Most people have a fear of something, and one of my fears is the fear of heights. I’m not quite sure if it’s the height itself, the fear of falling or not having control, but I’m never very comfortable when I’m more than 5 meters above the ground. Fears like these can stop you from doing something that could be fun. Looking back, I’ve done a few courageous things, that make me actually quite proud of myself: I stepped out of my comfort zone and experienced the magic that happens out there.
Considering my fear of heights, it’s pretty amazing that I went paragliding and parahawking. For my first paragliding flight I was standing on top of a mountain with a pilot who was going to take me for a flight over Neuschwanstein Castle. Luckily for me he was a very calm and experienced pilot, and he helped me relax before the take off: ‘Just calmly breathe in and out and look at the horizon…’ After a little practice run on top of the mountain, we stood on the take off and as he lifted the glider and told me to run, I just ran like a maniac while screaming. I heard people on top of the mountain laughing, but I thought: ‘Well, I am going flying, you’re not!’ The pilot tapped me on the shoulder after a few seconds and said I could stop running, because we were already flying. And we were. We were off… I leaned back in the harness and realized: ‘I’m really flying… Like a bird…’ I don’t know if you also have that feeling when you’re in a plane and the moment that the plane lifts off, you think: wow, we’re off the ground… Well, it’s thát feeling, times one thousand. So incredible! After this first flight I did a few more flights and even went for two parahawking flights in Nepal, which was besides the incredible feeling of flying, also an amazing experience of being up there while feeding a bird of prey in flight.
Another courageous thing I did was going on my world trip, and also not giving up on this trip after a few weeks because I felt lonely and sad. Read that story here. On my world trip I did a scuba diving course in Thailand and panicked on my first dive. Mind you, it was in a swimming pool and my head was only half a meter below the surface… Yeah… Anyway, I panicked for the first exercize: taking the regulator out of my mouth and putting it back in. So as the instructor was in front of me he asked in diving sign language if I was ready to do that. I shook my head. He made a circle with his thumb and index finger, the sign for ‘Okay’. I shook my head again. He then pointed his thumb up and I nodded, yes, let’s go up to the surface. He then calmed me down and turned my first exercize in: just breathe under water with that regulator in. Okay, I can do this. I pushed through with the course, with help from the instructor and my buddy and by the last dive of the course, I just glanced at my depth gauge and saw we were 17 meters below the surface. I smiled at myself, thinking: ‘Well, here I am, at minus 17 meters and having the amazing experience of seeing this underwater world!’
My latest in bashing through my fear of heights was ziplining in Laos, with the Gibbon Experience. At the first zipline I saw about 9 people go before me and then it was my turn. I was both nervous and excited at the same time. The zipline started between trees and just above shrubs, but soon I was high above the ground and above tree tops. IIIIIIIEEEEEEHHHHHH!!! I was very glad I got to the other side. After another one I got to zipline three, which was very high above the trees. On that line I thought, as I was zipping about 200 meter above the tree tops of trees that were also about 100 meter high: ‘Hooooooooooooly F*cking Shiiiiiiiiiiiiii……..!!!’ (pardon my French… but it’s really literally what I thought!) Our last zipline was to our tree hut. I couldn’t quite fall asleep that night as I was nervous for the next day’s ziplining. This first day was about getting to our tree hut, so it was necessary to hang in a harness on ziplines, but the next day was just going to be ziplining for fun. Was it? Fun? *sigh…* The following morning, my friend who I was traveling with convinced me to go for it. ‘We are here now, and maybe you get to see the gibbons!’ she said. So I went. I kept on thinking that quote from Susan Jeffers: ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’. I was scared, shaky and dizzy, but I also wanted to see the park a bit more. The only way to do that, would be via the ziplines. Together with the group we went though the park with, we made a bit of a competition out of it to make it more fun: who would get the furthest on the zipline. I didn’t do bad! And, yes: we saw gibbons!
Have I lost my fear of heights (or depths) now? No. But I do know that I’m the kind of person who does not let that get in the way of having those amazing life experiences. I am getting out there, creating incredible memories for life.
Some quotes on courage:
The secret to happiness is freedom, and the secret to freedom is courage ~ Thucydides
You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore ~ Unknown
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone, so if you’re feeling uncomfortable right now, know that the change taking place in your life is a beginning, not an ending ~ Neale Donald Walsh
Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says: I’ll try again tomorrow ~ Mary Anne Radmacher
Courage is being afraid, but going on anyhow ~ Dan Rather
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