Facing your Fears Through Travel

I just received an email from Sun Country Tours, giving us some information about our upcoming white water rafting trip next week in Central Oregon and all I can think was, what did I get myself into? Then I had to watch this:

Are you kidding me? I’m a girl that has never really liked water. I don’t mind being on top of it, I just don’t like going under it. That’s what happens when you are the youngest of four and have older brothers that think it is funny to hold their younger sister under water or toss her into pools when she can’t swim.

I’m also terrified of roller coasters and most amusement park rides. You know that jump in your stomach you get when going through dips? I hate it. I did love going on Roaring Rapids at Six Flags Great Adventure growing up but I knew the greatest danger I faced was having to walk around in wet shoes for the rest of the day.

Add to the mix the fact that I’m an over protective mom and the anxiety is growing. That part in the video where the kid gets knocked out of the raft? Yeah, I didn’t like that.

So why on earth would I sign up for this? Well, we are going on a mother-daughter trip and guess who really wanted to try white water rafting? Right, the little one. In fact, she can’t wait and is eagerly anticipating “screaming her head off.” Plus it is something I’ve always been interested in trying, I just didn’t think I’d be doing it when I have sole responsibility for my child and without another adult along to hold my hand.

But I think of all the times I ask my husband to face his fear of heights while traveling and realize I need to put on my big girl pants and give it a try. I MAY just love it. At the very least, it will be another check on the proverbial bucket list where I can say, “White water rafting? Yeah, I’ve done that.”

This isn’t the first time I’ve faced my fears while traveling. In fact, you may notice a certain theme around water…

Scuba Diving in Cozumel

One of the first times was in Cozumel, Mexico when I was eager to share my boyfriend’s passion for scuba diving by taking a resort course even though just snorkeling usually makes me hyperventilate for the first few minutes until I can relax my mind to the idea of seeing and breathing “underwater.” That experience didn’t go so well. Instead of doing the course in the pool as they typically do, the instructor brought me out to the beach to go through the course in the open ocean. The dive shop had initially said my boyfriend (now husband, a certified diver) could accompany me but once out there they said he wasn’t allowed. I was thrown from the start by not having the expected comfort of someone I loved to help me through it.

Once under water the waves kept banging me up against the rocks and I had a hard time focusing. After a few minutes under water I gave my instructor the universal signal of “up” (aka get me the hell out of here). He kept shaking his head no, trying to get me to stay but by that time I was in a full-blown panic signaling up, up, up! Combine that experience with how miserably sick I got afterward (perhaps I swallowed some seawater?) and it isn’t something I’m willing to try again. But, I tried, I really did and it just isn’t for me. For now I’m happy on the sand while he goes diving.

Scuba diving in Cozumel - facing your fears

All smiles happily back on land

Snorkeling with Sharks in Bora Bora

The next time was on our honeymoon in French Polynesia. When we looked at things to do on Bora Bora I thought  snorkeling with sharks and rays sounded fun and like a once in a lifetime experience that we shouldn’t let pass us by. I think I was just caught up in the euphoria of the wedding because come the night before the excursion I could barely sleep and when I did nod off it was just to dream about being attacked by sharks. I always say that I saw Jaws at way too an impressionable age because I have a hard time sticking my feet underwater where I can’t see them without expecting them to be bitten off at any second. And yes, I was scared to swim in the shaded area of the pool. You never know what might be lurking there.

But we did it. Glenn was by my side the entire time giving me courage. Once they lined us up behind a rope and started throwing out the chum for the sharks to come eat it started to get a little frightening. During the feeding frenzy one of the black tipped reef sharks started swimming right at me and I thought I was going to be his main course until he turned away at the last moment. Again, I did it, but I was also one of the first people back in the boat. No need to linger, no need to do it again. I was all set.

Snorkeling with sharks in Bora Bora - Facing your Fears through Travel

Duhna…duhna…duhna, duhna, duhna..

Parasailing in the Keys

More recently it was also my daughter that challenged me to face my fears and join her and her Dad on a parasailing adventure in the Florida Keys. I was anticipating a three-way tandem sail like we had seen when we were in Captiva Island but alas, when we arrived it was just a two-person set up. My husband and daughter went up first and I considered chickening out but after making the captain swear not to dunk me into the ocean, I agreed to give it a try.

My daughter came along for her second sail of the day and here I was, a nearly 40 year old mom being comforted by her five year old daughter. It was just so cute how she tried to pump me up. “Mom, if you get your courage, you can sleep in my room tonight” and “Mommy, just relax and look around, we can go get ice cream after.” (Clearly you see what rewards would motivate her.) With that sweet voice encouraging me, how could I not relax and enjoy the ride (or at least fake it.) And it was very cool to be up there looking down at that blue, blue water and watch a sea turtle making his way across the waves. I enjoyed parasailing. I’m not in any rush to go back but it was fun to try something new and see the world from a different perspective.

Facing your fears through travel - parasailing in the Florida Keys

See how she was talking me through it?

We travel to so many amazing places and I never know if we will have the opportunity to go back. If I don’t stick my neck out a bit and try new experiences, I know I will regret it later. Part of traveling is experiencing what certain areas are known for, whether it is food, culture or adventure. It seems like a cop out  to visit a place famous for its white water rafting and rock climbing and not give them a try. Otherwise we might as well just book the same beach vacation each year if we aren’t willing to venture out of our comfort zone and experience something new.

But will I like it? I don’t know but I’m going to give it a try. I may not sleep well, I may be completely anxious before and during the trip, and I may very well panic inside when we hit the water. But I’m going to do it. I’m going to face my fears, be brave for my daughter, and push the boundaries of my comfort level. Stay tuned for how we make out!

What about you? Have you faced your fears through travel? Any tips for us on our white water rafting adventure? Leave a comment below!

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  1. […] Bend, Oregon for our adventure white water rafting on the Deschutes River. After all, I was the one scared of roller coasters and water. But surprisingly, I was calm and it was my 10 year old daughter who couldn’t sit still with […]

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