AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH: How Travel & Adventure Can Help Conquer Your Fears

Today’s guest post is from Bret Love from Green Global Travel. In it, he addresses the thing that holds most people back from living their dreams – fear.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” –Mark Twain

Fear is a terrible thing. It can be overwhelming, even paralyzing, keeping us from moving forward into the lives we’ve always dreamed of. Unfortunately, fear of the unknown often leads us to settle into a complacent existence in which we never even get a chance to gauge the measure of our true potential as human beings.

We certainly don’t begin our lives filled with fear. Instead it’s learned over time, often instilled (whether accidentally or on purpose) by the institutions that supposedly have our best interests at heart. We’re told what NOT to do from the very first day we attend school, taught to obey the rules, stay inside the lines, and adapt to society’s definitions of “normal” lest we be cast out from the in-crowd for being weird.

Horseback-Riding-on-the-Beach

Living a life of adventure now comes easily, but started slowly.

I embraced my inner weirdo a long time ago, and have made some of the biggest, boldest decisions of my life out of sheer rebellion against the repression of my childhood. And while some doubted the choices I made along the way, taking the road less traveled truly has made all the difference. But for others it’s not so easy to break out of the boxes our primal selves are constricted to fit into. To them, I say travel and adventure are the cure for what ails you!

Take my partner Mary, for instance: When we first met, she was coming out of a painful separation after a 15-year relationship and almost seemed shell-shocked. In her 20s she had traveled to India, Spain/Morocco and Ireland with girlfriends, but during her married life she increasingly stuck to cities, never venturing too far off the beaten path. The failure of her marriage had left her largely devoid of self-confidence.

Hawaiian-Helicopter-Ride

Bret and Mary explored Hawaii in atypical fashion

Then we went on our very first ecotourism adventure on the Big Island of Hawaii. It was an amazing trip, filled with amazing little inns and luxury hotels, a remarkable helicopter tour over an active volcano and a topsy-turvy boat ride to see the lava flow meeting the sea at sunrise.

But the moment that stands out the most in my memory was the day we went snorkeling in Kealakekua Bay (where Captain Cook first landed in Hawaii, and was ultimately killed by the natives). Mary was terrified of putting her face in the water but, after a little hand-holding, she did it anyway. Later, after she got more comfortable, we snorkeled together in a cove surrounded by massive Hawaiian sea turtles­– an experience neither of us will ever forget.

Rappelling-in-Riviera-Maya

Overcoming fear is key to bigger and braver adventures

With time, our adventures together got bigger and better. Less than 6 months after her first (extremely tentative) snorkeling experience, we were scuba diving in 20 feet of water with dolphins and hand-feeding sharks in Curaçao. Despite her crippling fear of heights, she slid and jumped down 27 waterfalls in the Dominican Republic, holding her nose daintily each and every time. And even though she is uncomfortable with complete darkness and battles claustrophobia, she was a total trooper when we swam in an ancient underground cenote in the Riviera Maya.

In short, she stopped letting her fears hold her back, and I fell even more deeply in love with Mary as I watched her blossoming with each new experience. Where once she had often seemed fragile and emotional, she soon became more outgoing and vivacious. Where once her fears had seemed almost crippling, soon the amount of time it took her to break through that obstacle and embrace the experience shrank considerably. When we went scuba diving for the second time in Panama’s Coiba National Park a few months ago, she barely needed any hand-holding at all.

Kissing-In-a-Cenote

Exploring pitch black caves is even doable

In confronting her fears head-on and tackling whatever challenges our travels throw her way, I’ve seen Mary evolve into a bolder, more confident woman that the person she was five years ago wouldn’t even recognize. I can’t wait to see how we will continue to grow together as our travels take us to even more exotic, far-flung destinations in the future (scuba diving in Jordan’s Red Sea, hanging with polar bears in the Canadian Arctic and a safari in Africa are on the agenda for 2012).

I understand that the world can be a big, scary place. But, the next time you travel, I urge you to follow Mary’s lead and challenge yourself to stretch beyond your comfort zone, try something new, take a few steps off your personal reservation and explore new places. Because, once you take that leap of faith into the unknown, you never know what amazing things you might find…

Bio: Bret Love is the co-founder/Editor In Chief of Green Global Travel, a web-based magazine devoted to ecotourism, nature/wildlife conservation and the preservation of global culture. Follow him at GreenGlobalTravel.com. 

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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10 Responses to AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH: How Travel & Adventure Can Help Conquer Your Fears

  1. Jose @ Tierras Patagónicas June 14, 2012 at 8:15 am #

    Great post, fear is definitely the most powerful weapon on earth. And the Mark Twain quote is absolutely inspiring!

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    Nancy Reply:

    @Jose @ Tierras Patagónicas, Fear is HUGE! It’s so hard to deal with as it’s not a definite thing.

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  2. Rick June 15, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

    We were wondering what has happened with your plans to hike the Colorado Trail this summer? Have you decided to postpone it or are you already on the trail as we speak. Just curious and supportive of your adventures! Let us know. Thanks!

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    Nancy Reply:

    @Rick, This is the first time I’ve gotten on a computer for a LONG time! Just wrote an update about the Colorado Trail: http://familyonbikes.org/blog/2012/06/why-i-bailed-from-the-colorado-trail-yet-won-anyway/

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  3. Micki June 20, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    Love this! Such a sweet, inspiring article.

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    Nancy Reply:

    @Micki, It is great to realize it’s possible to overcome those fears.

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  4. Jeremy Branham July 5, 2012 at 4:32 pm #

    Great post on fear Bret! I admit fear has held me back and I can be a bit of a worrier. Honestly, I like my box. There are times I get out of it and do things – travel is one of those. I am definitely out of my comfort zone there at times but I enjoy it. I also love safety and security too – we all need a safe place.

    However, reading about all of Mary’s fears her greatest feat may be traveling with you! Did she know what she was getting herself into? :)

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    Nancy Reply:

    @Jeremy Branham, I think it’s good to evaluate yourself and know whether you truly LIKE your box or if you stay in it out of FEAR. If it’s fear that keeps you in, then it’s time to get out. If you’re happy there, then it’s best to stay.

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  5. Bret @ Green Global Travel September 2, 2012 at 10:30 am #

    Hey Jeremy, just saw your comment! I think Mary saw being with me and at least trying to adopt my approach to life as an opportunity to break free from the constrictions she’d felt (some of them self-imposed) for much of her life. It’s scary at first, but once you make it a habit of testing your own boundaries, it is ultimately the most liberating feeling in the world. And I say that as someone who was once PARALYZED into inaction by my own fear. Breaking free from that is terrifying, but also extremely liberating!

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  6. Jools Stone September 2, 2012 at 11:50 am #

    Nice and glad for you both of course, but It would be interesting to hear from Mary’s viewpoint how she did this. I’m sure few would argue with the sentiment that pushing your boundaries helps you grow in confidence but for some it’s easier said than done.

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