Owning My Inner Adventurer
By Bonnie Ratliff on January 19, 2011
BlogHer Original Post
I am not adventurous. Rather, I didn't used to be. And thrill-seekers (or, you know, people who can ride the SkyFari at the zoo without an anxiety attack) would likely scoff at my own adventurous side, if it was noticeable to them. I was the kind of child who never learned to roller skate, skateboard or do cartwheels for fear of falling down and getting hurt. For as long as I can remember, I've been physically timid, so I've limited myself in a lot of ways. Most of the time this isn't much of an issue -- I can live a full and wonderful life without ever sky diving or climbing Half Dome. But, this past year, I met the adventurer within me.
It all started with a Groupon. If you are uninitiated into the wonderful world of the Groupon, it is basically a chance for a bunch of consumers to come together to get a great deal. This particular deal was for half-off a kayaking tour and my good friend Summer agreed to join me. We had the choice of a tour in the bay at night to watch a fireworks show over the summer, or a tour of the La Jolla sea caves. I'd never been kayaking before, but I've been getting in touch with my outdoorsy side this year and it sounded like fun.
Oddly, and without having discussed this with Summer (who would have pointed out all the flaws in the idea because she is the Voice of Reason), my first choice was the cave tour. This was my first choice because I was not thinking. The months were hectic and before we knew it Labor Day was over and so were the fireworks. For a moment, this didn't bother me. And then it dawned on me that those caves were actually in the ocean. Like the kind of ocean with big giant waves and great white sharks and, for some reason this year, thousands of rare black jellyfish. Among other dangers. And I panicked. Thankfully, Summer talked me down. (Don't click that link if joking about feeding children to sharks is something that would offend you. We didn't actually feed any children to sharks. Promise.) And we headed out one morning in mid-September.
The street the business was located on was lined with various water-adventure-supply companies. We found ours just a block or so from the beach and went inside to be fitted with gear. There was a truck outside piled with bright yellow kayaks. We would later learn that each company used a different colored kayak, so it felt rather like the ocean was full of rouge kayak-gangs looking for a rumble. Our yellow ones were driven down to the shore for us, while we walked in a group of people, all accessorized with life jackets and really fashionable helmets. Sexy.
We each grabbed a paddle and gathered in a circle to listen to instructions from our tour guide, Tyler. This is the part where I realized I still hadn't been thinking. Up until this moment, I'd had this picture in my mind of all the kayaks neatly lined up at a dock just waiting for us to gracefully step into them. There were no waves in my version. As it turns out, there are waves at the shore. And the ones that day were big, scary waves. And there was no dock. We were expected to paddle over all this past the breakers. I wish I'd worn a bathing suit, but I am so glad that Summer had the foresight to suggest a change of clothes.
We climbed in our double kayak; I was in front. They pushed us off and we paddled like crazy through the waves which kept getting larger and larger. Despite the fact that we did everything we were told exactly as we were supposed to, on the largest breaker we tipped. I felt it coming and could do nothing about it. The seawater shot forcefully into my nose and mouth and I floundered, trying to right myself and then to swim and keep myself afloat, wondering what to do next. What to do next turned out to be to stand up. The water was only up to my knees at this point. Awesome. Despite my visions of grace, I really rarely exhibit such a trait.
In all honesty, I nearly ran running home at this point. That experience was horrible and all I saw at that moment were more waves crashing harder and harder onto the shore. I knew I'd be deeply disappointed with myself if I gave up, but all I wanted was to give up. Summer was completely supportive of whatever I wanted to do, but I also felt responsibility to not ruin her day. As I stood there, panicking and worrying and thinking back and forth on all the different choices I had, Tyler shouted that the waves had calmed for a moment and that we should go right now! So without any further thoughts, we both hopped back in and paddled straight out to sea.
Oh and it was worth it. The swells were big, but gentle. We saw a seal bobbing nearby, a group of young sea lions huddled on the rocks near the caves, cormorants diving around us and flocks of brown pelicans taking flight over our heads. The giant kelp forest below us was otherworldly and magical. The sun shone on us and the quiet that comes being so far from the city settled onto my ears in a heavy and peaceful way. Even just thinking about it takes me back to that moment and fills me with excitement and peace. And I want to go back.
We did not end up touring the caves because of the magnitude of the waves that day, but we paddled over to them and witnessed the incredible power that is Mother Nature. And I was happy to watch from a distance.
And then came the part where we had to do something called “kayak surfing”. Something that, we were told, was the reason we were wearing these sexy helmets. Because, apparently, if we did not lean back just right, we ran the risk of crashing the kayak nose-first into the sand and that sounded much less fun than the first crash I'd had that day. I decided I'd rather just live in the ocean. I was pretty sure we could get pizza delivered to us. Summer was doubtful. And hungry. So, having learned from my earlier experience, I waited and watched for a moment with lighter waves and made a run for it. And? We totally didn't crash again.
Had I really known what I was getting into, I probably wouldn't have bought the Groupon to begin with, but I am so glad I did. That adventure changed me on some level. It made me realize my strength in a way I hadn't known it before. It made me feel beautiful, inside and out. And now, having been thrust into that situation, I know I can handle more than I thought I could and I look forward to more adventures in the future. Me, the anxious little girl who never learned to roller skate, wants more adventure. Wow.
I am really proud of me for having had this adventure, and I'm proud of me for allowing it to help me grow and face other adventures. I'm also proud of me for being a mama who shows her children what an adventurous woman looks like. It doesn't matter that my physical self probably looked more like an extremely dorky and relatively lumpy wet rat; I felt truly beautiful. That day -- out there on the sea, facing my anxieties, supported by Mother Nature herself -- I owned my beauty.
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