I have a confession. It’s not an easy one. I’ll admit I’ve been in denial for quite some time about it. So here goes: I am afraid of heights. At first I thought I was just afraid of ladders, roller coasters, and cable cars because of their inherent rickety, rusty, sketchy nature. Now, however, I realize even after an element of safety has been attained, the summit climbed, the airplane in flight, my heart continues to beat a little faster than normal. With each glance downward my breath catches ever so slightly and my stomach does tiny little summersaults.
Every day I’m here, it seems I am confronting a certain fear. Whether it is trying to participate in a conversation I can only understand 25% of the time, asking for help when I am locked out of my house (again), or trying yet another new food from the street.
Most of them are small and not very noteworthy. Some of the fears I have are probably quite laughable to most. But they are mine and I continue to face them. I am proud to say this past weekend, I stared several of them right in the eye and didn’t even blink. (I might have squinted a little). It was the first full weekend off so I decided to take the hour and a half bus ride to Baños to spend the night. I made arrangements with a couch surfer ahead of time, threw a few things in my backpack and took off. I was scared. Baños, however, did not disappoint.
It turns out I was one of many couch surfers staying with my host and so the minute I arrived I had a built-in community to spend time with. Travelers from Spain, Chile, Greece, Argentina, and England all mingled together in a sort of temporary family. My relief was immense. Fear number one: dissipated. Fear number two: heights. Tall things. Steep paths. Falling. I signed up for repelling. Not just the normal kind in a gym or down the side of a cliff. Rather, repelling down a slippery canyon full of waterfalls gushing in your face. It was incredible. I slipped, I walked, I scooted and essentially climbed backwards down five waterfalls. There were moments of panic. Quite a few, actually. But once I took a breath, stopped and looked around, the sheer joy of overcoming my fear and enjoying the moment took over. Second fear: literally blown out of the water.
These are the times I feel most alive, most myself. It is not just the breathtaking scenery, the thrill of not knowing where you’re going to be tomorrow or what you’ll be doing. It’s the strangers who become instant friends. It’s the stumbling through a new language, searching for words and finding a smile of reassurance and understanding when you finally say what you meant to say. It’s the first time I was called ¨amiga¨ instead of ¨gringa¨ or ëxtranjera. It is the forging ahead and making connections to a place and people completely outside of your comfort zone.
These are the moments I live for and the reason I travel. They are worth the sore feet, the nerves, the time spent wandering alone lost in the rain. They are worth the doubt, the naysayers, the ¨impracticality¨ of following your dreams. They are the moments that stretch, mold, and imprint themselves upon your heart forever. Elisavet and I, feeling the rush of adrenaline and glad to still be alive!
What fears have you faced on your travels? What adventures have you had? I’d love to hear your story so don’t forget to comment below!Google+