I have always had a fire lit inside me, to live life larger than how we are taught to. A typical 9-5 cookie-cutter lifestyle never appealed to me, even at a very young age. I was always fascinated by the unknown and the extreme. Anything that pushed the boundaries of the status quo.
Growing up, most other girls played princess games and dress-up. I studied maps, read stories of exploration and watched documentaries of mountain climbers, scuba divers, conservationists, and travelers. Most of all, I was fascinated with sports that involved speed and adrenaline. I will never forget the first time I watched a documentary of skydivers; the looks on their faces expressed pure freedom and happiness.
I realized then that life truly begins on the other side of our fears, and thus began my journey to find adventure, my passions and ultimately, love for my authentic self.
Here is what I have learned on my journey thus far:
YOU ARE SO MUCH STRONGER THAN YOU THINK
The human mind is a funny thing. When we have dreams, all too many times, our mind gives us reasons why we can’t achieve them. It may tell us that we aren’t strong enough, fast enough, smart enough, experienced enough or good enough. It will give us excuses to put our dreams to the side, and focus on other things that may seem more ‘rational’, more ‘safe’.
Sometimes it may seem that we are in a constant battle with our mind. The key is to let go of any preconceived notions we have and to just go for it. Sounds crazy, right? Just go for it?
When I decided to get my skydiving license, I was a mixed bag of emotions. I was excited to finally take my dreams to the next level but a bit nervous because I was stepping into a whole new level of the unknown. Before, I had done a few tandem jumps. I was fine with these because I had relied on my instructor to keep me safe.
Now, I was completely on my own.
The first few jumps went almost perfectly. I had the instructors guiding me as we left the plane and helping me get into the right position. Hell, we even communicated via radio to help me land. It was great, but I was getting too comfortable.
The next jump was where I learned to be mentally strong. On this jump, I was to jump out on my own. Nobody was going to hold me, and if I got unstable it was up to me to fix it. The entire plane ride up I was my normal self, laughing with the other jumpers and talking to my coaches about how the jump was going to go. The moment the green light went on, my mind shifted. I made my way to the door of the airplane, got in position, looked at my coaches and froze. I was telling myself to just go, but I couldn’t.
Something inside me just froze up.
A few seconds later, I got out of my head and let go. Once I got stable, I was able to look at my coaches, smile and complete the tasks for the jump. It was honestly a really good jump, and as soon as I pulled my parachute and began to fly it, I felt really great about it. That is, until I realized that my hesitation had caused me to land off the drop zone. I did what I was taught: I found a open, soft place to land. Little did I know I was about to land in a pile of manure. I was covered almost calf-high in manure, and had to make my way back to the drop zone. I learned my lesson that day, and I learned it quickly! Through it all, it was a great experience, and we all had a lot of laughs over it.
The next jump I decided to just go for it. When the green light went on, I gave my coach the signal and just went for it. When I landed, I knew I had overcome my mental blocks. It was one of the most liberating experiences I have had to date. From that moment, I have never had another hesitation, and have enjoyed every jump to the fullest.
Stop doubting yourself. Stop hesitating. Stop overthinking. Just jump. Trust in yourself, trust in the journey, and it will surely be.
I have found that the best way to enjoy life is to live in the present moment. I have also found that it is easier said than done! Most of us worry too much about the future or dwell on past events, and these mind games hold us back from experiencing life as it is happening around us.
At over 19,000 feet, Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest free-standing mountain in the world. For years I had dreamed of reaching the legendary summit, and two years ago I made the decision to sign up. At the time, trekking to its peak seemed so far away, but I knew I had to train if I wanted to reach my goal.
During my training I was bombarded with mind games. What if I didn’t make the summit? What if I got altitude sickness? What if I got tired? I had to train my mind to stay present, and let myself trust in my training and the journey, one day at a time.
When the time came to begin the trek to the summit, I found it surprisingly easy to focus on my tasks, one day at a time. There is a saying on the mountain called “pole, pole,” meaning “slowly, slowly.”
The guides explained that:
If we stayed present, focused on our breathing, paced our steps slowly and deliberately, took breaks to see how far we had come, and always admired the scenery – we would appreciate the present moment, and moving forward would be easy.
Midnight. September 25, 2018. The moment I had waited for had finally arrived.
In the midst of counting my steps, I decided to stop, catch my breath and look around. After seven long hours of ascending, I was almost at the summit. I was almost at 19,000 feet. The sun was rising, casting a bright orange glow on the mountain and the climbers in front of me.
The howling winds had slowed down, and the intense cold was slowly turning into a comforting warmth as the sun began to shine on me. It was the most wonderful feeling, although it didn’t seem real.
To this day it still feels like a dream.
I remember rapidly increasing my pace when I saw the sign, tears filling my dry eyes as I processed the realization that I had made it. After all my intense training, doubts and personal obstacles, I had finally made it. I looked over at my guide and smiled, my steps turning into horrible dance moves towards the infamous summit sign.
I remember a feeling of intense freedom taking over me as I had truly embraced living in the moment. I remember letting everything go. All of my insecurities, doubts and past events that haunted me seemed to vanish with the winds. And as I stood there, looking at the summit sign, the glaciers, the crater and the clouds beneath me I realized that I had not only made it, but my journey was just beginning. I realized that as long as I lived in the moment, and lived it to the fullest potential, each day that I would get to where I am meant to be. And that was the most liberating transformation of them all.
I had one more request: to run down the mountain. I looked at my guide, and off we went, scree-skiing quickly down the steep mountain that hours later I was slowly ascending.
Embrace the moment. Quiet the mind and focus. You are right where you need to be.
TRUST IN YOURSELF AND TRUST IN THE JOURNEY
I think the most valuable thing living a life of adventure has taught me is that I am capable of doing anything I put my mind to.
All I had to do was to trust myself, and the journey I have chosen.
I remember taking my first solo trip abroad after I graduated from college. I had never been out of the country by myself, and I had never been traveling for a long period of time. It was a bit chaotic at first, learning to navigate the airports and customs and language barriers.
As the days went on, I learned to really open myself up to the experience and trust that I was capable of making the journey. I ended up meeting some lifelong friends, got absorbed in different cultures and ways of life, experienced beautiful landscapes and historical architecture, and ate delicious food.
I was hooked.
Each solo trip I took from there on out got easier and easier. It almost became natural, a part of who I am. Traveling solo made me more confident, more open to new experiences, more aware of my surroundings and more sure of myself that I was on the right path. Each trip became more challenging and intense; It was if as I could see myself evolving through my travels. I was expanding my horizons and pushing my boundaries to create the life I had always dreamed of.
When you trust that you are capable of achieving greatness, your possibilities become endless. Your world opens up. Life opens up when you do. Trust in that, and it will always be.