First Encounters of Magic


It is such a great word. It conjures up images of illusionists doing magic tricks, sorcerers casting spells, mythical beasts roaming free or fairy dust being sprinkled around.

However, most times when I say this word, I’m referring to the sense of absolute wonder that we feel when we experience the greatness of this Universe.

In those moments, you feel very alive and connected because you recognize that you exist amid this brilliance. You are part of it.

Being part of something greater brings aliveness and connection. This is food for the Soul.

When we don’t feed our soul, we feel drained or isolated. We get caught in survival mode or routines that turn us into robots or beast of burdens.

When we exist solely to survive, we become shadows of our true self.

That is why, even with the stresses or limitations placed on us by biology or circumstance, it is important to find some crack in the mundane and find the magic again.

How Ocean Magic First Found Me

In my childhood, I was very disconnected from Nature as i was confined indoors. I never got to know the trees, mountains, fields or flowers. I was also disconnected from my body because physical activities like sports or running around outside were off limits.

While many kids were finding magic by playing outside, I found magic in art and in my imagination. I read books on mythology and was fascinated by the paranormal or supernatural. I drew unicorns, mermaids, dragons and fairies. I quietly watched shows about oddities, mysteries, science fiction or fantasy…

However, I was given swimming lessons because it was considered a survival skill. It was a practical task done after school and there was no time or space to play in the water. Also, I disliked going into the cold, smelly, chlorinated pool which it burned my eyes and skin.

Then, in my teens, my family took a few warm-weather vacations and we visited some beaches. The soft sand welcomed me and the sparking water beckoned me. I felt at home on the beach and in the ocean so this was how I first connected with Nature.

On one of these trips, my father and I went on an introductory scuba dive. I was 15 years old and was excited as we boarded the boat because I had never had alone time or quality time with my father before and adventure was not part of our lives. This afternoon with him would be a singular event but I value it because it is a happy memory.

My 15-year old self, captain Nick and my father heading to the dive site

But even more impactful, was the JOY that I felt when I was immersed in the gorgeous turquoise water and encountered colorful fish in their natural domain!

Up til that moment, I had not known Joy before and it was exhilarating!

Photo of my first dive, age 15

With hindsight, I see that this experience was a great blessing even though I did not fully recognize it at the time. Instead, I returned to a day-to-day survival mode once I was back home. I didn’t think further about the ocean or diving as I was focused on my plan to “escape” the heavy world I grew up in by getting good grades, saving money and investing in my career.

Thankfully, magic always finds us again if we create openings.

At age 23, I began my healing journey in earnest and over the next 8 years, it changed the course of my life. I was transformed from being a cynical yet ambitious loner into a joyful and grateful lover of Life.

As part of this joyful life, I took annual sabbaticals – some at home and some abroad. In my ebook “The Magical Sabbatical”, I share different ways to use this time to revive your aliveness and refocus on what matters most to you.

On a 2008 sabbatical, I revived the “ocean magic” by doing my official dive training in Thailand. Fittingly, my dive instructor’s spirit was reminiscent of Steve Irwin, The Crocodile Hunter – sharing his love of the ocean and of diving with such gusto and passion!!

Since then, I’ve gone diving in BC, Hawaii, Bali, Isla Mujeres and Tulum, Mexico (in the underground caves called “cenotes”) and multiple locations around Thailand.

I also did freedive training (diving without a tank and just holding your breath) in Thailand, Hawaii and BC – diving down to 97 feet on one breath.

However, it is still surprisingly easy to lose touch with certain passions if you have many. This time, I let the ocean magic sleep for 5 years while I was attending to many family needs but eventually, my soul tapped me on the shoulder to say:

“Hey, you need to be in the ocean again. Your spirit needs this. Do it now.”

This is why I was saddened by the unexpected vertigo in Thailand last month. My soul needed to be in the ocean but certain things were delaying or preventing it from happening.

Thankfully, after being grounded for 2 weeks, the vertigo subsided enough that I could risk embarking on the 4-night liveaboard that would take Shane and I diving in the Similan Islands.

I dove here before in 2011 and these 11 islands are part of a protected national marine park. National Geographic Society ranked the Similan Islands as “One of the Top 10 dive destinations in the World”

(We went with Khaolak Scuba Adventures – the same company that i went with in 2011 and they did a fantastic job both times.)

Our boat of had 31 divers (24 tourists and 7 guides) from Germany, China, Finland, Sweden, Australia, UK, Malaysia, Thailand and Scotland while Shane and I were the only Canadians. The 6 wonderful boat crew (and captain) and 2 cooks were from Thailand!

Exploring a Blue Planet

It truly is the epitome of magic to visit the underwater world. It feels like you are flying and exploring outer space yet instead of being an astronaut, you are an Aquanaut…

I was very relieved to see that the reefs looked healthy upon my return 8 years later. The ocean temperature was 29-30 Celsius (warm like bathwater) and the visibility was fabulous!

On this trip, one of my favorite things to do was to float quietly in the middle of a school of snapper fish, so that I can see their little faces up close. The fish all have personalities and some actually look at you with curiosity…

Shane and I loved watching a male cuttlefish change colors while he held on tightly to his mate and how he blocked another curious male from cutting in.

We also saw a large octopus tentacle glide through a cave while pulling a rock to cover the opening and I found a tiny octopus trying to camouflage itself against an empty jug next to a shipwreck! (the 3 octopus I saw on this trip were the highlights for me)

Photo of Cuttlefish by my friend, Ulf Topf

There were giant barracuda, cute “dog-like” puffer fish, adorable porcupine fish with giant cartoon eyes, itsy bitsy yellow box fish, soft corals, giant fan coral, clownfish poking out of the anenomes, schools of trevally fish and rainbow colored parrot fish which poop the gorgeous white sand that we love to lay on!

Our favorite dive site (Richelieu Rock) was teeming with fish and coral so it felt like we were inside a fantasia of swirling colors and glitter. It was absolutely breathtaking…

Shane and I with our dive guide, Ebba from Sweden

Life on a Liveaboard

DIVE – EAT – SLEEP – REPEAT. This is Khaolak Scuba Adventure’s slogan and to do so many dives in 4 days, everything was done on time – right down to the minute!

Before each dive, a bell rang and we got a briefing about the uniqueness of each site.

After each dive, another bell rang and we got fresh-cooked food (buffet-style) and there was time to read, sunbathe, nap or chat.

I even had the chance to learn new tongue twisters in German, Spanish and English!

Also, since I haven’t read fiction in many years, I was delighted to read a fantasy book that a wonderful coaching client and friend from Montreal had gifted me: A Wizard of EarthSea!

It was so blissful to sit on the upper deck, with the book framed by the beautiful blue ocean…

Another highlight were the many laughs shared with our dive buddies and dive guides!

I had fun serenading the Germans with a Marlene Dietrich song and singing a Thai lullaby to the boat staff. Plus, I learned to swear in Finnish via our Swedish dive guide!

We also met an adorable German whose nickname is Jesus so I called him Viking Jesus!!

One day, I showed him burlesque moves on the top deck of the boat but when we did a tiny jump, the whole boat quaked and I thought Viking Jesus might fall right through the floor!

Viking Jesus joins me in a Pinup Pose

By the way, I completed my 70th dive on this trip and Viking Jesus dove naked on his 100th dive (a supposed scuba tradition)!

Shane and I fully enjoyed all 15 of our dives in the Andaman Sea. It was Shane’s first diving safari and he had completed his dive training just the week before!

Ironically, I felt great while on the boat and in the water. It was only when I returned to land that the remaining vertigo was perceptible.

Back in Vancouver, I saw two doctors and they both think I have vestibular neuritis – a viral inflammation of the vestibulocochlear nerve in the ear that can cause vertigo. No tests were done on me but they said it’s the most likely cause. It may take a few months to resolve naturally but if it doesn’t, then I will be going in for tests.

For now, I have daily fatigue from the remaining vertigo but thankfully, I am able to do my coaching work and am taking it slow with physical activities. There is magic in the slower motions of life (literally) and just this week, I’ve begun to dance a little bit again.

On another note, I really appreciated all the thoughtful caring emails I received over the last few weeks. Thank you so much for your compassion and care!!

Knowing that we are still connected means a lot and I look forward to sharing Magic and Meaning with you this year…

If you want to visit Thailand, I’ve written out some of my Thailand tips -just click on THAILAND TRAVEL TIPS

And here are some of our 2019 Thailand photos…


Ayutthaya Temples

Island of Koh Phi Phi

Dive Safari in the Similan Islands

Waves of love and mermaid hugs,

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