Since my husband and I married, I have embraced the role of my family’s chief event planner. I particularly enjoy planning family vacations for my family of three. My goals for every family vacation include the following objectives:
Exploring a place that our family has never visited;
(On road trips) introducing my husband and son to new audiobook; and,
Participating in some outdoor adventure.
Thanks to this formula, we have enjoyed excellent vacations and created long lasting memories. We have done activities outside of our comfort zones and that is a good thing. Life requires adventure. Without it, you spend your life in a never-ending loop of wake, work, and sleep.
Many think we pursue outdoor adventures for the adrenaline rush. Personally, I seek outdoor or extreme adventures because they can teach you lessons that you carry throughout life. I force myself to be adventurous. I have been canyoneering, skydiving, rock-climbing, and white-water rafting, to name a few. These adventures, have given me insight that helped me in life. The have helped me examine problems. They have helped in my growth. I hope they can guide you too.
Be an active participant in your own rescue
I sat at the front of a yellow, six-person raft. A rush of water splashed from the river. I was drenched. I thanked G-d that we had opted to rent the scuba material suits; the water was freezing. And, it was moving fast, faster than it had first appeared while we stood at the side of the river waiting to checking in.
Our raft began to move through some intimidating rapids. Rocks jutted from the river bed, creating the white peaked waves that pushed us downriver. Then, I heard voices yelling from the rafts ahead. Nervous energy built up across all six rafts in that excursion. A young man of approximately thirteen years had fallen out of his boat. I began to feel worried. His poor mom! I tried to recall the advice given by the river guides that morning. Point your feet down river. Swim to the boat closest to you.
“Come on kid. Get back into a raft. Any raft.” The river guide yelled from his position in the back of our raft. “Remember, you must be an active participant in your own rescue.”
Years later, those words stay with me. These words have deep implications in how I move forward in life. They imply several ideas. They are so powerful and profound that I find myself from time to time, contemplating them. In fact, they are words that I instill on my stepson.
First, learn to look out for and save yourself. One of the most important things we must do as adults is look out for our own safety. This means many things. It means maintain situational awareness in your day to day life. In large crowds, keep you eyes off your phone and moving around observing everything. But, it means more than looking out in the physical world. It means, that you must be aware of your circumstances. How do you do this? Ask for help when you need it. It means be your own advocate. And, it means that you do not rely on anyone without first doing what you can for yourself.
And, these words translate into the career world also. when situations place us in peril we must work to protect ourselves. For example, a problem arises with a work project. You must ask your employer how to correct the problem. You could go to your boss throw your hands up in the air and say “not my fault and I don’t know what to do.” But handling different could garner better results.
Instead, tell your employer about the problem and provide solutions. In this manner, you are being an active participating in your own rescue. Plus, you have demonstrated great skills to your employer. You have provided insight into your strategic thinking. Moreover, you have shown initiative providing solutions not only problems to your employer. You have demonstrated an ability to be coachable or trainable. This is crucial.
Rely on your tools & training
My family first learned to rock climb at a gym in Santa Fe, New Mexico. If you have never been rock climbing, know that it is hard. It requires lifting your body from the safety of the ground up onto the edge of a rock formation by a small piece of metal and some rope. Tough to wrap your mind around. But, worth it.
For me, rock climbing helped clear my mind in a way that my many attempts at meditation have never been able to do. When I begin to ascend the side of a mountain, I cannot think of anything but the task on hand. Maybe it is because I am afraid of falling to my death. But, I prefer to think that it is because at that moment I am Zen.
Rock climbing has taught me that at that you have to have faith in your preparations. I learned the tools of the trade- helmet, harness, carabiners & belays plus some rope- are enough to secure your safety. But, preparations and thoughts are not enough without action. At some point, you have to get to climbing.
Fifteen years ago, I decided that I wanted to experience skydiving. I have a sibling who is much more adventurous than me and he had been itching to try this adventure.
Skydiving is one of the more complicated of the extreme adventure activities. A beginning skydiver takes approximately eight jumps strapped to an experienced skydiver. This is a tandem jump. Thereafter, they are ready to free fall alone.
My brother and I were different, or so we reasoned. We could handle it the “right” way. We discovered an eight hour long class at the end of which we would do static line jumps on our own. In a static line jump, your parachute connects to the airplane. After you fall a certain number of feet, the cord connected to the plane pulls your parachute out.
During the eight hour class we were instructed on the mechanics of the jump. We learned on the importance of grabbing on to the wing and letting go at the right time.
After the training, I thought I had it all figured out. I felt ready to go. Unfortunately, once we got up and my turn came, the practice was nothing like the reality. I had no problem grabbing the wing as I had on the ground. But, I had not factored the wind speed hitting against me as the plane was flying! (I know what was I thinking.)
I am a teacher’s pet by nature and want to do everything “the right way.” I wanted another chance to do it. (Truthfully? I was freaked the fuck out and I needed to wrap my head around this new information.) I sought to re-enter the plane. That was not permitted. My instructor took one look at me, shook his head no, and kicked the one foot holding me into the plane.
I WAS FALLING!
I was falling to the ground at such a fast speed that I could feel myself screaming but could not hear my own sounds. My nightmare scenario come to life! After five seconds, five minutes, or five hours, I cannot recall how long, my parachute finally opened. My fear dissipated. I looked around and saw the beauty of the earth without the noisy interruptions of daily life. I felt alive.
I have not gone skydiving since then and I probably never will again. But, I have become better at letting go both physically and emotionally thanks to that experience. I still feel the confidence of overcoming such an emotional obstacle, even if I did have to get kicked out of the plane.
Except for the skydiving, all outdoor adventures have included my stepson. From age six, he has participated in white water rafting and rock climbing with us. And, although not athletic or adventurous by nature, he has enjoyed the experiences. Whether he has gained as much from them as I is yet to be seen. But, I believe that my adventures have improved me. They have made me approach others differently. And in that regard, I know that his life has been impacted as well.
What parenting lessons have you learned from your outdoor adventures?