How we are allowing our own intimidations to stand in the way of our fullest life
“I’ve been worryin' that we all live our lives in the confines of fear” - Ben Howard
Fear. It’s something we don’t like to talk about or acknowledge and yet we all have it.
As the famous quote goes, “do one thing every day that scares you." But how many of us ACTUALLY do that?! And to be fair- every day?- that’s a challenging task. Bottom line is doing something that scares us is DIFFICULT. Asking someone out, trying something new, sporting a new look… all daunting.
One of the greatest aspects about traveling is its ability to challenge our comfort zones and encourage us to overcome fears. You arrive in these different towns where they’re famous for various activities: skydiving, rock climbing, parasailing, canyoning… all of these things you’ve probably never done before or have been too scared or intimidated to try. But you find yourself in these places feeling like you don't want to miss out, so most of the time, you go for it.
During my time in South America, I have done several activities that have scared me.
In Ecuador, I went whitewater rafting which was a first. And they just so happened to be level 3 and 4 rapids. After hearing my guide tell us several times during the instructions: “don’t panic cause if you do that- you’ll dislocate something”
“don’t panic cause most injuries come from people panicking and hitting someone in the boat with their paddle"
“don’t panic or you’ll smash your head on a rock”
So of course, panic ensued.
My guide could tell that some of us were nervous so as soon as we got on the boat and into the water, he forced all of us to jump in. Sorry, what?! Yep. He yelled again “get in, get in, get in!” And not to challenge the burley Ecuadorian man, we obliged. We flung ourselves overboard, felt the cold water enter our wetsuits as we clung desperately to the side of the boat. Then one by one we got back into the boat, pulling in others that needed assistance (ahem… me). After we were all safely back in the boat dripping wet he said to us, “there- now you’re acclimated to the water and don’t have to be so scared of falling in.” He had a point.
We started to make our way down the rushing waterway when he looked at me and told me to put my paddle down and go to the front of the boat. Again, sorry what?! He said “Go! And hold on!” So I dropped my paddle and crawled my way to the bow. I looked back and he nodded, “Yup, like a cowgirl!”. I swung my legs over and held on tightly to the string of the boat as I was face-to-face with level 3 and 4 rapids. Each rapid looking larger than the last, I went face-first screaming. I stayed up there for a good 10 minutes or so and by the end of it, I was lifting one arm up and “Yehaww!”ing.
Most recently, in Peru, I went (non-indoor) rock climbing for the first time. The owner of the hostel kept encouraging me to try it out. After I fed him countless weak excuses why I "couldn't" go, he gave me a bargain price and told me the group was leaving in 30 minutes. Nervously I caved, taking the opportunity and went to get changed. We walked 20 minutes outside of town through a neighborhood; passing by dogs, chickens, donkeys, and sheep until we reached a narrow dirt path. We proceeded on this small trail for a while as it climbed higher, overlooking the town and in the distance towered five snowy mountain peaks.
During the stroll, I managed to slip and dunk my entire left shoe into the little muddy stream- soaking my sock and dumping water INTO my waterproof shoes. Shortly there after I slipped again and nearly tumbled off the cliff edge to my right. I’m not the most balanced nor graceful person. Good thing I was heading to cling to a mountainside and depend on my uncoordinated limbs to not fail me and result in bodily harm or death, right?
Eventually, we take a turn and see a 10-meter rock face with several lines hanging and groups of climbers. It was a completely vertical cliff and everyone that was climbing looked like they could do it in their sleep. Gulp.
My guide didn’t speak much English (and by much, I mean none). So there I was getting my harness strapped on and facing the wall with little direction besides “Listo?!” (aka ready?!). It took me a few tries to actually get all four limbs on the wall but I eventually did and with much effort, I made it to the top on my first try! I proceeded to get to the top on several other lines and left there with red raw hands, sore muscles, and a happy heart.
It’s moments like the two I just described which makes me realize that doing something that scares you is SO rewarding. It can feel as though you are a child again. Pure excitement and adrenaline, reveling in the accomplishment of even the smallest of things. Sure, all I did was avoid dying while rock climbing for the first time, and not back down when I was terrified and clinging on to a boat that was thrashing through the river... but ya know what, I DID IT. Life would be so much more rewarding if we celebrated every little act of courage.
Here's to us learning to not live within the confines of our own fear. Sure, we might not challenge ourselves every. single. day. And that’s okay. But I encourage you to break out of your comfort zone, because I promise that’s where all the fun is.
See the hilarious sequence of photos below to get a visual for my experience whitewater rafting in Baños, Ecuador.
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