Day 6 of the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project* is about fear.
Just as travel can be fun and exciting, it can also have its challenging, or even downright scary, moments. Being in a new place pushes us out of our comfort zone and makes us face our fears. Tell about a time you had to face your fear when traveling, and what was the result.
If you’ve been following me for the last few months, you know that quitting my job to travel was incredibly scary for me. While I was excited, I was also terrified as hell about what would come next. And I still am at times.
But that was a different kind of fear than the fear I most often encounter while traveling – physical fear.
I am oddly afraid of heights.
I say “oddly” because I am also obsessed with climbing tall bell towers and other structures when I travel. I love the sweeping views they provide and I get a bit of a rush from being up that high – even if I can’t stand to look all the way down, especially when climbing up and down the stairs.
When my fear of heights really kicks into gear is when I am out in the open, walking along a narrow path, hiking up a steep hill or mountain, or climbing over slippery rocks.
I discovered this fear the first time I did any serious hiking in Australia.
Back in 2005, I traveled with a tour group on the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne to Adelaide. Along the way, we stopped in a national park for a day hike. I had never really hiked before and struggled to keep up as I was unsure of my footing throughout the hike. I didn’t really feel scared, though, until we neared the peak that was our goal and the terrain turned into a series of large rocks. One boulder in particular preceded a large gap in the so-called path and I froze. Everyone else in the group quickly made the jump over the gap but I just couldn’t do it. I snuck a glance between the rocks and I was terrified. Eventually one of the guys in the group turned back and held out a hand for me to grab as I crossed, which made it so much easier, but I think my heart still skipped a beat as I leaped from one boulder to the next.
My fear of heights came out again when I hiked Mt. Sinai.
While in Egypt in 2008, one of the highlights was hiking Mt. Sinai to see the sunrise. In order to reach the top in time to see the sun come up, you have to start the trek up to the mountain around 3 a.m. in the dark of night. With just a flashlight to light my way, I initially kept pace with the rest of the group quite well. However, when the wide open track turned into a narrow, rocky, path I could feel tensions rising in my body and I had to slow down. Even in the dark, I could feel how close we were to the edge and I knew that one wrong step meant a slide down the side of the mountain. To add to the intrigue, we were sharing the path with camels (not small animals by any means!) and I was sure that one was going to run me right over the edge. I made it, slowly but surely, and the view from the top was well worth the scarier moments on the way up.
Hiking the Colca Canyon provided my scariest moments.
I wrote about this a few months ago in a guest post for SpunkyGirl Monologues. In November 2009, after hiking the Inca Trail (which was difficult but not scary), I spent a couple days hiking in the Colca Canyon, about five hours outside of Arequipa, Peru. The paths were incredibly narrow and covered in loose rock and gravel, making it very difficult to keep my footing or my balance. As I wrote in my guest post,
“I couldn’t shake a constant fear of slipping on the path and plummeting over the edge. So instead of enjoying the vast views of this enormous canyon, my eyes were glued to my feet!”
I ended up making it through that hike by taking control and going at my own pace, rather than trying to keep up with my companions. When I was able to do that, the fear subsided.
I think facing my fear of heights has been similar to my style of embracing change.
As I wrote about on Day 2, I tend to embrace safe change. Likewise, I like to face my fears when I can prepare slowly, at my pace and not at someone else’s. I get over the fear by playing it safe until I have built up the courage to fully take the plunge. That is what happened in Australia, on Mt. Sinai, in the Colca Canyon, and in my decision to quit my job to travel.
It may not be the most adventurous or spontaneous or courageous way to face a fear, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. It’s my way and I’m happy with that.
*Throughout the month of November, BootsnAll is inviting bloggers from around the world to join them in a daily blogging effort – the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project – designed to reflect on how our travel experiences over the last year – or whenever – have shaped us and our view of the world. Bloggers can follow the prompts as strictly or loosely as they like, interpreting them in various ways and responding via text, photos or video posted on their own blogs.