Fear, it’s a funny old thing. It can show up in many different forms for many different people. For me, it rears its ugly head when someone mentions the words ‘adventure sports’.
It’s weird because I’m perfectly happy to do thing that terrify some people. I booked a one way ticket to Australia and travelled for almost two years without batting an eyelid. I moved to London with no job, no home, no money and no friends without a second thought. Give me a big, hairy spider and I’ll barely flinch. But ask me to surf a wave, raft down a river or ski down a mountain and I’m a quivering wreck.
My ridiculous fear of any type of adrenaline fuelled activity hasn’t stopped me doing some of the things that scare me the most. In fact, they may have made me want to do them even more to prove (or pretend) to myself that I can do it.
So when the opportunity arose to go snowboarding to Andorra with 21 of my friends (yes, there were 22 of us!) I reluctantly accepted. Very, very reluctantly.
I did everything I could before the trip to prepare. I had lessons at an indoor ski centre, went jogging to improve my fitness and did exercises to strengthen my thighs (I’d heard they’d burn like hell but this is a myth).
I did everything to prepare except beat The Fear. It was The Fear that stopped me from just going for it and giving the sport everything I had. For the first few days in Andorra I held back because I was scared of falling, scared of breaking my bones but worst of all, I was simply scared of being scared.
I stayed in my comfort zone where things were nice and easy. I stuck to blue runs where the snow was soft, the slopes were gentle and my fellow skiers were forgiving when I wiped them out. It was safe but it was boring.
I knew I had to kick this fear thing in the teeth before it was too late and before it took over my whole snowboarding experience.
But how do you overcome your fears and make sure you enjoy every second of your travel experience without the fear hold you back? Fear is natural; it’s there to protect us from harm and dangerous experiences. Surely we should listen to our fear and it will help us live a long, safe life?
But if we listened to our fear all the time our lives would be about as exciting as a bowl of porridge. We’d never go anywhere, we’d never see anything and, most importantly, we’d never travel.
Sadly, I never did find a way to naturally overcome my fear. It clung to me like a child, bundled up inside my ski jacket and it refused to let go. I did find a way to temporarily loosen Fear’s grip around my middle and that was with a lovely drink called alcohol. Any form of alcohol really, I’m not fussy.
A few beers with my lunch or the previous night’s dregs still in my system would lead me to fly down the mountain like an indestructible jet. I could turn and carve and weave between skiers. Yes, I might fall over but I’d spring back up like a bouncy ball, delighted with my resilience and my new found skills.
Fear would be trailing behind me, sometimes shuffling like a stubborn toddler and sometimes wailing and trying to keep up. But, as the day wore on and the alcohol wore off, Fear would start to catch up. Fear would get faster while I got slower and before long we’d collide in the middle and before I knew what had happened it had snuck back inside my jacket, arms wrapped tightly around my waist and there was no way I could prise those ugly fingers apart.
So, if anybody knows how to overcome their fear, please let me know. There’s only so much beer I can drink.