You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ Eleanor Roosevelt
Travel isn’t just about seeing new places and taking pictures there. It involves much more than that. It can help you face your fears and rise up above them, find the strength that you didn’t know you had. I got to know myself better and I overcame certain fears which I will save for another post on another day. But today we will talk about how I overcame my irrational fear of heights.
I say overcame, but honestly the next time I’m standing at the edge of a cliff I’m pretty sure I’ll chicken out again and I’ll be up there freaking out, and everyone will tell me it’s ok, but it’s really not ok, because it’s super high up, and the landing is super far down, and a line will start to form behind me and now the pressure’s on, but I still can’t jump because I’m stuck, and I can’t believe I’m up this high!
Whew. That wasn’t so bad after all, but I did it because I didn’t want my fear of heights to get in the way of my travels. And these were the three times during my travel time in Southeast Asia that I had to overcome those fears:
Jumping from the top of a boat in Halong Bay, Vietnam:
When you look at the boat, it’s not that bad. But when you’re scared of heights and standing on the edge … it is.
Halong Bay is in Vietnam and the main attraction is heading out into the bay on a boat, kayaking amongst the scattered rock formations, drinking, and jumping off the boat into the ocean.
There was no way I was going to leave Halong Bay scared of a goddamn boat… just the feeling of being midair and the impact of the water hitting me. You know, no big deal.
After all my friends had jumped, it was my turn. I didn’t want to go alone, but luckily there was another girl about to jump. “Jump with me!” she said. I felt much better knowing that I had a friend with me.
“Ready?” she said, holding my hand, “One, two,”– every ounce of my body was ready. I had butterflies forming and I squeezed that girls hand tight, but something came over me. “THREE!” she screamed just as I screamed in terror… and didn’t jump. When I finally opened my eyes my disappointed partner-in-jumping had hit the water. I’m such a chicken shit.
Eventually, I jumped. It was to the point that everyone on the boat knew. I climbed back up the ladder on the boat and the first thing I heard from everyone in the cabin whom I never talked to was, “Oh you finally jumped?”
Jumping from a tree into the lagoon in Laos
The lagoon was beautiful and the tree was big. I just conquered a boat in Vietnam, how bad could a tree be into a lagoon? I watched as everyone jumped.
There are two levels to this lovely tree. The first level was a breeze. I saw the second level and i thought, “No way.” But just as any good friend would, my travel partner Dianna, with whom I had motorbiked through Vietnam, broke it down for me, “I’m thinking that I’m traveling, and you only get these experiences once. So why not? No regrets, right?” She got me pumped up and I was ready to jump with her. When we reached the top of the tree branch, I changed my mind. Holy Balls, this is high. Without much thought Dianna said, “Fuck it, I’m jumping!” and I watched her jump just as soon as she reached the top. Hell no, I thought as I could count the seconds that it took her to reach the water. I turned to leave but I was too late. Another jumper was coming up the stairs and there was only one way out. He smiled at me as he stood beside me encouraging me to jump. I didn’t say anything. He immediately screamed and jumped. Show off. Then another person went, then another, then another as I stood up there like “Fuck, fuck, fuck.”
At one point, I looked around to find that everyone was staring at me. People were taking pictures of me which didn’t help. I just wanted off the goddamn tree, but I knew if I turned around and climbed back down that ladder that I would regret it forever. So I jumped. And you know what? It wasn’t bad at all. As I was coming up from the water, adjusting my bathing suit top to cover my nipples again, and picking out the wedgie the plunge had given me, I thought, “Goddamnit, that wasn’t as scary as I thought it was.”
Taking a Hot Air Balloon Ride in Laos
The hot air balloon in Laos is the cheapest hot air balloon ride in the world. There was no way I was going to miss this.
Getting into a hot air balloon is a lot easier than jumping from a ledge because I know that I won’t have a sudden urge to jump. Nevertheless, as we stood waiting for the hot air balloon butterflies occasionally filled my stomach. They became more abundant as we were stuffed into the basket and began to rise above the valleys of Vang Vieng.
It was beautiful. The fact that I was standing in a basket high above the ground hardly phased me as I looked out upon the grassy fields and the sun rising above the mountains.
Until some jerk suggested that the bottom of the basket could fall out. I had to take a few deep breaths.
I held in my fear to take in the moment as we floated around in the air and all the way until we hit the ground again.
The point of this post is to give you that push. I’m scared as shit of heights. But I knew that if I didn’t do it then, I would return home with regret that I didn’t take the plunge, that I didn’t push through my fears and take the leap. Now I can say, “Yes, I jumped from a boat in Halong Bay, yes I jumped from a tree into a lagoon in Vang Vieng, and yes I took the cheapest hot air balloon in the world.”
Think about your biggest fear (irrational or not) and erase every reason you have given to not face it. Whether it’s a fear of heights, or a fear of snakes, or a fear of water, that fear should not stop you from stepping out that door and seeing the world. Every time I stood at the edge, irrational scenarios filled my head and it made me nervous but as soon as I took that leap (literally) I was ashamed that I hadn’t done it earlier. We tend to create problems in our minds and build them up, but once you take that leap, as I did, you’ll come up for air feelin’ like a fool and say, “Damn. That wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be” and you’ll be proud of yourself.