It occurred to me as I was scrambling up what seemed like the hundredth incline on Bear Mountain Trail: I wasn’t scared. Rather, I was exhilarated, focused, determined, confident. I was loving the entire experience of that challenging 2,000-plus-foot ascent. Everywhere I looked, there was another stunning view of the red rocks surrounding Sedona, Ariz. — the effort was worth it.
Twenty years ago on that trail though? I know I would have been terrified; in fact, I probably would have turned around at the first pass along a steep drop-off.
At that point in my life, I had done little, if any, true hiking, not to mention other adventure sports. I was risk averse, hesitant to engage in just about anything that presented the possibility of bodily harm.
That began to change when I met my husband and especially once we had kids. Our relationship has always involved creating and participating in as many experiences as we can together, and we’ve embraced this philosophy as a family as well. Living it out loud has often required stepping beyond my comfort zone and into the unknown, the unfamiliar, and, often, the uncomfortable.
Wet climbing a fast-moving Dunn’s River Falls after days of rain in Jamaica on our honeymoon: check. Climbing via ferrata, then rappelling in the Laurentian Mountains near Charlevoix, Quebec, on assignment for work: check. Whitewater rafting, then hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, N.C., during a family road trip: check. Sea kayaking with sea otters: check.
Over time, I’ve found that the more excursions like this I do, the more comfortable, enjoyable, and even appealing they are. I don’t hem and haw to the point of nearly talking myself out of partaking; I don’t zero in as sharply on the “what ifs” pertaining to the risks.
Instead, I think about the sights we’ll see (expected and not) and what we’ll each discover about our physical and mental capacities. Ultimately, these are explorations not just of nature and the surrounding cultures, but of our own internal landscapes.
They’re an opportunity to get curious about who we are and what we can accomplish in this great big world — to dig in to and hone new ways of thinking and feeling, which influence our ways of being.
“When we become curious about something that makes us uncomfortable, we might notice things we didn’t see before. This can cause us to shift our thinking. . . . It’s that very discomfort that can create new neurological connections,” write Henry Emmons, MD, and Aimee Prasek, PhD, in “How Curiosity Changes Your Mind.”
Throughout this issue, you’ll find many examples of ways to get curious — in your workouts (see “The Play-Based Workout” and “Fitness Around the World“), in your day-to-day experiences, and in your travels, as well as about your health and well-being (see “How Ryan Sutter Fought Back to Regain His Health” and “How Does Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Support Your Health and Well-Being?“).
Exploring can take many forms, yet it always influences and changes us — hopefully for the better — and that’s what this summertime edition of Experience Life is all about.
As for me, my next adventure is getting on a mountain bike. I gotta say I’m a little scared . . . and a lot intrigued. What are you exploring?