The Adventure Blog featured an article on “having an adventure by having no choice”, which is something I've tried to believe in for years. It's not always easy; a number of years ago, I would panic every time I traveled anywhere, even if the end destination was someplace cool. And when I say panic, I mean panic: tears, shakes, complete meltdown. Many people would argue that if you are that frightened to do something, just don't do it; it's supposed to be fun, right?
Well, if I had taken that attitude I never would have gone to South Africa and seen lions and elephants and giraffes in person, and that would have been a huge loss. And when people asked me later “how did you manage to get on the plane if you were so freaked out?” I guess my basic attitude is that I don't see an option. Skipping that trip was simply not an alternative. It simply wasn't. Period.
In December 2010, I traveled to Costa Rica (happy to say there was no panic) and it was amazing. Before I left, a number of people asked me if I planned on zip-lining, which, for reasons I'm a bit unclear on, is a hugely popular tourist thing to do in Costa Rica. I said I'd consider it, but that wasn't good enough for some people―I had to promise. So I did.
Anyone who knows me knows that I don't like heights.
I will never go skydiving (though I'm dying to try parasailing; explain that to me). I don't like ferris wheels and I have never been on a roller coaster, which is perfectly all right by me. I don't ski, which is good, because I hear it's hard to do if you refuse to ride the lifts. So what the hell was I doing agreeing to try zip-lining??? I have no idea; it just seemed like it would make a good story.
So...here's how it's done, if you are terrified, as I was.
The first step is the most important: do NOT, under any circumstances, stop to think about what you are doing. It's OK to be petrified, just don't analyze it. Allow a stranger who doesn't speak your language put a helmet on you and strap you into a harness and give you some crappy old gloves and your own private pulley-thing. Don't ask questions, just follow along and go where they tell you. In my case, this means a 15 minute tram ride to the top of the course.
This is a prime opportunity to dwell on what you are about to do, but don't give in! Try to chat with the guide in your broken Spanish. At the top, listen very carefully as they tell you how to position yourself on the line, how to stop, and what to do if you get stuck. Do not think about that last thing, because this is not going to happen to you, by god.
When they ask who wants to go first...
let one person go ahead of you so you have visual proof that people can do this and live
...and then raise your hand so you can get this done before you throw up or crap your pants. Watch them mount your pulley-thing on the line, grab on, assume the position and let the guide push you off the platform into empty space.
There were 7 lines on the course we went to, with the longest coming in at 2600 feet (yes, about half a mile). My husband clocked himself at 48.5 mph on that one. It was so fast, I literally could not open my eyes against the wind, so unfortunately I missed a lot of the rainforest scenery. But really, there are better ways to see the views; this was all about the adrenaline. So much adrenaline, in fact, that when we got back to the hotel, I crashed out on the bed for 2 solid hours.
Did I enjoy it?
Well....enjoy might be too strong a word. Am I glad I did it? Absolutely. Overcoming a fear is almost as big a rush as doing the thing that scares you. I was incredibly proud of myself. Will I do it again? Not likely...unless I am peer pressured into it. Maybe.