Throughout my upbringing, my parents have tried to cultivate a love of travel and new experiences; when my mother became a travel agent two years ago, traveling took on a new dimension. Not only were we traveling to a number of unique and exciting places, but the whole family was immersed in the research my mother did beforehand. Only a few short weeks ago, as I was beginning to stress over my coming senior year of high school, my family and I left our central Indiana home to vacation in Costa Rica for ten days – and, because of my mother’s sincere love of all things travel, I was already beginning to sweat.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
Each year, my family’s summer vacation tops the last in the number and intensity of the new activities that we do. During our time in Costa Rica, my mother had planned to do white water rafting on Class 3 and 4 rapids, hiking around Arenal (an active volcano), ziplining through the clouds in Monte Verde, and a number of other somewhat dangerous activities. The most daunting of these, however, was canyoneering.
Canyoneering is the sport of traveling throughout canyons using a variety of techniques, but, in this case, involved rappelling off of a waterfall, with only a rope line onto which to hold and a harness to keep you from falling. The activity is popular in many places in Costa Rica, because of its beautiful scenery and many waterfalls. The idea of doing something like this was certainly exciting to my family members – but my fear of heights made me unsure of my ability to live through it.
The day of the dreaded canyoneering, we were picked up at our hotel in La Fortuna by Desafio Adventure Company, a popular tourism business throughout the country. As I tried to calm my nerves, we were driven up the side of a mountain and dropped off to put on our gear and be briefed on the rules. After this, we loaded onto rather rustic Jeep 4x4s and began a steep climb up the mountain on a gutted gravel road that did little to relieve my apprehension.
We hiked into the woods to reach the first waterfall. It was miniscule in comparison to those that followed it – we merely strapped onto the rope and walked backwards down the very lenient incline of the falls. Our guide warned us that the next waterfall was the second tallest on the trip – 125 feet tall, and a sharp drop from the top. We would not be walking backwards down this one; instead, we’d be hanging from the rope and sliding down slowly until we reached the ground. I felt nauseous.
When my turn came to be strapped onto the rope, my legs were visibly shaking. The guide saw my worried face and asked if I wanted to do this. In my head, I replied, “No!”, but I stopped to consider my options. When else would I be able to repel off a 12-stories-tall waterfall? I nodded my head, and, with that, stepped off the ledge overlooking the falls.
The ride down was spectacular. I made sure to go slowly, so that I could look at the lush greenery on either side, and the sheer volume of water rushing down right in front of me. With adrenaline coursing through me, I reached the ground, and, with that, knew I could do whatever fearful tasks lay ahead of me; not only on the rest of the canyoneering trip, but throughout my impending senior year. After all, I jumped off of a waterfall.
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