Getting over my fear of heights in the best way possible
You may or may not have noticed my absence from bungee jumping in Whistler in our Vancouver episode. This, while not exactly planned, was somewhat expected.
I would say I have a moderate fear of heights. Being someone who likes to try new things and work through the things that scare me most, I have found tactics to overcome that fear.
Or tactic, I should say: don’t think, just do.
Cut to Vancouver Island, 1998. I experienced that fear of heights set in when standing on the rocky edge of a swimming hole. I remember standing on the rocks on one family camping trip to Englishman River Falls, for what felt like an hour before finally jumping into the water below.
It seemed like 50 feet high, but I’m sure it was more like 15.
Cut to Vancouver, 2014, at Whistler Bungee. My thoughts got the best of me. There was too much build up, too much time to look down and see how high up we were.
I didn’t regret not jumping because I knew that was just one step too far outside my comfort zone. I’m fine being outside the comfort zone, but not a mile outside.
Now cut to Monteverde, Costa Rica, at 100% Aventura. Ziplining was on our ‘must-do’ list for Costa Rica as it is basically a rite of passage for any visitor.
I was excited and not too nervous as we got suited up. We were given a safety talk and assured that we would start small and go on to bigger zips as we went further.
I was certainly not the most jumpy person there. One woman could barely listen to the guides talk about ziplining, and I wondered how she would get through any part of the course. Her boyfriend stood by dutifully but I could sense his internal eye rolls.
I was just happy we weren’t jumping off of things. Everything was very controlled and safe, and the location could not have been more beautiful.
There were about 15-20 of us, and as we got further along the course, I noticed the number dropping slowly: people getting further and further outside their comfort zones.
When we got to some of the longer lines, I still wasn’t really nervous. As I coasted over the stretching, treed land below, my thoughts went between, “This is amazing! This is so gorgeous! I’m a bird!” to “Man, I’ve been up here a while. It would be a looooong way down if I dropped” and so on.
I was feeling pretty good and not letting the looming fear of what was coming next alter this fun and freeing experience.
Cut to The Tarzan Swing. Sounds fun right? Wrong. It’s terrifying.
I was aware that this was the grand finale of our tour and was not completely sold on it. Basically, it’s a mini bungee jump but instead of free falling for about four seconds, you only go for maybe one or two and then you swing back and forth safely until you’re back on the ground.
As we approached this part of the course, the last few stragglers veered off the dirt path to avoid the final drop. Only a few of us continued on and in this moment, I made the decision that I was going to take the plunge – but I had to do it now.
There was a long, narrow bridge that lead to a launch pad where two employees of 100% Aventura were waiting, calling to me like taunting older brothers, daring me to come.
I made my way to the end, which seemed to take forever. Once I was there, everything happened very fast.
Harnesses were fastened and unfastened and fastened again, ropes swung by my face as one of the guys made small talk in broken English and told me not to look down. My hands were gripping tightly to the metal rail on either side of the closed gate in front of me.
Then came the final instruction, “Oookay, now put one hand on the rope,” (I did it) “And then you put the other hand on the rope… see ok, I got you,”.
“But I know when I take my other hand off the gate, you’re going to make me jump.”
They just laughed at me, nonchalantly as if to say, “Yeah, duh. What do you think we do here?”
I let out a few weak cries, my internal fear fighting with my external desire to just do and then before it could go on for too long and get to the point of no return, I took my second hand off of the rail and on to the rope.
It was quick. As soon as my hands were both on the rope, the gate was opened and I was given a little push and began pummelling to the ground.
I screamed. My eyes were closed, but I felt my stomach jump and my heart flutter.
And then I was swinging, laughing (and maybe still screaming a little in between) and looking at the tops of trees and at the faces of everyone below, laughing along with me. Ok, maybe they were laughing at me but it didn’t matter at that point.
It was an extreme rush to have just jumped and I was shaking with excitement and pride as my rope was wrangled, my feet placed safely on the ground again.
The adventure itself was gorgeous, fun and terrifying all at once. Along with the hilarious memories, I also walked away from the experience having pushed the outer limits of my comfort zone one (fairly large) step further.
I would recommend everyone take a ziplining adventure while in Costa Rica – just don’t think too much about it before you do.