It was a chilly Tuesday morning in the mountains of Costa Rica and my fifth day in this incredibly inspired place. I was committed to making it count so I kind of, sort of went on a 12-cable zip lining tour through the rain forest in La Fortuna. No big deal, right?!
Wrong! Even just sitting here writing about it now feels almost surreal. I still can’t believe I actually went through with it. You see, I’m that girl who can’t even ride a roller coaster at theme parks – shoot, even Mary-go-rounds give me a little jumpy feeling in my stomach and make me dizzy as all heck. I am not necessarily scared of all heights, but at a certain point, I do start feeling that tickle in my stomach that even a fast car ride will quickly induce in this certainly-not-livin’-on-the-edge gal. I don’t know how to swim or ride a bike, and it took me years to get over an intense phobia of all animals – even the sweetest, cutest little puppy dog could send me into a screaming fit once upon a time. Conclusion? I am a big ol’ scaredy cat –probably as big as they come, my friends. Still, throughout the years, and throughout my journey to conquer fear and live positively and happily, I have acquired a few skills that have enabled me to stop saying NO and start living with a big, loud YES – mostly the ability to put mind over matter and talk myself through tough or scary situations.
Cue this incredible adventure I almost didn’t go on! I’ve wanted to go zip lining for a long time, but never really had the opportunity to do so. Costa Rica is known for great zip lining terrains, and this is in fact the biggest trip I’ve ever taken. I had to do it. I could never forgive myself if I didn’t. Besides, it was my idea to even make the reservation for my friends and I in the first place. How could I back out?
So off we went (myself and three brave girlfriends). We woke up at the crack of dawn on Tuesday, had our breakfast at the amazing Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Hotel and Nature Reserve in San Ramon (we literally slept in the clouds y’all!), piled in the car with our water bottles and snacks, and headed off on the two hour drive.
We arrived at Mundo Aventura at about 10:30 that morning, paid for the tour, and sat through a quick orientation. Tears of fear were already welling up in my eyes and my stomach was turning, yelling, “Don’t do this, Sonia!” I ignored my stomach’s and heart’s raging pleas, and hopped on the bus that would take us to the start off the tour. It was a 20 minute ride down the bumpiest road you could imagine. Everyone on the bus was hyped, laughing and chit-chatting. Me? I sat there, more pale than I’d ever been in the dead of a Chicago winter, tears falling down my flushed face, feeling absolutely, over-the-moon TER-RI-FIED. Just from looking at me, you might have thought I was being taken to prison or off to my untimely death. I can’t even accurately explain how scared I felt, but I sat there quietly, let the tears fall, and committed myself to the thought that I would in fact go through with this impending madness, no matter what.
After what seemed like an hour instead of just 20 minutes in my tortured state, we arrived at the start of the tour. The guides strapped all of our gear on, and pointed us in the direction of our initial hike up to the first line. It now became increasingly warm, and the thin jacket I had worn in light of the early morning chill in the mountains began to feel like 1,000 pounds on my tense shoulders. Each step forward became more and more riddled with a profound heavy-ness as I realized how freakin’ out of shape I am. Soon the heat, the fear and the struggle to get up each step in the terrain melded together into quite a lovely panic attack. I fell into a squat, crying hysterically, struggling for breathes, blurting out one “I’m sorry” after another. Then, one of the guides gave me some kind of minty leaf to chew on – he said it would calm me down. Thinking about it now, that could have been a pretty dangerous decision, but I was desperate. It did the trick, and I got back up repeating over and over again to myself, “You can do this, Sonia” while my friends cheered me on, one saying, “You’ve gotten through a lot worse!” She was right, so on I marched.
Soon we arrived at the first line, and of course, I let everyone else go ahead of me. Then, there it was, the moment of truth. My legs froze, and I thought there is no way I can actually let go and do this – there is just no way. It was now just me and the last guide on this side of the line. I can’t remember her name now, but she was amazing. The guys on the other side rushed her to get me on the line as she pleaded with them to give her a minute to talk me through it. As she kindly asked me to make a decision, I thought of my friends, already on the other side of the line. I thought of how much I had wanted to do this. I thought about how awful that failure would feel if I backed out now. And suddenly I realized there is no way I could let this get the best of me.
As the folks on the other side became increasingly impatient with my indecision, the nice girl offered to go with me, and I was sold. In that instant, I forgot about everything that was holding me back, and I just stepped off that ledge screaming at the top of my lungs, “Pura viiiiiiiiida!,” or “pure life,” a common greeting in Costa Rica akin to “hakuna matata.” I got to the other side, still pretty terrified, but absolutely thrilled. I had done it!!! I had conquered the fear, put mind over matter, and I had found the strength to let go. I had allowed the sense of who I am in life – a doer, a go getter, a ballsy badass B, and I had ran with it, despite a deep-rooted feeling that this wasn’t the type of thing Sonia does. Thinking about it now, it’s the same thought that has forged me through all of the scary decisions in my life – the perception of who I am versus who I want to be. I don’t want to be someone who is scared, someone who quits, someone who walks away every time it gets hard, so I won’t be. Simple as that.
Anyway, all I had to do now was get through the same thing 11 more times! Sh*t! Well, there was no turning back now, so off I went on every cable, each one higher and faster than the last, screaming at the top of my lungs each time. But by about the fifth cable something amazing started to happen. I started to unclench a little, feeling the awesome breeze in my face, and taking in the enormity of where I was at that moment – just flying through the trees like a bird, like a veritable badass. I had never felt more connected to the universe and to God than on that zip lining tour in those majestic mountains full of promise, hope and courage. What an amazing freakin’ day it was! I will remember every breath of it forever. I can’t even imagine how it would have felt to have given all of that up for fear. During those 3 or 4 hours, I was challenged physically, mentally and spiritually, but in the end, all that matters is that I got through it all.
So let’s recap here, shall we? Next time you’re scared or hesitant to take a leap of faith, stop worrying about what could happen or who you think you aren’t, and focus instead on the kind of person you want to be, on how you’re going to feel when you get to the other side of that proverbial zip line. Don’t think about all of the things that are making you panic and telling you to turn back, to quit. Whatever you do, just don’t. Instead, forge forward. Talk yourself through it. Focus on the possibilities, not on the fear. And always, always remember, mind over matter can get you there because you are capable, you are strong, and you are worthy!
And now, for your personal entertainment pleasure (laugh at me, it’s OK, I did!), here’s a video of me nearing the end of that very first line.
Today, I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to take this amazing trip and have this incredible adventure, and I am even more grateful for that spark inside of me that rarely lets me back down. Thank you for reading my story. I sincerely hope it has given you a spoonful of inspiration for your week!
Sonia, Word Share Junkie