collage by monica brand
The most spectacular — in truth, almost spiritual — swimming experience I’ve had was in the Indian Ocean, near the Phi Phi islands in Thailand. Those “kos” as they’re called in Thai, lay 30 miles off the coast of the popular resort island of Phuket and were used as the location of the utopian enclave depicted in the film The Beach. No wonder.
The water is a brilliant, inviting amalgam of emerald and turquoise. Jutting out of the sea are giant limestone mountains; I remember feeling dwarfed and humbled by their majesty as I looked up at them from the water. My swim lasted just a few minutes because my boat had only stopped there briefly on a tour of that archipelago. When I was called to climb back on deck, I stalled, wanting to savor every last second. It was one of those rare times when you realize in the moment how special that moment is. And that you might never get the chance to return to such a far flung paradise.
I swam in that sea in December 2009, nearly five years to the day the tsunami devastated parts of Southeast Asia, including the Phi Phi islands. Yet I didn’t feel even a hint of anxiety — those stoical mountains and now tranquil waters imparted a deep, if fleeting, sense of serenity.

-Michele Promaulayko


Michele Promaulayko, the former editor in chief of Yahoo Health and Women's Health, is the Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan and the Editorial Director of Seventeen.