Fear is a funny old thing. It either fuels you or freezes you, and staring it down can do wonders for your confidence. “Every time you encounter something that forces you to handle it, your self-esteem is raised considerably,” writes psychologist Susan Jeffers, in her best-selling book Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway. “You learn to trust that you will survive, no matter what happens. And in this way your fears are diminished immeasurably.”
Here at Flash Pack, we’re not trying to be Bear Grylls. We won’t have you tussling for your survival at every turn. But our adventures *do* promise to pitch you out of your comfortable life, and into situations that you’ve never encountered before. When you face these – entirely optional – activities, your heart will likely start racing, and you’ll psyche yourself up to rise to the challenge. It’s one of the reasons why travelling with strangers is so great (as Flash Pack co-founder Radha Vyas explains). If you’re with people that you don’t know that well, you’re more likely to take risks. And that means you’ll achieve things that you never believed yourself capable of before.
Below, we’ve picked out six travel challenges that will get you facing the fear good and proper in 2018. From rickety hanging bridges to craggy rock ascents, jump right into these travel trials for a rush of self-belief…
Tube down rapids in Costa Rica
Even on its own, tubing is a something of a challenge. After all, you’re floating down a river you don’t know, in currents and depths you have no idea about. Throw whitewater into the mix, and the activity suddenly takes on a whole new dimension. And so it is in Rio Celeste, Costa Rica’s unique turquoise river that snakes through Tenorio Volcano National Park in the north of the country. Cutting between a dramatic valley gorge, the route here narrows at certain points, shutting out daylight and creating atmospheric echoes off the cliffs either side. More importantly, there are several intense rapids that bubble up out of nowhere. Tubing here never fails to thrill, and you’ll do good to stay one step ahead of the twists and turns, as you make your way down the churning ravine.
Learn to surf in South Africa
Surfing is one of those deceptive sports; it looks so easy, but balancing on the board for more than a fraction of a second is a.) tricky and b.) pretty daunting. It’s a case of mind over matter: you have to get out there in the ocean, and just concentrate on what you’re doing in the moment (rather than get distracted by thoughts of, “S**t, that wave is huge!”) On our South Africa trip, we head to Knysna Lagoon on South Africa’s Indian Ocean to catch a few crests. Once described as the most dangerous harbour entrance in the world, this bay opens up beyond two sandstone cliffs known as the Knysna Heads, and is actually quite sheltered as a result. Turn your fear into a well-honed respect, as you take your first euphoric flight through the surf.
Canyon through Bohinj Valley in Slovenia
Lake Bohinj is the lesser-known cousin of Slovenia’s Lake Bled, and the surrounding Bohinj Valley is home to a labyrinth of deep canyons, waterfalls and streams. Once you’re suited and booted (think harness, wetsuit and helmet), you’ll be all set to scrabble your way up and around a series of cavernous gorges. The going here is rough, with craggy and slippy rocks to navigate every step of the way. And that’s even before you factor in gushes of cold spring water that come at you from all angles. But fear not; your Flashpackers are there to lug you if needed, and with every tricky climb, you’ll feel more and more confident. Plus, you can glide down natural slides and jump into hidden pools along the way. Scary? A little bit. Exhilarating? Hell, yeah.
Snorkel a shipwreck in Bali
The USS Liberty is a large WWII wreck beached off Amed, a series of fishing villages on the east coast of Bali. The ship was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in 1942, and its shell has since been transformed into a rich marine eco-haven. Paddling about in warm waters may sound like fun, but snorkelling atop the dim, rusting skeleton of the ship can be a slightly unnerving experience at first. Then, amid the gloom of the ship’s remains, you start to spy out beautiful coral reef and schools of tropical fish that cluster all around it. Big-eyed trevally, lizardfish, barracuda and eels are just some of the colourful species that you might spot milling about. Seeing new life spring from this ancient wreck is an experience that feels both eerie and brilliant.
Get cross-country skiing in Finland
Cross-country skiing is a national sport in Finland, and most Fins learn to ski from the moment they can walk. That’s not to say that it’s easy for everyone, however. Learning how to lean into your stride then glide away takes a certain kind of knack, although specially-cut tramlines will help you with steering. We’ll show you the ropes with an expert lesson on our Finland adventure, before letting you loose in a wintry wilderness. Watch the soft winter light cast a glow over the landscape, as you whoosh through endless snow trails. You’ll have to work on keeping your balance and momentum , but the feeling of freedom is like nothing on earth. It’s mankind versus nature at its most potent.
Brave hanging bridges in the Amazon
The Inkaterra Canopy Walkway in the Peruvian Amazon is 344-metre-long network of seven hanging bridges that lead between observation decks and towers in the midst of the jungle. At its highest point, the towers reach 29 metres, and the narrow walkways swing and sway as you make your way amid the treetop canopy. If you have a fear of heights, you’ll get over it pretty quickly: this is considered one of the most sophisticated and safest canopy walkways in the world, and there’s no better way of getting a feel for the incredible wildlife of the Amazon. Toucans, sloths and squirrel monkeys can all be seen in their natural habitat, along with a wealth of bird species. You can also do this experience by night, when nocturnal animals come out to play, and your senses are heightened by the darkness.
Photos: Flash Pack and Shutterstock