This post was originally published on HaveHeart Magazine.
People travel for different reasons and enjoy doing different things on the road. Some travel for the culture, others for the food, the shopping, or the history.
And some travel for the thrills.
I’ve had my fair share of scary/awesome experiences. I’ve bungee jumped, ridden a mule into the Grand Canyon (those little guys get uncomfortably close to the edge), hiked in freezing temps in New York State, gone skiing on a black diamond trail, ridden a toboggan through the German countryside, tried out SNUBA (a mix between scuba and snorkeling), and gone skydiving. I feel so happy and proud to have all of those things I mentioned marked off my bucket list! I don’t travel solely to seek out these adventures, but I’ll say yes when the opportunity arises, even if it scares the bejeezus out of me a little bit.
If you’re looking to make a foray into thrill-seeking, then amazing for you! As John A. Shedd so beautifully stated, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” Everyone could use to shake things up a bit and make this one life a memorable one. Here are some Dos and Don’ts to help you transform into the little daredevil you know you are.
DO talk with people who’ve been there and done that
You can do all the research you want to online, but the best way to get clear expectations is to talk to someone directly about their experience. Ask around and see who you might know that has experience doing what you’re looking to try. You can check with friends and family, post on Facebook, or use Twitter to connect with others.
When I told my brother’s fiancée that I was going skydiving, I had no idea she’d been, too. I asked her what it was like and if she had any advice for a first-timer. Hearing about the experience from someone I know personally made my jump way less scary since I felt that I had a better idea of what to expect.
DON’T look up statistics beforehand
Knowledge is power, so certainly do any research you’d like beforehand to get you acquainted with the risks you’re taking. But you’re just going to scare yourself silly by looking up morbid statistics about the activity you want to try.
Yes, there are people who have died from being attacked by a bear, but it’s not going to deter me from tent camping. Looking up the numbers before a weekend in the woods, though, would certainly leave me with an uneasy feeling!
Remember that you’re more likely to get hurt riding in a car than you are parasailing, hiking, or bungee jumping. Do yourself a huge favor and don’t psych yourself out.
DO express your fears to others
It’s noble of you to put on a brave face, but if there is something you’re worried about, say so! Not only will you feel relieved to get that out into the universe, but there will be others to help you out, too.
Before trying out SNUBA, I was a little nervous about equalizing the air pressure in my ears. I just kept thinking that I wouldn’t be able to do it correctly, and then I would get seriously hurt. Around that time, the instructor sat down and was adjusting my vest before our stop and he asked me how I felt. Instead of saying, “Oh, fine,” I was completely honest and told him what I was stressing about.
Not only did he assure me that it was not nearly as difficult as I was thinking it would be, he told me that was his big concern when he started his scuba certification. So, if you’re worried about something, it’s not silly. Chances are, someone else is feeling the same way!
DON’T go alone
Having a partner or group of people you know doing something with you definitely takes the edge off of a scary experience. Also, sharing those memories with others brave enough to join you will make it extra special. You’ll remember what you did and who you were with for the rest of your life.
Look, I’m all for solo travel and experiences. In fact, I hiked in freezing temperatures in New York state by myself. It was rough–there was ice all over the trail, and it was so cold that the water in my water bottle was forming ice crystals. Looking back, I don’t regret it, but having a hiking buddy with me would have made it more bearable!
If you absolutely must do it on your own, make sure that a few people you trust know where you’re going, what you’re doing, and about when they should expect to hear back from you.
DO listen to your body
As I was preparing to skydive, of course I was nervous and knew what I was doing involved risks. Still, I never felt like I was destined for disaster. The company was reputable, my instructor was incredibly knowledgeable, and I trusted that they took every precaution to make sure I had a safe first jump (which I did). Chances are, if it’s an established business and an experienced instructor who takes his or her job seriously, you’re in incredibly safe hands.
Still, you know yourself best, so if something feels really, truly, terribly not right, then know that it’s okay to change your mind and say, “No.” No one will be disappointed in you or upset that you’d rather not take part. I encourage you to push your boundaries and try new things, but not to the point that you feel like your life is in serious danger.
DO read the waiver but DON’T let it scare you
You’re stoked–you discovered this cool, exciting activity, you find some friends to join you, and you sign up. When the day arrives, you show up a little bit of a bundle of nerves, and then you’re handed documents in which you subsequently sign away your soul. These waivers will list any and all bad things that can happen during said activity, and it will make you second-guess your sanity.
Should you read these lengthy papers? Of course! I spent some valuable time looking through the waivers for mule riding in the Grand Canyon, skydiving, and SNUBA. I hadn’t even thought of the fact that the mules might tumble down into the canyon, that there could be poisonous snakes where I parachute down, or that my lungs could explode as I swim up to the surface.
The information you’ll be presented with will certainly be sobering. But with most extreme activities, you will be assisted and given some training by an instructor–and if you’re still left with questions after that, make sure to ask them. They’ll likely put your mind at ease and rid you of any last-minute fears that creep up.
Just remember that while it can seem overwhelming and intimidating, everyone involved wants you to walk away safe, happy, and full of adrenaline! Go get ‘em, tiger.
What sort of thrill-seeking adventures have you done? What was helpful to you for your experience and how did you prepare? What advice would you give to people interested in activities like that?