An intensely beautiful landscape is splayed out before me. Lush tall green mountains are split by a powerful river descending steeply on each side. Frothing rapids 530 feet below create a calming sound, helping to relax the mind and steady resolve for the perceived insanity looming ahead. Steadily I traverse the steel wire suspension bridge as it sways and bumps back and forth with each carefully placed step. Coming to a stop I take in the view while awaiting my turn for the first of four death defying leaps into the abyss. Friendly conversations instantaneously spring up between all in an effort to disperse nervous tension. We compare stories of travel, work and life. But it’s a futile attempt and ultimately we are all moved to silence as each compatriot dons their harness and either steps, jumps or is pushed into the future.
When was the last time you really lived? The last time you completely surrendered yourself to life. Truly accepting each moment (good or bad) and was thankful for it. For many this is a very difficult question to answer. Before departing, I was asked more than once why I would leave my wife, family… really everything familiar for six months. In fact people very regularly ask me why I do the seemingly crazy things that I do. Why risk so much for a cheap thrill? They assume it’s because I have a death wish or that I am running from something. But in reality every time I step off that “ledge” into oblivion whether it be from a bridge, out a plane, off a boat or into some other form of worldly adventure it’s because I am chasing that feeling of life. In my wife’s travel blog she perfectly describes the antithesis of what this feels like for her (and for many others) when she took that leap with me many years ago:
“Satisfied with the tautness of the ankle strap he reaches for the first of two carabiners and clips it into the nylon loop positioned perfectly between the legs, just slightly above the bridge of the feet. Snap! His hands continue up the nylon strap right over left inching uncomfortably close to the crotch. The right hand releases springing up to the belly then hooking down toward the navel. His thumb extends forward breaking open the second clip. The carabineer collides with the metal D-ring and closes back upon itself. Snap! Snap! One final tug on the harness confirms a snug fit around the waist. Two painful hops toward the ledge; feet heavy with hesitation, legs jelly with nerves. One final look down . . . way down. His outstretched hand points towards a platform on the adjacent mountain side. One final picture. One final breath. Peripheral vision wains to the drum of a single heartbeat. One… Two… Three… Bungee! Not A Chance!”
But for me it couldn’t be more different. When I step up to that literal or figurative ledge and those drops of pure adrenaline begin pouring into the bloodstream everything changes, my heart rate quickens but my breathing slows. It’s as if the whole world stops and I can see and observe it all. It’s those moments that fill me with a profound appreciation of life. People often say when frightened that “The life was scared out of them!” but I think it’s quite the opposite. After all, when was the last time you felt dead after a startling experience? Feeling frightened is usually followed by a wave of euphoria that can’t be denied. Why else would people go to haunted houses?
Since the start of this journey I have had the opportunity to see and experience many things, some more “risky” than others. I have swam through beautiful coral caves, come face to face with a wild leopard, gazed upon mind boggling architecture, hurled myself off a mountain and yes, leapt off a ridiculously high bridge. It hasn’t all been great though. I’ve had more than my fair share of illness, waited hours in cold weather for busses that never showed, taken ice cold showers out of buckets, and spent many days without electricity or running water. But as my dad would say “You must take the good with the bad and learn from both”. It certainly is all part of the experience without which you would have no reference. So go ahead, take the trip you’ve been putting off, sample that “scary” food, introduce yourself to someone new or try that risky sport. Life really is for the living!