As you get older, it’s not unusual to become more fearful of things or cautious in everyday life. I definitely noticed it once I reached my 30s.
I have great friends who I love but, in recent years, the group I’ve travelled with has become smaller, with everyone either getting married or having kids. Finding anyone available, even for a trip to Ibiza, has proved harder and harder. Plus, when I did travel, I was doing the same things – going to nice restaurants, visiting museums – and my list of travel experiences wasn’t expanding.
I made a promise to myself that I was going to have an adventure
I wondered what happened to the 20-year-old me that wanted to go ziplining in the jungle. Instead, I’d come up with reasons why I shouldn’t do things – “I’m a bit old now and everything hurts” or “I’m scared of heights and of falling over.”
In the end, I made a promise to myself that I was going to have an adventure. I swore I wouldn’t retreat to my former self and just stick to the same places every year. So, I booked a trip to Jordan with Flash Pack, knowing it would make me push past a lot of those fears and take risks that I wouldn’t normally.
The encouragement of my fellow travellers inspired me
The first fear I confronted was flying. The initial 10 minutes of taking off makes me cry every time. Naturally, I had to take a plane to get to Jordan, so mission accomplished…
I also don’t typically like putting my head underwater. When I was 19 and snorkelling with my sister in Hawaii, I had a panic attack. I had to be dragged out of waist-deep water by a lifeguard, which was very embarrassing.
However, I had to face this when a change in the itinerary to Jordan meant our group spent four hours snorkelling and diving in the Red Sea. I was terrified, but everyone was in the water and I knew I couldn’t be the only one left on the boat. It was really the encouragement of all my fellow travellers that inspired me to get on with it and get in – with my head submerged, no less.
I saw the most beautiful thing – a giant sea turtle
They cheered me on, reassuring me that I’d have a great time and, if I didn’t, I could just get straight out. If you’re with more established friends, they tend to let you off the hook. But people you’ve just met tend to push you a bit more – and it works.
Luckily, almost as soon as I entered the water, I saw the most beautiful thing – a giant sea turtle. Suddenly, all that fear vanished and I ended up swimming with it, which was the most magical experience. The same happened when we were canyoning in the Wadi Mujib. One minute I was sliding down a waterfall, thinking, “I’m probably going to die.” The next, it felt like flying and I wanted to do it all over again.
We laughed every single day
Everyone in our group looked after me during those moments. I wasn’t looking for people to pick me up on the trip – it was just something that happened naturally. I think it was a collective realisation that when you put the group first, everyone has a better time.
Those shared experiences really made the holiday and reminded us why we were together. We had a lovely group. We laughed every single day, everyone encouraged one another and you never saw anyone being left out. If people were having conversations, they always tried to include everyone else – it was very fluid. A shared sense of humour really helped, too, and we had a lot of jokes that tied us together.
I couldn’t believe I was actually there
One of the highlights of the trip was the ancient rose-red city of Petra. I did archaeology camps every summer as a teenager and then studied ancient Greek at university. Seeing this incredible Nabataean kingdom for the first time was overwhelming. I cried. I couldn’t believe I was actually there.
Having pushed myself beyond my boundaries in Jordan, I now really want to give ziplining and parasailing a go. I also really want to try hot-air ballooning and travel to more exotic countries with snakes, lizards and spiders.
We place a lot of limitations on ourselves unnecessarily
I’ve learnt that even when things do go wrong, it’s not the end of the world. Recently, I came off a surf board the wrong way while on holiday in California. I shattered my tibia and broke my fibula.
In life, we place a lot of limitations on ourselves unnecessarily. As we get older, those only become more entrenched. The thing about facing your fears is the joy you’ll get from it will always outweigh the initial anxieties – so you need to hold onto that mindset.
It’s a case of mind over matter
If you look at something and think, “That looks fun, but I’m scared,” then it probably means you should go for it. You’re going to be afraid – I won’t suddenly get over my fear of water or flights – but it’s a case of mind over matter. By the end, you’ll feel so proud of yourself for having looked your fears in the face and achieved what you once thought was impossible.
Sophie Emler is a management consultant and co-founder of the MatesPlace app that helps people find flatmates through friends of friends. She lives in London and has travelled with Flash Pack to Jordan – and, soon, Sri Lanka.
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Images: Courtesy of Sophie Emler & Flash Pack