Most of us have fears lurking just beneath the surface.
Some are totally rational.
But others? Completely irrational.
One of mine is extreme heights. When I’m in an enclosed space like an elevator, in a plane or taking in the view from the top of a tall building, I’m fine. I feel safe when there are walls, windows or a guard rail. But on the occasions when there’s not? I imagine myself looking over the edge, losing my balance and falling. Forever.
Fears can hold us back from living fully and enjoying once-in-a-lifetime experiences and that’s what bothers me the most. I don’t want to miss out because fear gets in the way, only to look back and wonder “What if I’d just tried?”
A few months back in Morocco, I was faced with my worst fear, made it through and am much stronger because of it. I hope this story inspires you to do the same.
August in Marrakech is no joke: the temperature on this trip wavered between 105 and 110 degrees every. We awoke early for breakfast and got ready for the day ahead: our Dar Jaguar itinerary mentioned that we’d be visiting a waterfall. I got camera-ready in a long black dress, false eyelashes and gold sneaker wedges and grabbed my purse. We piled into a big van, heading towards the Ourika Waterfalls in the Atlas Mountains.
As the van pulled up an hour and a half later, I hopped out, scanning the area for the waterfall. We darted across a rickety bridge and were told by a guide that the waterfalls were a 20 minute hike away. “No big deal,” I thought.
We weaved up the side of the mountain and soon, my nerves started kicking in. After awhile, there was no visible trail as a local guide led us over large rocks. By then, I’d turned into the annoying kid in the car on family trips that you hated sitting next to:
“Are we there yet?”
“How much further do we need to go?”
It had less to do with the hike and more to do with me: I didn’t have the confidence that I’d make it based on the height we’d climbed to. Damn irrational fears!
After climbing over more rocks, we were faced with the ultimate test: a metal ladder, completely vertical, was attached to the side of a boulder. To get to the next part of the hike, I’d need to climb the rungs one by one, then hit a foothold with one foot and reach out an arm to be hoisted up. If I missed it, I’d fall 20 feet straight down. Even though the group in front of us made it up easily, I imagined the worst.
I was shaking from fear and asked the guide if we could turn back. “Once you get past the ladder, we are nearly to the waterfall and the path back down is much shorter and easier. We’re almost there.”
Bottom line: this was it. There was no other way to go. I eyed the rungs, looked forward and stepped carefully, slowly, intentionally. I made eye contact with the guide at the top, gracefully hopped up and looked down: I’d made it. I was fine.
Shortly after that, we made it to the waterfall. Being thousands of feet up the side of the mountain, spotting monkeys and taking in a view I could only dream of put things in perspective: if I could do this, all those little roadblocks in my day-to-day life were minuscule in comparison.
Im sure most of the people we passed on the way up viewed this expedition as just another day. For me, it was a big shake-up in the best possible way. Since my time on the mountain, I’ve had plenty of bad days at work: mis-printed files, cancelled projects, stressful deadlines, you name it. The difference is that when those things happen now, I think back to that day I unexpectedly hiked up to 8,000 feet and made it.
Fear is a funny thing. It can slowly build into a big monster and hold you back. Life doesn’t care what you’re scared of. When you least expect it, you may find yourself in circumstances where you have no choice but to overcome it. And, you will.
Once you’re on the other side, you’ll realize….it wasn’t so bad.
The payoff from that is immense.
You’ve released the invisible shackles.
And then, you can do anything.
Photos by Shell De Mar Photography.
Special thanks to Dar Jaguar for putting together this epic itinerary and listening to my whining on the way up. Haha.