Facing my fears in a canyon in Bled

For me, travel has always been a great time to face my fears.  I’d like to pretend that I don’t have many – Planes? A breeze. Spiders? A minor nuisance. Giant Dogs? Super Cute. But the truth is that as I’ve traveled, I’ve become more and more aware of just how many things totally terrify the pants off of me. Let me count the ways in which I’ve discovered latent fears while traveling:

  • Walking through the City of David in Israel reminded me that I am totally claustrophobic. If you’re not familiar with the City of David, it’s a small, dark, water filled tunnel that you walk through slowly.
  • A planned hike up a dessert arch in Wadi Rum caused me so much anxiety that I actually lost sleep. Yep - I’m also super afraid of heights.
  • In Ghana, I was so afraid of being alone in the dark that I wedged a chair under my already locked door knob.
  • I’m also kind of a little afraid of snorkeling….which I’ll admit is weird.

At this point, you probably think I spend most trips cowering in my hotel room, rocking back and forth while listening to Celien Dion. But, that’s only happened like once… twice tops (kidding). In fact travel has now become all about facing fears – and not because I’m on some sort of personal journey to self-actualizing nirvana. Basically, in most cases it comes down to two options: 1) Man up or 2) Miss something amazing. Usually I just put on my big girl panties and go for it. For example, if I hadn’t gotten over my claustrophobia, I wouldn’t have gone caving in Budapest which ended up being one of the most amazing experiences. That was until I got to Bled.

You see, Bled in Slovenia is famous for a sport called Canyoning. What is Canyoning, you ask? Well, it’s pretty much an obstacle course of doom designed by my own personal jigsaw. While canyoning, you don a wet suit and venture through a water filled canyon, down waterfalls and through small underwater tunnels.  I thought it would be just like my water walk in Jordan. Until I saw the photos.

Yeah, that’s a huge waterfall that someone just jumped off. No Way. I almost had a nervous breakdown just looking at the photos in the office. But as these things often go, I soon found myself strapped into my wet suit and chilling (literally) in the freezing cold canyon water.

And then we were off. I kept waiting to have fun. Like when I went skydiving, after the first leap it was just amazing all the way down. But this whole canyoning business, as soon as I got over one 12 foot jump, there was another 15 foot jump waiting just downstream.

At each jump, there was the option to belay down, something that I was totally comfortable with. But, since I was the only one doing it, I felt embarrassed – everyone else was LOVING the jumps. What was wrong with me? Why wasn’t this fun? Every time it was my turn to jump I stood at the edge, looking down, thinking how easy it would be to jump wrong, break a leg, hurt my spine, knock my head against the wall. Would this be the moment I regretted as I went through years of physically therapy? Probably not. I recognized I was being a little bit crazy, but mind over matter had no chance.

After a few jumps, my body just refused to keep going. At every leap I made them rig up the belay gear and I safely descended to the pool below. Then at the last jump, there was no belay option. The only way out was a huge TWENTY-FOUR foot jump.

No. Just No.

I listened as the guide explained how to land correctly, where to aim so you didn’t hit a rock. I just couldn’t believe that this was something I had to do to get on with my life. Apparently it was the only way out of the canyon. When it was my turn at the edge I stood there staring at the way too shallow pool  below and thought about how my life would be living alone in this canyon. I wondered if the guides could bring me around a sandwich with each new group. They probably don’t check visas in the canyons…

Well, eventually the guides got annoyed and helped my climb to a lower rock and for a small (16 feet) jump. At that point, I was angry and frustrated with myself. Why couldn’t I do this? Why was I afraid and no one else was?

What did I learn? I’m not sure. Facing your fears can sometimes be great. I’ve had some amazing times ones I’ve gotten over the fear of the unknown. But, sometimes…its not just great. Canyoning is supposed to be fun and this was just miserable. Later, over drinks that night, my friends talked about how amazing canyoning had been and I thought “well at least I went. At least I know I hated it. It would have been so much worse to think I missed out on something amazing.”

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4 Responses to Facing my fears in a canyon in Bled

  1. I guess you proved that if all your friends we’re jumping off canyons, you wouldn’t jump along with them! ;)

    Seriously though, I think that some people really love the adrenaline rush that some of these extreme sports offer, while other people really don’t. Nothing wrong with that, and while I think it’s admirable to face your fears and push your boundaries, if something makes you feel unsafe and worried about your physical well-being, then to push yourself to do that thing isn’t fearless, it’s stupid! The fears you expressed about canyoning don’t sound at all unreasonable to me, so I guess you can just cross that off your list and not worry about it ever again!

    • ElizabethJ_Bird says:

      So true Steph. Not every ‘must do’ traveling overseas is safe – for example riding a motorbike in SEA. Sometimes you have to make a judgement call.

  2. Memographer says:

    “just put on your big girl panties and go for it” should be a motto :)
    great post, liz! im glad you did it! happy for you!

    • ElizabethJ_Bird says:

      Haha I have a friend who tells me to do that all the time and I agree – its a great motivator.

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