“The sign, guys! We’re almost there!” I exclaim. The Notch envelops us in trees, boulders, and mountains stretching as far as my eyes can see. We are less than a half hour from my favorite place on earth: Smugglers’ Notch.
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After arriving at Owls 8, my uncle’s timeshare, I sprint for the best bed in the kids’ room. But like every other year, my eight cousins are already lounging in the room. We immediately change into our bathing suits and run up the dusty road to play pool volleyball. We spend the first three days eating fancy dinners, taking trips to the reservoir, and organizing ping-pong tournaments. By the fourth day, we are ready to do something extraordinary, something we can only do in Smuggs. So, as a group, we choose a Treetop Obstacle Course in the Notch.
Although half of us are deathly afraid of heights, we all brave the course anyway; no one is willing to pass up this opportunity. By the time I am halfway through the Experienced Course, my hands are raw, and my legs feel like spaghetti. But that doesn’t stop me. We are having way too much fun to let a few blisters stop us. My fifteen-year-old cousin Mikey, who is so afraid of heights that we had to physically drag him into doing the obstacle course, is also the only one to do the Eliminator, the hardest section of the course. It takes him a full thirty minutes of energy-draining ropes and tire swings to finish it, but when he does, he brags about how it was the best thing he’s ever done in his entire life, and maybe, just maybe, he won’t be so afraid of heights anymore.
On the last day, a giant swing awaits us. We are twenty people, and we fill up an entire shuttle. I volunteer as the first person to go, not knowing what I am in for. The guide straps me into the harness and warns me not to pull the plug until he is ready. He lifts me to the tops of the trees on a wire and yells, “Pull it now!” Am I sure I want to do this? Isn’t this dangerous? Oh, what am I thinking? Of course I am going to do this! Things like this only happen in Smuggs, and I’m not one to pass up the opportunity of a lifetime. Taking a deep breath, I steady my heart, and, with a hand that is still sore from the obstacle course, I pull the plug hanging by my head.
And I drop.
Screaming bloody murder, adrenaline coursing through my veins, my wire taut, I soar through the air. With the wind whipping through my face, I laugh and flip myself upside down, dangling from my feet. I can’t help it. This is amazing.
Life is about opening the door when opportunity knocks. I would’ve regretted not going on that giant swing for the rest of my summer vacation. Life is not about playing it safe. It’s about taking risks and creating memories that will stay with you forever.
As I pack my bags, my brother says to me, “I think that was the best Smuggs trip yet.”
I turn to smile at him. “We say that every year.” And it’s true. But it just gets better.
Having a close bond with my large Italian family is part of what makes the trips so wonderful. It wasn’t just the risks I took that made the trip so unforgettable, it was taking them with the people I love.
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