My life is about telling stories. I’ve made it my job to explore the world while experiencing moments that take me out of my comfort zone. Now, Contiki is asking travelers to submit their epic tales of adventure, laughter, friendship, love and #NOREGRETS for the opportunity to have their story told for the world to hear. Travelers can head to the Contiki Legends page to view legendary Contiki stories and create their own. Just reading about it left me thinking about my greatest travel adventure. What trip really changed my life? What really changed me? Was it Africa, my dream safari trip? Or maybe Jordan with its vast new world of mystery and luxury? Was it Fiji with its turquoise waters, endless natural beauty, and ultimate adventures? Maybe it was the USVI where I completely crossed the line from fear to accomplishment? Yep, that’s the one that will stay with me for the rest of my life. What I did in USVI showed me that I can truly live a life without restrictions. I can push beyond fear and reach new horizons.
I’ve tried every extreme adventure I could imagine including skydiving, bungee jumping, piloting an airplane, a helicopter, a glider, and a fighter jet, whitewater rafting, riverboarding, and even a trapeze act on my wedding day in my wedding dress. I never back down or back out, but twice in my life I let fear get the best of me and I succumb to it. When I attempted to use a regulator under water during SNUBA, a form of diving that is a mix between snorkeling and scuba diving, and when I tried to fly a jetpack, I gave up. It broke my confidence and I felt restricted. I actually cried after each failure because my entire life has been about pushing beyond limitations. My trip to USVI gave me a second chance. During my five days in St. Thomas and St. John, I had the opportunity to try SNUBA and a jetpack again.
The last time I tried SNUBA in Aruba in 2013, I couldn’t get over the fear and I let it take hold. I gave up and left defeated. Exactly one year later, I found myself trying again in St. Thomas.
The practice run encouraged me. I was keeping my head in the water and I could breathe with the regulator in my mouth. Then, we headed out further and I had to actually dive down. It all went south from there.
I can’t breathe. I can’t get my breath. There’s too much air; it’s choking me. What do I do? The weights are too heavy. I’m going to drown… I’ve failed.
The over-whelming sense of panic. The loss of rational thought processes. The fear… gripping me, taking hold. Did I do it? Did I swim away, defeated… again?
NO! Not this time! I kept trying.
The instructor, Todd, encouraged me to take the belt off for a while until I felt more comfortable. He talked me to in a calming, reassuring tone. He believed in me. He set me up for success.
After only a few minutes without the belt on, I decided to try going under once again. Todd distracted me at the bottom by letting me feed the fish. It gave me something else to focus on and my body naturally responded rather than over-thinking it.
I found a place outside of my comfort zone and something changed. It just happened. I could breathe. I noticed that the exhale was much longer than the inhale but it wasn’t a problem anymore. It was happening naturally. The bubbles floated by my face and I could hear my “Darth Vadar” breaths but it wasn’t scary; it was beautiful.
I wasn’t on top of the water looking down on another world. I was immersed in it. And I realized that that’s the beauty of travel. This is the experience that I crave, that is addictive, and that makes long flights, delays, and jetlag all worthwhile. If I could do this, I could fly a jetpack too! Luckily my confidence was building because flyboarding was the next day.
Over the pristine waters of Lindbergh Bay, I was about to attempt another petrifying event – flyboarding. Flying 30 feet above the crystal blue waters, diving like a dolphin, or even trying a backflip or two all sound intimidating enough but strapping a water jetpack board to my feet while doing it is just plan insane. The last time I had a jetpack strapped to my back, I crashed into the Jet Ski after falling 10 feet and gave up only 6 minutes into my flight.
I’m not Ironman; these are things in movies and dreams about the future, right? Nope! It’s the here and now and I did it; and let me tell you – it is absolutely exhilarating, insane, and beyond awesome!
The board was attached to my feet while my instructor went over the basics with me. I could fly up to 15 metres in the air or dive headlong though the water, but all of that took skill and I wasn’t sure I would be successful at even standing up.
I got into position, with the board under my feet and my legs straight, and the thrust was turned up. Shakily, I rose up from the water. I didn’t get my balance the first try but I stayed focused and listened to the instructions.
Leaning forward proved more difficult than I anticipated and I fell back, hard, into the water a few times. I thought about getting hurt with the jetpack and the fear slowed me down, but I pushed back.
Within the first three minutes, I was able to stand on the board while hovering about five feet out of the water. I shifted my weight from left to right as I learned how to turn.
I would have been pleased with just doing that for a half hour but my instructor asked if I wanted to try a dive, which was how I got hurt last time. He explained the process and my heart began racing. I wasn’t sure if I was ready, but I listened attentively.
Without over-thinking it, I found a focal spot in the water and dove! Screaming with delight, I emerged from the water.
“Woohoo! That was ridiculous! Oh my God; I love it! I feel like a superhero.”
I didn’t manage to do any backflips, at least not intentionally or without in fact landing on my back, but it was still the ultimate adventure. My confidence in the water and my experience with several water adventures was definitely a bonus in helping me overcome the fear of flyboarding. I didn’t get discouraged when I fell face first, back first, or head first into the water. I didn’t give up when I couldn’t find my balance right away, and I didn’t worry about what was swimming around me while I floated in the water. I refused to give up.
I have fears and they can be intense and intimidating, but I won’t let them become crippling. I will continue to push my limits and fight for a world less fearsome. I will not die an unlived life. I love fear and the feeling of overcoming it. Success. We are all capable of it and travel opens the doors.
“We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.” – John Hope Franklin
What’s your #NOREGRETS moment?
***This post is sponsored by Contiki, but all thoughts, ideas, and beliefs are my own.