Adventure travel is supposed to be … well …. an adventure and to some people that means taking a deep breath and saying to yourself over and over –
“I am not scared of ….. (insert your particular paranoia here, be it spiders, heights, dying, falling, weird food) and I am absolutely going to do this.”
First of all I am a coward. Just doing a guided bike ride in Amsterdam had me quivering with fear but determined, nonetheless, to do this or regret it forever. It worked out fine. I wobbled a lot, concentrated so hard I was exhausted at the end, but I did it and I felt great about it. A recent trip to Costa Rica brought more challenges as the group had signed up for a zip lining excursion. Oh I had the option to cop-out and go and do a sedate boat cruise on the river but … wow …. ziplining! How many times had I seen youtube clips friends had posted to facebook? How many selfies can you take on a zipline? How many times would I see this featured on BBC Travel Channel? No – I had to do it.
It was only on the bus ride there that my first misgivings started to fidget around my heart, clustering together and setting up a nest there, raising my pulse slightly and making me second guess myself. Then the guide came around with the forms – you know the ones where you totally forgive everyone on the planet if you should happen to slip and plunge to your death. Yes, those ones.
OMG – I hate making a scene and I was afterall on the bus and committed. So I signed the forms and started to think happy thoughts.
Finally we arrived at the base where we were given a talk on how to wear the equipment and what to do and how to zip. All well and good. They were all lovely people and very knowledgeable and the equipment looked top class. Oh yeah – I am totally going to cream through this.
Right – off we go. To the first platform where we climbed up and clipped on. One by one getting to the edge. No going back now Lesley. Don’t close your eyes idiot – that’s the whole point of being there. I took a leap of faith – literally – and jumped off.
Oh Wow – adrenaline overload – never saw a thing. Got to the next platform. Deep breath. Thinks to self – Yeah girl – you rock!
Now imagine if I hadn’t done that. How disappointed I would have been with myself. My fear seems to be of killing myself or at least hurting myself badly. Others however have other fears. The fear of spiders – this is very real. There are courses you can go on to get you over this particular fear. Now myself – I am not really scared of spiders. Yes of course growing up we would all scream when there was a spider in the house and jump on the nearest piece of furniture and the only person able to save us was my mother. (Yeah my dad was on the furniture with us too!) When I moved to Africa, however, it was a case of either get over it – or get over it!
My first scary experience was deep in the Transkei province of South Africa. We were driving to Umgnazi River Bungalows and the only way there was on a dirt road.
Umngazi River Bungalows in the 70’s
As we travelled and travelled I began to realise how remote this place was. We arrived at the Bungalows late at night – our accommodation being what they call a rondavel. A round building with a thatched roof. There was no electricity – the generator went off at 10 pm – and there were spiders and geckos everywhere. What was worse was that you couldn’t see them on the thatched ceiling so of course my imagination doubled their size and tripled their numbers. I spent a sleepless night with a torch in my hand intermittently checking the ceiling and no doubt giving the geckos a sleepless night too!
Every experience makes us grow and (after a long while) I went from this to sleeping out in the open under a tarp when we had forgotten our tent. We were on the banks of a crocodile infested lake with leguaan (rock monitor) lizards rustling past us in the grasses and goodness knows what else. I slept like a log although I did wake up in the morning covered in bites of some sort.
So next time you travel and you are faced with a challenge think about how amazing you are going to feel about yourself the next day – even if at the moment you think that you are going to throw up! It’s worth it – honestly!