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 Iâ€™m in an enclosed space like an elevator, in a plane or taking in the view from the top of a tall building, Iâ€™m fine. I feel safe when there are walls, windows or a guard rail. But on the occasions when thereâ€™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 thatâ€™s what bothers me the most. I donâ€™t want to miss out because fear gets in the way, only to look back and wonder â€œWhat if Iâ€™d just tried?â€
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 weâ€™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. â€œNo 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, Iâ€™d turned into the annoying kid in the car on family trips that you hated sitting next to:
â€œAre we there yet?â€
â€œHow much further do we need to go?â€
It had less to do with the hike and more to do with me: I didnâ€™t have the confidence that Iâ€™d make it based on the height weâ€™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, Iâ€™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, Iâ€™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. â€œOnce you get past the ladder, we are nearly to the waterfall and the path back down is much shorter and easier. Weâ€™re almost there.â€
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: Iâ€™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, Iâ€™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 doesnâ€™t care what youâ€™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 youâ€™re on the other side, youâ€™ll realizeâ€¦.it wasnâ€™t so bad.
The payoff from that is immense.
Youâ€™ve released the invisible shackles.
And then, you can do anything.
For more Morocco posts, check out The Mini Guide To Marrakech, What I Wore in Marrakech and The Week + Links in Morocco.
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.