By

It’s one thing to be naked around your best friend; it’s a whole other deal to accidentally touch each other’s bare skin, especially when you’re trying to achieve enlightenment. Perhaps Rachel and I should’ve sprung for individual time in the hotel spa’s only sensory deprivation tank, but what fun would that be? It wasn’t until we kept floating into each other’s various body parts that we realized that sometimes togetherness tends to interrupt one’s achievement of zen.

 

We were at Amangiri in Canyon Point, Utah for the weekend, the occasion being our 12-year friendaversary. After a particularly challenging year, I decided we would celebrate here because its remoteness felt like a chance to recharge, and I had also been promised all-you-can-eat gourmet food along with the room rate.

 

Rachel and I met while doing one of the most mortifyingly bad plays I’ve ever performed in. We clung to each other like a life raft amidst embarrassing scenes such as the interpretive “rape dance” in which we writhed in a semi-circle on the floor; stood in a line holding lit candles (far too close to each other’s hair for my comfort) while singing black spirituals; and a particularly creepy scene where Rachel donned a men’s suit jacket and I sat on her lap while she pet my head. All while wearing Catholic school girl uniforms. They say trauma bonds people. We’ve been inseparable ever since.

Juliana Dever and Rachel at Antelope Canyon during visit to Amangiri

Rachel and I visited Antelope Canyon during our visit to Amangiri. Yes, we tend to cling to each other for safety. Photo by Raymond m Chee Jr.

After settling into our room and eating all of the free mini-bar caramel corn, I began perusing the spa menu. They have a “flotation pavilion” where one could drift off into a sensory-deprived nirvana for just $95. Even better, it was big enough for two. We could be deprived of all of our senses and split the cost!

 

Snap chatting before the sensory deprivation tank

Yes, we snap chatted this entire adventure to Utah. Our hopeful faces before we head off to be deprived of our senses.

“The flotation pool is clothing-optional.” Our attendant explains. “You can leave your suits here in the front room. Once I shut the door you will have five minutes before all the lights turn off completely.” The pool itself is really more of a pond. It’s perhaps 10 inches deep and filled with a saltwater mixture that simulates the Dead Sea. There is a blue light that emanates from the circumference of the pool, the only illumination in the room.

 

The attendant leaves us a stack of towels by the pool’s steps and closes the heavy black door behind us. We take off our suits and lay down in the salty pond. My mental timer starts: 5 minutes until the blue lights go off, 30 minutes total to get into the most relaxed state of my life. Bring on the meditation to end all meditations.

What It’s Like to Float in a Sensory Deprivation Tank

I want this to be life changing, so I prepare to clear my mind. Unfortunately my mind does not prefer to be cleared and thus begins the epic struggle between nothingness and thirty minutes of crazy time:

Minutes 1 – 3:

My first sensation is burning. I haven’t even shaved my legs in like two days. Why does this burn so much? I feel like I’m on fire and need a bucket of broken aloe leaves to rub all over my body. This will go away, right?

Minutes 3 – 6:

What if I had a tampon in? Would it fill up completely with saltwater and then would the saltwater flood my bloodstream? What kind of damage would that do? Or would it be good for me? Could I get toxic shock syndrome from this?

At this point, I reach for Rachel.
“Hey, would I die if I had a tampon in and it filled with saltwater?
“I don’t think you can get toxic shock from a saltwater tampon.”
I put my head back down in the water.

Minute 7:

Why are the blue lights still on? It must’ve been more than five minutes by now. When are the five minutes up? What if they forget about us in here?

Minutes 8 – 10:

Saltwater is filling my shower cap. This cap wasn’t mean for keeping out saltwater. I should’ve brought one of those tight Michael Phelps rubber-skullcap type things. But I don’t own any. Also, I don’t know how to swim, which might be why I don’t own any swim caps.

Minutes 10 – 12:

Wow my neck hurts. I don’t think I’m floating correctly. I push my head down further and try to soften my neck, which somehow makes me crane my shoulders. I need to relax better. I start meditating. I concentrate my attention into my “third eye” and focus on becoming one with the universe. Ohm.

Blue waves of rock in Antelope Canyon - thoughts in a sensory deprivation tank

Blue waves of rock in Antelope Canyon earlier that day. I try to meditate back to this peaceful place.

Minute 13:

Rachel’s toe touches my butt. I open my eyes. Holy shit is it dark in here! I squeeze my eyes closed.

Minutes 14 – 17:

Did the attendant lock the door behind her? Because a killer with night-vision goggles could totally sneak into this pavilion and kill us. How would we even know he was in here? He could be standing over me right now, ready to strike. This could be some sort of next-level I Still Know What You Did Last Summer type carnage. I open my eyes again. Or maybe they’re still closed; I can’t tell the difference. I try breathing deep, cleansing breaths.

Minutes 18 – 20:

What if they release snakes into this pool? Wouldn’t that be crazy? I really want to share this thought with Rachel, but she might be connecting with Frida Kahlo right now or developing the ability to inhabit animals like Bran Stark for all I know. Plus she’s terrified of snakes. I’m going to let this thought go.

Sensory deprivation tank thoughts

What would I do without Rachel? This is my contemplative face. Photo by Raymond m Chee Jr.

Minutes 21 – 24:

What if Rachel has disappeared? I haven’t bumped into her for a few minutes now. What if, somehow, some way, she was kidnapped and I won’t even know it until the lights come back on. When are the lights coming back on, anyway? Hasn’t it been thirty minutes yet?

 

Minutes 25 – 26:

My shoulder really hurts. I adjust it back and down, but the way I’m floating is all wrong. I bend my right arm hard, so that my hand is up by my shoulder, kind of like I’m catching a baseball. This movement keeps my shoulder down, but now I’m contorted into a weird position like Han Solo when he was frozen in carbonite. What if this water turned into carbonite? What if I got frozen like this, my hand perpetually clawing the air?

Minute 27:

I have to pee. I’m going to have to crawl out of here on my hands and knees somehow.

Minutes 28 – 29:

Woah my eyes burn. Why is saltwater rolling into them? It’s been like 45 minutes already. I can’t take it anymore.

I start paddling towards what I hope is the rim of the pool, not wanting to disturb Rachel in case she’s been gifted with the exact location of Bigfoot so they can wrap up that Animal Planet show or maybe the secret recipe for Twinkies. I can’t open my eyes from the stinging pain. I grope around until I feel the edge of the pool. I pull myself along the circle feeling for the entrance and the stack of towels. If only I can blot this firewater out of my eyes.

Why is it so freaking dark in here???

The darkness inside the sensory deprivation tank

My view inside of the sensory deprivation tank.

I bounce off of Rachel, who is sitting up and also feeling the wall. “My eyes are burning!” she yells out. We grab hands and continue our circular quest for the exit, naked and afraid, in ten inches of water.

 

We find the towels just as the lights come back on. I am so happy that my senses are no longer deprived.

 

I feel a tremendous sense of disappointment and shoulder pain. How was it that I was unable to reach euphoric levels of nothingness? Turns out Rachel didn’t fare much better at the sensory deprivation tank, a ball of burning sensations and boredom, any attempts to achieve altered states no doubt ruined by the occasional brushing of my bum.

Rattlesnake canyon - Utah

Surfing the waves of Rattlesnake Canyon during our visit to Utah. Rachel and I do way better OUT of the water. Photo by Raymond m Chee Jr.

There are moments in this lifetime where we do have to walk, or float, alone I realize. I can’t wait to tell Rachel all about this realization over dinner, or maybe later before we fall asleep, or possibly tomorrow at breakfast or on the six-hour trip home.

Travel Pinterest - Clever Dever Wherever

Sensory Deprivation Tank | Luxury Hotel | Arizona | Utah | Amangiri | Juliana Dever

Read More About Girlfriend Getaways

I needed to get into that detective agency. It’s now gone beyond a simple curiosity to a burning desire. “You ladies looking for some weed?” Lightning cracks and lights up the night, the rain cliché right on cue, as if I’m in a ‘40s pulp fiction novel. The guy in the hoodie does not care how hard the rain...

Cold air brushed the hairs on my neck. It was New Orleans in February. But I was also standing in front of a haunted one-hundred-year-old French-style hotel. “When the couple reviewed their trip photos, they were stunned to see one that was taken of the two of them inside their hotel room…asleep. The angle was...

About the Author

Hi. I’m Juliana Dever and according to science I have some sort of "exploration" gene. Embracing this compulsion, I spend a lot of time hurtling around the planet in metal tubes experiencing other cultures and writing humorous essays about it. Enjoy.

23 Comments

  1. Shellia Reed / February 25, 2016 at 8:29 am /Reply

    You and Rick Castle share a bend toward wild and creative imaginings! You made me smile with your reflections of your experience. (I would have had the same “snake” thoughts!). Thank you for sharing.

    • Juliana Dever / March 1, 2016 at 5:19 pm /Reply

      Sometimes my mind has a mind of its own… Glad you enjoyed the story!

  2. BH / February 25, 2016 at 9:53 am /Reply

    Amazing! you need to go into one of the individual pods 🙂 Loved your story. Xo

    • Juliana Dever / March 1, 2016 at 5:20 pm /Reply

      Maybe I’ll muster up the courage to do it again one day…

  3. Melissa / February 25, 2016 at 4:47 pm /Reply

    Okay, I was literally laughing out loud reading this. Because I know if I ever tried anything like that, I would not be able to shut my mind off either. I’d be spending 30 minutes in crazytown instead of nirvana. I really enjoy the humor in your writing, and vicariously partaking in your adventures. 🙂

    • Juliana Dever / March 1, 2016 at 5:21 pm /Reply

      Thanks so much, Melissa! I tried, I really, really tried! Happy you’re enjoying my stories. 🙂

  4. John Cummings / February 26, 2016 at 2:17 pm /Reply

    It sounds like the only thing you were really deprived of was your combined $95.00

  5. Christi E / February 26, 2016 at 7:10 pm /Reply

    I too am laughing. I have floated twice in a ‘float cabin’. A friend gave me a gift certificate, I thought it was a joke. The first time i went in with a very flippant attitude, but also a hope I fall in love. I thought no way in hell am I going to float in only 11″ of water and what am I going to do for an hour in complete darkness? I did float, in fact found it impossible to hold my body on the bottom. I fished around and found a switch on the wall of some twinkling lights in the shapes of constellations on the ceiling. I used those for a while , but found myself thinking about the lights and how some were brighter than the others so I went to complete darkness. Then I thought about snakes and spiders, but just for a few seconds…too scary. There was a neck pillow for use. I used for a bit, but preferred my ears under water. I couldn’t turn my mind off for probably 45 minutes. Just when I started to relax it was over. I gave it a second try yesterday. Relaxed much faster and even tried it on my stomach with face in neck pillow. There’s a spray bottle of fresh water and towel within reach at all times. I enjoyed time 2 much better, I slept very well last night! Am looking forward to #3. Now, being in there with another person? No way, thank you!

    • Juliana Dever / March 1, 2016 at 5:22 pm /Reply

      What is it with snakes and spiders?? So you’re saying I should give it another try, huh?

  6. Summer / March 5, 2016 at 5:31 am /Reply

    Love your adventures, was laughing so much, as my thought pattern would be very similar with the snakes, kidnapping & serial killers

    • Juliana Dever / March 7, 2016 at 5:55 pm /Reply

      Thanks so much Summer! It’s harder for some of us to switch our brains to zen mode, I guess…

  7. Julie / March 18, 2016 at 9:47 pm /Reply

    Love it! Maybe you and Seamus could do it together? Keep up the good work. Your Aussie fan Jules.

  8. Branden Lozier / April 21, 2016 at 9:14 pm /Reply

    Juliana Dever I’d have to say you must not have been able to relax at all in there. I’m glad you stated this about them things I’ve always wanted to try bit now it seems like a bad experience. Also I’d just like to say I’ve seen ever episode of castle up and seasons one through six I’ve seen like each episode like 10 times I don’t have cable but I love your shows on DVD it be totally awesome if you replied so I could show my fiancé we both love your show. Thanks for sharing experience.

    • Juliana Dever / April 22, 2016 at 8:43 am /Reply

      You’re right, I wasn’t able to relax. I don’t think it was a terrible experience, but I never got comfortable while floating. Perhaps I need to try again? I’m jealous of people who do it and have some sort of revelatory experience! Thanks for reading and watching. 🙂

  9. Kat M / June 6, 2016 at 6:02 pm /Reply

    See I’ve always wondered what being in a sensory deprivation tank would feel like and until I can this wonderful and hilarious insight/account will keep me wanting to try for years until I can. See, I’m only 15 so the odds of my chance to try that in the next 4-5 years not so good. I’m a huge fan of both you and your husband and I absolutely adore your bts snapchat travel mania, highlight of my day. It is dream and a goal of mine to meet you both one day so I may properly express how much you both effect every day of my life and how much you both inspire me. I’m @MKatriana on twitter and katm11 on snapchat. You both will never truly know how much you impact and inspire my life. As someone who is both Irish and a Michigander I feel a deep personal connection to you both as well.
    Always yours,
    Kat M

    • Juliana Dever / July 6, 2016 at 12:01 pm /Reply

      Thank you so much for your comment Kat! I’m so happy that you are following along and that you get travel inspiration – that’s my goal! Let me know if you ever get into a deprivation tank, lol!

  10. Kelly / August 19, 2016 at 3:35 pm /Reply

    Oh my! Now I really want to try this – but alone …. because I would worry not about my friend touching my bum but about my friend losing their mind and deciding to murder me or something.

    • Juliana Dever / August 19, 2016 at 4:29 pm /Reply

      LOL! I thought it would be comforting to be with a friend, but really I think it gave me MORE anxiety. Though I’m sure if I did it alone I’d wind up coming up with all new things to freak about…

  11. Camila @ AdventitiousViolet / January 12, 2017 at 10:46 am /Reply

    haha last week i did a similar experience in the baths in Montreal and I had so many similar thoughts! haha the tampon one made me laugh! We had individual pods so at least that wasn’t that bad!

  12. Jennifer Aune / April 20, 2018 at 10:09 pm /Reply

    Omg… I am dying laughing… I am in tears!!! I literally just got home from my 4th float and I can relate to everything you wrote. Thank you SO much for the laughs!!!!! I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time….
    I love floating and with each float its getting better!

    • Juliana Dever / April 21, 2018 at 1:44 am /Reply

      well it’s good to know it gets better, but I’m still not sure I could do it again after that runaway imagination!!! Lol.

  13. James / June 2, 2018 at 10:13 am /Reply

    I’ve floated a few times now and my suggestion is to meditate, if only for 20 minutes a day. Get into the habit of learning how to clear your mind at a regular basis. If that is too much to do, then just focus on your breath through nostrils and keep going back to it when your mind wanders. For me a float usually lasts 20-30 minutes, then the last 30-45 minutes are over in a blink of an eye. It puts me into a deep meditative trance. Snap out of it and feel absolutely bliss. It is really a great tool for stress and inflammation. I’d give it another chance or two 🙂

Leave a Reply