By Grace Cusick | Guest Contributor
Alone and bored, I turned on a random wellness podcast. Suddenly, I was greeted by the calming voice of Gwyneth Paltrow as she discussed the benefits of swimming in cold water on The goop Podcast. I was intrigued but did not see a practical application in my life, as I was preparing for a summer in Ireland. I reluctantly packed my sweaters, pants and raincoat while dreaming of the clear blue water that awaited my friends who were studying abroad in Italy and Spain.
I knew Ireland would be incredible. Deep down, I think I was jealous of the tan my other friends would return with. It was safe to say I would not be sun-kissed and glowing when I landed back at DFW. I was, however, able to swim in the crystal clear water I dreamed of.
My first encounter with Ireland’s spectacular beaches was during our day trip to the Aran Islands. To set the scene, it was rainy with a high of 55 degrees Fahrenheit. I was wearing a sweater, Outdoor Voices Rectrek pants and my beloved Veja sneakers. I was already in heaven admiring the sheep and cows as we rode our bikes around the remote island.
On the journey, we happened upon a nice beach that two of my fellow classmates decided they wanted to swim at. I thought they had gone crazy. I dipped my toe in the water and was instantly met with chills.
Suddenly, it hit me: This was the type of water Paltrow would swim in.
I was not as brave as Paltrow, and I had to be coerced into the freezing water. I was unprepared both physically and mentally. I did not bring a swimsuit, towel or change of clothes, so this was something truly wild for me to do. I was placed in some mythical trance; the cold no longer scared me. I took a leap of faith into the blue water and was met with awe. I felt truly superhuman. My body tingled, and I was the most awake I had been the entire trip. I won’t lie and say I was able to remain in the water for longer than five minutes, but those four and a half minutes were some of the best of my entire trip.
I was hooked. I felt like an addict waiting to get my next fix of the cold water. Thankfully, I did not have to wait too long. In a small coastal town called Howth, we came across a tiny hidden beach. To access this hidden paradise, you had to make it down a steep set of narrow stairs that was built into the side of a cliff. It was a scene taken straight out of Indiana Jones, but nothing could stop me.
I ventured down to the beach and lunged for the perfectly clear water. As I floated in the crisp water while watching a fellow classmate bellyflop into the ocean, I was at peace. Unfortunately, a strong tide that almost swallowed her camera, which was sitting on the rocks, forced us out of the water. We trudged up the stairs and back to reality. I turned around to take one last look at this immaculate place and saw the most amazing sight: A little seal head popped out of the water right where we had been swimming. This was the epitome of a cherry on top.
I am not one to take a cold shower, play in the snow or wear a T-shirt if the temperature is below 75 degrees Fahrenheit. However, if you ever get the chance to take a dip in the Irish ocean, I urge you to take it. I will forever be in Paltrow’s debt for giving me the courage to venture into the cold water.