it was a medium.  I started to argue that they made the wrong size for me when I saw the large walk past, for a group of about 20.  My pizza could have stuffed eight people easily, and it took up almost half of my snack bed.  I ate about four people’s worth, thought I might never walk again, and threw the rest in the hallway so I wouldn’t be tempted to start eating again in ten minutes.  I didn’t even want it for breakfast, I never wanted to see that pizza again.

One of the reasons I finally relented and went on a trip instead of saving money was that my upstairs neighbor had a house guest for the week.  I love my neighbor, but my house just wasn’t meant to have a downstairs apartment; every movement she makes is amplified and echoed, and I haven’t had a full nights sleep in months.  Two people above me meant that I wouldn’t sleep all week.  And wow was I surprised, sitting on my snack bed with my ridiculous-sized pizza, when all I could hear over the TV was the people above me pounding across my ceiling.  Fuuuuuuuucccckk.

At least I still had some Nyquil left from my cold.

But I’m on vacation, and the diving starts tomorrow.  All up from here.

Hell yeah! or no. (Fuck yes or no)

A friend sent me a blog post, which led me to another. Both extremely relevant to me at this point in my life of trying to figure out where I want go and what I want to do. And who should accompany me on this journey.  (Read them both, they could be life-changers for you, which is how I was introduced to them).

Another friend, Bill, someone I’ve only recently met, shared his blog with me, and we talked about living life exactly how we want, and accepting nothing less.

It seems amazing to me that after the amount of time I spent working on my personal growth, these are concepts that I haven’t gotten right yet.  I’m not saying that in a disparaging way, but in the light of having an old concept presented to me in a way that makes more sense, with more of a concrete example to follow.  There are a few things to which I say ‘Fuck yes,’ but the major decisions of my life are always based upon a lesser of evils; this doesn’t make sense anymore.

I justify my major decisions in various ways: if I don’t take this job, I might not make enough money to survive on my own; if I don’t rent this house, it may be months of begging friends to live on their couches before I find somewhere I want to live. Making money and having a solid place to live are a couple of the most important decisions that are a part of everyone’s lives.

I had a discussion at work with my boss a few weeks ago, we talked about my future and what I want to do; he had offered me a solid position doing something that I’m good at, but which, after thinking about it, I knew would be unexciting and unfulfilling to me.  A couple days later, I declined.  He was perplexed, because in his mind it would be a good fit for me, given the skills he sees in me when I’m at work.  Somewhat frustrated (in my mind), he asked, “what do you want to do?”

“Buy a boat and spend my life taking pictures of dolphins.”

It just popped out of my mouth without thought.

That’s my Fuck Yes, I guess.

But instead, I took a different job, somewhat half-way between taking pictures of dolphins and working in an office.

Several days later, I had a short discussion with Bill about life, and living it to the fullest. His only stand on the matter is to follow your passion, no matter what, and that’s how you live a completely fulfilling life.  I objected with the usual “it costs a lot to live here” and “I don’t want to starve and be homeless.”  Bill had absolutely no pity on those statements.  Do what you love and if you’re happy doing it, the money will follow.  The universe takes care of people following their dreams.

To most people that see my “highlight reel” of posted pictures on facebook, they see a happy girl doing great things and don’t guess that I still haven’t gotten this basic life concept figured out yet.  Maybe I’m too scared to give up the tenuous hold on security that I currently have.  Tenuous security is still security.  It takes a giant leap of faith to start something new and believe that it will work, while giving up what I know is working even though it’s not perfect.

I’ve made some major changes in my life in the past few years, partly in thanks to Shanti and Andy convincing me that I should take time off work and travel, to see what’s outside my comfort zone.  But settling back into the security of my comfort zone happened almost immediately when I returned, in terms of jobs and housing.  I’m more aware of what’s “out there,” and what makes my soul happy, and these things don’t happen in my current comfort zone.  Just when I think I have so much figured out in my life, it seems that it’s time to shake it up again.  It’s scary and exciting, and it’s time to embark on new adventures.  It takes courage, which doesn’t always appear when it’s needed.  I have to make it happen.  And this might be the journey I’m meant to take now.  And make it stick, at which point the scary dream will become my new comfort zone.

Worst dive buddy ever – scuba diving on The Great Barrier Reef

An excerpt from Wandering, from the Great Barrier Reef:

 

I went with the same company but still had to fill out all the same paperwork about experience and medical conditions and such. All the certified divers were grouped together, again only about 20 of us. One English woman with a high-pitched, whiny voice had dozens of questions for the crew. One of the questions in the paperwork was “Have you ever dived in the ocean?” and she immediately flagged down a crewman and asked, “Which ocean? This ocean? What if I’ve dived in a different ocean? Does that count? Are all the oceans the same? I did dive in one but maybe it doesn’t count?” She had endless questions about the basic paperwork and the crewman sat down, realizing that he wasn’t going to get away from her any time soon. I was sitting with a Canadian woman, Tamara, and we were practically rolling on the floor laughing.

When we arrived at the dive site, the certified divers were called back to gear up and my gear was set up next to the crazy woman’s. She had trouble with her regulator, but not really, and called several crew members over to look at it. They all said it was fine, but she demanded that someone switch it out. Then we were seated, strapped onto our tanks and ready to go, when the boat ran over and severed the mooring line, which meant we had another 15 minutes to sit in full gear while they fixed it. Crazy woman started making small talk with me. “Have you dived here before?”

“Yes.”
“Is this ocean salty?”
“Um, I think that’s what defines an ocean, there’s salt in the water.”

“But is it really salty?”

“I don’t know how to answer that.”
“I’m asking because I’m really thirsty.”
At that moment I knew that she would be assigned as my divebuddy. It was my fate.

Crazy did ask me to be her buddy while we were waiting for the mooring line to be fixed. I tried to weasel out like before, crossed my fingers, and told her that we get assigned and couldn’t choose. I wished I had asked Tamara but completely forgot, and we were strapped into our tanks far away from each other. And, as luck would have it, I got Crazy for a buddy. I’m sure the crew was chuckling about being rid of her for a while. It was a group dive, but she was still my responsibility.

It was time and we finally jumped in. The first thing Crazy did was swim over and grab my arm; the dive hadn’t even started and I was already annoyed. I did my best with hand signals to let her know that at no time was she welcome to touch me, and I headed to the bottom. In the minute it took to get there I received six OK signals from her.

I like to dive with a little space, so if people are crowded around the guide I’ll hang back, or if people are doing their own thing I’ll go up front, just as long as I can see what I want and not bump into people. Crazy never got more than two feet away from me at any point; no matter how hard I tried to make some room she would swim over and touch me. Every time I looked up to see what was touching me, I’d see her flash the OK sign. I wanted to give her the finger but thought that might be a bit much. She went so far as to swim up to my head and throw an OK sign in front of my mask. I wanted to turn off her tank.

I’m not a bad dive buddy, but partners need to check on each other only so much. I was always aware of where she was, even when she wasn’t touching me; I looked back many times since she refused to swim in front of me, and she always seemed fine. That, in my opinion, is what was required of me.

There was a lot of great sea life on the dive, but my annoyance level was pretty high and I didn’t enjoy everything as much as I could have. Forty minutes of OK signals.

We were back on the boat for our surface interval, getting our tanks refilled and our gear ready. I only wore a skin suit for the first dive and was kind of cold, so I was trying to find a half wetsuit to wear as well. Crazy sat down and started to lecture me on the proper way to be a good dive buddy. She didn’t think I was doing my job.

“I’d appreciate it if you’d give me the OK sign more often when we’re under water.” I think I had given her one for the entire first dive. I let her know that I always knew where she was and she looked fine and I didn’t feel the need for constant OK signs.

“How do you know I’m OK if I don’t give you an OK sign?”

“Well, you’re swimming along normally and looking at stuff and look pretty OK so I don’t feel I need to ask.”

“But how will I know if you’re OK if you don’t tell me you’re OK?”

“Well, if I’m swimming normally and looking at stuff and I look OK then you should just assume that I’m OK too.”

“You need to give me more OK signs on the next dive, I need to know that you’re OK.”

I had to turn and start talking to the woman on the other side of me because I was afraid I was going to hit Crazy.

We jumped in for the second dive and immediately I had my shadow throwing OK signs at me. I refused to give her even one for the entire dive; I get a little stubborn when I’m annoyed. I looked back at Crazy several times; I did my job. But this time I concentrated on the reef and all the wild things living down there and ignored her as much as possible. There were squid, white-tip reef sharks, turtles, rays, unicorn fish, another giant Napoleon wrasse, and huge groupers; completely excellent.

We had about seven minutes left to dive when I felt Crazy grab my leg and pull me backwards. That’s fucking enough, time to turn off her tank for real. Her ear felt funny, she signaled, and I didn’t give a shit. I got the guide’s attention and signaled that my buddy was sick, then swam away in hopes that he’d send her to the surface. But she wasn’t sick, there wasn’t anything wrong with her ear, she just wanted attention, and after several more OK signals we resumed our dive.

During our lunch break I made it very clear that she was not to speak to me again.

The third dive was spectacular; I started it off by getting attacked by a good-sized triggerfish. It was mating season for them and they actually build nests and defend them ferociously. It would have been nice if the crew had warned us, since they dive at the same mooring every day. I was descending, minding my own business, when a big fish with pointy teeth charged at me. It was more funny than scary because trigger fish are so cute, but he wouldn’t leave me alone. I tried to swim away but he kept nipping at me, and I could see Crazy having a minor underwater heart attack from the exertion of all the OK signals she was throwing at me, which I ignored.

Most surprisingly, though, on the third dive she mostly left me alone. I looked back for her here and there and she had given me several feet of personal space. Aaah. And when we surfaced, I never had to see her again.

 

 

Find my books on Amazon:

Sylvie Writes a Romance

Wandering

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Seadragon video from Tasmania

This video accompanies the previous post about sighting a seadragon in Tasmania.

 

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Searching for Sea Dragons in Tasmania – Wandering

Another excerpt from Wandering (published June 2014):

 

I had one more week until I was supposed to meet Shanti and her family in Cambodia, so I decided to check out Tasmania.

When I was planning, I asked Kawika and Scotty about it, and neither of them had ever been there, nor knew anyone who had been there (which immediately prompted me to resupply my tampon stash while still in the city, I was traveling into unknown territory again). I hadn’t even known it was an Australian state until I started researching. I emailed a scuba company that promised sea dragons and set up a dive, so that was where I reserved a hotel room. All the hostels were sold out, again, and the hotel in Hobart was officially the most expensive place I have ever stayed. Stupid holidays.

As I flew into Hobart, I realized that I hadn’t done any proper research. I was looking for sea dragons and nature; in my mind I saw mountains and lakes and rivers, adventures and surf and scuba. It never occurred to me that I was going to the capital city of one of the Australian states. A big, horrible city.

I was the last drop-off for the hotel shuttle, so I got a small tour of the city. I felt like I was in downtown Seattle, not the small beach towns and backwoods laziness that I envisioned. And I had to walk several blocks from my hotel to find a Wi-Fi connection at a pub. I really need to learn how to properly research destinations.

According to my emails with Sue at Underwater Adventures, sea dragons lived in the harbors around Hobart. On my first morning in town I was supposed to meet her at the docks at 7:45, along with one other woman who was equally excited to find them. I arrived at the dock at 7:40, early as usual, and Georgina got there at 7:43. We waited, made small talk, waited more, and no boat. Finally, Sue motored up at 8:20; apparently a cruise ship motored past while she was loading tanks and the wake knocked two of them overboard and she had to dive for them. A shaky start to the day.

The boat wasn’t very well-kept; it was kind of messy with stuff everywhere, with six tanks sort of bungeed to the sides, but Sue was nice. She didn’t have any crew so she wasn’t going to dive with us, which immediately annoyed both Georgina and me. It’s way easier to find things underwater with someone who’s been there before. Getting directions in Cairns for a colony of clownfish was bad enough; now we had to locate an animal that looks like kelp in darker water.

We travelled 50 minutes to our first site at Betsey Island. The sky was grey and rainy and the wind was picking up. There were dozens of crayfish pots in the area where Sue wanted to drop anchor, so it took us a while to settle in. She gave me a selection of 7 millimeter wetsuits, all of them covered in dog hair. They probably would be comfy to sleep on. After trying a few, I finally found one that fit, which meant I could fasten it properly and still manage to breathe a little. I was worried that in darker water a tight wetsuit might make me feel claustrophobic and I’d freak out, but I continued getting ready – boots, hood, gloves, and 32 pounds of weights. I could barely move. Georgina was using a dry suit; Sue didn’t have one in my size. It took us an hour to gear up for the first dive.

Then came the moment I was dreading – touching the water. It was 16 degrees Celsius. In a 7-millimeter wetsuit, it still felt like 16 degrees. It was fucking cold. Like getting wrapped in ice, then buried in snow. Then stabbed in the head with icicles. I couldn’t remember ever being that cold in my life. Every time I turned my head to look around, some water would channel straight down my back. I just kept telling myself that I was doing this for a good purpose: sea dragons.

The visibility was around five meters in the greenish water. The underwater landscape consisted of kelp forests and a lot of strange plants, but I didn’t find many fish. I saw a wrasse, a box cowfish, anemones, starfish, a rockfish, and a couple crabs, but mostly just plants floating back and forth with the current. I was praying for a sea dragon.

“Please, God, let me see one so I don’t ever have to get back in this water. Pretty please? I’ll be good, I promise.”

The first dive lasted 48 minutes and by the end I was shaking uncontrollably, my teeth were chattering, and no sea dragon. Sue kept asking if we saw the felled tree where some live, or the backside of the reef where others are. That was why we had wanted a guide.

We left for the second dive site, the blowhole in Blackman’s Bay. There was no way I could take off my wetsuit between dives, so I put a jacket over it and jumped up and down to try to get warm, but it didn’t work. I ate half a box of Tim-Tams, possibly the greatest chocolate cookie in mass production, thinking that might help. Maybe it was just a good excuse to eat so many.

On the second dive I was cold going in, and thought I would die the moment I hit the water. I vaguely remember wondering if my nipples could cut through a 7 millimeter suit. This dive was a little shallower and I was too floaty; I had to swim back to the boat after 20 minutes for more weights. I was now carrying 38 pounds; the most I’d ever used before was 14. It was good incentive to start working out again; my legs had a hard time standing under the extra weight.

We saw more kelp and more cute cowfish, but it was 48 more minutes of no sea dragons. As we swam back to the boat, Sue yelled that we should try one more time a little further down, maybe swim until we have about 40 bar of air left. Obviously, sea dragons were way more important than following strict PADI dive rules. We dove back down on the other side of the reef for a total dive time of 63 minutes with no sea dragons. I was pretty sure my fingertips were going to break off.

I was told that we were only doing two dives, and although I was upset that we didn’t find a sea dragon, I was OK with getting dried off. The weather had gotten worse and the sun hadn’t come out all day; it was just windy and rainy. All I could think about was a hot shower and obscene amounts of food.

But Sue felt bad and suggested a third dive. Georgina gave the decision to me since I was the coldest, but not by much since her drysuit had a small leak. I came all this way to Tasmania, was half-frozen, and I’d probably never make it back. Another 20 minutes wouldn’t kill me. Sue’s rationale was that the first site gets battered by storms, the second site had a bunch of spear divers a few days ago, but the third site never gets much traffic. And that was when Georgina got pissed. Imagine an older, shorter, English housewife getting really angry. But I agreed with her. Why did we go to the crappy sites first, especially when the pristine site was only 15 minutes from the dock?

The third site was Boronia Beach. Sue was begging us to dive just a little while, even though one tank only had 100 bar and Georgina had to use her tank from the last dive. We decided to go for 20 minutes or until one of us had no air left. By then we had left PADI standards far behind. I think Sue felt bad because she usually gets in the water with the divers and can find the sea dragon hangouts; maybe her crew called in sick, but this wasn’t a great day for diving. I had been carrying my camera and decided to leave it on the boat for the last dive since it wasn’t doing anything but wearing down the battery.

Sue dropped us at the edge of a reef with instructions, “Go in here where you can see the reef, swim with it on your left; if you go around that corner into the other bay that’s OK, I’ll follow your bubbles from the boat.” Georgina and I swam, freezing. I started thinking that I really was going to die, then OH MY GOD A SEA DRAGON!

It was the weirdest animal I’ve ever seen in my life. It had a snout like a seahorse, a fat little body with teensy, fluttery, useless-looking fins, and a long tail that started off fat and tapered to very skinny. It was a male, carrying eggs. In total, it was about 14 inches long, and every color in the crayon box. The sun had just come out, and every time he moved, different body parts turned different colors in the light. He had two lumps on his head that looked like horns, and two long side fins that just dangled and looked like kelp. There was another set of tiny, fluttery fins where I thought his ears should go. The overall impression was like a flying elephant with a couple tinker-bell wings. Totally ridiculous.

And of course, I didn’t have my camera. I signaled to Georgina that I was going to the boat and I’d be right back. I sprinted in my 7 millimeter wetsuit. By the time I got back I was so out of breath that I had to float on the surface trying to breathe; my suit was too tight for a proper breath. But there was a sea dragon, so I went down anyway.

Georgina and I spent 25 minutes watching him. He just swam back and forth between a couple big rocks and showed off for us, like he was on a sea dragon catwalk. I completely forgot that I was cold.

 

Watch the seadragon on YouTube.

Find my books on Amazon:

Sylvie Writes a Romance

Wandering

Leave a review on Amazon and I’ll love you forever!

Sylvie Writes a Romance on Smashwords – for Nook, Kobo, etc

Recent articles:

BookDaily.com

Travel Writing on JenniferSAlderson.com

Recent reviews:

Indie Reader Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance

Kirkus Indie Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance

 

Follow me on Facebook