Rock climbing

“It took a climbing trip to remind me that bravery doesn’t have to be grand”

Photo credit: cavan images – Getty Images

IAnyway, I was a little embarrassed that at 40, I had never gone rock climbing outside. This may explain why I jumped at the chance to rock climb at the aptly named Boulders Resort and Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona when I attended a conference there last year. It was high time to tick that particular box.

“You’re going to feel like there’s nowhere to hold onto. You’re going to want to cling to the wall, but you just need to find the next spot. It will get easier after that,” my seasoned guide, Rico, told me.

It all sounded good as I remained grounded. It was a different story once I was hitched up, and attempts to scale the rock were unsuccessful. Drenched in sweat and swearing, I felt sheepish about my initial bravado.

It turned out to be impossible.

I was the kind of person who backpacked alone through South America, and now I couldn’t even complete a moderate climb?

Admittedly, it had been more than a decade since my daring journey had taken me to Brazil on a one-way ticket simply because I felt dissatisfied with my role in textbook publishing. Lately when I thought about this trip and who I was then, I wondered if this person was gone forever.

Happily married, I still enjoy independent travel. I appreciate the time away from my husband and my hunting dog even though I miss them fiercely every time, but I rarely feel challenged by my current travels. Maybe I was looking for the climb to remind myself of my past bravery.

It was humiliating and I wanted to stop, but I didn’t; I gritted my teeth and figured out the next step. And the next. Until finally, I heard applause from below and felt a surge of euphoria and elation as I realized I had reached the end of the surprisingly arduous journey. It was adrenaline, yes. But something else too.

I had left my secure position and the reward was great.

Kinga Philipps, television journalist and writer, knows how to leave her comfort zone in search of adventure; after all, the name of his new show is Finding Adventure with Kinga Philipps.

“There’s that little, you know, kick in the gut that we get when we try something new,” says Philipps, who is known for, among other things, diving with tiger sharks, a concept no doubt terrifying for the most part, but a thrilling ride for the adventure seeker who has built his career on exploration. And the unknown activity that powerfully tickles the gut “also stimulates the brain,” Philipps says.

Philipps links this brain stimulation to moments of “fear,” a subject she has studied. “Awe helps you see things more clearly, and then you eventually crave more of that feeling,” she says. And the comfort zones are “individual to each person”.

She believes daily changes can be exciting. In other words, you don’t have to swim with a shark to inject adventure and awe into your life.

“Just change up your routine,” she says.

In Scottsdale, for me, that meant ditching regular running in favor of a new activity. For someone who drives to work, it can be as simple as riding a bike. The result is seeing things in a “completely different way”, and the effect is that shimmering sensation. “It doesn’t have to be large scale either,” Philipps says.

Although I felt a sense of wonder on a grand scale in Arizona when I got to the top, I also felt it recently in New York when I stood in front of 35 people and read something that I wrote.

I’m glad no one in the room can see the beads of sweat on the back of my neck, physical signs of the glorious surge of energy running through my body.

Standing there in front of strangers was like climbing rocks (and countless times in South America) in that it required an inner recitation: You can do it. Bravery, found.

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