Back in 2008, I had an outstanding ticket to London, and I needed to either use it or lose it. I had just gotten my scuba license, and one day I was in this scuba shop in Santa Monica talking with the owner about where I should go. “I’m thinking Greece,” I said, to which he countered, “If you’re going as far as Greece, you might as well go to Egypt.” I didn’t know there was scuba diving in Egypt; I thought it was just desert and pyramids. “Yeah, there’s that in Cairo,” he said, “but then you go to Sharm el-Sheikh, where there’s some of the best diving in the world, in the Red Sea.”
Well, I took that as a personal challenge, and a week later I was standing in the anterior chamber of the Pyramid of King Khufu—which was wild. An Englishwoman came up to me and said, “Were you in Death at a Funeral?” It’s still, to this day, the most bizarre place I’ve ever been recognized.
From Cairo, I flew to Sharm el-Sheikh. I had brought my guitar, which I had just started learning to play, but at the airport they told me I had to check it. Through an interpreter I explained to the ticket agent that it would fit in the overhead compartment, and could I please keep it with me? The agent nodded and then made this very loud announcement in Arabic, and everyone in the terminal turned to look at me, and a cheer went up. Before I could get it translated, the agent grabbed me by the arm, pulled me behind the counter, and handed me my guitar. The interpreter told me, “You have to play a song if you want to take your guitar on the plane.”
I had taken maybe three weeks of guitar lessons, so the extent of my knowledge was three chords and the beginning of Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours.” (I used to know Jason back in the day, when he was playing coffee houses. Beautiful guy.) So I start up, and I’m immediately messing up: “Well, you’ve done done me in… Wait, uh, sorry… Well, you’ve done done me in… ahhh, gotta get my fingers to the next chord… I tried to beat you so hard I melted… I don’t think those are the lyrics…” And I watched the hope in all the assembled people’s eyes slowly dim and then die in front of me. The agent placed his hand on the neck of the guitar, muting all the strings, and gave me a little nod, like, You’re done. This was a huge mistake. He was embarrassed for himself and, of course, deeply disappointed in me. He just shuffled me back to the other side of the counter—but he let me keep the guitar, out of a feeling of shared shame.
The scuba shop owner was right about Sharm el-Sheikh, by the way: It’s incredible diving. They’ve got an amazing wreck of a World War II ship, and I did a two-day diving trip to explore it. I also saw eagle rays and tiger sharks and beautiful nudibranchs, which are these little bitty sea slugs that come in so many different colors and look like something you wish you could collect—like how some old people collect glass figurines. As an early diver, I’ll admit the trip was a bit advanced for me. Everybody else on the tour had somebody with them to be their diving partner, but as the one person rocking a single vacation, I got to buddy up with the dive master. I had the most advanced person keeping an eye on me—which was good when I got a leg cramp and almost ran out of air.
I had been afraid to go on that trip by myself, but it ended up being a great experience. After that, I traveled around Australia by myself and went diving at the Great Barrier Reef. But then I met my wife, and now we do all of our trips together. It’s much nicer. Oh, and I leave the guitar at home.
Alan Tudyk stars in the second season of Resident Alien, airing now on Syfy. He prefers to keep his favorite dive spot a secret.