I am not a fearless person. I have sat in the fetal position during countless thunderstorms and stayed up all night staring at spiders that weren’t moving an inch just to make sure they weren’t coming anywhere near me. I could go on and on about the laundry list of things I’m afraid of, but it would take me all night. Fear has gotten the best of me on many occasions throughout my life, but I’m fortunate to say that I have come a long way. I first decided that I would try to stop letting fear hold me back when I forced myself to become a roller coaster lover. After many trips to amusement parks where I didn’t do much besides wait for other people to go on rides, I realized that staying in my comfort zone was boring and overrated. Since falling in love with thrill rides, I have not become a person who is not afraid, but a person who enjoys facing my fears.

This past weekend, I was able to unleash my adventurous side during a trip to Volcán Arenal with the other students in my program. During our stay near the breathtaking active volcano in La Fortuna, we were given the opportunity to take a guided canyoning tour which involved rappelling down four waterfalls, jumping down another, and zip lining through the forest. We arrived to the tour bright and early at 7:30 and although I wasn’t quite awake yet I was feeling excited and ready to go. However, when the hike began and I looked over the first platform to see that the waterfall was probably about 100ft, I immediately questioned my decision. I thought there was no way this was even safe, let alone fun. Nevertheless, something possessed me to waltz right up onto the platform, lean backwards into the open air, and jump anyway. Fortunately, I quickly realized that I was still in control and that it wasn’t so bad after all. I carefully loosened my grip in order to descend little by little to the river below. I had successfully completed my first descent, and it could only get easier from there… or so I thought. I approached the next waterfall with confidence until I saw the speed at which the water raced below below. This rappel involved going straight into the falling water, and I once again found myself terrified until I had safely reached the bottom. After conquering that beast, I was sure once again that it couldn’t possibly get any more scary. Wrong again? You guessed it! For the third waterfall, we had the option to fall upside down, and we weren’t allowed to use our hands. I had the option to stay right side up, but I just couldn’t resist the challenge. Watching the ground approach me at full speed was quite terrifying, but just like any other time I decided not to let fear win, it was so worth it.

From experiences such as this, I have learned that trying things that you may be afraid of is not just fun and thrilling, it is so important. As one of the first people to rappel the first waterfall, I didn’t feel ready for what was about to happen. Too often, though, waiting until you’re ready may also mean that you have waited too long or even let an opportunity pass by altogether. Riding roller coasters and jumping out of planes and off of waterfalls may just seem like recreational activities for the adventurous people out there, but to me they have become more than that. Facing fears is something we’ll have to do at every point in our lives, and I am confident that showing myself time and time again that facing fears often has a positive and exciting outcome will allow me take opportunities that push me to the limits of my comfort zone. If I were to choose to feel completely safe and in control at all times, I wouldn’t have this amazing opportunity to study in such an incredible country and explore all it has to offer. I encourage everyone to try new things and challenge yourself every chance you get because you never know where your next adventure will lead!

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