You can enlarge your world on many levels through travel. More than just an outer world excursion, going some place that you’ve never been before can expand your inner world. When you explore new territory, including different geography, people, cultures and experiences, you may also discover something new about your deepest self.
For example, on a recent vacation, I tried something that I had never done before: a zip line canopy tour. Several friends told me that they had zip lined and enjoyed the experience. I wanted to try it, too. So, when I was making vacation travel arrangements for myself and for my boyfriend (who had never zip lined before either), I booked a cloud forest adventure tour.
Cloud forests generally occur in tropical, or sub-tropical, mountainous climates characterized by clouds that hover at the canopy level of the trees. The tour included riding an open-air gondola from the ground to the treetops where you are dropped off at an observation deck with fantastic views of the land below. From the observation deck, you return to the ground by riding down on a circuit of zip lines—8 of them altogether—stretching across canyons and between treetops.
At the tour destination, we met our guides, a group of lively and fit young men. They outfitted us with gear—harnesses, helmets and gloves—for our protection. After we got the gear on and stood on the platform waiting to board the tram that would carry us high up into the cloud forest, I could feel fear rising within me. My boyfriend and our tour companions were feeling nervous, too. It only then occurred to us that we might have benefited from a shot of courage before venturing off. A part of me wanted to turn around and run. Yet, although I was afraid, I was also very excited.
As the tramcar carried us up, up, up into the sky to the tops of the enormous trees, I could feel my heart beating in my chest. When we arrived at the observation deck, one-at-time our playful and upbeat guides attached our harnesses to a cable that ran a short distance to another platform. They instructed us on the correct position to hold our bodies (tucked like a ball so that the wind wouldn’t spin us around) and we zipped along two short “practice” zip lines. After everyone in the group completed the second short zip, our guides told us that, if we wanted to chicken out, we could ride the tram back down from that point. But, if we took the next zip line ride, the highest of them all at 660 feet, then we would have to complete 5 more zips, including “Big Daddy,” almost a half a mile in length, to return to terra firma.
Now, with no turning back, a guide attached my harness to the cable 660 feet up, and with a push launched me off into the open expanse of space. As I whizzed along, dangling from a steel cable in the sky, high above the earth, I felt the fear inside me. I also felt a place of calm centeredness. For me, soaring suspended in the air above greenery, with volcano and lake below, was an exquisite combination of excitement, terror, and inner peace. Arriving at the platform on the far side in what seemed almost an eternity later, my emotions were a flood of relief and the exhilaration of accomplishment; the euphoria of “I did it!”
What a thrill and adrenaline rush! The experience stretched me so much that, as we waited on platforms between zip lines chatting with our tour companions and some of them shared the fun they had on a repelling and water canyon tour, I decided I had to try that, too! I was definitely open to new outdoor adventures.
But, just who was this person having all of this adventurous fun? As I thought about it, I could see how far I’d come on my life’s journey. I’m certain that, just a few short years ago, this sort of thrill ride would not have appealed to me. Reflecting on this, I realized that these bold undertakings were simply the outer expression of the more fearless person that I had already become inside.
More than that, the zip line experience held a great life lesson: I may be afraid, but I do not have to let fear stop me from doing what I want to do. This was something that I took home with me. So now, when the thought of trying something new raises a flutter of butterflies in my stomach, I remember that lying just below that fear is excitement. I also know that the fear does not mean that I’m weak. It just means that I’m stretching myself. And when I move beyond my comfort zone, I’m taking myself to new heights.
“A mind stretched by a new experience
can never go back to its old dimensions.” (Oliver Wendell Holmes)